DC Comics' Midnighter is getting his own series in June, so what can fans expect from a series that explores the depths of an outed man? And how will Steve Orlando handle the complexities of a same-sex, superhero couple?
Midnighter isn't your typical hero with an superiority complex. This isn't Batman. Instead, Steve Orlando is looking to make Midnighter a far more gritty series and hyper-focused on what happens when a vigilante is unveiled and pushed out of the closet in Midnighter #1.
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Speaking to DC Comics Blog, the writer opened up on what's been happening with the character.
Lately, DC's Midnighter has appeared in Grayson, a series centered on Dick Grayson, a.k.a Robin and Nightwing. The series focuses on the actions of Grayson as a spy and began in July 2014, written by Tim Seely and art by Mikel Janin.
Taglined as “you might think you know Nightwing – but you don’t know Dick,” the series is far different than the capes and leagues of superheroes. Dick’s latest hidden identity still requires him to serve others but is unable able to talk about it. It’s a twisted, reborn superhero in comics but old hat to media fans.
But how does that involve Midnighter?
Orlando notes that the end of Grayson #7, Midnighter has been exposed a superhero, gay, and kicked out of the only life he's ever known.
"As we open up the book, Midnighter has no secret identity. He is out of the closet as a gay man. He is out of the closet as a super hero, and he is trying to figure out what that means."
His relationship with partner Apollo is strained, and the twisted turn of no support system is going to create a different internal perspective on what being the Midnighter really means.
"Part of that is getting back to who he was in the beginning. Getting back to the roots of the character, which are helping real people and affecting change that he can see, as opposed to getting lost in these big idea fights."
Now, don't expect the character to be helping grandma across the street, carrying her purse and grocery bags to the bus stop. "Seeing a woman who has gotten her groceries stolen and taking that guy and putting him into a manhole" is far more interesting because "he wants to see real people and improve their lives."
The question then becomes: what does he think real life is? After all, he's left the God Garden and lost everything that was used to identify and label the parts of his old life.
In a somewhat questionable phrasing, Orlando notes that empathy from the Midnighter falls into a mired idea of "caring by the way of sadism." Definitely not a Caped Crusader then. He also points out that he and artist Aco will have a specific "brand of ridiculous hyper violence" working alongside the "social exploration" of "who he is out of costume."
So the idea is to keep grinding the Midnighter down to find out the inner core of this new era.
Calling the character contradictory seems to showcase an LGBTQ character that isn't necessarily Jack McFarlane. And that complicated, innate sense of grey is what appealed to the writer as a thirteen-year-old.
“There is no one way to be LGBT. There is no one way to be queer.”
This is a fan writing in a platform to showcase the diversity in a community and that gaining command does not mean one must follow a single course of action. A defender of man doesn’t need to be Batman or Superman any more than they need to be a villain.
Instead Midnighter is more John McClane with a deep streak for vigilante justice. Orlando sees the character is someone more Jaime Lannister than Ned Stark because pop culture audiences are changing, rooting for a different sort of character.
But is he a role model? Yes, but not in the way one may assume.
“There’s always this notion that doing a queer book, you’re representing the entire community and I think that’s kind of an unfair assumption. Midnighter is the story about one guy who is extremely flawed.”
Focusing on the character evolution is key to creating a different kind of representation, according to the series creator. “I think the journey of taking this character that has all these problems and showing him evolve as a person, for readers, is actually just as important as him starting off as an idealized character.”
As for the on-off relationship with Apollo, that’s another element to life that needs to be addressed, too.
“You realize that you don’t know how to define yourself as an adult without this other person and that’s not healthy. It’s something that anyone faces.” Relationships can grow stagnant and sometimes breaks are needed to figure out what’s changed and if the intimacy is really working and providing a healthy foundation. Codependency doesn’t necessarily mean happiness.
Of course, that may also act as bait for audiences looking for a relationship that goes beyond Modern Family’s kitschy humor. Comic fans have been clamoring for more representation. Seeing a possibly solid, established relationship destroyed before the first issue may raise questions because there’s so little normalcy in media for same-sex couples.
Frequently the fictionalcouples face the will they-won’t they marketing dynamic meant to entice consumers to keep buying a product. And in the case of Batwoman, the marriage wasn't allowed because editorial mandate by Dan Didio declared that superheroes don't need to be happily married. A mandate so loaded that the writer and artist left the project.
Ultimately, though, Steve Orlando is looking to answer the Midnighter’s questions about self-identity.“He doesn’t know if he likes bagels. He doesn’t know anything besides that he knows how to fight, and we have to solve that.” In other words, how does someone identify emotions is all they know is extreme violence and anger?
Solving the problem means a whole new approach may be required. And the LGBTQ audience may see a stronger relationship with Apollo, or a more mature role model for fans that offers complexity and introspection.
Midnighter #1 hits shelves on June 1.
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