Remaining an in-demand writer for 25 years isn’t easy, but Steven T. Seagle’s work continues to impress readers and viewers. While he’s remained busy with extraordinarily popular projects like co-creating the Ben 10 animated series as part of the Man of Action creative studio and writers collective, and is known for past runs on popular superhero franchises -- including time on Sandman Mystery Theatre, Uncanny X-Men and Superman -- Seagle has also carved out space for more personal and experimental projects, such as the award-winning Vertigo graphic novel It’s A Bird and his Image Comics book The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary (both with illustrator and frequent collaborator Teddy Kristiansen).
This February, Seagle presents another side of himself in a new book of essays presented in comic book form. Published by Image, Get Naked features 19 essays on a variety of subjects, but all tied together by one common thread -- Seagle’s own nudity. Drawn by 19 up-and-coming illustrators (Emei Olivia Burell, Tina Burholt, Patricia Amalie Eckerle, Christoffer Hammer, Andrada-Aurora Hansen, Rebekka Davidsen Hestbæk, Hope Hjort, Angelica Inigo Jørgensen, Bob Lundgreen Kristiansen, Silja Lin, Sim Mau, Ingvild Marie Methi, Thorbjørn Petersen, Aske Schmidt Rose, Erlend Hjortland Sandøy, Mads Ellegård Skovbakke, Cecilie “Q” Maintz Thorsen, Fred Tornager and Thomas Vium) and diving deep into themes of exposure -- both internal and external -- Get Naked shows off a side of Seagle readers haven’t seen before.
Taking time from his hectic schedule of animation, feature film and comic book collaborations with his Man of Action studiomates, Seagle spoke to CBR about Get Naked, including why nudity became the book’s unifying theme and where a book of essays about male nudity fits into the current climate of powerful men being exposed for pushing their sexuality onto others.
CBR: While not entirely unprecedented, essays in comic book form aren’t something you often see. What motivated you to pursue writing in this format?
Steven T. Seagle: I’ve read things that I thought had the feel of a graphic essay, but I wanted to really own that idea and start with that as a form for comics. So I literally wrote the 19 essays in the book in prose form with no thought about the visual aspect of them -- something I’d never normally do when working in comics. I was really excited about seeing what a variety of cool, young artists would do with the challenge of making a different kind of text work in comics format.
What made nudity the common tie between these essays? They spin out into all sorts of areas and nudity is sometimes only tangential -- they could’ve been unrelated essays, but you went for a theme that unites them all in some small way.
I didn’t just want a collection of essays in a book, I wanted a thematically linked collection of essays. I wanted the book as a whole to have an arc, not just be random thoughts. A lot of these are stories I tell all the time verbally, and quite of few of them are directly about or butt up against my longstanding discomfort with being nude in any kind of semi-public setting. Physical nudity is sometimes tangential to the essays, but nakedness is present in all of them -- emotional, physical, spiritual -- all kinds of nakedness. I also felt like getting people in the door for comics essays would be more possible with the title Get Naked.
Your nakedness seems to always be in accepted places, but does the current climate of powerful men exposing themselves (and far worse) change how you feel about the theme or the presentation of this book?
The almost daily revelations of (almost entirely) men using their positions of power to expose themselves to their subordinates is repugnant -- as is the abuse of any kind of power in a relationship. When I set out to write these essays late last year, I made an intentional choice to focus on non-sexualized nudity because I wanted the pieces to be able to dig in on the idea of body shame/body acceptance -- both externalized and internalized -- without having those ideas conflated with sexuality -- a predominantly American limitation.