Marc Andreyko reacted to the news of the attack this past June at Orlando's Pulse gay nightclub -- a hate crime that left 49 dead and 53 injured -- with the type of shock and horror that could only be expected following the deadliest single-shooter mass shooting in United States history.
"I literally got physically ill," the writer, currently of DC Comics" "Wonder Woman '77" and "The Death of Hawkman," told CBR in an interview conducted last month. "How does this happen? I was just so shaken by it."
Soon, though, Andreyko saw something else: an opportunity to help. He's organized a graphic novel anthology titled "Love is Love," a 144-page book featuring one or two-page stories and art pieces from more than 250 acclaimed writers and artists. The book, due out on Dec. 21, will sell for $9.99, with all of the proceeds going to Equality Florida.
"Love is Love" will be published by IDW Publishing in partnership with DC Comics, the latter of which granted the book's creators use of its iconic characters, though Andreyko promises it won't be in the "cloying" fashion that often happens when real-life tragedy and fictional characters intersect. Creators contributing to the book -- and keep in mind, this is just a handful of the 250 -- include Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Cecil Castellucci, Mirka Adolfo, Paul Dini, Mark Millar, Cat Staggs, Amanda Diebert, Brad Meltzer, Sina Grace, Ed Luce, Jason Aaron, Jason Latour, Kieron Gillen; alongside the previously announced Olivier Coipel, Phil Jimenez, Patton Oswalt and Damon Lindelof, plus an introduction from "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins; with Andreyko himself writing a story and the afterword.
CBR spoke with Andreyko to learn more about how the comic book industry united to make "Love is Love" happen, the "emotionally draining" process of putting it together and how each purchase of this book can make a real difference in the lives of the survivors and families of the victims.
CBR: Marc, it's exciting to hear about how "Love is Love" came together relatively quickly, especially since it's rather ambitious in length. How did the ball get rolling on this -- from the original idea, then DC and IDW getting involved and making it a reality?
Marc Andreyko: The night it happened, I had seen a story online that there was a shooting in a club, and I was like, "That's sad, but that happens." Then I woke up Sunday morning -- and it was gay pride weekend in LA -- and it said, "49 dead, 53 injured," and I literally got physically ill. I was nauseated. "How does this happen?" I was just so shaken by it. I posted on Facebook, "We should do a comic book. We should do something to help these people." I just kind of put it out there.
I also posted, "I need to go to gay pride this year." I'm not a big fan of that, I'm too old for it, as a gay man, but I said, "I need to go be seen and not be afraid." [Veteran TV and comics writer] Paul Dini and his wife Misty were at my house in 20 minutes, and said, "We're going with you." They were wonderful. Then I got home that afternoon, like at 5 o'clock, and there were 75 messages in my mailbox, from different creators, publicists, actors, who said, "We're in."
That Monday, I posted, "I guess this is happening." I reached out to [President of DC Entertainment] Diane Nelson -- because DC has such a history of LGBT characters -- I wanted to see if they would allow us use of the characters. Diane's so super-busy, we kept missing each other. And I have a long relationship with IDW and [IDW Chief Creative Officer] Chris Ryall. I said to Chris, "Is this something you guys would be interested in publishing if I curate?" He said absolutely. Then I finally got a message from Diane: "If this is about the Orlando thing, DC wants to be involved. We want to publish it." I said, "IDW is already on board, would you guys be interested in joining forces?" One, because IDW already said yes, I don't want to take it from them. And I think for something this horribly tragic, unifying, showing support in the comics world, is important. There are so many things like Gamergate, some of the sexism and the misogyny that happens, we need something positive.
To the credit of [IDW CEO and Publisher] Ted [Adams], Chris, Diane, [DC Co-Publishers] Jim [Lee] and Dan [DiDio], they said absolutely. They gave me Jamie Rich, who's group editor at Vertigo; IDW gave me [group editor] Sarah Gaydos, who I've worked with a number of times, to help with it. Then I just started asking people, and people started asking me. It took on a life of its own. It's 144 pages with over 250 creators. The list of creators is insane. It's been so humbling and so inspiring to see the comics community come together -- whether you're gay, straight, bi, black, white, trans, male, female -- all sorts of people reached out to me. It's just been beautiful.
It's called "Love is Love" -- the tagline I'm using, that I stole from someone else on the Internet, is, "It doesn't matter who you love, just love somebody." Some of the stories are very powerful and very specific to Orlando, a couple people who lost friends and family have done pieces for the book; people that live in Orlando have done pieces for the book. Some people have done pieces that aren't Orlando-specific, but they're about love; there are one and two-page stories, there are pin-ups, there are illustrated poems. DC is letting us use their characters in the book.
It's 144 pages for 10 bucks, which is less than half of what a 144 page graphic novel would be. Every penny, 100 percent of it, is going to Equality Florida, specifically earmarked for the survivors, the 53 people that were injured whose lives have changed. The people who have lost their breadwinners -- there were elderly women whose gay sons took care of them. Who's going to pay their rent now? Who's going to take care of them? There was one man who went to the club, he went home early that night because he wasn't feeling well, and all of his friends he went with that night got killed. He's going to need psychiatric care. The people that worked at the club are going to need psychiatric care. After the funerals, the ripple effects go on forever.
People don't think about that aspect.
People don't. The news cycle is so fast. Some random person said on Facebook, "The book's coming out six months later, are people going to care?" I said to myself, "First of all, you're a horrible person. Second of all, that's why we're doing it."
For me, I grew up a child of "We Are the World," and Live Aid, and all that stuff, where, if you have a skill set in the arts, and you can do something and create something, not only is it helping us do our own therapy, it's giving people something to remember, and their donation is being seen as a tangible thing.
This book transcends just Orlando. This book is something you'll be able to revisit. It's a very powerful book. It's been really emotionally draining working on it, because it's been great and inspiring, but every time I get a piece, they're all so beautiful and so moving, that it's the emotional equivalent of when you bite your lip, and you keep biting it for a week. That's what it's been emotionally.
But it's a good thing. Stuff like this is supposed to hurt for a while. It would have been easy to write a check to the Red Cross and compartmentalize it and move on. But a tragedy of this magnitude is something we need to remember. The guy went in there and killed those people, and it's looking most likely that he was a deeply closeted gay man, whose upbringing created such self-loathing, and that just breaks my heart, because I never had any of that as a gay man growing up. I've had full support from my parents: "If you're happy, we're happy." I feel very privileged. I feel like I need to give back. Even being gay -- being a white guy in America, we're at the top of the food chain. It's something I can do. It's been really inspiring.
It's been such a quick turnaround for 144 pages with so many creators involved -- did you always have that target length in mind?
I reached out to the big-name people I knew, and then I made an effort to reach out to as many diverse creators, as well -- gay creators, lesbian creators, trans people, there are some people who have never done comics work before. People of different racial backgrounds.
I want this book to sell as many copies as possible, because every copy if $10 than can go help someone. I reached out to as many big names as possible to get as much attention to it as possible. Because it's not about any of us. If you're an artist and you have 20,000 fans, and 2,000 of your fans buy this book, that's $20,000 that's going to help someone. That could help someone pay off medical bills, or help someone pay their house bill, or help someone go see a psychiatrist or psychologist, of help someone buy a headstone. We don't think about all of the different levels there.
It's been really great. I've been a raw nerve for a couple of months because of it, but it's been completely worth it because of what these people lost, and how it's changed the way we think of things.
Already the list of participating creators is impressive -- you're a comics veteran and a well-connected guy, but how many times have you had a "I can't believe this person is able to contribute!" moment?
Every day. Every day. I look at the list, and it's crazy. I purposely kept it to 1 to 2 pages, so people would have no excuse to not do it. You have two months to do one page. There were some people that weren't available that said, "I'll donate art for the auction" -- because we're hopefully going to do a live auction of all the original art at MegaCon in Orlando in the spring, to double-down.
Like anything else, there have been a couple of people that have flaked. I now have immense respect for editors. I not know that creators, like Batman said, are a cowardly and superstitious lot. But 99.9 percent of the people have rose to the occasion and delivered moving, beautiful, powerful pieces. I was joking that we should probably include a box of Kleenex with the book -- it's sad, and it's funny, and it's defiant, and it's lovely, and it's beautiful. It's just wonderful.
We have contributors from all over the world -- artists from South America, artists from Europe, artists from America, artists from Canada, artists from Australia. It's a really, really amazing group of people. And it's also a chance for us to grieve. These sorts of things throw everybody for a loop. Even if you're straight and you don't know any gay people, the thing that really struck me about the event was, gay bars have always been a safe space. Gay bars are kind of to the real world what comic cons are for nerds: it's a space where you can go and be yourself. I have tons of friends, straight men, straight women, they go to gay bars because it's a place they can go get a drink with no pressure. It's a place where you can go and just be yourself with no judgment. To have something that horrible happen in sort of a sacred space is really not cool. It's really something that strikes a chord in everyone, and it shows that we have so much more in common than we do different. It's just been a really beautiful experience. It's been really gratifying for something this powerful to come out of something so horrible. If we can make one survivor's life a little easier, than it's all been worth it.
Though there have been somewhat similar benefits in comics before, the full package of this feels rather unprecedented, especially in scope. How has it felt to you, as the driving force behind this?
It's a big deal that companies like IDW and DC, without hesitation, were like, "We're in, what do you need." That's a big deal. Time Warner is a huge corporation. ["Detective Comics" writer] James Tynion tweeted, "Beyond the Orlando aspect of it, this is a big deal for gay kids, seeing the company that makes their superhero movies do this." IDW, all the licenses they've got, all the great work they do. This wouldn't have happened 20 years ago. The arc of acceptance -- ironically that this horrible thing of unacceptance happened -- has been unprecedented. To see something like this -- there are going to be some teenagers that read this book, that might live in the middle of the country, that aren't out, and this might give them some hope. That makes life worth living, being able to help someone like that.
This isn't a book about politics. I have issues with gun laws in this country, I have issues with mental health in this country -- it's called "Love is Love" for a reason. I wanted to do a book that memorializes people and celebrates that we should love one another.
"Love is Love" is scheduled for release on Dec. 21.