Love Is Love

Edited by  Sarah Gaydos and Jamie S. Rich. Stories by various creators
DC and IDW Comics
December 28, 2016

Love Is Love will likely go down in history as a key comic project for the 2010s. A charity book spanning 146 pages, its proceeds will be donated to help victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. I, like many other queer people, felt scared after the shooting; to see my community attacked on such a large scale shattered me. Love is Love is exactly the kind of positive response we needed to see after the tragedy and for that I have to thank IDW and DC. We also need to thank Marc Andreyko, an openly gay creator who put this all together.

While the book is important conceptually, I have some issues with its execution. The introduction right away illustrates one of the core issues I have with the title; it’s a foreword from Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, who from my research is not an openly queer person. This book brings many allies into its pages at the expense of creating what could have been an anthology rich with queer voices who perhaps lack the same levels of fame. A title such as this was the perfect place to amplify these voices. The creators are also mostly white; while there are standout people of color in the book, it’s a shame they decided a white perspective was what we needed in response to an event that killed many people of color

Considering the amount of allies who worked on this it is important to note that no one is getting paid for this and I do think allies putting their time in for free to share these stories is a good thing. This isn’t allies cashing a buck on queerness, but it’s still a shame. It’s a shame because this comic is not for queer people to read, it is for allies.  The money is going to the right place, but so much of the narrative is from the ally perspective: how this affects allies, how the poor allies are sad.

[pullquote]This isn’t allies cashing a buck on queerness, but it’s still a shame. It’s a shame because this comic is not for queer people to read, it is for allies. It’s for allies to feel good about donating ten bucks and getting something out of it.[/pullquote]In addition, the comic itself uses drama as its core tone and while the Pulse shooting is an Earth-shattering event, it felt like too much. I already lived through the suffering it caused me as a member of the community. As a person born near Orlando, a Latnix person, I already felt all that. The repeated scenes of white people watching TV screens and reacting to bodies became draining. It hurts every time I see a pile of bodies because I know these are based on real bodies, bodies that could have been me, my friends–people who are gone. There is little catharsis and mostly just further sorrow.

Let’s talk about some of the great queer voices in this book, because as negative as I sounded, there is some fantastic stuff here. James Tynion IV and Molly Knox Ostertag bring a really well-illustrated personal story about Tynion’s fear of going into high school after going to his first Pride event. Marguerite Bennett, Aneke, and Travis Lanham craft a really cute Beauty and the Beast story that is obviously very tied into Bennett’s personal feelings. Jay Edidin and Sophia Foster-Dimino‘s “Love Isn’t Love” talks about how being queer is a revolution and not as simple as “love is love.” Emma Houxbois and Alejandra Gutierrez’s tale about gay bars being places to explore stuff like gender touched my heart with lovely storytelling. Ross Fisher, Brenna Davis, Yildiray Cinar, and Deron Bennett create a compelling comic about not having a “coming out” story and how all stories are valid. “Scrapbook” by Steve Orlando, Lain Laurie, Harry Saxon, and Corey Breen is a sad but also sweet story of a scrapbook that pulls at the heart in a nice way unrelated to tragedy.

Love is Love also includes several stories featuring licensed characters, to mixed effect. In particular, a story about Deathstroke deciding to use karate instead of guns was, umm, bad is the word I would use. The Batwoman story was a stronger inclusion since Batwoman herself is queer; there is a standout moment where she tells a kid the bravest thing she ever did was be herself. It’s is a really sweet and powerful story that defines the core of Kate Kane. The Harley and Ivy story was silly and fun, and it was what I was hoping we would get a lot more of in this anthology. There are some questionable inclusions, like the Wonder Woman story that seems more aimed at telling people who want her to be more openly queer being told to screw off, and a story from the controversial Alters universe. At the very least, the Alters story let us get some AMAZING colors from trans colorist Tamra Bonvillian. I did have a problem with the amount of Batman and other straight characters that flooded the book without feeling earnest but we at least had a nice balance with stories like Midnighter and Apollo’s.

Speaking of harmful stories, James Robinson of Airboy infamy writes a story about a straight trans girl here. Well, it’s actually about her father-in-law who deadnames her, says she wouldn’t be a woman without modern medicine, and makes it all about him. It’s a really shitty and an “obviously made by a cis team” kind of story. Honestly, there are so many questionable plays made here for the trans community even though the book features great trans folks like Jay Edidin, Tamra Bonvillain, and Emma Houxbois. 

Like many anthologies there are big hits and some misses. However, I’ve never read an anthology with this wide a gap in quality. I really wanted to love Love is Love but in the end this book is just riddled with problems. From some light transphobia, to a mostly white, mostly cis, mostly straight team of people involved, to stories like Deathstroke giving up his guns (is this a change we’ll see carried over into regular DC comics?) it’s just not great.

That isn’t to say I’m not proud of the community for coming together and making this book. I love a lot of the stories here and there is more than enough good to warrant the donation to Pulse. I’m sad that despite all the amazing queer involvement, it’s a book that I feel is a better buy for allies. Still, queer people have a ton to enjoy here; if you’re willing to pay a dollar for every great story included you’ll get your money’s worth. Love is Love, and it’s good to see people coming together to support love.