June 12th, 2016. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and one of the darkest moments the LGBTQ community has ever faced.
The Love Is Love comic anthology, co-published by IDW publishing and DC Comics, is an eloquent, moving tribute to the people who lost their lives that night and for all those touched by that loss. It’s an ambitious collection of one or two page stories from a diverse coalition of artists with noble intentions, the simplest of which is raising money for the people directly affected. Now on it’s fourth printing, with 100% of the proceeds going to Equality Orlando, I’d say it’s accomplished that goal.
But how can anyone hope to properly articulate the pain people were left with after such a horrifying act of violence? To say that this book has lofty goals is an understatement. You need to pay appropriate tribute to those that were killed. Encapsulate how people from all walks of life reacted when they heard the news. Encourage to be proud of themselves and stand strong in the face of an attack on their core values.
Perhaps it’s most towering goal is to make some sort of sense of something that any decent person would find unthinkable. It’s just too deranged and too big and too heartbreaking to wrap one’s head around. That’s unfair, of course, for the literally hundreds of creators who contributed. The people involved with this book would be forgiven for looking at the odds of doing it right and finding a different way to help instead. Below is just a handful of the A-list talent who gave it their best shot anyway. Just look at this list of contributors; any single one of these names would make any regular book a must-read:
Brian Michael Bendis
G. Willow Wilson
Leinil Francis Yu
The fact that Love Is Love (in my opinion) succeeds as well as it does is completely besides the point, because this generous group of writers, artists, colorists, editors, comedians and filmmakers did something. Something to help, something to comfort, and that’s all anyone can do, really.
There are stories in Love is Love that are biographical, stories that are fictional, stories that are realistic, and stories that are fantastical. They come in many forms, including personal memoir, poetry, fairy tales, and abstract imagery. Many creators chose to illustrate their immediate reaction to the event as it unfolded on television. Some tell how they attempted to explain what happened to their children. Some share a snapshot of their queer life experiences, whether through support they received, prejudice they suffered through, or a mix of both. Some use comic book or literary icons as a mechanism to help their fans understand what they have in common.
The first story that broke me was early in the book, it featured a boy asking his father why two men are kissing. “Is it a different love?” the boy asks. The father responds, “Yes… No… Yes…” concluding, “because their love scares people.” The boy decides that their love must be different if it can stand up to that much hate and evil, dubbing it “Super-Love,” as he imagines a group of Orlando mourners in capes.
In a similar but chilling piece, two young friends retreat to their separate homes and witness their parents having very different reactions to the Pulse shooting. One kid’s parents comfort him and explain to him that gay love is just like their love. The other overhears his parents using a homophobic slur and repeats it to himself, giving birth to a new generation of intolerance.
A particularly heartbreaking story involves a puppy being adopted from a shelter, only to, years later, end up right back where it started when it’s owner never comes home from a night out.
Another, narrated by Wonder Woman, asks the eternal question, what do the Amazons do for companionship on an island with only women? Followed by another: what would you even do with that information if you were told? Judge her?
Mark Millar was the only one to take an angle specifically about gun control, making the case that everything from rope to cyanide to human hands have many practical uses, yet guns have only one.
Many simply chose to compose a single image, be it true-to-life or abstract, mirroring their grief.
This book was hard to get through and, honestly, I had to put it down at one point because it brought me to tears. But, at times, it also made me beam with joy, and even made me laugh out loud (Once. I’m looking at you, Taran Killam). It’s a book filled with hope, anguish, respect, rage, and sympathy. For every story of embittered helplessness their is a story of perseverance. It’s both a somber eulogy and a call to action. If you’re looking for a way to help, even just a little bit, pick up a copy of Love Is Love. If you like it, buy another copy for someone you love. Buy it for someone who needs your support or buy it for someone who is naive to the LGBTQ experience. At least you’re doing something and that’s all anyone can do, right?