DISCLAIMER: This review will cover a lot of things that may be trigger warnings for a lot of people, no matter their political or sexual orientation. I will be talking about things abnormal for me personally, as a comic reviewer. I don’t usually talk politics, my political affiliation, or anything remotely controversial, because I feel that comics should be inclusive, but this comic moved me in a way that I simply can’t ignore. This review will have my opinion on certain things political, social, and since this comic was inspired by the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, it will include talk of death. Here is my opinion.
There are just somethings in this world that, I personally, have never found controversial. I think love is at the top of that list. Love can never be bad, no matter what some people may say. People that do bad things in the name of love are actually doing bad things because their idea of love has driven them to feel something else. Love doesn’t beat their wife, love doesn’t stalk someone that doesn’t love them back, and love most certainly doesn’t murder others because they think their love isn’t real or true.
In today’s current political climate it’s hard for me to know where to start talking about the state of the world. I’m a straight, white, male; although I’m not rich and I have never benefited from nepotism I can’t deny that the social structure of our country has been geared towards people like myself. When looking at facts and statistics these facts are undeniable, no matter how hard people try to fight it. Normal people see these things and they understand that the uplifting of another person doesn’t mean that another group or person has to be torn down. Black Lives Matter. A pretty simple statement. One that shouldn’t be controversial. Why is simply stating that a group of people matter a controversy? Because some people feel that by stating one group matters it’s somehow a teardown of another group. It’s not. It’s a simple statement that is not up for debate and it’s not a dig on any other group. Love is love. It’s not some controversy, it’s not tearing down love and redefining it. Love is and always will be love, no matter who has it for the other. I simply don’t accept or understand why caring for others is controversial, it just isn’t. It really is as simple as love is love.
I really just want to thank Marc Andreyko for taking the time to do this book. When I first picked up this book I wasn’t ready. I thought I was ready, I thought it was like any other comic book. It wasn’t. From the cover to the very first page I was hit with a sense of importance. The cover is bold and defiant. The cover is full of all kinds of people; young and old, big and small, black and white, and everything in between. On this cover all of the people are smiling and happy. I know that might not seem so defiant but when I step back and truly look at the world we live in it occurred to me we live in a world where simply being LGBT is an act of courage. We live in a world where a simply display of affection such as holding hands or a quick peck on the lips could get a person killed. LGBT people live in a world where the act of declaring pride in who they are is an act of defiance. LGBT people live in a world where their suicide rates are staggeringly higher than that of straight people. LGBT people live in a world where love isn’t love, they live in a world where love is defiance.
Love Is Love is a pretty massive undertaking and it has a pretty massive span over the comic book industry. Published by IDW with editorial and related services provided by DC Entertainment; this comic has a seemingly never ending list of talented contributors from all sides of the comic game, writers, artists, letterers, editors, even people outside of the comic industry contributed. Love Is Love features beloved and established DC characters such as Superman, Batman, Superboy, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy just to name a few; even JK Rowling was kind enough to lend out Harry Potter characters for the first ever appearance in comics which is just another small reminder of what an amazing person Ms. Rowling is. The credits page already had me taken back. I looked at the names and credits that haven’t even included any of the individual artists and I started to realize how amazingly diverse and caring the comic community can be. Again, I think the project organizer and man behind this, Marc Andreyko, deserves a medal for his efforts. Seriously, thank you Marc; your brave and bold, you’re a man of steel, a true hero. As I read these credits I certainly wanted to give all of these people and organizations their proper respect and credit but I also don’t want to lose sight of what this project meant to them. They did this for the survivors of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting and proceeds go to survivors and their family but for more information or to donate contact Equality Florida Institute. I strongly encourage anyone to donate or at least go to the website and look. After reading this comic it was an enormous task to go to that website and put the faces to the names but I’m glad I did.Normally I talk about the writing and art of a book but for this book it’s very hard to nail down a specific talking point. Love Is Love is about 140 pages of one to two page shorts and each one brings a certain unique perspective and gut wrenching emotional response. The emotions in every single one of these shorts are tear inducing. The emotion these artists show are so real that I can feel complete understanding with one page while on the next I can be thrusted into a perspective I don’t understand but am made to feel complete empathy. There are several of the shorts that hit home with me for several different reasons. the story of a Christian man that was on his way to church and found out about the shooting; his heart hurt as he contemplated ways to reach out and do something meaningful like contact his congressmen or “tweet my outrage and hashtag my solidarity.” This story really got me because that was me. In the end the man did nothing but pray and contemplate and until now that is all that I’ve done. There is a one page splash of a child holding his mother’s hip in front of a bullet riddled bathroom door, in front of them both is a text message sent at 2:06am that simply states “Mommy I love you.” This made me cry instantly. During the news coverage I remember them talking about the last text this man sent to his mother while he hid in a bathroom expecting to die. Kaare Andrews was the artist and that text message was real. Thank you Kaare, this simple splash page made me realize that that text was sent from a person that loved his mother and was someones little boy. That poor mother has to wake up daily knowing that the last thought her poor son had was how much he loved her.
Not all of the stories were something that I could directly relate to, nor should they have been, but I certainly hope that was the point. We owe it to the deceased to put ourselves in their shoes and understand how others different from us feel. There was an eight panel page of a little boy wondering why he had to go live with his aunt while his other, assumingly non biological, father had to explain that he wasn’t going to have people come after him like his father did. At the end they hug and say that they miss daddy and the caption at the end says “Hate crimes hurt more than who the bullets hit.” Another seven panel one page of a father telling his daughter that, “No matter how many times they show it, I’ll never get used to seeing men holding hands.” This really got me in the gut because she chose that moment to come out to him and instead of having that same reaction he showed sympathy and empathy and proved that humans are capable of change. In the end he offers to drive with her to Orlando in an effort to show that he loves her for her, no matter who or what she may be.
These stories are so powerful, so true, and so needed, not only for those like them that need the comfort and understanding but for people like me that need to see things from another person’s perspective. There are somethings that I will never be able to experience but as a human being I can empathize and empathy is the only thing people like myself need to realize that Love is love.
We don’t have to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender to understand that all people deserve the right to pursue happiness; that doesn’t make you gay, it makes you American. I feel like we have a duty to the marginalized, the oppressed, the minority, and the people that need help. We owe it to them to put ourselves in their shoes and to give them a helping hand. I wish I would have done more than just write down some feelings but I now realize that lending my voice and showing solidarity to those people affected by discrimination is at least a step in the right direction. I want the young man or woman struggling with coming out to know that we are here for them and that their is nothing to be afraid of. I want the person struggling with identity to know that their accepted, especially if they have a long road of bodily transitions ahead of them. I believe that empathy and understanding is both the easiest and hardest thing we can do to move forward as a society, so if you happen to be an out of the loop straight person like me then take the time to step back and look through the eyes of another person and make an effort to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Do some research into what scares you and see that their just like you if you pull away the layers that you don’t understand, or if you’re friends with a person from the LGBT community then reach out to them, that’s exactly what I did. I contacted a friend and asked for resources to educate myself, so thank you so much Alice Erin Hudson, not just thank you from me but from everyone that will read this and hopefully utilize these resources. A few good people and places to start looking online to educating yourself would be; Kat Blaque’s YouTube, Janet Mock’s website, Dylan Marron’s website, GLAAD, and for a staggering look at suicide statistics within the LGBT community check out The Trevor Project. Lastly, if you are a person that is contemplating suicide please know that there are people that want to help you and you deserve to be happy; please don’t hesitate to call the Trans Lifeline US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366, or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. I truly hope you do as I did and take the time to read up about what LGBT people face simply to be who they are and love who they love.