I had just learned about the hate crime-related murder of Dwayne Jones in Jamaica when writer Steve Orlando contacted me about his Kickstarter campaign for Virgil, a crime graphic novel partially aimed at shining a light on anti-gay violence in that country. So his request for an interview was an easy one to grant. Orlando’s Kickstarter, with a goal of $15,000 and an end date of Sept. 11, aims to tell the story of Virgil, an outed cop fighting “his way across Jamaica to save his man and get revenge.” Orlando has also posted a preview of the book.
Tim O’Shea: I know Archie’s Kevin Keller partially inspired Virgil. But I am curious, how did you first learn about anti-gay violence in Jamaica?
Steve Orlando: If you’re going to fight back against the man, you’ve got to go where he lives!
But seriously, research! Once I decided to do a book with a gay couple fighting back against heterosexists and violent homophobes, I consulted Human Rights Watch reports. Originally I planned on setting the book in Africa, also the home of numerous anti-gay atrocities, but the dichotomy of Jamaica was much stronger to me. Jamaica is often seen as a vacation paradise, but for so many residents there that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
When writer Steve Orlando contacted Robot 6 about his 88-page graphic novel, Octobriana: Samizdat Edition (Poseur Ink), I was intrigued for a number for a reasons. First off, Orlando tapped artist Chaz Truog (Grant Morrison’s collaborator on his definitive Animal Man run) for the project. Also, of interest to me, was the Russian history aspect; SAMIZDAT, the underground Soviet movement for spreading censored art and literature and best of all, a character born partially from a pop culture hoax. Once interested, of course, I arranged an email interview and we discussed all of these topics and more.
Tim O’Shea: At the outset, for uninformed readers like myself, can you discuss SAMIZDAT- the underground Soviet movement for spreading censored art and literature?
Steve Orlando: Samizdat (which means “self-making” or “self-made” in Russian) was an underground publishing movement during the harshest times of Soviet repression. It’s best summed up by Vladimir Bukovsky, a doctor and writer that exposed psychological torture against Soviet prisoners- “(…) I myself create it, edit it, censor it, publish it, distribute it, and …get imprisoned for it. (…)” With Samizdat, banned documents were printed in secret and passed hand to hand between readers, under the radar. Because the documents were censored by the government, Samizdat was a dangerous movement, its printers were social and political zealots. But it was also extremely important- works such as Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” were among the circulated texts…making the movement responsible for the continued growth and expression of Russian literature. These were dedicated people- sometimes even recreating the texts word for word by hand or by typewriter.
[Note: Article edited to add publisher information.]
The Internet is a wonderful thing. Twenty years ago when you wanted to find out about the next big comics talent you had to wait for them to hit shelves in indie comics or a small anthology title. Now every day something new is popping up on the internet.
Today, we have Morningstar. Written by U.K. Albany indie writer Steve Orlando, I found out about the upcoming graphic novel via the book’s artist Polly Guo. Guo describes it as a “balls-out superhero punchfest” covering the redemption of the fallen angel Lucifer in the Kingdom of God. Tying into the writings of poet John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Morningstar is scheduled for publication in late 2012 by 215 Ink … and doesn’t this look great?