An Outing with Marc Andreyko|
by Lyle Masaki
Manhunter, from DC Comics, is one of the most gay-friendly mainstream titles currently being produced: writer Marc Andreyko and editor Joan Hilty are both gay, and gay artist Jose Villarrubia works on covers. More obviously, two of the main characters are a gay couple. Lyle Masaki recently chatted with Andreyko about the creation of the new Manhunter, his dealing grisly deaths to supervillains, and his outing a superhero who has been closeted since he first appeared in 1983!
Lyle Masaki: There are lots of shades of grey in Manhunter. Kate Spencer believes in the criminal justice system but has no problem taking the law into her own hands when she feels it’s been corrupted by defense lawyers. She often questions herself and her decisions, but does not lack confidence. It's not clear how I, as the reader, am supposed to feel for her even when I understand Kate's motivations, I'm not sure if I'm okay with them. How did this title evolve from DC's simply wanting a new Manhunter to the complex character who has taken on the mantle?
Marc Andreyko: Dan DiDio told me he wanted a "new Manhunter—a female one" and that was my starting point. I wanted to make Kate Spencer a complex character who was conflicted—like all of us. Is she always likable? Nope, but then again, who is likable all the time? And Kate's views on justice are pretty conflicting, too, but I wanted to raise issues that haven't really been explored in a mainstream superhero book.
LM: In interviews you've compared Kate to Lara Fynn Boyle's character in The Practice. Boyle's character had to deal with corrupt defense attorneys as well as corrupt prosecutors who tried to twist the justice system to meet their needs. We've seen Kate's reaction to unscrupulous defense attorneys, but how would Kate deal with a crooked prosecutor? Would her reaction be any different?
MA: Funny you should ask, because "One Year Later" reveals that Kate is now a defense attorney. And we will definitely see some crooked prosecutors... :)
LM: When I first picked up Manhunter, I worried that this title would have a high body count—that it would be turned into a clearing-house for villains nobody was interested in using anymore, much like Suicide Squad. I've been surprised that this hasn't been the case, so far. How do you approach killing off an established villain? When is it worthwhile to take the character out of the story pool?
MA: Well, first I see what villains are available to use and then I see if I can kill 'em! LOL! Actually, DC has been great about letting me off some bad guys. What villains show up and the like has never been an editorial issue for me. My editor, Joan Hilty, is the best editor I've ever worked with.
As far as "worthiness" of killing a villain, well, this being comic books, any of them could pop back to life at any time. That's why I try and kill them in really severe ways: if some other guy is gonna undo a death, his work will be cut out for him.
LM: What brought Cameron Chase and Mister Bones into the series? Working with the DEO has turned out to be a very natural progression for Kate, but not one that looked likely from the way the series started.
MA: Chase was a book I really loved and I felt she and Kate would make great foils for the other. And Mr. Bones has been a fave since the Infinity, Inc. days. I loved that book! So, I leapt at the chance to make them regular members of Kate's cast. I feel sometimes like I'm writing "the island of misfit superheroes." :)
LM: I remember the frustration that occurred when Obsidian appeared in a JSA story arc. Gay fans were hoping to see lingering questions of Obsidian's sexual orientation resolved, but nothing happened. Five years pass, and Todd is outed to the audience within a few panels of his entrance (not with an angst-ridden coming out speech but by revealing that he's in a relationship). Is this a sign that there are fewer barriers to including gay characters in DC's mainstream books, that there's less hesitancy for gay characters to play a major role and have a romantic life?
MA: Well, on my part, I wanted to see a gay character who just happened to be gay—no drag queens, gay-bashings, AIDS martyrs, or evil queens. Just a guy. Who likes guys. DC was totally supportive. Once again, it was something that DC wants more of—a diversity of characters.
LM: What was the motivation to bring an established character, Obsidian, out of the closet? What does Todd bring to the book as Obsidian and as Damon's love interest that helped open the door to this long-awaited revelation?
MA: Gerard Jones danced around the gay issue with Obsidian back in the 90s' JLA and, upon rereading Infinity, Inc., Todd's homosexuality seemed to be in character. And, as soon as I started coming up with Kate's cast of characters, I knew I wanted her law partner to be a gay guy. Once I found Damon's voice, I thought it would be interesting to give him a superhero boyfriend and not know that he was a superhero.
Toss in my love for Infinity, Inc., add water, shake, and cook at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
LM: With the current state of comics, Manhunter looked like it would face an uphill battle from the beginning. Titles that aren't tied to a popular franchise struggle from a lack of familiarity and a self-fulfilling prophecy that the title is doomed to battle for its survival. Did this challenge influence how you wrote the series or how you promoted Manhunter?
MA: I never expected to be as aggressive in my selling of Manhunter as I am. But, when I saw the first few issues, I was so proud of everyone's work (and not horrified by mine) that I wanted as many people as possible to see the book. That's why I've sent out about 700+ copies to people to get them to try it. If they don't like it after that, fine, but at least they tried it.
Plus, I am having the time of my life writing this book. It is one of the most creatively satisfying things I've ever done. So, please, buy multiple copies!
LM: I've noticed that you're working on a title called Pendragon with one of my favorite artists, Stephen Sadowski. I haven't been able to learn much about Pendragon. Can you tell us about that project?
MA: That project will, hopefully, somehow, someday happen, but Steve isn't attached to it any more. Nothing gossipy to tell—the stars just didn't align for it then, so, perhaps another day...
BUT, it was/is a re-exploration of the King Arthur mythos and was/is very dark and creepy. You should read it—- when it comes out, that is.
Lyle Masaki currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area in California and writes about pop culture at http://www.crocodilecaucus.com. His interview with Devin Grayson appears in the 2006 edition of Prism Comics: Your LGBT Guide to Comics.
All images and characters © 2006 DC Comics. Review © 2006 Lyle Masaki.
Prism Comics promotes the works of the LGBT community in comics. It does not implicitly endorse any other material or products associated with those works. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s).