Interview with Brian K. Vaughan

on

Considering the recent rush of badly perceived representation of lesbian and

gay images of TV and film recently, it’s nice to know that some people

out there are getting it right.

One

such person who is making big strides in small ways is comic

book writer Brian K. Vaughn, who routinely includes gay

and lesbian characters in his popular comic series, like

Y: The Last Man, the story of

a mysterious plague that kills every male on the planet

except for a young escape artist named Yorick Brown and

his pet monkey Ampersand (includes several lesbian characters),

and Runaways, about six ordinary kids &#8212 one of whom,

Karolina, hints at being gay &#8212 who discover that their parents

are actually super-villains.

Another

of his gay-inclusive comics, the award-winning Ex Machina &#8212 a

sci-fi political thriller about the world’s first

real superhero, who retires from masked crime-fighting in

order to run for Mayor of New York City and fights for gay

marriage along the way &#8212 was just optioned last week by New

Line Cinema to be made into a feature film. So in addition

to writing four monthly graphic novels for a variety of

comic publishers, Brian now has a screenplay to write.

Recently

Brian was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule

and answer some questions about his life as a comic book

creator, as well as his feelings about GLBT representation

in comics.

AfterEllen.com:

So what is your background?

Brian Vaughan:
I was born in Cleveland in 1976.

Typical suburban up bringing, went to an all-boys Catholic

high school, and college at NYU. Basically, I’m another

boring white bald dude named Brian who writes comics.

AE:

What was your favorite book(s) when you first got interested

in comics and why?

BV:
I

had a lousy speech impediment when I was little (I couldn’t

pronounce my R’s), so to avoid Elmer Fudd jokes, I

quietly kept to myself most of the time. Comic books were

a tremendous escape for me, and characters like Spider-Man

and Superman, who were mild-mannered, ineffective nerds

who were able to transform themselves into lovable heroes,

were hugely appealing, for obvious reasons.

I

grew up with comics, and comics grew up with me. I was weaned

on Marvel and DC, but soon graduated to the sophisticated

stories of British writers like Alan Moore, who showed that

super-heroes could work as powerful metaphors for the human

condition, not just adolescent power fantasies. From there,

I discovered the work of so-called underground cartoonists

like Adrian Tomine, Joe Sacco and Chester Brown, who showed

me that comics didn’t even have to be about super-heroes

they could be autobiographical, they could be works of journalism,

they could be slice-of-life dramas grounded in the real

world.

AE:

With the exception of Ex Machina, which by it’s

nature has a political element, you tend not to politicize

your inclusion of gay diversity. Your work instead tends

to be layered in a wonderfully gentle, matter-of-fact way

(with off-handed comments or revelations about a character’s

sexuality that blip, instead of BONG!). How did this come

about? And as a straight man, where does that desire for

and sensitivity to these stories stem from?

BV:


Well, thanks. I think most writers worth their salt are

"sensitive" folks eager to write about all kinds

of different people, especially those who are often misunderstood

and/or oppressed (as many of we fragile, damaged writers &#8212 gay

and straight &#8212 like to think WE were when we were young).

And the most powerful moments in fiction are usually the

most subtle ones, so those "blips" you mentioned

are deliberate.

AE:

Why do you feel that, unlike mainstream media, comics have

such a strong history when it comes to positive GBLT representation

(disregarding the obvious reason for some of the lesbian

arcs)?

BV:


Well, I’m sure we’ve had some shameful moments, like all

mediums, but I grew up reading great characters, who happened

to be gay, in the comics of brilliant British writers like

Alan Moore and Peter Milligan. This was long before I saw

similarly positive gay characters in movies or television,

so I guess we’ve always been a few years ahead of the curve.

AE:

What kind of feedback have you gotten regarding the GBLT

arcs you have told or seem to be about to tell?

BV: Very positive feedback, which is nice. Ex

Machina
was just nominated for a GLAAD Award, which

was a tremendous honor.

AE:

When one thinks of comic books many people think of the

stereotype of the 14 to 35-year-old male heterosexual audience.

As a female comic book reader I know why I read them, but

what kind of feedback do you get from other female readers

and what do you feel might help draw a larger female demo

to comics?

BV:


I get a lot of very positive feedback from female readers,

which is flattering. As for getting more women to the medium,

we have to a) get our books distributed in places where

non-comics-reading "civilians" &#8212 male and female &#8212 shop,

and b) write good, accessible books. Obviously, no two women

are the same, so it’s idiotic to think that you all love

romance or mystery or whatever. I have an ex who was a rabid

fan of Preacher, and I think that’s because it’s

a great fucking comic, not because it’s great comic "for

women."

AE: How is it that comics, being that it is quite a boys club, has

such well-rounded (and I don’t mean in the drawing) female characters, a trait

lacking in other forms of media?

BV:
Again, for every well-rounded female character in comics, I’m sure

you could find one or two who would make you cringe. But since the days of Dr.

Marston (Wonder Woman‘s inventor), there have always been male writers

in our medium who love writing about strong women. I guess I don’t have a great

explanation for that phenomenon, but I’m sure Freud would have fun with it.

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