On Saturday at NYCC, AfterShock announced its latest graphic novel, Kill a Man from writers Steve Orlando (Martian Manhunter), Phillip Kennedy Johnson (The Last God), artist Alec Morgan (Midnighter) and letterer Jim Campbell (Giant Days). We’ve got details on the story, as well as a first look at interiors in a five page preview.
Kill a Man is a graphic novel about MMA and LGBTQ+ issues. It begins as DJ Bellyi enters the ring and insults his opponent, Xavier Mayne, with queer slurs. Mayne, enraged, dishes his anger back out on Bellyi, beating him to death with his son, James Bellyi, watches in the stands. Sixteen years later, James takes up his old man’s profession and outdoes him. He even has a shot at the title – before one of his own opponents lets loose that James himself is gay. After that, he’s only left with one person who understands what he’s going through: Xavier Mayne.
For Orlando, writer of queer titles like Midnighter and himself bisexual, this is a story he’s been waiting to tell for quite awhile. He writes in an AfterShock press release that Kill a Man is “an allegory for the fight each and every one of us go through to prove ourselves to ourselves,” and because of that, he needed authenticity from his creative team; an authenticity that blossomed when he met collaborators Morgan and Johnson, who have both had experience with MMA.
The fandoms of comics and MMA overlap heavily and, just like any other media, both need more diverse representation. That’s an idea Johnson points out as well, adding, “while MMA is at the height of its popularity, I don’t think it’s a sport or a culture in which a gay male fighter would necessarily feel comfortable coming out.”
“The fight for respect and for the right to happiness is often daily for LGBTQ+ people, and it certainly often remains so for me,” Orlando says,” James Bellyi is the type of imperfect, and hopefully triumphant hero I wanted to see when I was young – to show that the journey is long, it can be hard, we can at times be our own worst enemy, but we CAN go the distance, we can succeed on terms WE set, rather than what society tells us.”
Kill a Man releases from AfterShock in the early summer of 2020; check out preview pages and cover art from Morgan below.