Since the conclusion of the main Black Hammer series last year, the universe of the series has continued to expand. The currently-running ’90s-inspired Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy is joined by this week’s debut of Colonel Weird: Cosmagog, and next month sees the debut of another title, Barbalien: Red Planet. The solo series for Mark Markz, the last of the Martians, recounts the character’s origin in the ’80s as he struggles with living both as an alien among humans and as a closeted gay man, all against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis.
Illustrated by Gabriel Walta and Jordie Bellaire, and with letters by Aditya Bidikar, Barbalien: Red Planet is co-written by Black Hammer creator Jeff Lemire and Tate Brombal, who previously contributed to the World of Black Hammer Encyclopedia. A gay man himself, Brombal researched the LGBTQ+ activism of the era in which the story takes place extensively. Now, ahead of next month’s release of the first issue of the series, Brombal has penned an essay about the history of Pride, its roots in Queer rage, and representing that moment in history in the pages of Barbalien: Red Planet.
The Beat is proud to exclusively present Tate Brombal’s essay below, along with a six-page preview of the first issue. Look for Barbalien: Red Planet #1 in stores on Wednesday, November 18th.
By Tate Brombal
We’ve heard it before (and, if you haven’t, pay attention): The first “Pride Parade” wasn’t a celebration, it was a riot. It wasn’t confetti and glitter or slogans and floats, it was fists and bricks and Molotov cocktails. In the heat of the night on June 28, 1969, I’m sure it wasn’t even about Queer liberation.
It was about Queer rage.
We swallowed our joy and breathed out fire. Anger, fury, violence. It was about years upon decades upon generations of beatings and rapes and imprisonments and murders that systematically upheld homophobia and transphobia in a racist, patriarchal world reinforced by abusive policing and spiteful politicians and hateful populations, all of which boiled over when our forebears gathered and demanded to be heard or so help them, God, there would be blood payment. Because, even before our own blood was “tainted” by AIDS, the world at large loved to see it fill their gutters, soaking our planet red. They told us we deserved it for our choices. What a pity, they’d say, as they stepped over our bodies.
How much of our blood must be shed to warrant a drop of their tears?
So when I say Barbalien: Red Planet is a celebration of Pride, that is the Pride I am talking about. The pride we have in our butch queens who have always protected us, our unflappable Trans women who have always led us, our siblings of color who have always stood tall against intersectional oppression, and all the Queer folx who have refused to stay silent in the face of adversity. It is the pride in our wrath, and it is the pride in our blood because, oh, how it terrifies them, now. And when the flames go out and our own fear creeps in, it is the pride in our joy that sustains us.
I wrote Barbalien: Red Planet as an ode to that original “Pride Parade,” to queer rage and the power we wield when we gather; but it is also about every parade since, and the queer joy we breathe in until our fires light again. I hope this book lives up to the holy rage of our forebears because their parade hasn’t ended, yet. Not while Queer liberation for all is still out of grasp. Not while our planet is still at the mercy of AIDS. Not while our BIPOC siblings are still silenced by White Supremacy. And not while our governments and their agents are still complicit in our death.
So I hope this book lights a fire in you.
Because the parade isn’t over, and we will never stop fighting.