This past week saw the publication of an eagerly awaited one shot comic book which honors the lives that were lost or forever impacted by the June 12, 2016 mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine people, most LGBT identified and many Latino, died in what is currently the worst mass shooting in U.S. History.
More than 300 writers and illustrators contributed to "Love is Love," the 144-page book which seeks to make sense of the tragedy and offer healing to the survivors, including to the families of those who were killed. All proceeds from the sales of "Love is Love" will go directly to Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBT advocacy group. Equality Florida has set up a fund to benefit the families of the victims.
"Love is Love" is a collaboration between independent comic book publisher IDW and DC Comics, owners of the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman franchises. Mark Andreyko, a writer for DC Comics, came up with the book's concept.
Contributors to "Love is Love" include Dan Parent, who created Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character to be introduced into the Archie Comics universe.
"I was devastated," Parent told SFGN, speaking from his home in Pennsylvania as he recalled the moment he first heard about the shooting. "Such an act of savage violence is hard to understand--all those people are someone's brother, sister, child. It's heartbreaking."
Parent addressed why he wanted to contribute to "Love is Love." "As a person who has always stood up for equality for all, these issues hit home," he said. "I believe fiercely that we should appreciate our differences and foster them. We were starting to live in an age where people could be who they were--I hate to see all the progress made go away."
Parent said he doesn't think things will go back to where they were decades ago, when people were forced to live in the closet, but adds that we're in for a tough fight against the incoming Trump administration.
"It's very disappointing that we have rewarded a bully and a tyrant with the highest office in the land," he said. "I think he will crash and burn at some point, as most narcissistic bullies do. All we can do is learn from this and form a clear progressive alternative to struggling Americans. It's safe to say that this new administration isn't LGBT friendly."
Parent also addressed the importance of projects like "Love Is Love." "It's important to promote a positive message, but to also do something that directly helps victims financially," he said.
Parent's contribution to "Love is Love" is a one-page illustration of Kevin Keller dancing in a club. "He says that you can't give in to terror," Parent explains. "You can't live in fear. I tried to use a more upbeat approach."
Comic books, Parent feels, can have a powerful impact upon culture. "Comics can definitely change hearts and minds," he said. "It's a medium we all know from a young age, so it can be an effective tool in its familiarity. Buy the book and spread the word! The more we sell, the more good can be done!"
"Love is Love" is currently available in comic book shops and at Amazon for $9.99: Amazon.com/Love-Various/dp/1631409395