'Be Gay, Do Crimes' With A New DC Comics Pride Month Story By LA Native Sina Grace
Like a lot of other pop culture — and society as a whole — comic books haven’t always been a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people. But this Pride Month, DC Comics has released "DC Pride," an anthology featuring queer characters from queer creators.
Be Gay, Do Crimes
Comic book writer Sina Grace found out this book was in the works and begged to be a part of it, Grace told us. He contributed the story “Be Gay, Do Crimes,” using the popular queer anarchist catchphrase to tell a story about how different generations look at the problems affecting LGBTQ+ communities.
Grace’s story features reformed Flash supervillain Pied Piper and an upstart criminal following in his footsteps, Drummer Boy. Pied Piper, who uses a flute with hypnotic powers, comes up against the new character and his superpowered electronic drum pads.
“I had been asked about [Pied Piper] before and didn’t feel like I had anything to say then,” Grace said.
He found a way into the character with a story about the way perspective can shift from one generation of queer activists to another, as well as how that perspective shifts as you get older.
“It was just a conversation with myself about how a younger version of me would see me,” Grace said.
New character Drummer Boy is someone who has an aggressive, forward-thinking, Gen Z approach to heroism, according to Grace. He resorts to crime as a landlord raises rent on a gay neighborhood, ranging from bars to homeless resource centers and trying to force everyone out.
“While [Drummer Boy] doesn’t believe in the binaries, he does believe that if you boil something down, there’s always a right and a wrong, and that you should just do the right thing,” Grace said.
Supporting queer-owned businesses is important to Grace. As Drummer Boy tells Pied Piper, “Poor people can only GoFund each other so much.” Ouch.
“I felt that way too over the last year. All of these businesses I love just being like, ‘We need money.’ And you reach a point where you’re like, ‘I actually don’t have any more money to give right now,’” Grace said.
But Pied Piper gets to present another view, with progress being made without going outside the law.
“You see folks are making strides within the system, and not just with the LGBTQ community,” Grace said.
He sees Drummer Boy as representing a new generation that has the ability to find who they are in entirely new ways. Drummer Boy has a punk attitude, pulling from the Japanese magical girl trope as well as turning himself into his own Power Ranger, according to Grace.
“There’s so much more language now than there’s ever been, which is really exciting. To have words for every aspect of your identity,” Grace said. “‘I thought I was just this thing, but actually, there’s a whole darned spectrum, and I can find a better fit for myself.’”
Pulling His Influences Into The Work
Grace is an artist in his own right, having illustrated a number of comics and continuing to do his own pieces of art. He drew the initial design for Drummer Boy before collaborating with artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt to complete that design and realize it in the pages of "DC Pride." Grace sent his collaborators links to Instagram accounts and other online personalities who were inspiring him, including dancer Erik Cavanaugh, who became a viral sensation as a tall, plus-size man dancing in stilettos.
“He moves like an angel,” Grace said. “I really wanted the character to just move beautifully and elegantly.”
Grace made headlines when he wrote Iceman of the X-Men for Marvel following the character coming out, one of the most high-profile gay characters in the comic world. As he made the move to DC, following a sense that Marvel wasn’t properly promoting his run on Iceman, Grace was happy to get the chance to write non-gay characters.
“At DC, I was very happy to not be put in a box, or not be hired because of my qualifiers,” Grace said. “I didn’t feel pressure to be like, ‘OK, I’ve got to put a rainbow flag on this Shazam story,’ or ‘Plastic Man needs a gay best friend.’ Although, now that I said that out loud — yeah, Plastic Man needs a gay best friend.”
The team behind "DC Pride" has given Grace a different experience from what he felt with Marvel, he said.
“The most important thing is that there are folks behind the scenes who reflect the cultures and communities that need the extra TLC in terms of getting these stories off the ground, and embraced, and done well, done right,” Grace said.
DC was part of an LGBTQ+ anthology a few years ago, following the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. But rather than being born out of tragedy, "DC Pride" features more queer joy.
“There is this great demand for joy and respect,” Grace said. “It just made me so happy that they thought about that, and that they were seeking to reflect the spectrum of experiences and moods. For me personally, Pride isn’t just a celebration, but it has to be a reflection, too.”
His independent work included a book set in Los Angeles, "Ghosted In L.A.," another book that dealt with economic issues and the creative arts.
“The thing that I’d never understood living in this city, and it took going to college somewhere else and making friends with transplants, was that the little fluoride programming in the water in the city tells people you can make money in the arts,” Grace said. “And that’s something I didn’t realize isn’t ubiquitous everywhere. I grew up with a comic book publisher one bus ride away, and I could go intern and watch my favorite comic artist draw, Michael Turner, because of the film industry and because of the animation industry.”
Over the course of that story, Grace wanted to share the message that women and femmes could make money telling jokes, drawing books, acting, directing, and more.
“You can make money making art. And it’s not just one avenue. And that is just so clutch,” Grace said.
Grace continues delivering empowering messages in “Be Gay, Do Crimes,” hoping that his audience finds inspiration in its pages.
"DC Pride" is in stores and available online now, and rival Marvel Comics releases its own "Marvel’s Voices: Pride" on June 23. "DC Pride" is part of a larger Pride Month initiative that also includes the queer-centric book "Crush & Lobo," as well as alternate Pride Month covers on other books and several new YA books featuring queer characters.