‘LOVE IS LOVE’: Powerful Graphic novel supports Pulse victims


Esther Bell


By James Firkins

“So their love is different. It has to be, to fight so much hate. It’s super love,” says a small boy depicted outside the Orlando nightclub Pulse, honoring its victims.

“Yeah,” his dad replies, in the final panel of an iridescent, bright yellow  single-page comic that almost blinds the eye. 

“Yeah, super love,” he said.  

This is one of the more hope-filled entries in a collection of work from more than 200 writers and artists titled “LOVE IS LOVE,” honoring the 49 people killed during the Orlando nightclub shooting June 12, 2016.

The 144-page graphic novel, published Dec. 16, 2016, and curated by Marc Andreyko, is a collaboration between IDW Publishing and DC Entertainment. DC lent characters such as Batman and Wonder Woman, among others, for the stories, resulting in such beautiful moments like Harley Quinn admitting, “Love is going vegan just for her,” when the suitably plant-based Poison Ivy insists they eat vegan pizza.

However, not all the entries are proud and unashamed declarations of love. There is a close-up illustration of a contented child hugging his mother, head on her hip, as we barely see over his shoulder a bathroom door displaying three bullet holes. At the bottom of the image is the message victim Eddie Jamoldroy Justice texted to his mother as he hid in the bathroom, along with the time it was sent: “‘Mommy I love you.’ 2:06am.”

There are times when your hairs will stand on end. There are times when there will be an overwhelming surge of emotion in your chest, or the pressure of tears starting to flow. Readers should simply allow themselves to cry, and because this book is a powerful declaration to the humanity of the victims and the LGBT community that many in the world would seem to want to deny. This book might be the perfect way to introduce the subject to children and those who may have trouble understanding. 

“LOVE IS LOVE” honors the victims by donating all proceeds to Equality Florida, the “largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBT community.” It features work donated by an assortment of renowned creatives such as Steve Sadowski, Patton Oswalt, Ming Doyle and instantly recognizable J.K. Rowling, displayed across a wide range of illustrative styles from the soft comforts of  watercolor, to the contrasting black and white of pen and ink.

Some of the comic strips feel a little like a personal response to the attacks, which inevitably shifts the focus. Some are challenging to read, such as the Bizarro strip, and are not instantly understood. This may not be a bad thing, though, because it can be overwhelming when the focus is solely on victims—like the page about Brenda and Isaiah, a mother and son who danced in the club together. Brenda had survived cancer twice, the text reads, but only Isaiah made it out alive. 

But nothing is more profound than what is found on the inside front cover. There, are the names and ages of the 49 victims of the Orlando shooting who did not survive. The youngest was just 18.

Is the collection perfect? No, but that’s not the point. This book should exist free from any critical challenges and stand as it is intended: an emotive, clear declaration that love comes in all shapes and sizes. To put it another way, a comic near the back of the book says, “Of course we’re happy! After all, no matter the shape, size, color or gender… Love is love.”