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'Kill a Man' Graphic Novel to Tackle MMA and LGBTQ Identity (Exclusive)

The new project comes from writers Steve Orlando and Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artist Alec Morgan.
Courtesy of Alec Morgan/AfterShock Comics
The new project comes from writers Steve Orlando and Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artist Alec Morgan.

Independent publisher AfterShock Comics will expand its line of original graphic novels next year with a new title combining mixed martial arts with the personal fight of one gay man to be recognized for who he is for the first time. Unveiled at New York Comic Con, Kill a Man is likely to surprise more than a few fans when it hits shelves.

The graphic novel offers the chance for Steve Orlando and artist Alec Morgan to reunite — the two had previously collaborated on DC’s acclaimed Midnighter series — with Phillip Kennedy Johnson joining to co-write with Orlando.

Kill a Man is about forging your own identity in the shadow of the past,” Orlando explained in a statement. “James Bellyi is a fighter, desperate to carry on his family legacy, even though his late father's reputation was complicated at best. He was an early, iconic MMA fighter, cut down in his prime after slurring his queer opponent. For James, surpassing his father's potential has been his only goal, being the man his father would have been had he not been killed in the ring. It's enough that James hides his own secret — he himself is queer, something his father would never accept.”

James’ secret doesn’t stay hidden for too long, however, the writer shared.

“On the cusp of James's title shot, he's catfished and outed by his opponent, losing his entire support system, labeled a traitor by his family," said Orlando. "With no choice but to live on, James turns to the only man left in the world that will still train him on his quest to take back his title shot — the man that killed his father.”

The graphic novel is “a story I've wanted to tell since I broke into comics, to capture both the complicated internal and external struggle between identity, family expectation, society, and masculinity,” explained Orlando. “To put our lead through hell, admittedly one of his own making at times, and finally let him be the hero, let a queer man, a queer fighter, go on that heroes journey made famous by Rocky Balboa or Adonis Creed, and come out the side stronger, find family where he had none, and pride where he had shame.”

Added Johnson, “Anyone who keeps up with politics understands that this is an extremely relevant story right now. The U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear a case on whether employees can be fired for being gay. And 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.”

He continued, “We’re living in an important and dynamic time in American History, when we have the power and responsibility to decide what kind of nation the United States is going to be going forward. Telling a story with such an unlikely crossover — male queer culture and MMA culture — is Steve’s, Alec’s and my way of making that decision for ourselves.”

The graphic novel is set to be released next summer.





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