We’re continuing our National Inclusion Week celebrations this week, as we meet Specsavers’ resident comic book champion. Writing under the pen name ‘Joe Glass’, Cardiff Optical Assistant Joe Davies is the brains behind Queer Comix, featuring LGBTQIA+ superheroes in starring roles. Over the years, he’s worked with brands from Gay Times to WhatCulture – and his flagship comic series, The Pride, recently won ‘Best LGBTQ Comic Moment of 2021’ at the Gayming Awards.
We chatted to Joe about how Pride inspires and enriches his work, and how we can all get creative to celebrate our own unique stories.
Joe, when did you first get into comics? Were they something you loved right from childhood?
I was a massive fan of comics from an early age, particularly US superhero comics, spanning out of my love of the classic 1990s X-Men cartoons. When it became a real habit for me and I started collecting, it was an X-Men title called Generation X that started it all.
What inspired you to represent and champion queer characters in your work?
I just didn’t feel like I saw many people like me or my friends in the medium. There were plenty of analogies and metaphors and subtext, but so few wholly textually explicit and openly queer characters. It started to feel like a whole other kind of closet to me. As a result, one of the earliest decisions I made when pursuing making comics was that all of my stories would explicitly include the LGBTQIA+ community.
Which character has been your favourite to create and write for so far?
FabMan, one of the lead heroes from The Pride, holds a special place in my heart. In media, we often see representations of gay men aimed towards the masculine, in an attempt to show gay men as ‘normal’ and ‘just like you’ – but some of us aren’t, nor do we want to be. So FabMan is the chance to tell the story of this loud, flamboyant and unapologetic gay man, who’s also a badass superhero.
The mainstream superhero world is finally starting to be more inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community – do you feel it’s an exciting time for the genre in terms of representation?
Oh definitely! It’s an amazing time, but it does feel like they’re playing catch-up on independent and self-published creators, who’ve already been doing it for years now. Having said that, there’s no denying that the platform that a character like Superman being bi has is beyond anything else – it’s incredibly powerful. I hope they continue to build upon it, show more of the community, and include more of us in telling those stories.
How do you incorporate the concept of Pride into your work?
Pride is all about community to me. As such, the collaborative nature of comic-making feels incredibly conducive to that. I’m making stories with a community, about a community and for a community. It feels like Pride is in every part of what I do.
How well do you feel Specsavers helps its colleagues feel proud to belong, and to be their authentic selves at work?
Certainly in my own stores, Specsavers have been very forthcoming with allowing us to show our authentic selves in how we present at work – from pronoun badges, to allowing cosmetic touches that I think give us all a sense of individuality in our teams. Not many places will let you do that.
What would you say to other creative people from the Specsavers community, who’d love to get started in comics or similar art forms?
Honestly, just do it! Nothing gets done just by dreaming about it – and worrying about how it will get published is a worry for future you, not now you. If you have a story in you that you want to tell, sit yourself down and start writing it. Everything else follows from there, but you have to get that part down first.
Want to check out Joe’s work? Take a look at his website here, and remember to search under his pen name, Joe Glass, if you’d like to explore more.