By Josh Bell
Superheroes ruled my childhood. Since my parents bought me a $5 copy of Uncanny X-Men #199, I was hooked. The X-Men cartoon drew me even deeper into Marvel’s merry mutants. I quickly took notice of how those mutants reminded me of myself. They were hated because they were different. Just like me. In high school, I found a Superman/Batman #8 by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner. It introduced Kara Zor-El back to the DC Universe after twenty years. These heroes were like the Greek myths I devoured in grade school made modern. These sporadic comic back issues from Sears catalogs and Alco came to full bloom when I went to Brookings, South Dakota for college. There was a comic book store downtown. I spent my weight three times over in comics. It only proceeded to get worse when the owner offered me a job. I was hooked forever. Superheroes would become my life.
It’s been the better part of a decade since I worked at Brookings Books and Comics. I still read comics with subscription service apps from the big two as well, or I download new releases online. I constantly check several websites for superhero news. Although comics are still a large part of my life, their impact on my life changed significantly as I got older. I went from playing pretend as a superhero in my youth, reading about superheroes in high school, and selling superheroes to other people in college. I had an online friend who offered me a place to live if I wanted to move right outside of New York City. I took the chance to make a change towards my own heroic destiny.
Leaving Brookings, I immediately missed my friends, my family, and the coffee baristas who served me, but I missed my sidekick, my former roommate, and my best friend, Charmaine Hamilton the most. In my last years in Brookings, she had become my confidant, my fellow adventurer, and for lack of any other way to say it, she was the biggest supporter of everything in my life. She had just began her career as a magazine editor. Her own call to adventure came a few years later.
During our years apart, she wrote her first book, Uncollapsible Cakes, bringing together recipes and her resilience through life. She began Brookings Pride to support the community’s LGBT community. And she started her own publishing line for future books under Call to Adventure Press, LLC, where she published. When I reached out to have her to remotely join with me on this project, she was ready to collapse all her experiences as an editor, publisher, LGBT community leader, and new Reiki teacher to help people tell their stories and find the super hero within.
The opportunity to move to New Jersey came because I was a superhero nerd. Marc S. Yelverton and I met on an X-Men forum, or was it a Teen Titan’s forum? We spent hours a day talking sci-fi television, movies, and books. Marc too had been a superhero fan in his youth, and since his childhood had been writing superhero stories. He published, The Incomplete Wrath, which presented an alternate history of ancient Egypt and beyond. He knew I wanted to move, and offered me a place to stay. I had not met this man. I saw one picture. And after the plane ticket, I had $300 to my name. It was a huge chance, and our adventure has continued together since he met me at the airport. With his help, his direction, and constant guidance, we created the stories around the superhero Lionheart with Marc acting as the equivalent of a television show runner.
The story of Lionheart himself started as a fun throwaway. I came to know the future President of Q[R]EM, Michael Billy, through his work with the local queer and trans center, where he held the CEO position. We became close friends and started working together on his local queer and trans events. The center offered weekly youth services, event programming, and a variety of services for trans youth. In passing, Michael once referred to himself as the gay Charles Xavier because of those services. I just laughed, while thinking about him with his head shaved. This throwaway joke gave me an idea.
I reached out to Luciano Vecchio, the future artist of Marvel’s Ironheart and Marvel’s current New Warriors series. I had met Luciano at New York ComiCon the year prior after recognizing him from a piece he created, but did not submit, for publisher’s DC and IDW’s Love is Love anthology. I took a leap and contacted him about transforming Michael from a normal man into a spandex clad superhero. For Michael’s 36th birthday, we had created the newest hero of Jersey City, Lionheart.
The four of us each came together because we loved the idea of building a superhero universe. But, Michael expanded our vision past just superhero stories utilizing his own activist roots and our differing connections to the community. Charmaine, Marc, Michael, and myself each had our journeys that showed our own inner super heroic nature. Michael wanted to promote this unique aspect of the superhero genre by helping people to find the super aspects of themselves.
QUEE[R]EVOLUTION Media was born to evolve the queer presence in the community through our lifestyle blog, support local LGBTQ+ businesses through events and special promotions, uplift the diverse queer experience through personal accounts, and create a diverse superhero universe to give everyone a superhero like them.
QUEE[R]EVOLUTION Media hopes everyone will join in creating a supportive environment for each other, and uplift our queer community to evolve to the height of their super potential. Welcome to the [R]EVOLUTION.