Comics Corner – Glitter Vipers brings your queer revenge fantasies to life

This week we welcome back Joe Glass, creator of The Pride, to talk about his latest project Glitter Vipers – a “glitter noir” revenge thriller set on the Manchester gay scene. The upcoming graphic novella focuses on drag queen Bi Phallicia (get it?), who leads an uprising when the LGBTQ+ community decides to take back the streets in the wake of a horrific hate crime.

Need a shorter pitch? The comic’s tagline is “They’re here, they’re queer, and they’re not taking $£&@ anymore!” You love to see it.

Here, we discuss how the book reflects the real-world rise in hate crime, the similarities between drag queens and superheroes, and how Glitter Vipers draws inspiration from the likes of John Wick and Streets of Rage.

Category is: Baseball Bat Queer Revenge Fantasy! Glitter Vipers cover art by James Gifford
Gayming Mag: Let’s start with the obvious question – what’s the story of Glitter Vipers?

Joe Glass: Glitter Vipers is about a group of LGBTQ+ friends, led by drag queen Bi Phallicia, who after surviving an awful anti-gay hate crime decide they aren’t happy just sitting round and talking and want to utilise their anger. They form a street gang and call themselves the Glitter Vipers to patrol the Gay Village of Manchester, UK and fight back against a rising tide of bigots and homophobia.

In the process, they uncover a conspiracy behind the sudden rise in hate crimes and homophobia, and set their sights on smashing it.

Gayming Mag: The ‘gang leader’ is Bi Phallicia – tell us a bit more about her.

Joe Glass: Well, she’s a popular drag queen on Manchester’s gay scene in the world of Glitter Vipers. She’s also community minded and hosts a support group for survivors of hate crimes. She’s a very magnetic personality, drawing a lot of people to her.

Gayming Mag: What are the core relationships of the book?

Joe Glass: Well, it’s not overly focused on relationships beyond the friend group built around all being survivors of abuse and hate crime. I’m not a big believer in all stories requiring a romantic element, so while a couple of the characters are dating, it’s not really much of a key factor in this story.

Instead, Bi takes on a bit of a den mother attitude, none more so than with Alby, who is a trans kid not out to his own family and visiting the scene underage. Bi takes a vested interest in keeping Alby safe.

Gayming Mag: Much of your previous work has been set in the US – why the Manchester UK setting for this?

Joe Glass: I love Manchester! It’s one of the most iconic queer locations in the UK, and in terms of keeping it in the UK, it just felt like time. All my work so far has been pretty America focused. Plus, it felt like dealing with issues that are happening here in the UK. I mean, they’re universally relatable too, but there’s some things that people in the UK will recognise specifically too.

Glitter Vipers preview – art by Katie Fleming
Gayming Mag: Glitter Vipers touches on some pretty serious themes, particularly homophobic hate crimes and lack of acceptance from relatives – is anything drawing on personal experience?

Joe Glass: Thankfully, for the most part, no. I have had a very lucky experience family wise, and I’ve never been a victim of a violent hate crime. However, I have been a target and victim of of verbal abuse, and there’s the systemic homophobia we’re seeing on the rise in our society in the UK.

The story very much came from my personal reaction to all these news stories and political attacks on my community, just for having the audacity of existing. In that regard, there’s a lot of my personal anger in there.

Gayming Mag: Glitter Vipers seems a bit of a tonal departure for you, away from superheroes and more fantastic genres. Why the shift in direction?

Joe Glass: Well, simply put, while superheroes are my favourite genre and hold a very special place in my heart, I have many more kinds of stories in me. I felt it was time to share that, and have some different kind of content out there showing what I have in me. It’s worth baring in mind that one of the first comics I wrote on was a horror-comedy vehicle called Stiffs. I was a co-writer, but that was a very different genre to what people usually expect from me.

Gayming Mag: What’s served as inspiration or influence for Glitter Vipers?

Joe Glass: Generally speaking, those kind of grindhouse revenge fantasy movies like John Wick, Machete, and the like. But while those are very much call backs to classic grindhouse cinema with hyper violence and gratuitous gore, Glitter Vipers is what I’d call more ‘glitter noir’ in tone. Violence is present, but we also explore it more in a fun, and less gratuitous context.

Gayming Mag: Glitter Vipers also feels like it’s got a bit of a Streets of Rage vibe to it – was that or other scrolling beat-’em-ups an influence on the comic?

Joe Glass: Oh definitely! I loved those games as a kid – you know, I never felt they really survived the transition to 3D gaming, it just didn’t feel the same. So when I heard about the recent Streets of Rage 4, and that it was sticking to its 2D roots – man, I love that game. Nice mix of nostalgia and a great update, with an intensely modern art style that’s very diverse. I’d love to work on something in that kinda art style someday. But yeah, those kinda games, about a group of heroes or even ordinary folks just marching through the streets laying the smackdown on the bad guys? That definitely influenced Glitter Vipers – there’s something just so cathartic about it. But Glitter Vipers is even queerer than Streets of Rage already is!

Gayming Mag: There are a lot of similarities between superheroes and drag queens – alternative identities, magnified personalities, fantastic costumes, snappy banter. Was that contrast in mind when you were developing this?

Joe Glass: You know what, no it wasn’t actually. But that is a great reading and maybe there’s a subconscious element of that. It’s only recently that I’ve realised that a lot of my work (including things not out or announced yet) contains drag queens. I definitely have an adoration and appreciation of the art of drag, and the fluidity of identity, so I suppose maybe there is a connection.

For Glitter Vipers, it mainly came from the fact that some of the first people fighting for LGBTQ+ rights and still being loud and active voices today are drag queens. So it felt natural that a drag queen would be part of this story.

Glitter Vipers assemble! Art by Katie Fleming and Kelly Fitzpatrick
Gayming Mag: Let’s discuss your artistic collaborators on the book – who are you working with here?

Joe Glass: So the team is made up of Katie Fleming on art, Kelly Fitzpatrick on colours, Lucas Gattoni on letters, James Gifford doing a lovely cover, and our editor, Ted Brandt. It felt important to me to have an all LGBTQ+ creative team. I’d been hoping to work with Katie for a while and Ted is someone whose insight I love and value, so I hooked them first and then started rounding up all the others pretty quickly.

Gayming Mag: What did you like about each of their work, that made them the best fit for Glitter Vipers?

Joe Glass: Honestly, Katie’s art has a great indie feel, and is very fluid and active looking. It has an energy. I’ve wanted to work with Kelly on something for a long time, because I like supporting my friends. Ted is great at sniping right to the heart of a story/idea and making it stronger and also making sure that we’re thinking of all our angles and being fair to everyone. You don’t be part of a great book like Crowded without being very aware and enthused about a diverse environment.

Lucas is someone whose lettering again jumps off the page, and I’ve wanted to work with him for a while too, so this felt perfect. This story is OTT, and he can bring that in the letter art. With James, I just adore his art and how diverse he makes everything in a very simple and easy way – it looks natural, so he was perfect for this.

Gayming Mag: You’ve opted for a different format to The Pride – a 60 page done-in-one graphic novella, rather than single issues. Why the shift?

Joe Glass: I wanted something full and complete rather than continuous and long-form. So this is a self-contained graphic novel telling the full story. At the moment, I’m feeling like it’s a stand-alone. I have no plans for a sequel or prequel or follow up of any kind. Some stories are just self-contained like that, and perpetually poking at them to try and pull and coax new elements out of them does a disservice to the narrative. It stops a story being a story and becomes a brand, and I’m not looking to do that with Glitter Vipers. However, should a story come up, and it works and isn’t flogging something that doesn’t need it, then I’m open to it. Especially if the rest of the team are!

Gayming Mag: You’ve already hit your Kickstarter target for Glitter Vipers, and there’s still a day – as we publish – for people to back the title. Are you going to provide any way for “slacker backers” to get on board, who may discover this after the official campaign has closed?

Joe Glass: Once the book is printed, it will be available to purchase on my online store. But the Kickstarter is the cheapest way to grab the book, so I’d recommend anyone interested jump aboard now. With perpetual changes in postal services and costs of late, I can’t guarantee that the book or postage won’t wind up a pricier situation come October

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Matt Kamen

Matt Kamen is a veteran media writer based in the UK, specialising in video games, film, and comics. If found, return to nearest coffee shop.