KILL A MAN OGN
Writers: Steve Orlando & Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Alec Morgan
Colorist: Alec Morgan
Letterer: Jim Campbell
In the early days of Mixed Martial Arts, kickboxer icon DJ Bellyi slurs a queer opponent in the ring, and is beaten to death while his young son James watches in horror from the stands.
Sixteen years later, young James Bellyi has become an MMA star in his own right, with top-tier endorsements and an imminent title shot. But when James is outed as gay by an opponent in a press conference, he loses everything: his title shot, his fans, his team, even his family. To fight his way back, he turns to the only one left in the world willing to train him: Xavier Mayne, the man who killed his father.
STEVE ORLANDO ON WHY HE THINKS NOW IS THE RIGHT TIME TO TELL A STORY LIKE THIS. COULD IT HAVE BEEN TOLD IT 5 OR 10 YEARS AGO?
It’s the perfect creative confluence, right here, at this moment. Could I have told this story earlier? Maybe. But it took meeting Alec Morgan, meeting Phillip Kennedy Johnson, and going through the production of a book like DEAD KINGS with Aftershock for me to know the moment was right. This story, an allegory for the fight each and every one of us go through to prove ourselves to ourselves, is extremely personal. It needed to be authentic, it needed to be raw and real, and to provide that I needed more than myself. I needed the perfect collaborators. And in 2020, at last, the bell’s ringing and we’re hitting the shelves.
STEVE ORLANDO ON WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT AND WHY HE’S EXCITED FOR IT TO COME OUT:
KILL A MAN is about forging your own identity in the shadow of the past. 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. 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. 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.
KILL A MAN 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. 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.
STEVE ORLANDO ON WHY THIS PROJECT IS PERSONAL/SPECIAL TO HIM:
This is a complicated book, one that brings up a lot of the struggles I personally went through as a bisexual man growing up in Central New York. The fight for respect and for the right to happiness is often daily for LGBTQ+ people, and it certainly often remains so for me. James Bellyi is the type of imperfect, and hopefully triumphant hero I wanted to see when I was young – to show that the journey is long, it can be hard, we can at times be our own worst enemy, but we CAN go the distance, we can succeed on terms WE set, rather than what society tells us.
STEVE ORLANDO ON (3) REASONS COMIC BOOK FANS SHOULD ADD THIS TITLE TO THEIR PULL LIST:
- This is one of the first books of its kind, tackling MMA and LGBTQ+ issues with the same universality that brought people to MIDNIGHTER or VIRGIL or DEAD KINGS. The fight to go the distance in life is something we can all identify with, regardless of our background or life, but for the first time we get a strong, complicated, full realized queer man in the driver’s seat of a champion’s journey.
- It’s authentic. Between my experience in my life, Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Alec Morgan’s experience with MMA, and Aftershock’s incredible support of content that is often challenging and provocative, there isn’t a moment in this story that hasn’t been lived in by the creative team.
- It kicks ass. This is a book about fight, both with yourself, and your opponent. And it’s a great chance to reunite with Alec Morgan from the pages MIDNIGHTER and DAREDEVIL and go all out with Mixed Martial Arts scenes that pull no punches, challenge graphic novel storytelling and make you FEEL the passion brewing in the octagon.
PHILLIP KENNEDY JOHNSON ON WHY THIS PROJECT IS PERSONAL/SPECIAL TO HIM:
KILL A MAN is about deciding what kind of person you want to be, and who you want your heroes—your family—to be. That’s a theme I relate to in a big way. When Steve Orlando, one of my best friends in comics, reached out with this compelling story idea, it immediately struck me as a story that would obviously be very important and personal to him, but I quickly discovered that its themes were personal for me too. The idea of defying the expectations that other people have for your life, of showing the world who you are when you’ve been backed into a corner… these are experiences I’ve had, and having the opportunity to tell that story with pros like Steve and Alec is a real pleasure and a privilege.
PHILLIP KENNEDY JOHNSON ON (3) REASONS COMIC BOOK FANS SHOULD ADD THIS TITLE TO THEIR PULL LIST:
- It’ll be the best and most authentic MMA comic we’ve had on shelves in years. The fights are written, choreographed and illustrated by MMA superfans and practitioners. As emotional as the story is, it’s also an action-packed book, and that combination makes for a really gripping read.
- The prestige format that Aftershock is giving us for KILL A MAN is going to be insanely sexy. I’m a bit of a format snob, so when I found out the book would be coming out in two oversized 60-page volumes, I was ridiculously stoked. Alec’s doing some of the best work of his career on this book, and I am DYING to see it in print.
- Because not only is it a kick-ass comic, it’s a story that MATTERS in America right now.
PHILLIP KENNEDY JOHNSON ON WHY HE THINKS NOW IS THE RIGHT TIME TO TELL A STORY LIKE THIS. COULD IT HAVE TOLD 5 OR 10 YEARS AGO?
KILL A MAN is the story of a Mixed Martial Arts phenom who gets publicly outed, loses everything as a result, and has to fight his way back to the top. 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.
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.
ALEC MORGAN ON HIS APPROACH TO THE STYLE OF THIS BOOK:
There are a lot of aspects of KILL A MAN’s story that are real challenge for an artist. The conflict between characters, the struggle with identity, public scrutiny and the media, the spectacle of fights and their choreography…There’s a lot to capture. My goal is to get into the story and do my best to wring everything out and get it on the page, with style being a byproduct of that process.
ALEC MORGAN ON SOME OF HIS INSPIRATIONS BEHIND THE PROJECT:
The best thing about working on KILL A MAN is how easy it is to get excited about the story, the characters, and of course, the fights. As fight fan, it’s an amazing time to be watching MMA. The amount of guts, willpower, and technique on display when an athlete like Justin Gaethje performs is just unreal. For the fights in the book, I want to have that grit at the fore.
ALEC MORGAN ON WHAT HE HOPES READERS WHO PICK UP THE BOOK WILL GET MOST FROM IT:
The Characters. I really love the cast of this story, and I hope readers connect with them.