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2002 - December

Gaywatch: QAF comic book is all the "Rage"
by Christine Champagne
December 4, 2002

Openly gay comic book artist Joe Phillips -- who has worked for DC Comics and Innovation Comics among others and is the creator of the "Boys Will Be Boys" calendar -- has lent his talent to the production of a "Rage Gay Crusader" comic book, based on the comic book of the same name created by "Queer as Folk" characters Justin (Randy Harrison) and Michael (Hal Sparks). As we've seen on the show, Justin and Michael's comic book finds our handsome hero Rage and his sidekick Zephyr -- both of whom are gay and are modeled on the characters of Brian (Gale Harold) and Michael, respectively -- on a quest to keep the city of Gayopolis safe for one and all.

The new "Rage" comic book features an original Rage and Zephyr adventure -- written by "Queer as Folk" executive producers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman -- as well as full-color cover art by legendary comics artist Jerry Ordway ("Superman," "The Power of Shazam!") and panel art by Phillips. The comic book also includes a behind-the-scenes sketchbook that depicts how the characters were created.

Phillips -- who has drawn many famous comic book superheroes, including Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and Silver Surfer, over the course of his career -- was less than enthusiastic the first time he saw the black-masked Rage, whose muscular torso is covered by a skintight, sleeveless, black bodysuit. "The first time I saw him was in a series of little sketches, and being a comic book elitist I was like, 'That's not a comic book superhero. His outfit just has a rip in it,'" Phillips says laughing, referring to the slash across Rage's chest. "'Where are his boots? He doesn't have a cape.'" But Phillips said that as he learned about why Justin and Michael were inspired to create Rage, he began to better understand and appreciate this unique and sexy superhero.

In drawing the panels for "Rage" (Phillips drew five pages of the comic book; the rest -- including major fight and sex scenes, were done by another artist), Phillips wasn't striving for perfection. "We wanted it not to look as slick as, say, a "Superman" issue, because the whole idea is that the characters from the show did it." (In fact, the credits inside the front cover read, "Story By: Michael Novotny, Art By: Justin Taylor.")

Phillips sees "Rage" as a viable property with lots of potential. If "Rage" was made into a regular comic book, "It would have to be a lot different from what this first one was, because this one was very tied to the show. For the book to have a life of its own, you would probably have to get a seasoned comic book writer in there, someone who really knows the market," Phillips says. "It's like when you adapt a movie to TV or if you try to take a comic book and make a movie out of it. You have to change the pacing and how it works."

Would Rage's sexual orientation be much of an issue? Well, certainly, gay characters are becoming more prevalent in comic books, with Terry Berg recently busting out of the closet in "Green Lantern." (Berg is an intern who works for Kyle Rayner, a.k.a. the Green Lantern.)

Phillips has drawn gay and lesbian characters for comic books such as "Body Doubles," and he would like to see more gay characters inhabiting the comic book world. But he doesn't think dropping gay characters into storylines solely for political reasons is a good idea. There has to be a compelling story. "If you have a good story, and the character happens to be gay, that's OK. But if the story is just about being gay, then everybody's like, 'Eh.'"

To view the comic book in its entirety, visit If you're interested in seeing more of Phillips' work, check out his Web site: