The Agenda – influence and history

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The Agenda started out as a bit of reactionary word vomit after hearing about the Matthew Shepard tragedy.  It was a shocking and emotional case to follow.  In some ways it felt very much like a direct personal attack to many people in the gay community and understandably reactions were often very angry and exaggerated.

One thing that stuck out to me was a comment from someone that this would never happen in the “Gay Community” and if we were in power we’d protect those that were different.   My immediate reaction to that was that it was untrue, “complete bull-shit” actually.

The Gay Community is just as cliquish and petty as the “straight” community, or any other community.  But it got me thinking about extremes. And neither extreme was ideal.

The original short story was angry and formless and borrowed heavily from the works of Frank Miller, and Jim Thompson without approaching either author’s depth or edginess. The story got filed away with other doodles and such and then sat in a drawer for 15 years.

I pulled it out and re-read it about 2 years ago after reading a story by JT Tepnapa.  We’d both written stories about what might happen if there was ever a world where “Homosexuality was the norm, and Heterosexuality was condemned”.  I was tickled and amused by his work, but appalled at revisiting mine. In addition to realizing how sloppy and unrefined the story itself was, I was shocked that many of the events in the story were still relevant hot-button topics.  Still. Even some of the wacky sci-fi technology had become not only realized, but obsolete. It should also be mentioned that the original story was pretty cynical and dour.

I set about rewriting the piece into something that was a bit more thought out, and turned it into a comic format.  In addition to fixing the structure, and politics of the story.

After doing some additional research I found out so many interesting bits of history that I simply hadn’t known before. I discovered the work of Herschfeld and Ulrichs and the origins of the Gay Rights movement going back into the 1800s in Berlin.  I also discovered words like “Facis” and “Urning”. And was a little bit mind-blown

I surprised myself by recasting the characters so that everyone ended up being about 10 years older than the original characters. On top of that I found that the new through line of the story wasn’t about escape from oppression as it had been when I was 22, but about making a life in a flawed world and pursuing the right to domesticity and the right to love, despite being surrounded by a world seemingly enveloped in chaos and violence.  A theme that seems noble and relevant now that I’m 36 and have seen the progression of the fight for marriage equality make major leaps forward, and also terrifying slides backwards.

Another relevant change is that this new story is meant, on some level, to be a comedy, at least for the first half. Probably some of Tepnapa’s influence rubbing off on me.

And although the new story is about a young man, racing home to be with his husband and child. The emotional engine of the story (Not to spoil anything) still runs on the terror, agony, and fury of a boy being tortured to death while tied to a fence post.

Recent developments in marriage equality have made Silvana and I re-think our planned ending. The idea being the that we want the story to stay emotionally true to the world we see around us, but we don’t want to soften it.  That being said, the more that time passes, further away we as a culture are from the dour cynical world that I imagined 15 years ago.

I’ve been extremely lucky to be able to work with Silvanna Inks who brings her sophisticated line work to the characters making them expressive and nuanced in ways beyond any version of the script has accomplished on it’s own.  Along with her deft touch with fashion and architecture, her Anime/Manga style also adds its own subtext to the story, both intentionally and unintentionally.

-PK