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Image Comics picks up Virgil, a comic that casts a gay man as an archetypal action hero

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Writer Steve Orlando announced today that Image Comics will publish his Kickstarter-funded graphic novel Virgil, at Image Expo 2015 in San Francisco. Orlando describes the book as a "queersploitation" story set in Jamaica, where the titular Virgil, a cop, is outed as gay and goes on the long, bloody road to revenge.

Image's description of the series is dripping with exploitation-film language: "This is a Foxy Brown-style revenge action with a new face and new fists. Holding his gun and his badge, Virgil thought he was safe in the police force, hiding who he is. But when his own brothers on the force out him in the papers, it doesn't bring him down. It sets him free! Now, he's out for revenge. And he's not leaving town without his man, and some blood on his hands."

"I wanted to take on one of the civil rights causes of today, and continue the tradition of exploitation film," Orlando said during the press conference. "It's not blacksploitation, it's queersploitation!"

Orlando noted that setting the book in Jamaica was a very specific choice, as the country's culture has a very spotty history for queer people. He did a great deal of research into real people's stories, dealing with homophobia in that culture. "We wanted to shine a light on that," said Orlando. "The way exploitation does, which is shine a light without and within the community. We have raw characterizations and action.'"

Orlando was adamant about taking a genre approach to telling Virgil's story, and about Virgil's sexuality being merely a portion of a complex, interesting character. "This isn't a 'gay book,' this is a genre book with gay characters in it," he said. "It's impossible for one story to sum up the queer experience of every single person, and if you attempt to appeal to everyone you end up with vanilla crap. So the best thing you can do is be true to the character," said Orlando. "We have to make sure we create characters and not caricatures." Orlando, who identifies as bisexual, is currently writing the well-received Midnighter, the first DC Comics series to feature a gay (and male) superhero in the title role.

Image Comics will release Virgil in September. It was previously only available to Kickstarter backers.