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New graphic novel ‘Kill A Man’ set in the world of MMA

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AfterShock’s latest original graphic novel follows the story of a queer man seeking a comeback after being outed and losing it all

AfterShock comics has announced the publication of a new original graphic novel from writers Steve Orlando and Phillip Kennedy Johnson, with art from Alec Morgan. Set in the world of MMA, Kill A Man follows the story of James Bellyi, a queer fighter who is outed at a press conference and loses everything—his title shot, his fans, his team, and even his family.

To fight his way back, James goes to the only man willing to coach him—Xavier Mayne, who is himself a queer fighter. The only catch is that sixteen years earlier Mayne killed James’ father in the ring—and young James had a front row seat to his father’s death.

Adding another wrinkle to the drama is the fact Xavier Mayne’s homicidal rage was unleashed after James’ father used a queer slur against his opponent.

Writer Steve Orlando was inspired by his own complicated adolescence as a bisexual man in Central New York. The fight for both respect and happiness in an environment that values tough masculinity above all else is something he brought to the character of James Bellyi. However, he believes anyone can relate to the character of Bellyi. “The fight to go the distance in life is something we can all identify with, regardless of our background or life,” he says, “but for the first time we get a strong, complicated, full realized queer man in the driver’s seat of a champion’s journey.

Co-writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson brought his knowledge of MMA to the table, and calls the project the most authentic representation of the sport to hit the shelves in years. While at first glance he saw the project as personal to Orlando, he soon saw himself in the character of James Bellyi as well, saying, “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.”

Artist Alec Morgan is also a huge of fan of MMA, and getting the action on the page was of utmost importance to him. “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.”

For fans of graphic novels and MMA, “Kill A Man” can be found on shelves in early summer of 2020.