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Rising comic book writer visits city

Comic book writer Steve Orlando — who’s penned stories for Batman, Shazam, Midnighter and others — talks with visitors Friday at the Heroes And Villains comic book store, 75 E. Court St. in Cortland.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Comic book writer Steve Orlando — who’s penned stories for Batman, Shazam, Midnighter and others — talks with visitors Friday at the Heroes And Villains comic book store, 75 E. Court St. in Cortland.

While the Heroes and Villains comic book shop, at 75 E. Court St., is regularly stocked with stories of fictional protagonists and antagonists, an actual hero in the comic book industry visited the store Friday.

Steve Orlando, born in Syracuse and a current Albany resident, who is a rising comic book writing star, signed comics and met with fans from 11 a.m. to3 p.m.

He has written titles such as Batman and Robin Eternal, Justice League: Gods and Men — Shazam, Power Rangers and Midnighter. And, now, as an exclusive writer for DC Comics, he is also the writer of upcoming titles Batman: Night of the Monster Men and Supergirl: Rebirth.

“It is really exciting to see someone who is gaining popularity,” said Vanessa Mielke, a co-owner of the comic shop. “It is a big deal to have him here.”

Mielke said she met Orlando at a comic-con in Utica and mentioned to him that she owned a comic book shop in Cortland. Willing to support any comic shop, Mielke said Orlando offered to visit the shop when he had time.

“I was excited to support small comic distributors,” Orlando said. “These guys have been in business for about a year, so anything I can do to help them launch and get people in here, I’m happy to do it.”

Many people throughout the day came to visit their favorite writer and to be able to meet an actual writer in person.
“This is super cool,” said Jordan Pettit, of Cortland, with a signed issue of Midnighter in hand. “You don’t normally get to meet people who write for a company like DC.”

While Pettit knew of Orlando through his Midnighter comics, he said getting to actually meet the writer in person has interested him in reading more of Orlando’s work. He may not have been interested in picking up the new Supergirl: Rebirth issue when it comes out, but he said he definitely will now.

“It is different when you get to see the person who works on it (comics) in person,” Pettit said. “It makes me want to support him.”
To some, writing comics may seem like an easy, fun job and while it may be fun, Orlando said he is constantly busy as he has to complete a book a week. But that doesn’t take away his joy of writing the stories and attracting new readers.

“The demographics of comic readership is changing and it is fun to come to these stores and see younger people reading them, and see women and other diverse readerships,” Orlando said. “It’s (comics) an outsiders’ medium, it’s suppose to welcome you, and more and more it is welcoming everyone, which is a great thing.”

In his own writing, he saidhe tries to make the characters and their stories relatable. This will be apparent in his upcoming Supergirl books, as he saidthe hero is a representation of a true immigrant. She had to abandon her home planet at age 15, leaving behind friends and family, and now has to deal withlife on Earth, while being a superhero.

Orlando said the goal of the book is to show that strength is not just about being able to crush someone’s skull in your hand, it is about knowing when not to do that and knowing how to solve problems in a way that does not result in violence.

While the state of comics is good at the moment, Orlando said it is nowhere near what it was in the 1990s. He said there is always more work to be done with comics, but friendly and welcoming comic shops, like Heroes and Villains, is a big help.

“I think the work of comics is giving everybody their own myth,” Orlando said. “People liked Spider-Man 50 years ago because he is the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but he can’t pay his rent, he can’t get the girl, and they think, ‘He is just like me. Maybe I can be awesome, maybe I can be fantastic.’ That’s a great notion, but everybody deserves that. That’s the next step for comics.”

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