Queer as Super-Folk
- By Jack Fate
- Published 03/23/2007
I am a student at Baylor University, with a pre-law focus. My areas of interest include everything from pop culture, music, post-modern fiction, comics, to history, philosophy, religion, and everything inbetween. My favorite comic areas are: Superman, X-Men, Batman, Justice League, Punisher, and pretty much anything DC is putting out at this point. My favorite comic creators are Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Jim Lee, Brad Meltzer, Kurt Busiek, Mark Millar, Jeph Loeb, Alex Ross. Movies, I like everything from the typical action thriller to Mafia flicks (Goodfellas, Godfather, Scarface, Casino, etc) to (of course) Superhero movies (esp Superman Returns, Batman Begins, the Punisher, and X2) to odd theatrical movies (Highlander, David Lynch movies, Scorcese, Michael Mann, Coen Brothers stuff, Brian DePalma, and a bunch others). My favorite non-comic book authors are Bret Easton Ellis (the man is a god), Jay McInerey, and Chuck Palaniuk. I'm definitely a director's viewer, i.e. I look for style points as much as at the actors. I will go as far as to say that I'm a expert on music, comics and the cinema and a pretty good darn critic, but who knows. I'm also intrigued with human rights issues, particularly the gay debate and why the Right Wing just doesn't seem to get it. Blog suggestions and comments are always welcome.
No, this isn’t going to be a cliché queer makeover of this site (although a crisp chrome trim could really accentuate the layout – just kidding). Instead, I’d rather comment about how mainstream comics seem to be coming around to the idea of gay leading characters and integrating gay culture into storylines. What used to be an alien concept is now seeing more and more exposure. And it’s no wonder, considering how some of the most popular pop culture properties are those that exhibit these trends. Some of the most popular realty shows on cable now are led by gay men and women (Queer Eye For the Straight Guy), TV dramas and sitcoms (Queer as Folk, Will &Grace, etc) focusing on gay issues, as well as in the cinema are now becoming the norm. It is slowly permeating through all the forms of media; such to the point that “queer makeover” is a household phrase.
For generations, characters in comics were so bland – virtually everyone were white anglo-saxons with identical body builds. Through the years, comics have thankfully adapted (albeit a good bit behind other means of media) and integrated diversity in their titles (e.g. Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern, the new Blue Beetle, Jubilee, Skin, Storm, Black Panther, Luke Cage). But it isn’t just diversity for the sake of diversity. Having a myriad of characters with different social and ethnic backgrounds makes the stories themselves so much more accessible. But it is so much more than just making sure every story has a character or two that any given person can relate too. Comics are always trying to resemble the real world more and more, and this is one way to help bring a sense of reality into fantasy stories; making them more interesting. Today in
Last year, the media was in an uproar over DC Comics’ announcement about one of its newest characters, Batwoman. (See Newsweek and Fox News 5/31/06, CNN 6/2/06) The fact that she was going to be drawn as a typical voluptuous heroin and be a lesbian seemed to boggle the minds of critics. They criticized DC for somehow trying to market a new kind of sex appeal, as if the company was trying to appeal to the typical jock fantasy of girl-on-girl sex or something. Fans on message boards even criticized DC for somehow advocating “gay lifestyles” and pointing to it as a sign of “the steady decline of society”.
However, DC presented the new character in a very tasteful manner and subsequent use of the character has proved to be an appropriate defense for the media attacks. So far, she’s been intentionally kept under the radar (as part of the rules of characters appearing in the 52 series) and worked well in her supporting role in the DC Universe. DC in general has been very tasteful in the manner that they have employed their other leading lesbian ladies, Renee Montoya, Knockout, and Scandal Savage. There isn’t some marquee flashing “GAY!!!” in the background of stories or gratuitous “gay” covers (i.e. some sort of girl love scene) trying to sell a few extra issues. Rather, unless you actually followed that character through their title, you would probably be oblivious to the fact that a character was in fact gay, with the exception of sporadic jokes or lines in the dialogue. The added dynamic it gives these characters is really interesting, and I think readers following these characters are enthralled as they interact with the rest of the DCU. In 52, the exchange between Nightwing and Batwoman as he subtly hits on her is absolutely hilarious as she blows him off. It’s a very simple but cleverly written scene. I have lost track of the times I’ve had a female friend make similar passes at me and much to their chagrin I have to inform them that I bat for the “home team”.
The series 52 touted that it would focus on a few tier-2 heroes and ignore heavy hitters like Superman or Batman.
Another great example is Knockout and Scandal Savage in Secret Six. Here, you have two characters in a loving relationship, having the same emotions as a straight couple would as they try to survive their danger-prone lives as superheroes. You think being gay in
There has been some precedent for this. Wildstorm’s The Authority featured a gay couple, and Marvel’s limited series Rawhide Kid featured a gay lead as well (although it was more of a satire and didn’t receive much attention since it was through Marvel’s adult line “MAX” and The Authority isn’t one of the major titles). All of these have been situations that DC has developed in its titles over the last year or so. To my knowledge there has yet to be such an undertaking at Marvel, aside from a couple minor characters that have since been forgotten. I would like to congratulate DC for taking a bold step and introducing these dynamics to mainstream titles and encourage Marvel to perhaps be just as bold, if not bolder. By no means is it over though. I would like to see some gay male characters introduced as well (how cool would that be to have him/them fighting alongside Batman and Superman!). Ok, so Obsidian is already “outted”, but he’s like fallen of the face of the planet. Give me someone like Roy (Red Arrow), Green Arrow’s former sidekick and current member of the Justice League! He’d be a cute one.
I hope DC realizes what it is doing and continue with this. I can only imagine what my adolescence would have been like if I was able to read comics with gay main characters. Even beyond the good it will do for gay teens is how it could potentially take straight teens and expose them to ideas and other people and help promote a level of tolerance and understanding that is hard to find in pop culture. Maybe if little Johnny sees how Superman respects and fights alongside characters like Batwoman, then little Johnny will be more likely to show that same respect to his gay peers. In a world that has criticized comics for the influence it has on teens, this would be a positive side-effect.
But I am most definitely not asking for some special “social awareness” issue of Superman. I’ve never been a fan of something like Brokeback Mountain that is all about their homosexuality. I think it loses its effectiveness then. Rather, I’d like to see it handled more like how other