#3. Alpha Flight vs. AIDS
Alpha Flight is the Canadian equivalent of The Avengers in the Marvel Universe, and for years, the writers tried to turn one of the members, Northstar, into Marvel's first openly gay superhero. One writer even started but eventually scrapped a story where Northstar contracts a mysterious disease that was later going to be revealed as AIDS, which he got from wanton gay sex, and the story was going to end with Northstar's death because "He's gay, so of course he is going to die of AIDS at some point." But in 1994, they couldn't resist getting Northstar involved in an AIDS storyline. Because, you know, he's gay.
It starts with Northstar finding a newborn baby in a trash bin and taking her to a nearby hospital. The doctors discover the baby is HIV positive, and the Alpha Flight team adopts her as an honorary member. Despite an attack from a supervillain in the same issue, it was still a slow enough news day in Canada that they make a media circus out of the poor baby. And that's when things get stupid.
At this point Alpha Flight #106 proudly introduces us to Major Mapleleaf, a retired Canadian superhero who fought in World War II alongside Captain America. Yes, freaking Major Mapleleaf. Surely with a name like that, he won't be a ridiculous Frankenstein monster of Canadian cliches, right?
He is so Canadian he shits bacon. POLITE BACON!
We find out the good Major had a son who was gay and (of course) died of AIDS. Now he is angry because all Canada feels bad about the little baby girl and nobody made a media circus for his son. So what does he plan to do about it? Nothing less than storm the hospital and kill that baby girl with his super fists. Great idea, Major; nobody will feel sorry about a baby with AIDS after she's crushed to death by a passing sociopath.
Northstar of course disagrees with the Major's well-crafted baby-murdering stratagem and sets out to do what Canada pays him to do, which is punch the shit out of people. The Major explains to him that nobody can understand the pain his son went through, but Northstar understands because ... *GASP!* He is gay!
THEREFORE AIDS IS ALL I KNOW.
After a couple of hugs, the Major calms down, so he and Northstar return to the hospital where they learn that the Canadian Death Panel has decreed that the baby is the next to die. Damn you, death panel, damn you!
What the hell is wrong with that guy's legs?
And yes, now the Major and Alpha Flight are pals because everyone just forgot that the crazy old coot knocked down a hospital wall with the specific purpose of storming in and punching a baby girl to death.
After this story, Northstar's homosexuality was almost never mentioned, and he didn't have any love interests like his fellow teammates did. For all practical purposes, he was back in his Maplewood closet. It wasn't until the early 21st century that Marvel allowed writers to write him as a gay man again.
#2. Superman vs. Illegal Immigration
This is an immigration story starring Superman, an immigrant character himself created by two guys -- who in turn are sons of immigrants -- who wanted to create a character to teach Americans that immigrants are really swell and helpful. However, Superman has technically been living illegally in America under a fake ID for years; he's not exactly in a position to lecture others on the crime of illegal immigration without coming off as -- what's the word? -- oh, right, a major hypocrite.
In his defense, the background check would be a bitch.
In this issue, Superman runs into a group of illegal aliens (outer space ones, not Mexicans) who escaped from their home planet because it has been conquered by some evil space empire that turned their home into a dystopian horror. In a normal Superman story, Supes would gather his superhero pals, fly to that planet and beat the shit out of some space Stalins. As you may have already guessed, this is not a normal story. Superman is not cool with these new visitors showing up and taking from hard-working Americans.
Say what? So immigrants running for their lives have to pull out Excel and calculate the net present value of their existence for you to let them in? Because we don't remember baby Superman having to do any of that shit when his rocket landed in Kansas.
With laserlike focus on the merits of his argument, Superman then basically just states that illegal immigration is at least implied to be OK in some situations; it would just be better if you picked a more convenient time for him.
"Oh, I am sorry, SuperWhine; did my family pick a wrong time in your life to try to survive? That's OK, we'll just go back to our planet and jump back into the acid mines until you feel better about my family not living in a hellhole. How about next week?"
Oh, and Superman is apparently supreme judge of the Court of Superman in this issue. Why not let the country they landed in decide what to do?
If it makes you feel better, Superman lets the aliens stay in the end, but only after they use their technology to save the life of an old guy and then their money to buy a plant and hire a bunch of local people. So yes, this Superman is not against illegal immigration as long as you bribe your way in.
#1. Mickey Mouse vs. Homosexuality
Here we have the oldest item on the list: It's a Mickey Mouse comic strip from 1931. Yeah, you know this is going to a dark place.
It starts with Mickey visiting his neighbor Kat Nipp, who, from the sight of his yard sign, is so tough he never learned to spell and just punches the dictionary until it agrees with him. Is that a barrel used as a chimney? Shit, forget what we said. Wanna use a barrel as a chimney? Sure, whatever you say, Nipp. Wanna boil water at 30 degrees? Go for it, just don't kill me, man! But as it turns out, that's not Mr. Nipp -- that's just some random walking horrible homosexual stereotype.
Now it's time to show 1930s kids how tolerance works, Mickey!
Yes, "cream-puff inhaler."
Mickey, you little scamp; you never learn. What, you want more? Nope, that was the whole joke: Mickey meets gay cat thing and then beats it up for being gay. That was considered an enlightened message in 1931 -- before then, Mickey would have straight-up stabbed him.
For more characters creators wish they could take back, check out The 5 Most Unintentionally Offensive Comic Book Characters and The 9 Most Racist Disney Characters.
And stop by Linkstorm to see Cody Johnston in his Superman costume.
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