Comics, like any art form, are a product of the generation that created them. In some cases, it's nice to see Captain America channel American patriotism to beat Nazi ass. In other cases, Indian Chief.
Still, like society comics strive to move forward and away from the sins of the past. Sure, they've made some slightly bad racial decisions ("We should call every black superhero 'Black SomethingOrOther,' so everyone knows how black they are"), but at least they tried to progress. Even if their attempts at racial sensitivity are misguided or poorly thought out, you can't fault them for trying, right?
Oh wait, of course you can.
Marvel Creates a Gay Hero Presumably Based on Will & Grace Reruns
Homosexual characters have been featured in comics prior to 2003, but usually he (it was always a he) would be a mincing effeminate poof who would be either the butt of constant jokes, or beaten up, or both. (Or, you know, Robin.) But the mainstream comic scene had not yet seen a gay title character in a comic, which is actually pretty shocking, when you realize that they'd made room for the roller-disco demographic. So, Marvel decided to team veteran comic artist John Severin with writer Ron Zimmerman to help correct that oversight.
The plan was to revamp The Rawhide Kid, a tough, quick-gunned cowboy from the 50s. They were going to keep his toughness and attitude, just with a gay twist. By making a gay character that was both a hero and a cowboy--typically uber-masculine roles--it was a great opportunity to break away from stereotypes and show the comic-reading audience that not all homosexuals were screaming hairdressers or over-the-top caricatures; they could be just as tough and badass as your favorite action hero. If handled properly, this could be a very important comic series.
So, How'd That Go?
Not, uh... not great.
Rawhide Kid was every negative, damaging gay stereotype dressed in a cowboy hat. Sure, he was still a good fighter and a great shooter, but he was also a nancing, effeminate goon and the exact kind of character people didn't need to identify the gay movement with. He's the title character, but he's still the butt of the joke. Additionally, his antics made him, and we say this respectfully, annoying as shit. He says things like "toodles" and calls out "meow" when he's being bitchy. He gives out douchey fashion advice...