Recently, there has been a lot of attention paid to the subject of homosexual comic book characters. Lets take a moment to look at the ins and the outed.
Just The Facts
- Comic books, perhaps due to those who create them, have a history of being socially progressive.
- In recent decades, the lessening influence of Seduction of the Innocent and the Comics Code have allowed for more graphic (some would say realistic) storylines.
- In the 1970s, Comic Books took on social issues of the day such as drug use. Now, comics are focusing on issues like marriage equality.
A Brief History of Time
The discussion of homosexuality in comic books is almost as old as comic books themselves. As a matter of fact, the entire history of comic books was shaped by the mere thought that a comic book character might come out and be openly gay within their pages. Dr. Frederick Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. Among the claims of sex and violence in comics, there was a discussion of Batman and Robin. There was also a discussion of Wonder Woman being an extended bondage fantasy. The idea of an older mature gentleman raising a young ward (who was also an acrobat in the circus) was seen as more than a little...well... gay. More specifically, there was a fear that this....
Would turn into this....
Which would eventually lead us down the slippery slope to this....
Parents across the nation were aghast that their children might become homosexual as the result of reading about superheroes. Congress was ready to take action. This was no small threat in the 1950's considering some of the people that tended to get elected to office. Some of them also went on moral crusades....
Comic Book comapnies were rightly scxared of Congressional involvement and decided to 'police' themselves. The over-reaction was the Comics Code Authority.
In addition to having specific rules about comics showing 'excessive sexual relationships' or 'sexual perversion' (read homosexuality), the Code has a lot of other rules on how comic books should be written and portrayed. The Authority also had rules against villains winning. There were rules against showing public authority figures in a bad light (such as police officers and judges). There were rules against showing vampires, werewolves, and zombies. This drove whole companies out of business. The comics code authority was especially hard on you if you published books like this....
The end result was that if your son was going to end up gay, your son was just going to have to somewhere on the playground and kiss another boy on his own. Your son was not going to learn about anal sex from comics. He was going to shower as a high school athlete and just have a fit of lust. The Comics Code Authority was eventually done away with. National acceptances of gays and lesbians improved. Now, we have the situation in comic books that we see today.
Fist of the Northstar
When Northstar was first introduced, he was a lightly regarded character with a spiffy outfit and hair only Steve Martin could love. All that was known about Northstar's personal life is that he was creepily close to his sister. There was never any more rumor about Northstar being gay than there was a rumor about any other Canadian being gay.
Northstar creator John Byrne had always intended for Northstar to be gay, but Marvel Editor in Chief Jim Shooter expressly forbade it. Byrne and others had to put in subtle references to the book Alpha Flight that Northstar was in fact gay. Of course, Jim Shooter had a bit of a reputation among the comics creative community.
In 1992 with Alpha Flight 106 , writer Scott Lobdell was allowed to have Northstar make a casual declaration to the world.
For about a month or so, people paid attention to Northstar and the fact that there was a universe in which super heroes existed in Canada. The American consciouness under the spell of Dan Quayle was not quite sure which fact was worse. Of course, in 1992, eventiually America had bigger moral questions to deal with.
The world now had it. There was the first gay superhero. Naturally, the first gay superhero was a Canadian.
No, not that Canadian. There is nothing gay about him. Of course, we would never even accuse him of that one. There might a reaction to that.
The best way to stave off rumors of homosexuality is always acts of deep penetration. So, you have a gay superhero in Northstar. However, there was not a lot of gayness associated with Northstar. While there was an aknowledgement of homosexuality, there was not a whole lot of 'getting the freak on.'
That just doesn't really seem like what they were aiming at. There was a little bit of suspicion over what type of men that Northstar loved. There was an unrequited crush in which Northstar wanted some of this guy....
Finally, Northstar settled on his affection for totally non-gay stereo type 'Sports Agent Kyle."
This has drawn alot of attention again to Northstar as X-Men will now feature a gay marriage. This has drawn the ire of the group One Million Moms. The are the most public ones to express ire over this subject. Somewhere, there is also the ghost of Frederick Wertham who (on some level) accurately predicted that these issues would arise in comic books in 1954.
Its Always Sunny In Riverdale...
In 2010, Archie Comics introduced Archie's shiny new friend Kevin Keller. Keller was not only controversial for being gay, he was also controversial for being an Army brat with a military history.
Thats a pretty familiar look. Its a real shame that we cannot seem to place who this could possibly be based on.
Can't place it. Don't worry, it will come to me. You can't keep hot man meat like Kevin Keller single forever whether he is gay or straight. So, in Life With Archie #16, Archie Comics decided to break new ground and have the first gay wedding in comics.
So, Archie fans finally got the gay marriage that some speculated would always come to Archie Comics. However, this was not the couple that many Archie Comics fan had openly speculated about.
The Gay Lantern
One of the major criticism about gay characters in comic books was the fact that most of the characters seemed to be relegated to a rather minor status. For instance, Batwoman is gay.
I will back up. First, Batwoman re-appeared in the DC Universe. It has been a while.
And guess what? She's gay. That being said, the comic book recognizability of gay characters registered all of the cultural impact of this guy.
For the record, that is Edd Byrnes. He played the character Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip. He had a hit with the song 'Kookie Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb. The only way you might know him now is that he played Vince Fontaine in Grease.
Edd Byrnes is still alive and kicking. However, when Edd Byrnes sadly dies there will be the same effect on the Cultural Richter Scale as me just telling you that Batwoman is a lesbian. Enter Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern.
Of course, the really famous Green Lantern Hal Jordan remains almost agressively heterosexual.
How can someone like that not be straight?
Oh yeah, that's how....
Of course, the Green Lantern Corps is not really as exclusive as it might sound.
So far, it seems that in thousands of sectors and universes, the Green Lantern Corps has managed to recruite one gay guy.
Statistically, that is a better average than the United States Marine Corps.