Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Respect, Bro!

So, in one of my usual random inklings, I've been on a superhero jag the last week or so, checking out some of the more recent cartoon series, playing around with some of the online "build your own superhero" doohickeys. (It's research, see, cause at some point I may well want to do a proper superhero story, so designing Overman, The Hookman and Monkeyboy is... um... groundwork, yeah, groundwork, that's what it is. (And, yes, I do have origins for them too. With huge big dollops of Superman, Batman and Spiderman respectively, cause obviously I'd want to give a nod to the Big Three in a pulp metafiction sorta way, cause who doesn't love a bit of pastiche and -- look, daydreaming is my job, OK?) )

Anyway, that got me off on a tangent looking for gay superheroes because... well, just because. I mean, there's that whole queer subtext in the X-Men movies, that scene with Bobby Drake "coming out" to his folks as a mutant. And those superheroes are all kick-ass and slinky in their skintight onesies, so a boy can't help but sigh wistfully as they remember their childhood conviction that there was some deeper tension underlying Flash Thompson's hostility to Peter Parker... and realise that the "Flash" in "Jack Flash" probably had a secondary source along with Flash Gordon. (Flash Gordon, Flash Thompson, Jack Flash... and they're all blonds, yanno. Nuff said. Hmmm, that would probably also explain the thing I have for Mormons... so All-American, so clean-cut, so innocent in their piety... with their perfect teeth and all... and they come in pairs, you know... Ahem. Anyway... ) What can I say? When you're thirteen years old and your choice is to identify with Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served? or to rewrite Spiderman in your imagination to suit your own sexuality, well, it's a no-brainer.

But the point is it's still pretty hard to find gay characters that rank higher than C-list at best, more often D-list. On the A-list I'm talking Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman and maybe Wolverine, by the way, with the B-list being, like, the Silver Surfer, Hulk, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, folks like that. Sure, the X-Men seem to have Colossus as a core team member these days, but he's no Doctor Strange, really, is he? No, the nearest you get to a B-list superhomo is the fan rumours surrounding Iceman. What I did find, however, is this "catalogue of the treatment of gays in the medium," compiled by Perry Moore, author of Hero, a YA novel about -- hurrah! -- a gay superhero which is -- even bigger HURRAH! -- apparently in development as a TV series. The list makes for interesting reading. To sample at random:

This longtime Spiderman nemesis recently discovered his predilection for homosexuality as a result of a lengthy stint in prison. Sought out a shape-changing prostitute to satisfy his new desires.

Gay magician member of superteam New Guardians. His name means “The Strange One.” Embodied numerous, offensive gay stereotypes. Attacked by an “AIDS vampire.” Forgotten after series was cancelled.

Former hero of DC’s Infinity Incorporated. De-powered, corrupted by his sexual strife, manipulated by dark forces, tries to destroy the world. His homosexuality is attributed to being molested by his adopted father. Recently placed as the security guard on the all-straight Justice Society of America, but not allowed to sit at the table as a member of the team.

My favourite bit, I think, is at the bottom where Moore spells it out in numbers, with specific references to Marvel's Northstar -- who came out of the closet only to be killed off horribly by (an albeit temporarily deranged) Wolverine:

ZERO. Number of straight X-Men that the most popular X-Man, Wolverine, has killed:

ONE. Number of gay X-Men that the most popular X-Man, Wolverine, has killed:

And more pointedly still:

Ages 4-10

The age-correlated sizes in which Wolverine Deluxe Child Costume is available for children for Halloween. Available with muscle torso, jumpsuit, boots, mask, and pair of claws. Northstar costume not available for impaling.

No, wait. I change my mind. My favourite favourite bit is on the comments page, where Moore responds to Rob Liefield, the co-creator of the characters Rictor and Shatterstar, who got his panties in a twist when subsequent character developments eventually led up to Peter David explicitly presenting the characters as gay. Liefield didn't take kindly to this at all, sending out a press release that said (apparently -- I can't track down an actual copy) that he couldn't wait to reverse this and "ungay" the characters. When I say Moore responds to Liefield, what I mean is calls the motherfucker out. As in fisticuffs "calls out."

I'm surprised women's groups haven't called you to the table for your unbelievably, overly- pneumatic depictions of women. Worse than Barbie, if you ask me.

But hey, if no feminist will take you on, I will. Don't fuck with the gays. On behalf of the scant LGBT representations in comics, shut up or put up.

Comic con. Name the time and place. We can settle this once and for all. I don't believe in violence, but I wrote a book called HERO, allegory about my father who one a bronze star in Vietnam, and sometimes you're just stuck fighting it out.


Rob, I'm waiting. Or you could just SHUT UP and let nature takes its course in the pages of X-Factor. Hell, they'll probably turn Rictor back to girls in a matter of a few issues anyway. Have you actually read the book in the past? You should at least know what you're talking about before you open your fat trap.

Heh. I read that and thought I just had to share. Needless to say, Moore just made another sale for HERO; I'll be keeping me fingers crossed for the TV series now too. Cause as far as my inner fourteen year old is concerned, it sounds like it could be awesome.

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Blogger Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

Read Austin Grossman's 'soon I shall be invincible' while you're doing that research.

5:16 am  
Blogger Colin Meier said...

There are straight X-men?

7:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I'm glad that Perry's list exists, it's perhaps worth noting that not all the treatment of these characters has been bad.

Obsidian, for example, was a long-time supporting character in the most recent Manhunter series, meeting and forming a happy long-term relationship with another man.

Northstar recovered from his "zombie assassin" phase and rejoined the X-Men, after explicitly seeking confirmation that he wasn't being asked back just to be "the token gay".

(Admittedly, neither of these characters are headlining their own comic.)

Perry's assessment of the new Question and Batwoman isn't very accurate, mischaracterising their individual and interlinked stories. To pick the most obvious instance, Batwoman isn't actually closeted - she was forced out of the military because she refused to deny being a lesbian and has been quite open about her sexuality since then. In general, lesbian readers have been very welcoming of the way in which these two characters have been written and developed.

Like I said, I'm glad the list exists - it raises awareness of the way in which gay and lesbian characters are treated in the comics industry and prompts discussion. I just wanted to let you know that the situation isn't as thoroughly bleak as one might imagine if that list were the only information one had to go on, even though the industry has a long way yet to go.

Anyway, as with all of your work, I look forward to seeing what you come up with should you develop your superhero ideas further.

12:11 am  

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