Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Lesbian Desert

I'm been a big fan of the new Batwoman since her introduction. I've been delighted that she was going to headline Detective Comics and that Renee "The Question" Montoya would be her back-up. I've been thrilled with the actual product; I keep re-reading this month's issue of Tec, simply because it's darned beautiful.

The story worked for me, too. I was no fan of the whole "Church of Crime" routine that was part of the 52 muddle, but it makes a good and logical focus for Batwoman. Plus, the creative team has immediately given it exactly what it needed: a costumed wacko. I mean, this is Gotham, after all.

I appreciated greatly the Question seems to focus on "small" crimes and mysteries (if a person being kidnapped and sold into bondage can be considered "small"). The Question shouldn't be fighting Dr. Polaris or even the Penguin; helping one person at a time is perfect. And if she happens to break up a slavery ring that's been funding drug smuggling from Santa Prisca that's part of the Penguin's deal with Kobra, well, that works, too. Because cracking down on "small" crimes can have an impact on the larger level in the real world, too. You don't lead to shoot laser beams out of your eyes to make a difference.

That said...

As a gay man, I am disappointed. Lesbians are everywhere in comics nowadays. Lesbians are falling from the trees. At Big Monkey, we have a "Fortnightly Fave" display, where every two weeks we feature some literature based on a common character or theme ("the Flash", or "vampires", or "space"). We could pretty easily to do a "Fortnightly Fave" display on "Lesbians" (Grace from the Outsiders, Scandal Savage from Secret Six, Maggie Sawyer who used to be in Superman and used to be in Batman, Detective with two starring lesbians, Strangers in Paradise, I Was Kidnapped By Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space)

But... as Kathy Griffin would say, "Where are my gays at?"

Lesbians and gay men aren't interchangeable and (outside of political necessities for unified action) don't consider themselves a group. Lesbian characters don't satisfy a gay male reader's need to see characters easy to identify with any more than male characters satisfy a female reader's desire for female role models in comics.

I realize that a gay reader complaining that there are no gay characters isn't exactly original. Heck, reader of Type Z complaining that there are no characters of Type Z is a basic bitch-blogging formula. But the increasing prevalence of lesbians is making the absence of male gay characters even more glaring.

DC has, what, Obsidian? Obsidian, who is often portrayed as mentally unstable, when anyone (other than Marc Andreyko) bothers to portray him at all? The deranged Pied Piper? The *snort* Tasmanian Devil, who was intended as (and remains) basically a joke character and gets a cameo every three years or so?

Jeez, DC... Marvel is outdoing you. Wiccan, Hulkling, and Northstar do stink of overwrought romance comics, but, hey, that's just Marvel being Marvel. Unless I'm wrong... have they all been killed off already?

Is DC worried about readers disliking gays in comic books? Are lesbians okay, because, you know, "at least they're hot for the fanboys"? Is DC worried to offend gays with a poor portrayal and so is just steering clear of doing so altogether?

Here it is, DC: I no longer care what the reason is. It's reached a point whether I'd rather have Estrano back (yeah, you heard me; I went there!), than to have Obsidian as the one small gay male oasis in a desert of lesbians.

It's probably too late, but here's your chance:


if Inferno is not gay, I'm calling you out as homophobes, DC Comics.

25 comments:

Marcos said...

Inferno? I think a literally flaming supergay would be a bit much.

Maybe Damian's gay and that's part of his attitude problem? But I'd rather see a gay guy who was perfectly comfortable and happy with his sexuality - this is DC, not Marvel. No angst required.

John said...

To be fair, since you mention Extrano, Sinestro hit on him. It was written off as insincere, essentially a joke, but since Green Lanterns (even defrocked Green Lanterns) are, y'know, fearless and honest...

Granted, that doesn't help your "all gays are dangerously unstable" issue, but he should still qualify, in theory.

And you can always pretend that Wertham wasn't taking things out of context. Then you get a whole list!

Harvey Jerkwater said...

I have nothing of value to add except that "The Lesbian Desert" sounds like an album title for a mid-nineties art-rock band.

Al said...

Unfortunately Northstar has been another example of the mentally unstable gay character in the last few years. He was killed by Wolverine, resurrected and brainwashed by Hydra, captured by SHIELD, mind controlled by another evil group and then (finally) deprogrammed by the X-Men.
This is not looking good for gay superheroes, is it?

Gail said...

I'm aware of the imbalance and I'm working on it in my books, promise.

Gail

Anonymous said...

Midnighter and Apollo are the overused examples, but they are examples.

The badass lieutenant from the Russian special services in Birds of Prey -- can't think of his name, worked with Savant.

Element Lad, once Johns gets done with his reboot-of-reboots. I hope. It might be too much to hope for Lightning Lord to come back after to his stable, healthy, gay persona from the Five Years Later storyline. We can dream.

The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

In fairness, one of the highlights of Matt Fraction's mostly insipid run on Uncanny X-Men has been his insistence on using Northstar as a real character with an actual personality besides that of "bitchy queer".

And Peter David just "outed" a long-absent B-list X-Man in the pages of X-Factor, although in fairness this character had been coded "gay" since some of his earliest appearances so it's no big surprise.

Jacob T. Levy said...

We don't know how much of the Blood Syndicate made the transition to the DCU, but given Dharma's explanation in JLA, and given Holocaust's recent appearance, I'm optimistic. That would give us Fade.

(And he and Obsidian's shadow form could have a safely-physical-contact-free relationship, which is the traditional next step after "gay invisibility" and "gay men as entirely romantically neutered friends for straight women.")

Of course, the Milestone migrants also include Donner and Blitzen, adding to the other side of this particular scale.

Creote was the character from Birds of Prey.

Yay Gail.

Gail said...

You would be amazed at the fanmail Creote got.

Juan Arteaga said...

I'm not gay so my opinion doesn't mean much about this, but you know who I liked? Hero Cruz from Superboy and the goddamn embarrassing Ravers. Hero Cruz was the Latino, black, gay member. If I were really cynical I would think Kessel was trying to create some sort of super token character with Hero, but I'm not.

DC had other male gay characters, but sadly they are all in limbo now. I know there were two gay characters in Young Heroes in Love. I think one was bisexual, though if that matters.

And of course, there was Big Thunder from Morrison's Bulleteer mini.

SallyP said...

Well, Mikaal just showed up in the new Justice League:Cry for Justice mini-series with James Robinson. Too bad they killed off his boyfriend, but I like Mikaal, and I'm glad to see him again.

Matt said...

I agree, Midnighter and Apollo tend to be overused examples. Then again, they are the most romantic (read: not over-sexualized) homosexual couple in super-hero comics today. They show affection without gaudy love scenes. When one is gone for an extended period of time, one doesn't miss the other in an "overly emotional" (see Scipio's recent post) way.

I guess that, since it's because they're men, all the sexualization is gone, and the relationship is left. As for the "dangerously unstable" part... well, they both don't regard human life the same way DC-proper heroes do...

Diamondrock said...

I've noticed this as well and even though I'm not gay it does bother me.

I think you are somewhat right when you say that there are so many lesbians because it appeals to a certain "fanboy" set.

I don't like it and it isn't fair. With such a diverse universe there should be characters of every stripe, color, creed, orientation, and shape for people to identify with. I'm glad to hear that someone at least is trying to remedy it...

Michael Xavier said...

Scipio,

I thought you of all people would know that the "keep gays out of comics" movement dates back to an eye-opening Archie shower scene in Pep #24.

Though I am sympathetic to your cause, the thought of a second hot Archie shower scene causing heterosexual men everywhere to turn their backs on the female of the species, resulting in this generation being the final generation of humanity due to lack of reproduction.

We must avoid that path at all costs. Thank god Archie's getting married soon!

Ray said...

Wait, Donner and Blitzen were lesbians? I didn't get that.

But this is a good point to chime in for the Oblivious Straights. You can champion causes all day but in the end good characterization and story will sell. Quality still pulls in the most dollars. A great writer pushing a gay character is still a great writer and the character is just a cypher for talent.

Jeff R. said...

Add Josiah Powers to the list of gay male characters who could easily be rescued from Limbo...

Anonymous said...

I had always assumed silver age Jimmy Olsen was gay. While I was notably young at the time of reading those stories, I am fairly confident in the tone they portrayed him in. Mind you, they're definitely not showing him in that same light in the modern era, so I don't believe that's what you're looking for, Mr. Scipio. And in a quick second thought, saying anybody from the silver age was gay doesn't do much to combat the "mentally unstable" portrayal.

But as they say, "When everybody is crazy, only Plastic Man is sane".

Citizen Scribbler said...

I don't feel that not being a homosexual doesn't forbib you from having opinions on gay issues and realistic portrayls in stories in particular. I have a good many gay friends and I've never considered the way they think and feel to be a world away from my own. No more so than any other individual I encounter has their own way of thinking and feeling due to any number of factors and inspirations.

I believe that the DCU would reasonably have several more gay heroes in good standing. But them being gay should never be the most interesting facet to them by far. And I cannot believe that Scipio would go so far as to invoke Extrano! I also believe they should have some more low budget heroes on the Question's level or lower, but that's an entirely different subject.

And I appreciate Gail's remarks- her reassurance is a credit to what DC Comics professes to stand for.

-Citizen Scribbler

Orange said...

On the whole marvel thing -- to be fair, Northstar's never been a romance comics type at all -- unfortunately because, until recently, he's never been shown in a relationship with anyone. Apparently he's got an unnamed BF now, though, so woo. And hey, he'll never be one of the mentally unstable types because, no matter how many times he becomes a brainwashed zombie, he's still sane as hell compared to his sister...

Now, Marvel would probably also have a leg up on DC in the lesbians department if they didn't have this bizzare tendancy to shoot all of them into space. Perhaps that's a good idea for all the extra lesbians DC's got around: there's a 1-in-5 chance that one of them will turn into a badass space-dragon! (dude that was so awesome)

Also, I can totally believe that creote got tons of fanmail, He's a really fun character!

Bee Boy's Killer Sting! said...

It ain't much, but the son of the original Judomaster, who appeared semi-regularly in Checkmate, is also gay.

Bluejay?

Extrano just needs a makeover. I always wanted to re-invent him for the Vertigo market.

Mart said...

I liked Creosote and Savant, though could never recall which was which, and there's never an excuse for a ponytail.

Mon-El had his first kiss from a girl this month, but I'd not be surprised if he didn't get one from that nice deli owner - he's certainly of the mindset to experiment at the moment (that may be what was behind him snogging a woman, come to think of it - he may already know he's gay).

I'd love someone to tackle Extrano today, but keep him away from Vertigo, he'll only inspire bad poetry.

Darren said...

I cannot agree with you more Scip!!!

I love the lesbians, but I need to see some gay guys out there in the funny books being funny that way.

I very much miss Creote! Loved him in BOP (and maybe Gail will bring him into Secret 6 at some point *hint*)

And Extrano is to gay characters as Tyroc is to black characters, don't ya think? heh.

D.

Bee Boy's Killer Sting! said...

Poor Extrano. He is the comic world's Drag Queens before Stonewall- he desperately needs an evaluation.

steve mitchell said...

Hulking and Wiccan are still around at Marvel, and seem to be quite the stable pair.

dannyagogo said...

Gail (and Creote) = AWESOME !!