Thursday, March 08, 2012

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows

Politics –and similar exigencies--make strange bedfellows. Like the time Bronze Age Batman and the Joker and teamed up to solve the Penguin’s “murder” in Brave & the Bold. Or the time Lex and Superman worked together to fight famine in Africa in Heroes Against Hunger. Or when Captain America joined with Hitler to fight worldwide currency inflation. I forget which story that was.

Anyway, thanks to I find myself similarly wedded to the unlikeliest of bedfellows: Archie Andrews.

Thanks, Slay Monstrobot, for exposing this.

As longtime readers of the Absorbascon will know, Archie Andrew is my bĂȘte noir. His slow banishment of the heroic Shield from the pages of Pep, his mental enthrallment of the youth of America, his apostlehood of surrealism in comics—the depth and breadth of his evil are unfathomable and illimitable, unbounded as they are by either space/time or the Fourth Wall.

Yet, politics find me arm-in-arm with my Arch-nemesis in solidarity against… One Million Moms, who are boycotting Archie Comics and Toys-R-Us, which is carrying a comic in which Riverdaler Kevin Keller marries his boyfriend. First, a new editor’s notes. I do not know that there are actually one million moms in One Million Moms; I rather doubt it, the same way I’m not really concerned about any threat from Insane Clown Posse or The Butthole Surfers. Also, in the “present day” continuity of Riverdale, Kevin (like the rest of the Archie gang) is a highschooler, with limited dating experienced due to having moved around a lot with his military family. “Kevin’s Wedding” is an “imaginary story” of the future, just like the “Archie Marries Betty” and “Archie Marries Veronica” comics. I will also add that I am opposed to Kevin’s marriage because the story depicted him as a wounded veteran marrying his physical therapist, which is all kinds of professional wrong and which, as we have learned previously here at the Absorbascon, is the road to perdition.

That said, I am obviously not against gay marriage generally or against the general concept of Kevin getting married. Even if I were, I hope wouldn’t take the same stance as this pressure group/rock band One Million Moms ™. Because, even if ‘gay marriage’ is a thing you don’t like, it is still a thing that is happening in the real world—quite a lot—and as such is fair game for inclusion in comics. Of course, rape and murder happened quite a lot in the real world, but I wouldn’t want those in Archie Comics. But if you want to put gay marriage in the same box as rape and murder, One Million Moms, then further discourse on the matter would probably be fruitless. Meanwhile, good luck influencing Toys’R’Us, who I can only assume don’t give a darn what mothers thinks, or their brand name wouldn’t be a grammatical and orthographic horror-show.

By the way, if you get the chance, buy Kevin Keller #1; not only was it kind of touching it was freakin’ hilarious, particularly the Kevin’s Almost First Date and Reggie Gives Kevin a Makeover parts.

What I am really interested in talking about is NOT Kevin Keller, but about the fact that Archie—friggin’ ARCHIE—is leading the mainstream comic book pack on social issues. It’s great, and we should applaud the Archie Comics folks for their efforts to be modern, relevant, but still wholesome. What bothers me is that my preferred comics genre—DC’s ‘super’ titles—are so far BEHIND the curve in representing the realities of gay people being part of modern society.

Don’t get me wrong; I have been very happy to see that the Legion folks stepped right up to the plate and unabashedly portrayed Lightning Lass and Shrinking Violet as a couple (a tradition from the Giffen Five Years Later Era). And, of course, Kate Kane has her own title as Batwoman, where her personal and romantic life is very much integral to the story.

However, I cannot help feel that in the New52—so far—it feels like we have taken a step backwards in the portrayal of gay people from what preceded. In the Old52, we could at least point to a handful of gay men in the DCU; admittedly, no one as high profile as Batwoman, but still there were some. There is, to my knowledge, no one to point to in the New52. Naturally, the whole new DC universe is still unfolding and new characters (and old characters newly recast) are being revealed every week, so my observation may simply be premature. But, even if there are no main characters who are gay men, I’m still looking for some sign that gay marriage—a growing modern reality that even Archie Comics has acknowledged and incorporated into its universe—exists in the DCU. I’m not looking for a “Very Special Issue” about it; I don’t think it merits it. But as one occasionally sees straight married couples in the DCU during the course of a plot, one might expect also, at some point, to see a gay married couple as well.

I am aware that the issue is not without controversy in ‘the real world’. I am also aware that superhero comics, on average, do not court social and political controversy. However, I am also aware that DC didn’t wait until integration and ‘miscegenation’ were no longer issues before showing black Americans with white ones in their stories; or am I wrong in that?

I remember looking at the DCU when I was a kid as a more advanced placed, both scientifically and sociologically. Is that no longer the case? Am I now living in a world that’s ten years ahead of the DCU, instead of the other way around?

Archie Comics has always been about preparing young kids for the world they were going to grow into as teenagers. Is DC Comics now just about preserving for adults the world we grew up in as kids?


Matt I. said...


THEN AGAIN, I'm 19, so I'm not the person. you're asking this question of, I guess.

Scipio said...

Actually, Matt, you are EXACTLY the person who'd know, since you opinions are uncolored by nostalgia.

Dan said...

I read superhero comics for their heroic adventure, totally an escapist entertainment.

Sure, I don't mind some "relevant" social discussion--generally about justice, use of force, corruption, that kind of stuff--but there's a limit. When superhero titles become too rooted in the modern real world, they become slow and dull.

I remember being bored to tears when Superman engaged and married Lois Lane. I certainly didn't buy Superman for his romances, single or married. And now, every time I see Starfire of Teen Titans in a comic, she's always crawling into or out of somebody's bed. That's not the kind of adventuring I buy comics for.

For me, it's not about gay or straight, it's about sex--and I can get all the sexual and sexuality content I'd ever want somewhere else.

I don't pay $3/4 a month for something I already get as a part of my cable/satellite bill. If I want Lifetime, I've already got it.

I'm not saying publishers shouldn't do these stories... I'm saying I won't pay for them.

Scipio said...

Hm. Well, I certainly agree with you, Dan, that I don't want to see sex in my superhero comics. Sex -- like eating and bathrooming - is one of those things we should assume our heroes do, but not really what we paid to tune in for.

But what I was actually talking about was not a lack of sex, but of gay characters or gay couples, or even evidence that there is gay marriage. None of which really requires sex per se. Particularly marriage, LOL.

Juggo said...

Bunker in the Teen Titans is a gay male in the New 52... though truth be told I only know about that from press releases, I haven't been reading Titans.

Since it's Titans and a gay character, I thought it best to check before posting that Bunker hasn't been killed off since his debut. I think he's still alive, and apparently was originally going to be called "The Wall." So I'm calling it now, Bunker is the New 52 Earth version of Blockade Boy. Oh, that means that the whole NOWHERE thing in the Lobdell books is the New 52 version of the Super-Stalag from Space!

Scipio said...

ZOMG, you're right, he is totally a modern Blockade Boy.

Let's hope that, unlike Blockade Boy, he wasn't created just to die.

Odkin said...

Oh look it's a three-fer:

Carefully calculated by the polemicists to defuse any attacks as "anti-military" and "racist".

I imagine 5% of the Archie audience is left-handed, too. Why don't they publish a whole series about how normal left-handers are?

Don't publishers have a hard enough time these days? Why are they "narrowcasting" to niches?

Scipio said...

Well, you can choose to view it as "narrowcasting".

I believe most people would perceive it as an attempt to broaden their audience.

Beyond, you know, red-headed straight guys with two hot girlfriends. Who constitute way less than 5% of the potential audience.

Andrew said...

Scipio said:
"There is, to my knowledge, no one to point to in the New52."

I don't read STORMWATCH, but isn't the premise of that book that it features Captain-Ersatz versions of Superman and Batman (Apollo and Midnighter, I think) who are gay and in a relationship?

Scipio said...

TOUCHE, Andrew: you are completely right, and they had completely slipped my mind.

Bryan L said...

Unlikeliest of bedfellows, indeed. My mind reels at the thought of you throwing your support behind the Rapacious Riverdalite (Riverdalean?).

The new 52 is behind on representation, but to be fair, it's only seven months (or so) old (if you're speaking strictly of the new 52). I would point to Renee Montoya and Maggie Sawyer, but I'm not sure if they're still around now (plus it bugs me that they got shoehorned together at one point). Element Lad is a bit of a question mark still, I think. I'm not coming up with much else.

Anonymous said...

2 points
1. Arnie Roth in Captain America! That was all kinds of awesome. And realistic to boot.

2. Archie comics depict an idealized version of reality. And are actually read by girls! Superhero comics serve no such purpose. Weren't you the guy who pointed the genius of the Schuster many world explanation? [in some other world, Officer Gordon would be a villain! A gorilla! Or even a Girl!]

SallyP said...

I'm a Mom, but I sure as heck don't belong to...that...organization. Incidentally, sales of the particular issue that has them all aflutter have skyrocketed.

I miss Todd and Damian!

Scipio said...

(1) I give up: who on Earth-1 is "Arnie Roth"?
(2) LOL, I had forgotten the "even a girl" post. But writing comics solely for teenage boys was what I though DC was trying to veer AWAY from.
(3) You're cooler than all those moms combined, Sally.
(4) I miss Todd & Damian, too.

rnrk said...

Just the other day, I was reading the Armagideon Time's look at Tyroc, the Angry Black Man from the 30th century's Island of Angry Black People, which really puts into perspective how awkward DC's always been at handling changing societal norms.

Mr. Long said...

Arnie Roth was a childhood friend of Steve Rogers, the future Captain America. He was a gay supporting character used from 1982-1985... not sure if he's too relevant to you, Scip, since you're more of a DC guy.

Scipio said...

Oh; interesting. I thought he was dead; is he non-dead now?

Hoosier X said...

Homophobes sure use some interesting rationalizations to justify their objections.

"I don't want to see any sex! So there should not be any gay peeples in my comics!!"

"Well, now, since we're giving gay peeples their own comics, how about a comic for Chilean tuba players with astigmatism! Burn!"

DC should get a lot of credit for Batwoman. She's still an out lesbian and her current series kicks ass.

(Which may be why it's easy to forget that it's part of "The New 52.")

Anonymous said...

> 1) I give up: who on Earth-1 is "Arnie Roth"?

An unambiguously gay friend of Captain America in the early 80s. :)
But seriously, there is over 6 years of wonderfully entertaining ruminations here so why the F*** have you disabled the tag clouds that would allow us easier navigation?

Scipio said...

"so why the F*** have you disabled the tag clouds that would allow us easier navigation?"

Um... I have no earthly idea what this means. "Tag clouds" carries no meaning to me.

I do sense that this is some kind of compliment, however, so I will choose not to be upset at your cursing me out on my own blog.

If there are ways to make my blog more searchable, I am anxious to employ them, because I myself have a terrible time finding things on it, since Bloggers own keyword search functions seem to cut off after a certain number of returns.

Scipio said...

Homophobes sure use some interesting rationalizations to justify their objections.

"I don't want to see any sex! So there should not be any gay peeples in my comics!!"

I feel the force of your remarks, Hoosier. It is common, however, the people might unthinkingly assume that ones sexuality is seen only, well, when one is having sex.

But, of course, that is not the case. I've never seen Barry Allen and Iris West have sex -- or, for that matter, kiss, because, well, I don't think Iris does that. I'm sure she prefers her tongue-lashings to be metaphorical rather than literal. But I'm fully aware that both Barry and Iris are straight and are (or were in the Old Days) romantically involved, and eventually married.

And that's really all I'm hoping to see someday in a DCU (non-Stormwatch, LOL) gay couple.

Accursed Interloper said...

"I am also aware that DC didn’t wait until integration and ‘miscegenation’ were no longer issues before showing black Americans with white ones in their stories; or am I wrong in that?"

DC might have been waiting to see if Robbie Robertson could "get away with" being not an obese Pullman Porter with an Amos&Andy accent, or if Pvt. George Stonewall would survive his blood transfusion from Pvt. Gabriel Jones, back in Sgt. Fury #6 March 1964.
Innuddawoids, DC might have NOT been the real trend-setter on this particular front, back in the day.

SallyP said...

And speaking of Iris West! "...I'm sure she prefers her tongue-lashings to be metaphorical rather than literal..."

Oh Scipio. I laughed and laughed. Unfortunately I was eating grapes, and almost choked to death...but it was WORTH it!

Scipio said...

Heh, thanks, Sally. Any chance to take a crack at Iris (from a safe distance!)...

Sorry about almost killing you...

Reminds me of the time I saved the life of Quaker sociologist and international peace advocate Elise Boulding when she was choking on a grape. Gotta watch out for grapes.

CobraMisfit said...

I'm not surprised that Archie is more "forward thinking" than the DCU or DCnU. After all, the series not only featured KISS, but had The Punisher as a chaperone for a Riverdale High sock hop.

Accursed Interloper said...

"Joe Robertson" not "Robbie Robertson."
One was a black man in the traditionally white job of newspaper editor, the other was, or is, a guitarist and songwriter, and namesake of the SON of Joe Robertson. Sigh. Time takes its toll on my memory.

Scipio said...

Oh my god , I can't believe you remember "Pullman Porter" LOL!!!

Brady said...

It seems that every comic book I pick up these days ends up featuring some sexual minority or other. But gay male DCNU character... Aside from Apollo and Midnighter and that new kid who was in an article once, I got nothing. I _think_ The Shade is bi, and so is Catman. Until now, I was actually much more aware of the shortage of decent bi characters than gay ones.

Scipio said...

Wow; I can't believe this was 10 year ago.
How far poor Archie has fallen in his risen to television fame!
Yet how far we have come in terms of representation both in comics, on screen, and in society in general.