Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Strange Subject

Ah; Extraño.

Inkers don't like tildes.

For those of you who DON’T know, Extraño is a character from the New Guardians, a well-meant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt at incorporating more diversity in the DCU during the 1990s.

Tech-head! Accent-girl! Cleavage Lass! Super-Quentin! Chia-man! Harbinger!

You know when you bring in Harbinger for star power that you're in trouble.

DC has had a lot of unsuccessful attempts at things over the years, but… New Guardians was outstandingly unsuccessful.  Supplying links will have to do for those you who didn’t experience it firsthand because I don’t have the fortitude to recount the horror, but suffice it to say: the Guardians of Oa decided it was time to make some “New Guardians” by sparking powers in a cultural hodgepodge of persons who would lead humanity to its ‘next level’. 

 

Now THAT is weird garb. Eat your heart out, Alan Scott.


One of those people was Peruvian Gregorio de la Vega, better known by his codename: Extraño. Extraño was DC’s first gay character. 

He's been reading my Yelp reviews.


Um, well, at least, that’s how we were supposed to interpret him.  

You're there for comic relief/emotional support, Gregorio. That's what gay characters are for, after all.


He was created in 1988, when you could be bold enough to create a gay character… as long as you didn’t actually use the word ‘gay’.  

Gregorio was what they call “flamboyant”, and his superhero identity even more so. He sometimes referred to himself in the third person as “Auntie”.  He was not designed to blend in; he was designed to be on the boundary. I mean, his codename is “the Strange One” for pete’s sake.

Now THERE is a team-up I want to see. I'm picturing mostly a shopping montage, with PS intoning ominous warnings about buying those pants, which will endanger the multiverse and make you look hippy.

...and we were SO CLOSE.


I am not criticizing that choice on the part of Steve Englehart; I have zero doubt he had the best of intentions with Extraño and the other New Guardians.  But we all know what road is paved with good intentions and New Guardians was nothing if not hellish.

Now, they butched Extraño up in short order:


Glowing skull available at Hot Topic.

Was this due to reader reaction? Conforming to the superhero body stereotype? Did Gregorio simply take advantage of having magical powers to make himself more conventionally attractive?  Because it's important to remember how he started out:

Non-conventionally attractive.

Now, all of those "Chosen", the people picked to become New Guardians, were ordinary schlubs before being 'ascended'.  But Gregorio was, well...

(from Millenium #2, 1988)

a jaded, snarky drunken barfly? I think that's the phrase I'm looking for.


Peruvian Paul Lynde here has his next scene on at the nearby waterfront:
Oh, I saw THIS movie. But I was certain they were Brazilian.


where he attempts to commit suicide.

Bury your gays at sea.

But is saved by Wally West.

Wally West telling you "It Gets Better" is perfect comic book irony.


Thanks to Wally's fractured-Spanish pep talk, Gregorio decides to put suicide on hold and instead ascend to near godhood.



The New Guardians were pretty quickly erased by hypertime and a collective agreement by the general public but not before Extraño came down with a case of Bury Your Gays.


 The fate of Gregorio was ambiguous although:

“Extraño was ultimately killed by HIV infection, but it was contracted from a fight with an "AIDS vampire" supervillain called the Hemo-Goblin.”  I took that quote from Wikipedia directly because, frankly, I didn’t want to be responsible for saying it myself. 

Oscar-bait monologue.


Also... it's not true.  Gregorio didn't get the chance to die of AIDS because he was eaten by Krona. 


It happened off-camera, too.



Yes, really.


For once, I'm with you, Hal.

Besides, thanks to Rebirth, Extraño turns up healthy and whole a mere quarter of a century later in the 2016 Apollo/Midnighter miniseries.

As The Most Interesting Gay Man In The World.

The butching up of Gregorio took a HUGE leap in this Steve Orlando miniseries.  And that's kind of understandable.  The original portrayal of Gregorio was "of its time" and so is this one.


"Oh, let me imply that I've killed people for using my only codename, just so you know that I'm not only a DILF but ALSO a bad-ass, because this is a Midnighter story. Also let me emphasize that I'm not suicidal even though that is my only backstory."

This version of Gregorio has a husband named Hugh (presumed to be the superhero Tasmanian Devil, because Those Two Gays You Know Are PERFECT  for each other!) with an adopted eldritch girl.  Because it's 2016 so of course he does.

There is, of course, no questioning Orlando's bona fides in his reintroduction of Gregorio De La Vega: "With a book like Midnighter & Apollo, which from cover to cover is a love letter to queer characters and our struggle to live, be visible and love, it felt right to return to one of the first and reintroduce Gregorio to a new generation."

However.

Orlando didn't "reintroduce Gregorio to a new generation." He reinvented him for one.  And, in its way, his reinvention is just as stereotypical for our time as the original version was for his.  Like much of the gay community, this version of Gregorio seems to be embarrassed of his more flamboyant past and become conformist rather than individualistic.  Is this really a healthy model for contemporary gays?

I don't think Gregorio has been seen in the DCU outside this series since then. But if he were...

would we be losing more than we gain with this version?

I submit that, although a painful stereotype in 1988, the original Extraño might be a welcome breath of fabulousness in this era of the stodgy suburban gay couple.




I think if I were to reinvent Gregorio de la Vega for modern times he would nearly JUST like Orlando's version.  But Extraño....!  

My version of Gregorio would have to (or would choose to) convert to his original flamboyant over-the-top witch-self, both in dress and in personality, in order to use his power and it would be a perfect disguise...



Sunday, April 11, 2021

Heroclix Sunday: The Pension Building

There's an exciting new set of Heroclix figures coming out this month in honor of the 80th Anniversary of Wonder Woman.  The figures are more detailed than ever (thanks to SCIENCE!), there's a neat new mechanic for empowering sidekicks, and lots of characters are being made for the first time (e.g., Angle Man, Ferdinand the Chef, and Wonder Woman's brother Jason). If you are new to Heroclix, there's even a Wonder Woman-themed starter set to help you learn.

In preparation, I created a new map of Washington DC indoor location: The Pension Building.

The exhibit rooms are empty so you can put object tokens in there for the characters to throw at each other.

Build in the 1880s, the Pension Building is an imposing building inside and out. 

It's monumental. Even for DC.

Even if you ignore the exhibits, the building itself is a thing to be seen.

Originally a government office, it's housed the National Building Museum since 1980.  I call it The Guy Museum, because male visitors who aren't keen on art or history still eat up exhibits on architecture, city planning, and building construction.  

Although it's too large to accurately represent on a Heroclix map, my scaled down version comes close (although it doesn't capture the second story).  The bespoke element is the rug which is a scanned version of the ACTUAL iconic rug at the museum (and I almost fell off the balcony!).  

The Pension Building is known for holding prestigious events, like the Presidential Inaugural Ball, in its Great Hall, or wacky large-scale interactive art projects:

The Beach

The Hive

The Maze

The Lawn

In fact, it was at the National Building Museum's indoor kite exhibition that I got the idea for the Flying Robot Zombie Shark of Christmas Future. But that's a story for another time.