Crimespree On Comics: A look at homosexuality in comics

So, June is Gay Pride Month. I wanted to take a look at homosexuality in comics. As we’ve seen, a lot has been happening with gay characters lately. It’s such a hot button topic politics-wise that we can see why the companies would want to get on the band-wagon. Some are doing it for monetary purposes, some are doing it to push equality, and some are doing just because, that’s life. Whatever the reason, it’s a good thing for the LGBT community.

Most recently we have two big events. DC offers the reveal that in the rebooted 52 Alan Scott, Earth 2’s Green Lantern, is gay. Remaking a very long standing character as a homosexual was a very controversial decision. While they were sure to be praised for their expanding of gay characters, DC knew they could be alienating some fans of the classic character. In Marvel, their first openly gay character, Northstar, got married to his boyfriend. While it was almost surely indicative of dollar signs for Marvel, it was a wonderfully written story and does a lot of good. The press around it was huge and when the book was released there were gay weddings at comic book stores around the world. While both significant, the biggest thing to happen in comics, ever, is Archie revealing a new character, Kevin Keller to be a homosexual. Why is this the most important? There have been plenty of gay characters and very important gay comics over the years. It’s so significant because this is from a comic that everyone has heard of. It wasn’t an adult book or a super hero book, it’s an all ages romance book. It was going to be read by kids AND adults. Archie Comics realized they needed to become relevant again and introducing a gay character helped put Archie back on the map. What they did was say, “yes, there’s a gay character, but it shouldn’t and doesn’t matter that he is.” He is simply another character in the Archie Universe. For young readers this is a major point to get across. That is doesn’t matter if someone is gay, that’s just who they are. Archie wonderfully got this point across and helped push the acceptance of gays.

Now, gay comics have been around for a very long time. Underground comics and ‘zines’ helped spread word. While some were just pornography, there was a good amount that wanted to showcase actual people living their lives. Comic strips were, in fact, some of the first to show it off. “For Better or Worse” had one of it’s supporting characters come out of the closet, which resulted in death threats to the creator Lynn Johnston. While she wanted to have the character come out earlier in her series, when he did, it was still a major turning point in gay comics.

One of the most significant gay comics of all time is “Stuck Rubber Baby,” by comics legend Howard Cruse. Simple plot by today’s standard, it tells of a young man coming to grips with his homosexuality and dealing with Alabama ideals. It’s a brilliant piece of work that was one of the first big stories to revolve around gay plotlines. Another big non-super hero one was “Pedro and Me.” A true story about comic book star writer Judd Winick and his experience on the show “The Real World.” If you’re from the X Generation, you probably remember watching that season, it had an HIV-positive gay man, Pedro, front and center. “Pedro and Me” is the heart-wrenching story of Judd and Pedro’s friendship (Judd being a heterosexual) as Pedro tries of live his life and eventually, die from AIDS. It’s a tragic, tears-streaming-down-your-face story that is a powerful statement of the early 90s. And I’d be remiss if “Strangers in Paradise” wasn’t mentioned. One of the best comic series of all time, it was a romance comic that wasn’t. And the lead character, Katchoo, is madly in love with her best friend, Francine. The long running book lasted almost 100 issues and made people realize that indy and romance comics could change the way we read.

The late 90s and 2000’s introduced more gay characters and plotlines. There are a million X-Men and some of the younger generation is gay. Karma, Anole, Graymalken and Ultimate Colossus (he’s from an alternate reality) are all out and proud. Marvel really hit things on the head with the introduction of Young Avengers Wiccian and Hulkling, a teenage gay couple. The first gay couple in Marvel history, I believe. They are a stable, mature couple and great role models for gay youths. Marvel would be crazy to let anything happen to them. In X-Factor, Rictor and Shatterstar kissed, significant only in that in 2009, it was the first gay kiss Marvel ever showed.

DC has been a bit more progressive, especially in their Vertigo imprint. Many books, as far back as the early 90s features gay characters and storylines. Introducing a new Batwoman, a lipstick lesbian, and making her an incredible badass, showed the commitment to equality. Batwoman is currently one of the only stars of a female led book. She is important to gay history as well as superhero history as well.

Since then gay characters have been popping up everywhere, without fanfare, and that is a good thing. It shouldn’t be a big deal if someone is gay, it should just be. There are many more books and characters that didn’t get recognized here, but all have and will continue to help in this fight for equality and pride.
Some significant gay-themed books to check out:
“Kevin Keller: Welcome to Riverdale”
“Young Avengers”
“Avengers: The Children’s Crusade.”
“Pedro and Me”
“Strangers in Paradise”
“Batwoman: Elegy”
“Stuck Rubber Baby”
“Gotham Central”
“Leonard and Larry”
“Wuvable Oaf”
“Love and Rockets”

Jo Schmidt