Topic: Gay Super heros in the spotlight

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It's All the Rage: A Look at Gay Superheroes

by P. Andrew Miller

Fans of Queer as Folk all know that Michael's most consistent love
next to Brian Kinney is comic books, particularly the now-deceased
Captain Astro. QaF's season two subplots of Captain Astro's death,
the buying of the comic book store, and most especially the debut
of Rage, the gay superhero based on Brian, reflect the cross-overs
between gay culture and comics culture. What the show doesn't show,
however, are today's current gay characters and superheroes in
mainstream comics.

Comic books have probably been associated with gays since the
beginning. After all, these are big, muscled men in tight-fitting
outfits who prefer the company of other men or their young male
sidekicks over the company of frail, danger-prone women. At least
that's what Dr. Fredrick Wertham thought when he wrote Seduction of
the Innocent in 1954. The book condemned comics for corrupting
America's youth. For instance, Batman and Robin, a/k/a Bruce Wayne
and "Dick" Grayson, had the perfect homosexual relationship. They
were the perfect picture of a gay couple, whether they were dressed
in tights or at home in stately Wayne Manor, resting in their
lounging robes by the crackling fire while Alfred attended to their
every need. (And Dr. Wertham also suggested Wonder Woman was a

Dr. Wertham's claims about delinquency and sexual deviance led to
Congressional hearings and the eventual "cleaning up" of comics,
not to mention the Comics Code Authority which made sure all
characters showed good heterosexual values.

For decades then, there were no gay superheroes-though savvy gay
and straight readers could read beneath the spandex. For instance,
the X-Men were quite obviously gay metaphors. As mutants, they were
different than their parents, they became different during puberty,
and they could stay in the closet. Current writers of X-titles have
taken this further when they refer to mutants being "outed." There
are also Mutant Pride parades and an increasing "mutant market" for
advertisers and businesses.

But actual gay characters and superheroes starting popping up in
the '90s, such as Spectral, a gay member of the short-lived
Ultraverse team The Strangers, from Malibu. But the first
significant gay superhero was Northstar, a mutant member of the
Canadian super hero team Alpha Flight. From nearly the beginning of
the Marvel Comics series, writer John Byrne hinted at the hero's
sexual preferences. However, a change in writers and probable
editorial cold feet changed the character into a ridiculous parody
of a hero, making him literally half-elf, half-human instead of
gay. But then, years later, when the title was not selling well,
Northstar finally came out, adopting a baby about to die from AIDS.
Though the series was canceled, Northstar does show up again every
once in awhile, even recently as a replacement X-Man where he had
to deal with a homophobic teammate.

(I should mention that lesbian characters have appeared as well,
though I am always suspicious of long-legged, buxom lesbian
characters written and drawn by men.)

Like TV, gay characters have had supporting roles in mainstream
comics. For instance, in the current run of Green Lantern, Kyle
Rayner (GL's secret identity) is a cartoonist. His assistant is gay
teenager named Terry who had a crush on Kyle. Though straight, Kyle
was understanding and the comic still does a good job of showing
some of the conflicts gay teens still go through.

But I think no mainstream comic has taken the gay superhero as far
as The Authority, a series done under DC Comics Wildstorm imprint.
This super hero team is hardcore, not afraid to use violence and
their powers to do what they feel needs to be done. Among their
members are Apollo and Midnighter. Apollo has super strength, super
speed, power of flight and heat vision, while the Midnighter is a
badass fighter dressed in black with a hood covering his face.
(Sound familiar?) These characters first appeared in Stormwatch, a
previous comic book, but in the pages of The Authority, writer
Warren Ellis took them from crime fighting partners to a crime
fighting couple.

Around issues 7 and 8 of The Authority, readers suddenly began to
realize that these two were more than just friends. At the
beginning of #8, before Apollo flies off for a dangerous mission,
the two share a tender moment with Apollo kissing Midnighter on the
cheek. After the team has succeeded in their mission, Jack
Hawksmoor, a teammate admonishes the happy couple to "get a room."

The relationship between these two characters is developed
throughout the series and with the following writer, Mark Millar.
The romance between the two is a subject that many of their enemies
comment on, not to mention the fact that they are called many
unkind names. Issue #29, the latest to have come out, features the
end of a long story arc with the Authority finally victorious over
their enemies, which includes the US government. The issue ends
with Apollo and Midnighter getting married (the Midnighter wearing
white leather for the occasion) and kissing each other, probably
the first gay male kiss in mainstream comics history. (And I'm sure
Dr. Wertham is spinning in his grave.)

Perhaps Justin and Michael's Rage is ahead of its fictional time.
Or perhaps it will be just one more gay superhero in long line of
spandex-covered gay men.
Copyright 2002 GayWired. All Rights Reserved.


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