Robot 6

Six by 6: Six gay comics that are better than anything on Ranker’s list

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For

As with Tom Spurgeon and Dirk Deppey (scroll down, it’s at the halfway point), I found myself thoroughly irked at Ranker.com’s incredibly superhero-heavy list of the “10 Most Important Gay Moments in Comic Book History.”

It’s not that the list focuses exclusively on DC and Marvel’s cape-and-Spandex output — that’s fine, so long as you’re willing to add a qualifier or two in your heading and introduction. What truly rankles is author Eric Diaz’s attempt to claim that this list is definitive, i.e. the “most important” moments evar, even though it conveniently ignores any comic that wasn’t published by DC or Marvel (and I’m sorry, but jokes about Batman and Robin’s “special relationship” don’t count). The best comparison I could make would be writing a post entitled the “Best Movies of the 20th Century” and then only including action films. Directed by Michael Bay.

Had Diaz gone outside his reading habits and taken five minutes to do some research, or at least done a Google search for “lgbt comics,” he would have found an large number of books, graphic novels, comic strips and what have you that carry more cultural weight than Rictor swapping spit with Shatterstar.

But rather than howl at the winds I thought I’d attempt to respond by offering my own simple list. This by no means meant to be a definitive or authoritative (or even necessarily matches my own reading tastes and preferences). Rather, I just looked at my bookshelves and quickly pulled off six gay- or lesbian-themed comics I thought were either more influential or aesthetically pleasing than anything Diaz came up with. It really wasn’t very difficult.

1. Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. Really, how you can even attempt to put together a list of definitive, influential gay comics and not include Bechdel on it is beyond me. This is pure speculation on my part, but I think if you polled people in the LGBT community and asked them what comic resonated with them, they’d pick this one over that issue of Alpha Flight. Regardless of whether you care for her work or not, if you don’t have this strip or Fun Home (To quote Dirk: “Wouldn’t you say that Fun Home being chosen Time Magazine’s book of the year was the teensiest bit more important than a romantic relationship with a fucking Skrull?”) on your list, you’ve immediately lost all credibility with me.

For Better or For Worse

For Better or For Worse

2. Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse. Another obvious example. Cruse’s seminal tale of a young man’s self-discovery during the Civil Rights era was one of the most lauded graphic novels of the 1990s, and should easily come to the top of any respectable list, especially since a new edition is coming out (from DC no less!) in the next month or so.

3. For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston. Easily one of the highlights of Johnston’s lengthy run on this daily comic strip was when elder son Michael’s best friend Lawrence came out of the closet. Johnson handled the story with tact and sympathy at a time when few mainstream comics, if any, were attempting to even go near the subject. The strip raised a bit of a kerfuffle and a number of papers dropped the comic for a while, but that, I suspect, only added to the strip’s influence. How many people read Young Avengers? I’m willing to bet Johnson has a larger audience, even now.

4. Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau. Oh look, another extremely popular and well-regarded daily comic strip! Trudeau was one of the first (if not the first) newspaper cartoonists to tackle gay issues with the character of Andy, who eventually succumbed to AIDS. He then had major cast member Mark Slackmeyer out himself over the radio waves and closely followed his attempts at love as he married (and eventually divorced) a fellow political pundit. His commitment to discuss these issues openly and with such good humor and respect for his characters speaks volumes in my mind about his integrity as an artist.

Rica 'tte Kanji

Rica 'tte Kanji

5. Ricca ‘tte Kanji by Rica Takashima. This one’s a bit obscure, I admit, but Takashima’s cute, minimalist tale of a budding lesbian and her fumbling attempts at romance with a more, ahem, experienced woman is just too cute (in a good way) for me to ignore it.

6. Pedro and Me by Judd Winick. I’m not the biggest fan of Pedro by a long shot, but Winick’s memoir about his friendship with the late Real World star has more earned emotion and empathy for its subject than anything on Diaz’s list (OK, I’ll make Rucka and Williams’ work on Batwoman the only potential exception). Considering that Winick went on from this to pen books like Titans and Green Arrow, I’m kind of surprised this book didn’t hit Diaz’s radar. But then, maybe that’s me expecting too much again.

Also worthy of consideration: Love and Rockets X by Gilbert Hernandez, Likewise by Ariel Schrag, Vellevision by Maurice Vellekoop, anything by Fumi Yoshinaga, and lots, lots more books than I have time to list here.

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Comments

15 Comments

A very good list, Chris, although I do think we need to make room for Batwoman. I wouldn’t say that if it all we had to go on were her 52 appearances. It’s the thoroughly human way she’s being fleshed out by Rucka and WIlliams in the past year that makes her a trailblazer. The piece of her history/”origin” story that depicts her discharge from the military because of her sexual orientation is the most obvious but not even the only example of how queer-positive this series is.

There’s also Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, as well as several of the characters and story arcs in Jaime Hernandez’s Locas tales and Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar stories (both published in their Love and Rockets series). In the online comics medium, there’s T Campbell’s Penny & Aggie which, although it deals with teenage characters, handles the queer characters and their stories with nuance and depth equal to that found in the better comics stories about lesbigay adults.

How do you write about LGBT comics and not include Dykes to Watch Out For?

Julian, what post were you reading?

Torsten Adair

March 9, 2010 at 5:06 am

Yup… the ones on this list are the easy ones, the milestones. Perhaps Marvel’s Alpha Flight, if not for the story, then for the media coverage and Marvel’s cowardly reaction.

DC… I think Sandman had the first “everyday” depiction, characters who were LGBT but that aspect was in the background.

If one were to write a book, then Tom of Finland is noteworthy. I also like “Chelsea Boys”, the Dynamic Duo of Batwoman and the Question, and the metaphorical “Fox Bunny Funny”.

I always admired how respectfully the Pied Piper was handled during Mark Waid’s run on The Flash: note that this was also around the same time Alpha Flight’s Northstar came out in a splash page declaring/exploiting his homosexuality.

But the problem with any ultimate top anything list is that you always leave lots more to cover.

People are forgetting a little comic known as….STRANGERS IN PARADISE. That comic rules!!! Very gay friendly and amazing comic book :).

Hey, there’s also Jane’s World by Paige Braddock! Cavalcade of Boys by Tim Fish! Manhunter written by Marc Andreyko (and published by DC!) Tough Love: High School Confidential by Abby Denson! Juicy Mother, anthologies edited by Jennifer Camper, whose Rude Girls and Dangerous Women and subGurlz show her standing on her own! Age of Bronze and too much other astonishing work to fit here by Eric Shanower, among the best cartoonists of is generation.

Then there’s Shirtlifter by Steve Mac Issac; Yu + Me by Megan Rose Gedris; Pride High by Tommy Roddy; Glamzonia, the Uncanny SuperTranny by Justin Hall; and The House of Muse: The Latter Days of Sappho of Lesbos by Pam Hamilton. Yes, the preceding all were recipients of Prism’s Annual Queer Press Grant.

Thanks, Chris, for introducing the topic, whatever the motivation. It’s given us a chance to laud some of the great LGBT talent working in comics today.

Patty

Patricia Jeres
Prism, Co-President & Industry Liaison
http://www.prismcomics.org

I can’t make up my mind whether you deserve applause for making this list, or a slap for putting Love and Rockets in only as an afterthought, when it ought to be at the top. And where is Ralf König, for God’s sake?? You put Stuck Rubber Baby and forget Ralf König? Gimme a break, man ;P

Bolschek — Like I said in the intro, the list is by no means meant to be comprehensive or definitive. I just wanted to see if, by taking a quick glance at my shelves, I could find six books that were more “important” or at least more entertaining, than what was on the other list. Unfortunately, I don’t own any Konig, so that left that off the bat from the very start.

I am completely delighted to see Ricca ‘tte Kanji on a list like this! It’s a great book and really deserves its place here, even if it isn’t anywhere near as well known as the rest of the things on the list.

Well, I’m a little late here to post my rebuttal to your rebuttal, but what the Hell. This is gonna be here for posterity so might as well throw in my two cents. I can be as bitchy and indignant as the next geeky queen after all ;)

If I had written this list for CBR or any comic book centric website, I totally would have titled it “Top Ten Most Important Moments in Super Hero Comic Book History.” But I didn’t, I wrote it for Ranker, which is a more or less mainstream site. To this day, like it or not, to the mainstream the term “Comic Book” = “Super Hero”. Ok, and maybe Archie. And I know for a lot of the indie minded out there, you guys hate that, but that is kind of the way it is. Even still, I considered naming it “Top Ten Moments in Mainstream Comics History” but just decided it was too long and cumbersome a title for a pretty light topic. In my section pertaining to my #1 moment (Batwoman) I even made it a point to refer to her introduction as the #1 event in MAINSTREAM comics history right there at the end of her entry. I figured anyone reading the rest of this list was going to realize that this was going to be a mainstream comics centric list when reading that part…the rest should not have been a surprise or offensive after reading that.

If you read the actual entries on the list, you would see that this was in no way a “Best of” or “Favorites” list – I outright hated Rawhide Kid, and thought that old Alpha Flight issue where Northstar comes out was pretty frickin’ bad, and I said so. But they made it on the list because they were outright gay centric moments that caught the mainstream’s fleeting attention. Northstar and the AIDS baby made newspapers back in the 90’s; Stan Lee was on CNN discussing Rawhide Kid for Heaven’s sake. The only indie book that got that kind of attention in the mainstream was probably Pedro and Me, and sadly that only happened due to the author and subject’s connection to MTV’s The Real World. ANY of the comics you named are no doubt better than some of the ones I mentioned, but this is not a Best Of list, so that is neither here no there.

Let me put it another way; there were many actresses to come out as lesbian before Ellen did, but Ellen did it while starring in a sitcom on a national network watched by millions. And therefore Ellen will be the one to go down in history. There were a million indie LGBT movies before Brokeback Mountain, but that particular film was the one to break beyond the gay indie ghetto into the mainstream, actually making real money. Whatever you may think of the movie, it will be THE gay love story to go down in film history above all the others. It was this logic I was using when making this list. Maybe one day I will write a “Top Ten Moments in GAY Comics History” and some of the books you suggest would make more sense, but not for what I was trying to go for. Hope that clears things up.

Eric,

Because of my past employment for DC in Sales & Marketing and working for publicity, I understood from the outset from where you were going with your original list. No one’s list was complete. Chris looked over at his bookshelf; I did a quick peek at Prism’s web store and managed to forget work by a great friend (and also an ex-proofreader, made few typos.) The group discussed, clarified, agreed and disagreed.

Then you came along. Oh I can see the urge for self-defense too, but did you have to be so mean? Mean to us guys” from you who could be as “bitchy and indignant as the next geeky queen.” No smiley face makes it right. You might have used the space to explain the parameters given to you by your editor. You could have even made a list if hadn’t had the direction of the site on which it appeared, pointing out that it is progress of a sort that an LGBT article appeared on Rawker.

You could have but you didn’t. Yes, you made some good points, particularly using other media to compare the indie bias vs. commercial comics — all points well taken (and truncated since, well pretty much right up there.) Commercial/mainstream or indie/queer (in the nascent sense of the word) are all capable of being notable. If only you had used a sentence or two in your original article to do the same thing even if they been deleted by the editor. But what a challenge for a writer to get those two sentences to press.

If not, then bring it to the discussion. Just next time, please keep the discussion civil.

Say, do you really think Ellen will go down in history and Marlene Dietrich, forgotten?

Sigh.
Patty

Sheesh. Typos again, and, less forgivable, a few bits of poor syntax! I have to start getting more sleep!

Patty

hey- check out my angry gay geek comic book “this gay existence” at http://www.sosuperduper.com!
-adam fair

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