gays in comics
It’s little surprise that the editorial board of the conservative Washington Times didn’t embrace the announcement that the new Ms. Marvel is a 16-year-old Muslim from New Jersey, but the newspaper’s actual response is a bit … bewildering. One might even describe it as eerie.
Beginning a Sunday editorial with a declaration that “diversity and quotas are more important than dispatching evil” — because, as we all know, heroes can’t be diverse and fight villains! — the writer engages in a little concern trolling, warning that Ms. Marvel, and by extension Marvel, will have to be careful not to anger “militant Islam” if there’s any hope for newsstand sales in Muslim nations. Of course we’re told in the very next paragraph that, “Ms. Marvel probably won’t appear in comic books in Saudi Arabia, anyway,” which apparently takes care of that problem.
Once we slog through the bumbling writing and odd aside involving Secretary of State Kerry, however, we arrive at the crux of the Washington Times’ argument, such as it is: that diversity is strange and frightening.
Loki has undergone several changes over the past several years, returning in a female body after Ragnarok, reincarnating in the form of a boy (the fan-favorite “Kid Loki”) and then, in this week’s Young Avengers #11 — OK, we won’t spoil it for you, but Marvel’s recent announcement of Loki: Agent of Asgard tells you all you need to know.
Well, maybe not all you need to know.
Responding on his blog to a fan’s questions, writer Al Ewing reveals that in the new series the god of mischief’s gender and sexuality will be fluid. “Yes, Loki is bi and I’ll be touching on that,” he wrote last night. “He’ll shift between genders occasionally as well.”
Neither of those will be particularly surprising to anyone familiar with Norse mythology, where the shape-shifting Loki is frequently viewed, in modern terms, as transgender and bisexual.
Apparently peppered with even more Loki questions, Ewing followed up this morning with a moratorium titled “Enough Loki For Now”: “I’m not The Loki Guy until February, and right now I feel like I’m stepping on toes, so I’m going to stop talking about Loki outside of interviews until early January. After that, I’ll be as available as before. [...] So, how about those Mighty Avengers, huh?”
“In the past, comics companies have tended to suggest diversity should ‘happen naturally,’ as if when you leave a comic book open overnight gay men might grow in the pages like mustard and cress, so it’s great that Marvel are now championing it, doing it deliberately. Because that’s the only way it can be done. Jeanine’s [Schaefer, his editor on Wolverine] a force for change. And there are a number of prominent female editors now who are altering the face of pro comics culture pretty swiftly.
Online comics fandom, meanwhile, if you judge solely by the comics message boards, remains conservative and behind the times. The action is to be found on Tumblr, where the Carol Corps lives.”
– writer Paul Cornell, who adheres to a strict “panel parity” rule at conventions (he won’t appear on all-male panels), talking to the New Statesman about embracing political issues in mainstream comic books
(Carol Corps ID card from PsychoAndy)
The illusion of change is the usual approach to mainstream superhero comics. It offers the excitement of change without losing the successful elements to actual change. It’s cynical but it’s smart from a corporate standpoint. Every once in a while, however, actual change happens. Or maybe change is just talked about. Some like it, some don’t like it. And then there are the people that really, really don’t like it, and head down to their local torch-and-pitchfork store.
Such is where we find ourselves in the ongoing discussion of The Amazing Spider-Man star Andrew Garfield’s hypothetical consideration of making Peter Parker bisexual.
But why did Garfield’s idea trigger such heated responses? I’m not talking about the calm “Oh, I don’t know, I’m not crazy about that idea, but rather the aggressive, threatening and hateful reactions that seem to come from a very dark place.
Calling Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home “pornographic,” a conservative Christian group in South Carolina is criticizing the College of Charleston’s selection of the acclaimed graphic novel as recommended reading for incoming freshmen. The school, however, is standing by its choice.
The Eisner Award-winning 2006 memoir, which details Bechdel’s childhood with her closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian, is part of the annual “The College Reads!” program, which provides free copies of the selected works to full-time faculty and new students. The books aren’t required reading.
However, Fun Home was labeled “A Shocking Summer Reading Assignment” by Palmetto Family, an advocacy group whose “vision is to transform the culture in South Carolina by reclaiming the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model and sexual purity.”
“If this book were a magazine it would be wrapped in brown paper,” Palmetto Family President Oran Smith is quoted as saying. “We reviewed every book assigned in SC this year. Many were provocative. This one is pornographic. Not a wise choice for 18-year-olds at a taxpayer-supported college.”
Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee has responded to actor Andrew Garfield’s recent what-if scenario in which Peter Parker could be gay or bisexual, joking, “I figure one sex is enough for anybody.”
Appearing over the weekend at Fandomfest in Louisville, Kentucky, the 90-year-old comics legend appeared caught off-guard by a question from the audience about Garfield’s “request to make Spider-Man bisexual and Mary Jane male.” Lee initially offered a glowing assessment of the actor’s performance in The Amazing Spider-Man, before the question was explained to him.
“He’s becoming bisexual?” Lee exclaimed in disbelief, eliciting roars of laughter from the audience. “Who have you been talking to? Seriously, I don’t know anything about that. And if it’s true, I’m going to make a couple of phone calls. I figure one sex is enough for anybody.”
Garfield, who’s filming The Amazing Spider-Man 2, sparked a good deal of discussion among comics fans when he related a conversation with a producer in which he said, “I was kind of joking, but kind of not joking about MJ. And I was like, ‘What if MJ is a dude?’ Why can’t we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking! … So why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?”
With all of the hustle and bustle and early announcements, it may be a little difficult to believe, but Preview Night is still a day away, and Comic-Con International doesn’t officially begin until Thursday. By that time, we should be fully exhausted.
But before we experience information overload, let’s take a look at some of the pre-convention information trickling in, ranging from trolley schedules to etiquette and survival guides to where to live it up while in San Diego:
• Entertainment Weekly highlights ‘five comics to watch” during Comic-Con: Marvel’s Inhuman and “Inhumanity,” Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s Wonder Woman: Earth One, DC’s “Villains Month,” the 10th anniversary of The Walking Dead, and Jeff Lemire’s Trillium.
• The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System has increased trolley service on the Green Line, which provides direct transportation to the stations in front of the San Diego Convention Center. Service also will be expanded throughout Comic-Con; see a complete rundown on the MTS website.
Declaring today Kevin Keller Day, Archie Comics has released its own video for the It Gets Better Project featuring cartoonist Dan Parent discussing the creation of the publisher’s first gay character.
“When we introduced Kevin in Veronica #202, it was the first Archie comic to sell out in 70 years,” says Parent, who won this year’s GLAAD Media Award for outstanding comic book. “That’s a good sign, it’s a sign the character is going to stick around, or is starting out very well. We didn’t want it to just be, ‘This is the gay issue of Veronica,’ and then just drop it and never come back to it. We were introducing a character that we really wanted to have some legs. So we worked very, very hard on the issue, probably harder than any story that I’ve worked on, and the readers responded really favorably.”
Archie has also teamed with the It Gets Better Project for promotions across the organization’s social-media platforms. Plus, there’s a sale on Kevin Keller comics.
The character will experience his first kiss next month in Kevin Keller #10 in a story said to be inspired by the American Family Association’s 2012 protest of the Life With Archie issue depicting the wedding of Kevin’s adult counterpart. The group demanded that Toys R Us remove the magazine; the issue ended up selling out.
Founded in 2010 by writer Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller, the It Gets Better Project is dedicated to communicating “to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”
While many of us were enjoying our holiday, Comic-Con International organizers were busy releasing the programming schedule for Thursday, July 18, the first full day of the San Diego convention. The rundown for Friday, July 19 should come along early this afternoon.
As we’ve come to expect, Thursday’s lineup is a healthy mix of comics, television, toys, fantasy and film (although light on the latter, which take center stage on Friday and Saturday). The comics programming includes panels from Avatar Press, Bongo Comics (it’s the publisher’s 20th anniversary), BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse, DC Entertainment, Kodansha Comics, Marvel, Monkeybrain Comics (it’s that publisher’s first anniversary), TwoMorrows, Vertigo, Viz Media and Warp Comics.
However, that’s only for starters, as there are spotlights on Chris Samnee, Jeff Smith, J.H. Williams III, Dan Parent and Gary Frank, The Walking Dead‘s 10th-anniversary panel, and discussions about digital comics, gender in comics, LGBT webcomics and much, much more.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule:
Conventions | Attendance at Denver Comic Con topped 48,000, well over last year’s total of 27,700. Crowds were so heavy on opening day that the fire marshal and convention staff turned away 6,000 people. Guests included Star Trek‘s William Shatner (who was filling in for a double-booked Stan Lee) and George Takei, who stayed late on Friday so every fan could get an autograph. [The Denver Post]
Creators | Gilbert Hernandez talks about Marble Season, which is quite a departure from his previous graphic novels: “I’d been doing too many zombies and too much horror and crime, and I wanted to back off and do something pleasant. But I thought, can I do a pleasant story? And the only pleasant story I have is good memories from childhood. I wanted to connect to readers in a more genial way.” [The Telegraph]
Awards | Online voting is open through April 30 for the sixth annual Inkwell Awards, which recognize excellence in comic-book inking. The winners will be announced during a ceremony at HeroesCon, held June 7-9 in Charlotte, North Carolina. [Inkwell Awards]
Comics | On the website of the conservative Media Research Center, Kristine Marsh and Matt Philbin accuse DC Comics and Marvel of having a “homosexual agenda”: “Like the rest of American pop culture, comic books have increasingly included pro-gay propaganda pieces aimed at the children and young adults who read them.” [Media Research Center]
As the calls grow for DC Comics to drop Ender’s Game author and outspoken gay-rights opponent Orson Scott Card from its digital-first Adventures of Superman, the first retailer has stepped forward to say he won’t order the print edition of the new anthology.
“Zeus Comics will not be carrying the print edition of writer Orson Scott Card’s Superman,” Richard Neal, owner of the Dallas store, wrote this afternoon on his Facebook page. “Card sits on the board of the National Organization of Marriage which fights against marriage equality. His essays advocate the destruction of my relationship, that I am born of rape or abuse and that I am equated with pedophilia. These themes appear in his fiction as well. It is shocking DC Comics would hire him to write Superman, a character whose ideals represent all of us.”
He continued, “If you replaced the word ‘homosexuals’ in his essays with the words ‘women’ or ‘Jews,’ he would not be hired. But I’m not sure why its still okay to ‘have an opinion’ about gays? This is about equality.”
Zeus Comics was the recipient of the 2006 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, presented to a store “that has done an outstanding job of supporting the comic art medium both in the community and within the industry at large.”
Adventures of Superman debuts online April 29 and in print May 29.
Just days after announcing its latest digital-first anthology Adventures of Superman, DC Comics faces a growing wave of criticism for hiring Ender’s Game author, and vocal gay-rights opponent, Orson Scott Card to write the first chapter.
An online petition calling on the publisher to drop the “virulently anti-gay writer” has already drawn more than 4,800 signers. And while comic book fans and petitions seem to go hand in hand — it was just last month Marvel was being called upon to cancel Avengers Arena – this effort is being spearheaded by All Out, an initiative of the Purpose Foundation advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. The drive has already attracted the attention of mainstream media outlets like The Guardian and The Huffington Post.
Angoulême is synonymous with comics, so it’s probably to be expected that when marriage-equality supporters marched in the French city last weekend they enlisted some familiar faces for the cause.
On her blog, local artist Algesiras posts a handful of photos of banners depicting several famous comic characters sharing a same-sex kiss. There’s Tintin and Captain Haddock, Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Asterix and Obelisk, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck, Blake and Mortimer, and Spirou and Fantasio, among others.
“Notice the rings on the hands of the characters,” Algesiras writes. “I think the best one is the one with the Smurfette, because it mocks the fact that the Smurfette is the only female in the Smurfs world. She’s not alone anymore.”
The 40th annual Angoulême International Comics Festival kicks off Jan. 31.
The nominees have been announced for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s 24th annual Media Awards, which honor outstanding portrayals of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.
The nominees for outstanding comic book are: