THE SEVEN BEST GAY CHARACTERS IN COMICS.-

Last week, the seven most MISGUIDED attempts at Gay Characters in comics.  This week:  The Seven Best Gay Characters in Comics -   Because the glass is half full, and I know how to swirl it around.

Who am I to make such a list?  What are my credentials?
I’ve read more comics than you have – (Unless you’re Mark Waid, and then I’m sorry for being presumptuous, my superior master) -  And because I have a blog and you don’t.   I found this one on the street near my friend Kevin’s house, and now it’s mine , so no one can stop me.

THE SEVEN BEST GAY CHARACTERS IN COMICS.

7) Wiccan

(BILLY KAPLAN) – (and his boyfriend Hulkling (TED ALTMAN)

Can you guess which one's called "Hulkling" and which one's "Wiccan"?

Wiccan is part of a Mighty Marvel Royal Family.

Kissing cousin to damn near everyone.

He is (more or less) the son of mutant Wanda Maximov (the Scarlet Witch), making him the grandson of Magneto (X-Men bad guy), nephew to Quicksilver (X-Men/Avenger asshole), twin brother of SPEED (Young Avengers teen), and step-son (?) to the Silver Age Vision, who used to be the golden age Human Torch -  also Wiccan is first cousin to Luna, daughter or Crystal, who was the ex-girlfriend of the CURRENT Human Torch, which makes Billy Kaplan part of the extended families of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Avengers – requiring every Marvel hero but Daredevil to let him crash on the couch for two days, unannounced.

And Wiccan’s boyfriend, Hulkling, is the son of Captain Mar-vell and a Skrull Princess named Analee.  So he’s an Avengers brat too.

Young Avengers Presents #3

It’s often said that there’s someone gay in every extended family in America (whether you know it or not) and Marvel finally acknowledged it with one of the main families of the Marvel U.

But what really lands BILLY on the list are these scenes from YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS  Issue #3…. Wiccan has spent the issue with his brother, trying to find his missing, presumed dead mom, the Scarlet Witch, and along the way, they’re told she’s not going to be found, and handed this piece of advice….

-and when he’s home later, with Hulkling, he realizes how wonderful THAT moment with his boyfriend is…

Notice, the gay boyfriend isn’t a temptation to deny, or a problem to solve, or a secret to hide from his family – the boyfriend is a magical blessing in Wiccan’s life.  There’s yer hopeful ending, right there, and it comes from someone in the family… the “Dick Cheney’s daughter” of the Marvel Universe, if I may use a metaphor bluntly and badly.

6)  Batwoman

-KATE KANE

Pretty. pretty...

After the first few Batwoman issues of Detective I found I liked the comic, but didn’t love the protagonist.  It was BEAUTIFULLY illustrated by J.H. Williams III, over an action -packed Greg Rucka plot about a weird Alice in Wonderland cult -all entertaining as hell — but I hadn’t had that “moment” where I was won over by Batwoman, (or Kate Kane), as a character in her own right.  There was much butt kicking and leaping, but ALL the bat-gang do that.

-
But then, we came to this scene in Detective 856, where Ms. Kane arrives at a charity function dressed in a formal tuxedo, rocking a post-goth, post-Patrick Nagel thing, and strutting like it was her palace.

Her confidence in facing down disapproving relatives and openly flirtatious police captains, won me over but good.
I love her body language, her dialog, that touch of arrogance, all while working clues to a super-crime in her head.  Dare I say it, it reminded me of Bruce Wayne – in a way that Dick Grayson, Tim Drake or Barbara Gordon never did – the way Kate just OWNED that room and the story.


So as of ‘Tec 856, Kate Kane had “it” for me.
As the next few issues followed, and we learned of Kate’s bizarre back story, her brutal family tragedy, her “honorable” discharge from the Army, and her wonderful, complex relationship with her father, this comic became the surprise hit of the year for me.  More of this, thanks!
And oh, yeah.  She’s gay.  Just part of the overall weave, my friends.

5) Mark Slackmeyer

From Doonesbury.

Mark is one of the four founding characters of one of the five best comic strips of the 20th Century  (Pogo, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts and L’il Abner are the other four) and DECADES into Mark’s story in the strip, he turns out to be gay.  It seemed a little forced when the idea first arrived, but I never should have doubted Mr. Garry Trudeau, Lord of the Doonesbury.  In fairly short order, Megaphone Mark, the ultra liberal student radical turned NPR radio host settles down with a man who is his opposite in nearly every way – a log cabin Republican, conservative money-pusher named Chase Talbot III (who is the embodiment of Mark’s much hated, ultra-conservative father) and they become a bickering married couple on the radio.  BRILLIANT comics, great satire and very real human comedy for anyone with a passing recognition of the Oedipal Complex or the tropes of 70s family sitcoms.

And yet, they're in love.

Mark and Chase are separated now, but their time together was a high water mark in what is still the best comic strip running in  American papers.

4)  Midnighter

-(and his lovely husband, Apollo)
From the ultra right wing, ultra violent Wildstorm series, STORMWATCH, comes the most militant homosexual “super-hero” in history.
What’s not to LOVE about Midnighter?  He’s Gay Batman, for god’s sake.  PLUS he’s got a special instant super-healing power, and a murderous temper which makes him gay Wolverine-Batman.  Which is really gay Dark

Like this guy...only attracted to men, see?

Claw, and that’s the whole enchilada right there.  Gay Dark Claw. Dark Claw, only gay.  And his boyfriend is essentially gay Superman, only  named Apollo.  It makes me wish I was gay, so I could love Midnighter even more.

What started off as a Warren Ellis one-joke about a long believed super-hero subtext, became an actually interesting pair of characters over the next few years of Stormwatch, and then, AUTHORITY.   Midnighter and Apollo were a little more bloodthirsty than you expected, more fiercely loyal to each other than you expected, and more physically affectionate with each other than any other gay characters in comics were at the time, but they were written with wit and cleverness, even if the dialog tended towards sneering British ‘tude, And they were a genuine couple, in love and committed to each other, even adopting a child together.  (A reincarnation of a teammate, but let’s not go THERE).

They really do kiss a lot, these two...when they're not slaughtering super-villains.

When MIDNIGHTER launched in his own monthly series, the first couple of story lines included one of the BEST time travel adventures ever, and some of the best done-in-one comic tales being published.
He’s Gay Dark Claw.  Does this need to be explained again?

-

3) Lawrence Poirier

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE

Coming out to your family or friends was a dangerous thing to do in 1993.  Lynn Johnson, creator of FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, discovered it was a dangerous thing to do on the comics pages of your local newspaper.

When Michael Patterson’s life long friend Lawrence told Michael he was gay, Lynn Johnson received countless hate letters and death threats from around the world….just for showing the comic strip pages that a gay person simply existed.  Over one hundred newspapers in the United States dropped her very popular comic strip until the offendingly gay Lawrence was out of the spotlight … And the intolerance wasn’t just in the real world for this poor teen -  As his fictional story continued, Lawrence told his stepfather he’d met a college boy and fallen in love, and that bit of honesty got Lawrence thrown out of his house.

Now, in the middle of all that abuse and hatred, Lawrence does something remarkable:   He remains polite.  He rages very little, he tells Michael how much he appreciates his friend’s support, and quietly waits for the rest of the world to realize how badly they’re behaving towards him.  He makes this an epic story of dignity in the middle of intolerable behavior from damn near everyone else.  All from a small, slightly terrified 17 year old boy.

THAT’s a Super-hero in my book.

2)  Toland Polk

Stuck Rubber Baby
Toland Polk is a fictionalized character, very loosely based on the early life of writer/ artist  HOWARD CRUSE, one of comics’ more notably “out” underground cartoonists of the 70s and 80s.  The 1995 graphic novel STUCK RUBBER BABY is a dense narrative about Toland’s early adulthood, living in the American South in the 1960s, and slowly discovering that he’s slightly racist, and very gay, and that he can only learn to stop being ONE of those things.
One of the best novels I’ve ever read about growing up.  It won the Harvey and the Eisner for best Graphic Novel in 95, as well as a bunch of other best thing-on-Earth awards that year.  Stuck Rubber Baby, stands with Maus, Barefoot Gen or Contract with God, as a rare comic life story that NEVER leaves you.  By the time it’s over, Toland Polk is one of your favorite people.

-

1) Esperanza “Hopey” Glass.

LOVE AND ROCKETS.

Teen Hopey, mind you.

Ahh….Love and Rockets - the 80s comic book you could give your date, and she would “get it”.  QUICK HISTORY LESSON: Fangirls started hanging around comic shops because of Jaime Hernandez’ “LOCAS” series in Love and Rockets, long before Sandman was a gleam in VERTIGO’s creepy eye.

Though it started as the sci-fi story of two giggling, pro-solar mechanics named Maggie and Hopey (and Maggie’s major crush, RAND RACE), the series, LOCAS, quickly became about two unemployed EX-pro-solar mechanics/ slackers who hang around the LA Hispanic 80s Punk Rock / Wrestling world, falling in and out of trouble (and love) while picking up an ASTOUNDINGLY complex and interesting supporting cast.
What holds the series together, is that EVERYBODY loves the adorable lead character, Maggie Chascarrillo –

Ray loves Maggie.  Speedy loved Maggie.  Penny loves Maggie.  Izzy loves Maggie, and the readers love Maggie, but MOST of all, HOPEY loves Maggie.

Hopey really, really loves her.  It makes Hopey’s jackboot-wearing street-cynic party-girl butch-punk lesbian heart melt every time she’s in a room with Mags, and Maggie loves Hopey right back, except Mags couldn’t give up men forever, even for Hopey….which is the basis for much of the drama in the first decade of their relationship.

We’ve all watched Hopey’s heart break a few times, and along the way, I think we all fell in love with the abrasive little bitch who couldn’t play the bass worth a damn.  She was annoyingly human, after all.

Jamie's not mean to Hopey...she gets to kiss Mags every now and then.

The stunning artwork by author/artist  Jamie Hernandez didn’t hurt the reader’s enjoyment of the series either.

THERE WAS NO ROOM for MORE

I didn’t write about Anole, or Graymalkin, or any of the gay X-Men, because I confess I rarely read X-Men books (there’s simply too many), and I’m not familiar with their stories, sorry.  Krazy Kat was strongly considered, but Kat went from being male to female so regularly, that Ignatz may have been bisexual, instead of gay, without knowing it, and who needs that confusion?  There was simply no room for Bitchy Butch (Roberta Gregory’s wonderfully awful dyke character from Naughty Bits), or Element Lad, or Constantine, or any from the legion of lesbian detectives, wonderful characters all.

-And finally…

Get yer mind out of the gutter right now, soldier!

… I never brought up Peppermint Patty and Marcie because they aren’t lesbians, all right?  Get over it people.  They both had a crush on “Chuck”, and ONLY Chuck, never each other… and you can’t tell a person’s orientation simply because of how they wear pants.  Marcie didn’t even LIKE softball.  Good GRIEF! Don’t be such a hater.

TY THE GUY OUT!

Here now, your comic book moment of zen:


43 responses to “THE SEVEN BEST GAY CHARACTERS IN COMICS.-

  1. [sneeze]Katchoo![/sneeze]

  2. I swear to god, Travis, if I knew what you were getting at, I’d play along…

  3. Travis seems to be implying that Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise should have gotten a mention.

  4. Jaime Hernandez, not Jamie.

    - Friendly Neighbourhood Spelling Police.

  5. Ah, yes, or course. Strangers in Paradise…You’re right, Katchoo deserves at least a sneeze of a mention, which you’ve just done. Her relationship with Francine always reminded me very much of Maggie and Hopey, and I always wondered if it was intentional as an “homage”. Anyway, I’ve only read a handful of SiP issues, mostly the Homage issues themselves, and they didn’t stick to the ribs enough to bubble up to my top seven. Perhaps I should read more of the series than I have, and I’ll have a better sense of the characters. I’m not sure who I’d bump off that top seven, though.
    Ty

  6. Jaime Hernandez, not Jamie.

    - Friendly Neighbourhood Spelling Police

  7. Yeah, I knew I’d like your “Best Gay Characters” list, Mr. Templeton, BUT…

    …I have a REALLY big chip on my shoulder regarding Hulkling and Wiccan, because Marvel has never allowed them a single kiss on-panel. So every time they appear on a comic, there’ll be be all these mentions of them being boyfriends, or cute scenes like the one you posted, but no showing of affection, not a single pec on the lips. I find that incredibly annoying.

    Also, how AWESOME is “Stuck Rubber Baby”?! One of the few comics that actually made me cry when I read it. A true masterwork.

    And by all means, check out SiP’s entire run, it’s out-of-this-world good!

    Best,
    J.

  8. this list needs more Wallace Wells.

  9. How about Mo from “Dykes to Watch Out For?”

  10. Allisonaxe is 100% Right.

  11. Thanks for that fun list, Mr Templeton. You certainly know your comics in general, and your queer-inclusive comics in particular!
    And may I mention I really enjoyed your graphic novel Bigg Time? I wish you’d do another one.

    I must admit I completely agree with James Figueiredo. The Young Avengers boys are really sweetly-written characters, but the fact they’re never shown kissing while all their straight teammates are (and more than that) makes me think there’s still a glass ceiling at Marvel (not that DC is really better in that regard).

    • You know what’s funny….I’m addicted to the Young Avengers, and I never noticed that they never actually touch each other. My reason for including them, though, was that their relationship is constantly shown as a net positive thing in their lives. After decades of gay characters finding drama from BEING gay, I loved that Marvel finally introduced characters who find COMFORT from being gay. That’s a hell of a switch from the company that brought us Bruce Banner gets almost raped in a YMCA shower.

      • I completely agree with you regarding the striking evolution in the handling of gay characters, and the people involved must be praised (and the fact that it’s in a very good comic also matters, of course). But I can tell you a lot of gay readers have noticed the No Kissing edict that seems to still exist.

  12. If Wiccan and Midnighter got their respective partners added to their entries, how about adding Renee Montoya, The Question, to the Batwoman entry? They seem to be on-and-off, but Montoya is a great character too (at least as written by Greg Rucka).

  13. Can’t agree more with you for placing Love and Rockets at the top of the list.

    Cheers!

    Steven G. Willis
    XOWComics.com

  14. @Rich: Rene and Kate are currently separated, and while I LOVE Montoya from Gotham Central, I didn’t much like Montoya as the Question. Rene was one of the short list of cuts because a) There are at least 3 lesbian police officers in the world of Super-heroes, and it started to become a cliche, and 2) I’d have been writing about the version of the character that disappeared about six years ago…She USED to be a great character, not so much any more.
    @AlisonAxe: I’m of the wrong generation to look for some Scott Pilgrim love. Though I greatly enjoyed the first couple of Pilgrim books, they wore out on me pretty quick, when it moved from sweet love story to video game fight story, so I gave up in the middle of book 3. AND, I’m not sure Wallace makes the list anyway…in the first volume, he’s a bitter, drunk who behaves like a dick (who steals someone’s boyfriend). Not sure why that makes him one of the “best”.
    @Mojave66: While I have heard of “Dykes to Watch Out For”, I’ll have to admit, I’ve never read it. I think my only interaction with it, is that I’ve heard of the Bechel Movie Test (about women characters in film, and do they matter to the plot?) that comes from this strip. So I’ll have to plead ignorance on this character, sorry. While I claimed at the beginning of this blog that I’ve read more comics than anyone else (except Mark), I still haven’t read EVERYTHING on the Earth. Though I am trying…

  15. Pingback: Alas poor comic strips, I knew them well. | Ty Templeton's Art Land

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  17. The problem with the Mark Slackmeyer character is that he only became gay as an act of retroactive continuity. There was simply nothing in the first 20 or so years of Doonesbury comics that even hinted that Mark was gay there was a simple deus ex machina whereupon his sexual orientation changed in a single strip– these other characters were at least conceived from the beginning as gay, or at least any “coming out” was foreshadowed in a narratively satisfying manner.

    (Hell, I remember telling a friend of mine that I bet Lawrence Porrier was going to come out and she was surprised a few weeks later when he did: but I credit Lynne Johnston for writing good subtext.)

    Normally that’s not an issue for a daily strip, but Doonesbury has always been continuity-intensive.

  18. nice list though you left out Obsidian. and remember reading Lawerence coming out story and how cool he was to stand his ground over being the way he is even when it got him kicked out of his house. and Midnighter and Apollo one could say are what batman and super man would be if they were gay and totaly some what boarder line nuts. Wican nice to see him on the list for he is one of the young avengers i like that plus him being in love with a guy who looks like the love child of the hulk instead of captain marvel.

  19. @Ian: I agree, and said so inside the post. He “came out” of nowhere, and it did seem forced. But it led to some great comics, and a lovely send up of the common bickering couple trope of early TV sitcoms. You gotta love it for that.
    @Demoncat: I didn’t so much leave out Obsidian, as he didn’t make the cut. I was trying to limit myself to one nod per company, and Batwoman was a better representative than Obsidian for DC. Obsidian, recall, had been a super-villain for a quite a while, and didn’t he try to commit suicide at one point? And I think he’s was dead for sometime, as well as pulled to the dark side…not as strong a character for “knowing who he is” than Kate Kane, interesting though Obsidian might be. (Used to LOVE me some Infinity Inc back in the day.)

  20. I really enjoyed this, as I did the ‘misguided’ list – terrific, well-argued choices.

    And I agree. Obsidian needs to be on the other list, if anywhere – traditionally a mess, he’s been better over the last few years, since becoming a member of the Manhunter supporting act, but then he was grabbed for JSA and relegated to barely sentient alarm system. He’s currently going through one of his better phases … he’s not been evil for about three weeks. Still, he’s not ready for the top seven.

  21. I can’t believe you didn’t include at least ONE character from Dykes to Watch Out For. It’s one of the finest, funniest comic strips ever drawn, and omitting Mo (or Sparrow, or the incomparable Lois) is criminal.

    • As I mentioned earlier, ellid, I’ve simply never seen this strip. I’m not sure where it ran, I think it was in alt papers, right? It didn’t run in our alt weeklies in Toronto or I’d have seen it…that’s where I first met LIFE IN HELL, ERNIE POOK’s COMEEK, and others. From the two or three enthusiastic shout outs, it clearly is worth a look. I’ll try to find an online collection somewhere and dive in when I get a spare moment.

  22. Ty, I do agree that the gay Mark is just as great a character as the straight Mark of the ’70s and ’80s (maybe better since Trudeau has grown as an artist and writer over the decades) for precisely the reasons you mention (and the strip you presented is a great one– funny even if you don’t know that Mark and Chase are married, but filled with greater subtext if you do.) It’s merely the deus ex machina coming out that bothers me as someone who grew up with these characters– because while B.D. of 2010 is the same B.D. who went to Vietnam to avoid a term paper, just older and wiser, and maybe far more compassionate– Mark simply isn’t the same guy; more an alternate universe doppelgänger who just happens to be gay.

    Ideally, Trudeau would have been able to introduce a new character who gay and fully developed enough to join the main cast just as he has with a number of terrific characters who have been introduced over the past several years.

  23. Ideally, Trudeau would have been able to introduce a new character who gay and fully developed enough to join the main cast …

    ah but he did — Andy Lipincott in the 1970′s (maybe early ’80′s) who was funny, smart, not stereotypical, and I think the first gay character in a daily strip. He didn’t show up much after Joanie moved to DC, but none of the LA cast of Doonesbury did. He died of AIDS but for those of us over 40, that’s not a cliche, it’s something that happened to our friends.

    Mark Slackmeyer smoked a lot of weed, engaged in much radical speech, and never dated much. Once he gave up the weed and left college, he wondered why his life was empty and he understood he was gay — he had always been gay. You can say that’s deus ex machina, and it’s certainly not my experience, but haven’t you met people who didn’t know they were gay until they were in their 20′s?

  24. Ah….Andy Lippincott. If he were still alive, he’d have easily made the list, but I’m afraid Andy’s death still makes me cry, and I was trying to show heroic stories not tragic ones. I have him slated to appear in a Top Seven list for a completely different subject matter, though, and don’t want to give away too much, as it’s one of the next two or three. I will say this, the song from PET SOUNDS, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” makes me sob like a baby for years because of Andy’s relationship to that song. It no longer belongs to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys…it’s Andy’s.
    ALSO: Andy is, in fact, very involved in Mark’s coming out. He appears to Mark as a ghost in a dream (this was after Andy had passed away) to explain to Mark about his sexuality. Mark converses with Andy’s ghost for a few day’s worth of panels, while the ghost convinces Mark of the reality of being gay, and encourages him to try a date or two. Dead Andy was briefly Mark’s “fairy godfather”. We must never doubt the Lord of the Doonesbury.

    • I had a back-and-forth with Trina Robbins years ago about the Pet Sounds album and Andy Lippincott, which I finally settled by sending her scans of the actual strips I cut out when they first ran. That was right when I came out, and Pet Sounds was the first CD I ever bought (along with k.d.lang’s Absolute Torch & Twang), specifically because of those strips. Yeah, the song chokes me up as well, but you know, it’s getting “nicer” every year…

  25. Ty,
    Did you ever read Caliber Comics’ B@ker Street? it was written/created by Guy Davis(DC’s Sandman fame), Awesome concept while not strictly gay it dealt with Gender identity. I think I am it’s Biggest Fan, it was a short lived series but i think it is a must read.

  26. That was the new wave/punk Sherlock Holmes book, right? I did not read that, but oddly enough, I’m around the physical art for it all the time. A friend of mine has a TON of Guy Davis originals, including stuff from that. I recently worked on a Holmes spin- off project myself, and so was looking up other Holmes things and ran across the series a few months ago, but ain’t read ‘em.

  27. I wish Guy Davis would come back to Baker Street. He did half a story in a Negative Burn issue, and then nothing. Maybe after he finishes The Marquis…

  28. May not have been out in time for your list but I’d like to give a Shout out to Kevin Keller from Archie Comics (debuted in Veronica #202). Word is that he will have his own on-going because of the warm reception he is getting.

    Nod to Archie in general. The title has become relevant to what is happening in our times and in terms of good storytelling

  29. I completely agree with everything you said, Driana. Both that Kevin is a great character, and that Archie Comics are currently EXCELLENT books. The post is from before I heard Kevin was getting his own series, and if I were doing the list today, it would be the EIGHT best Gay Characters. I hope to get some Archie work myself in the next little while, and the editors and myself have talked a bit about that very thing. Thanks for the comment.

  30. I <3 your blog!!!!

  31. Excellent work, sir! Found some others that might (or might not) be worth discussing…I love that you included For Better or Worse, btw.

    http://www.ranker.com/list/the-10-most-important-gay-moments-in-comic-book-history/eric-diaz

  32. I love this but want to point out that Hopey was never a pro-soar mechanic.
    Hence, she & Maggie were always split apart when Maggie went on her adventures!
    thank you for this!

  33. Pingback: Side-Whiskered With “Gorgeous” | Loose Cruse: The Blog

  34. Finally some love for the non-mainstream, and under-appreciated in my opinion, characters! I was reading another article (over at http://www.ranker.com/list/coolest-non-superhero-comic-characters/analise.dubner if you’re interested) which got me thinking about all the minor characters. Regardless of their sexual orientation, these comics would NOT be the same without these sidekicks and recurring characters so why don’t they get the same appreciation as the superheroes? Anyway, great stuff here!

  35. I obviously need to read Stuck Rubber baby as soon as possible. Yes, I am ashamed of myself.

  36. Peppermint Patty isn’t even a teenager yet, how could she know if she’s gay yet, I liked girls in junior high got over that in high school!

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