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.
(BILLY KAPLAN) – (and his boyfriend Hulkling (TED ALTMAN)
Wiccan is part of a Mighty Marvel Royal Family.
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.
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….
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.
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
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.
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.
-(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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
… 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: