A recent spate of internet chatter involving something Darwyn Cooke said about making Batwoman gay got me thinking about homosexual comic characters in general.   Cooke was worried that DC was being exploitative of Batwoman’s lesbianism, rather than sensitive and intelligent about it –  something he’s concluded without reading the actual Detective Comic series, I’ll wager, or he’d know it’s being done quite well.  But I’ll give Darwyn the benefit of the doubt, as the pre-release Batwoman hype seemed more aimed at titillation than acceptance, and it’s not like comics haven’t had an appalling track record when creating gay characters.

You can just see the tolerance and acceptance in this image.

LGBT people were routinely played as odd, creepy or predatory in our biz, if they were even mentioned at all…check out Jim Shooter’s infamous Bruce-Banner-Nearly-Raped-in-the-Shower scene in the Rampaging Hulk to get a typical view of the subject from the Seventies.

And if they weren’t sinful weirdoes, they ended up dead from AIDS or being killed off-panel unceremoniously, because, well… no one will miss them.  Count how many X-Men have come out over the years, and now count up how many of them are dead.  The numbers don’t add up well.

Even when strong, positive gay characters showed up, there was still something “off” about ‘em.  Spider-Man’s cop friend Jean DeWolff was brusque and unpleasant (and has since been killed off). The Flash’s gay pal, Pied Piper, (written excellently by Mark Waid) was an evil Rogue named after a character who lured young children away from their parents by blowing on something.  (Flash Rogues with more problematic names if they’d popped out of the closet:   “the Top”, “the Rainbow Raider” and “the Golden Glider”.…)

It’s been a long road to get to where Batwoman, Midnighter, Rene Montoya, Apollo, Anole, Obsidian, and John Constantine can be out and still be decent characters with more or less regular lives, and who are not portrayed as creepy, or bad or sinful.  Well, except for Constantine, but that’s how we like him.  Along that road, there have been bumps and mistakes — Attempts to be inclusive that ended up making LGBT folk seem odder to mainstream readers.  And of course,  wherever there is awful comics…I’ll be there to share them with you….

Here now–


7)  Sebastian O

Created by writer Grant Morrison in 1993.  (Grant shows up again later in this list so keep an eye peeled).  I believe he’s the first gay character to have his own comic series from a mainstream American publisher (Vertigo), if you don’t count characters ret-conned into their GBLT status (such as DC’s Shade the Changing Man/Woman).

Sebastian O is set in a steampunk version of Victorian England, wherein Sebastian is more or less a revenge-killer version of Oscar Wilde, only more gay…Oh sure, his mission is to hunt down and slay someone who got him tossed unjustly into prison (mostly for writing a “sinful” book), but it’s hard to be on O’s side when he’s friends with an admitted (and unrepentant) child molester, and when he murders innocent people, and feeds their bodies to his cat if it suits his needs.  There’s too much overt pederasty through the story for it to be helpful to anyone’s understanding of a gay lifestyle, and I’m not sure a homicidal Wilde is even the best place to start…

It IS a gun in my pocket, but I'm still glad to see you.

Here’s the strange part:  The series is actually readable, and Mr. O is easily the least annoying character on this list.

6)  Tasmanian Devil

Because there are no bears in Australia.

Taz was the first openly homosexual member of the Justice League, and it sure made him into a household name in the world of comics, didn’t it?  After coming out, the Devil was continuously played as a background character (rarely with even a single line of dialog), who shows up to be beaten senseless during REALLY BIG crossover events, and that’s about it.  You can find him buried in rubble on page eight in any book with the word CRISIS in the title.  After his second class status in the Justice League went nowhere, he was relegated to the astoundingly forgettable GLOBAL GUARDIANS, where he did nothing there either.  Eventually he’s killed and turned into a throw rug by Prometheus in the recent miniseries, JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRY FOR JUSTICE.
It’s not like Taz was ever a good character to begin with, but if they were going to make him gay, for god’s sake, don’t make him SO F***ING LAME!

5)  Monsieur Mallah and the Brain.

Ah...l'amour. C'est fou! A talking gorilla and a disembodied jar of goo, in love.

Dateline: Early Doom Patrol.  The Brain (when he was a regular mad scientist with a body) did some mad science-y experiments on a regular mountain gorilla until the ape became a simian genius with the power to speak French, and the desire to do evil.  Then the scientist lost his body in some sort of science-y accident and ended up a brain in a jar.  You’d think that would make this pair weird enough…

But during Grant Morrison’s 80s run of the DOOM PATROL, the Brain was put into one of the spare robot bodies belonging to Doom Patrol member ROBOTMAN and the fun began.  As soon as he had arms and legs (and other body parts), Brain tells Mallah that he has been secretly in cross-species love with the furry beastie for years, but couldn’t confess it when he was just squishy lumps of tube stuff.   Mallah sends his bestial gay love right back at Brain, and they move in for the weirdest kiss in Western fiction… until … well, you’ll just have to read it to believe it…

…yup.  The Robotman body self destructs the moment the monkey plants a smacker on the android’s lips, as it simply can’t exist in a world that odd.  It sure brought home the idea that homosexuals are JUST like you and me.  A great leap forward for tolerance.

(NOTE:  The characters have since been revived and killed again, this time Mallah being beaten to death with Brain as the weapon.  They always die together, though…so it’s KINDA romantic.)

4) Freedom Ring:

Quick Quiz: Whose costume is more macho?

Though at first glance, the character of Curtis Doyle’s FREEDOM RING (first appearing in Robert Kirkman’s “Master of the Ring” 5 part story arc in Marvel Team-Up a few years back) seemed like a decent character to make into a gay-positive super-hero.  He’s well adjusted, intelligent and casually “out” about his lifestyle, when he acquires a bit of the Cosmic Cube in the form of a ring, and is ready to save the world as essentially Marvel’s version of a Green Lantern.

But then this happens.

It could have gone well, except Curtis is killed dead,  penetrated by many phallic looking “things” (tendrils, spikes?), shooting out from a bad guy’s body (another subtle one there, guys) exactly one month to the day after he was being promoted as Marvel’s new Gay Superhero by Joe Quesada in interviews.  The story in which he was killed had already been written and drawn when Quesada felt the need to do the media promotion thing.  It’s hard to believe they weren’t aware of the F*CK YOU involved when they quickly impale Freedom Ring dead, in one of the worst bait-and-switch messages since Bill Jemas’ MARVILLE was described as “readable”.   Author Kirkman now claims he “didn’t mean it” to be so bluntly homophobic, it just sort of turned out that way… 

3)  The Rawhide Kid

I hear guns can be metaphors for something.

Probably the worst dialog for any gay character in comics belongs to Rawhide Kid….perhaps for any straight character as well.

Ha ha! It's funny, see?

The “Kid” had been a Marvel Western mainstay since the late fifties, usually taking third place behind Kid Colt: Outlaw, and the Two-Gun Kid in popularity.  But, in 2003, editor Axel Alonzo and writer Ron Zimmerman took this somewhat outdated Atlas era gunfighter and made him into a prancing joke, supposedly to introduce more gay-positive characters into the Marvel world.  For a book about straight shootin’, it’s ironic how MUCH THEY MISSED THEIR TARGET.

And if he gets bored, he's scratch your eyes out.

The mini-series “RAWHIDE KID:  SLAP LEATHER” (beautifully drawn by the legendary John Severin) is an aimless generic plot (about saving a rancher  from evil land developers or something) that has no reason for existence, beyond fruity double entendres and an obsession with keeping one’s leather gear looking fabulous. It’s as though Zimmerman’s entire knowledge of homosexuality came from a screening of THE BIRDCAGE, and then he checked with a Westboro Baptist minister to ensure he was writing a script “faggy” enough to be absurdly hateful.

Guess what?  It was.

Hey folks. Do you get it? It's like it's a gun, or maybe it's a dick. It's all too subtle for me.

2)  Northstar

What DIDN’T Marvel handle badly about this character’s history?  Let us count the ways…

1) John Byrne created him to be Marvel’s first openly homosexual character, but the editors refused to let Northstar’s orientation be discussed for more than ten years- until issue #106 of ALPHA FLIGHTNorthstar had been gay since Alpha Flight #1.

The world of Canadian Superheroes gets all "real".

2)   A few years before he was officially “out”, he got a mysterious illness that was very AIDS-like, and he was only cured of it when…

3)  …It was revealed that he was actually a ….I swear to god….FAIRY. The kind with little fly wings, you know…like Tinkerbell?  Being part fairy gave him some sort of immunity in his blood or something, I don’t remember the details, only that I threw my copy across the room when I read it.

4)  Bless his heart, Northstar adopts a baby girl he finds in a dumpster, but the kid dies of AIDS before long.  AIDS and Fairies, folks, that’s what being gay in the Marvel Universe is all about.

5)   He’s never had a date, or a romantic moment in his entire publishing history so far as I know, and his orientation barely comes up in his own mini-series.  For Marvel’s first “gay” character, he’s sure not very gay.  But at least he’s currently alive (though Wolverine DID kill him once).  That’s fairly rare for olde-tyme homosexuals in the funny books…

Don't forget, he's a professional skier, so he goes "swish" whenever he goes down.

and finally…

1)  Extraño

Like a fine wine, this drawing only gets better with age.

Created by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton in the DC MILLENIUM mini-series of the late 80s, and later spun-off into THE NEW GUARDIANS super-hero team with fellow token character “Pieface”, the Inuit mechanic from Silver Age Green Lantern comics…(clearly the Spirit’s EBONY WHITE was busy.)
Extraño is the Spanish word for “strange” or “queer”, so you know you’re in for thoughtful writing from the get-go.  This caricature of a flaming queen was the first openly gay super-hero in DC history (and I think in comics generally), and boy-howdy was he a sensitive portrayal.  First there’s his whole “look”: a billowy purple cape, bling that would embarrass Flavor Flav, thigh-high leather pirate boots (rolled down), and a goofy mustache that would someday inspire Prince.  Oh, and he’s  constantly referring to himself as “Auntie”.  I think the editors were going for gay-positive but they clearly had no idea what that was.   I guess they figured a flamboyant, hair-obsessed Hispanic with magic powers would simply write itself.   He was kind of a Dr. Strange character that could levitate and do mystical shit, but that was never what he was about.  It was the gayness.  The gay clothes, the gay attitude, the ASTOUNDINGLY large blow-dried ‘do… Aaaand, of course, because he was, you know…GAY…, he’s trying to kill himself when we first meet him (stopped by the Flash) aaaand he eventually had to contract AIDS, which he got from a possibly-gay vampire called Hemo-Goblin.  Though after he got himself the AIDS, he never seemed to ever suffer from it in any way…and kind of forgot he had it.
I guess the suicide attempt was Englehart’s attempt at insight, but it came off as a patronizing cliché, even in the 80s.

This is the least flamboyant image I could find of this guy.

BONUS POINTS:  Since Extraño wasn’t just an collection of homosexual stereotypes, but also Hispanic stereotypes, they managed to knock down two minorities in one go.
Of course, readers got tired of this crap, and DC recently killed him in a big explosion that dropped most of a house on his ass.


The Seven BEST Gay characters in Comics…because the glass is finally half full.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your comic book moment of zen:


  1. I never really thought that Darwyn was referring to Batwoman in his comment (though I have no idea who he could be referring to otherwise), since Kate Kane and Kathy Kane aren’t the same character. I was thinking he may be talking about others, like the Black Cat, who Kevin Smith hinted at as being bisexual even with no prior history of it, or pre-empting Wonder Woman, who’s got this huge “Diana must be gay” following on the net.

  2. There’s a infinitesimal possibility he was discussing Miss Masque, a Golden Age Nedor character that’s been played as lesbian in the recent TERRA OBSCURA series by Alan Moore. But I can’t believe Darwyn or anyone else could give a rat’s back end about altering that character, so I’m fairly sure it’s Batwoman…or Rawhide Kid (perhaps calling Rawhide “her” in sympathy for his orientation 🙂 For anyone not actually reading the series in ‘Tec, the distinctions between the names Kate Kane and Kathy Kane are minor enough to be ignored.
    I think everyone is taking his comment grossly out of context, BTW, and falsely equivocating lesbianism with rape or being crippled in their straw man version of his quote. (it’s why I didn’t reproduce or link to the quote, as I don’t want the controversy over here…it was just an inspiration for this morning’s post).

  3. good news Ty! Northstar’s boyfriend was shown in… I think it was Uncanny X-Men… a short while back under Matt Fraction! And more importantly there was an 8-page story about them both by Tim Fish in Nation X issue 2. It was pretty dang respectful and *gasp* actually had the implication that they had a nice night together as lovers do! And as a bit of cream on top of all that, I don’t think I heard a single complaint from the more easily offended comics readers out there!

    I mean 8 pages isn’t much considering how long he’s gone without getting fair focus on his love life, but it’s progress

    • @Max – unfortunately the art for the love scene was cut and redrawn for the print edition of Nation X #2. I recently saw an exhibit with the original art which was way more playful, and just a wee bit more suggestive than what made it into print. Northstar throws Ty onto a bed and whips his clothes off (discreetly behind a blanket that has been thrown up by the action) Which is a shameful double standard given the blatant sexuality that abounds in hetero comics world.

      I think the real point you make is that gay characters drawn by gay people act like normal human beings. The tendency for a straight writer/artist to cram everything they ‘know’ about gay people into one story line or character undermines the individual and turns them into the very caricatures that gay people spend so much time fighting against.

      • I’ve never been thrown on a bed and had my clothes ripped off by Northstar, as entertaining as that might be, so I’m going to assume you mistyped the name “Tim” there. And yes, the big part of this post is complaining about gay characters being written by straight people with absolutely no experience of gay people. For the rest of the world (who are gay, or know and love someone who is), these stories and characters came off as condescending, preposterous or full out offensive collections of stereotypes, not unlike female characters written by men, or ethnic characters written by privileged whites, or even old characters written by young people, etc. etc. A writer should write what they know, and if they try to guess at experiences they have no connection to whatsoever, it’s often these embarrassing tales that are created as a result. Of course, any writer CAN write any character, provided they have the insight, intelligence and basic humanity to do so, but our industry has never been long on those qualities, really. if Alan Moore wants to write about a left-handed Inuit Baptist with a tree-bark fetish, I’ll expect it to be illuminating, but I don’t see the same possibility coming from someone who was writing Hawkman last month…(Just you watch, I’m going to get a stern letter from a Hawkman writer now…)

  4. As soon as I read the title I knew Extrano would be #1. Truly the most awful part of the most awful team generated by a cross-over which had the potential not to be awful, but was really pretty awful.

    When you are the most offensive part of a storyline which featured a Jamaican woman who spoke entirely in horribly written patwa, a Japanese character who can control electronics, a Chinese character who “channels mystic Dragon Lines”, and Aboriginal girl who lives in the Dreamtime and a South African bigot who immediately put on a vaguely Nazi uniform and tried to take over the world for white people… well… you KNOW you’re offensive.

  5. I had forgotten about how badly they treated Freedom Ring. Ultimate Northstar got to date Ultimate Colossus for a while, but Wikipedia tells me he’s now “crippled from the waist down” after OD’ing on the drug Banshee. Yikes.

  6. Darwyn didn’t even mention Batwoman. He was talking about lazy writing and pulled a couple of often misused and poorly handled tropes out of his head to illustrate his point. That’s all.


    • A couple of people suggested that he was actually talking about Rawhide Kid (I actually had a comic book writer phone me an hour ago to tell me that) but that wouldn’t actually make sense–he was asked to list what he regarded as DC and Marvel “catering to the perverted desires of 45 year old men”. I think his assumption (and many others would assume so as well) is that gay characters would not appeal to a straight male, over the age of 18 audience (generally speaking). But he specifically said “lesbian”. The problem is that the minute he said lesbian everyone forgot about it being one more item in the list of “catering to the perverted desires of 45 year old men”. He also says, in his explanation, “look at the reading demographic” which I think he means to suggest that it was previously male. They wanted to appeal to that readership.

      I’m actually with Ty on this…I think he saw the advertising, saw that she was an attractive, sexy Batwoman in nice black leather and came to his own conclusions without reading it. With all of this controversy it has become obvious, in fact, just how many 45 year old men AREN’T reading the Batwoman comic…and don’t know that it’s a new character and not a retcon.

      Valerie D’Orazio wrote a good piece defending him (and specifically says, as an ex-DC editor and writer that LGBT and straight folks who like Batwoman are dreaming if they think for a moment that DC actually PLANNED the character in order to appeal to their readership).

  7. @Gorilla…Yes, I know he didn’t mention Batwoman by name, but the only other candidate for “suddenly lesbian after 60 years” is a character called Ms. Masque, from Terra Obscura, so it’s clearly Ms. Kane he’s referring to. And BTW, I utterly agree with everything Darwyn said (and have said so in a few places online, including his comment about sudden lesbians), but didn’t want to get into on here, as it was merely an inspiration for a post I started writing last night after hearing what a mess of mud that had been flung at my wife in the last 24 hours.

  8. John Constantine is gay? When did that happen? I haven’t read Hellblazer in years, but would be interested in reading wherever hints started dropping.

  9. John Constantine is bisexual, and I think has been out about it since the early days of the series. It’s always been dropped in conversation fairly casually…such as lines like…” I remember the eighties as mostly a string of faceless girlfriends, and one or two boyfriends every now and then”. It’s hardly something they focus on, but he’s never been shy about being bisexual. They’ve even had an ex-boyfriend show up to cause trouble in later issues. And when you consider John’s world, bisexuality is the LEAST of his behaviors to raise an eyebrow.

  10. Mr. Templeton, this is a very interesting post, and I cant wait for the “Best Gay Characters” list. I also think Mr. Cooke was referring to Batwoman, although she is not aretcon of the original character. It seems to me that he didn’t read the Greg Rucka book se starred in, because it’s pretty clear she’s a new, legacy character. Much like Blue Bettle, or Flash, or the numerous Green Lanterns.

    I do, however, disagree with you regarding Sebastian O – I think that, in the context of the story, Sebatian’s many character flaws work very well. As a gay man, I can say I was not offended by him in the least. Freedom Ring was pretty egregious, though. And I feel like Extraño was SUCH a missed opportunity. Because he could really have been a great character, in the sense that all that was stereotypical could be worked into his personality, if he had one (after all, stereotypes do representa part of the group they refer to).

    @ Norm Donovam – Yeah, the whole thing was pretty much doomed from the start, wasn’t it?

    @ Max Barnard – I actually thought those stories where Northstar appeared with his boyfriend were pretty insulting, because in a book drawn by Greg Land, where you’re pretty much seeing women orgasming on every page, they didn’t even allowed Northstar a little kiss on his boyfriend’s lips. The 8-story page was really sweet, but again, no kiss anywhere. That really annoyed me.

  11. James, I’m glad you found the post interesting. As to Sebastian O, we may agree on the series and character more than you think…as I said in the post, the story was quite readable, and the protagonist was “the least annoying character on my list”, and taken simply on its own merits, I would not have included him had it been published in the last five years…BUT…as Sebastian O was probably the first LGBT character to headline his own series from a mainstream publisher, I felt it was an unfortunate choice that his story had so many sordid elements…In the long run, it likely contributed to the marginalization of homosexuality in the minds of the mostly straight readers that bought it, rather than the mainstreaming of LGBTs, which was the essence of my post. You’re right, it was a well written comic with TERRIFIC artwork by Steve Yeowell (I have the original issues, not the collection)…it simply belonged to the wrong year, in my opinion.
    I hope I’ll see you here next week for the seven BEST gay characters….and luckily there are far more to choose from nowadays.
    Ty the Guy

  12. There are lots of borderline maybe-kinda-possibly offensive examples in otherwise well-regarded comics:

    It’s suggested in The Dark Knight that Joker is gay for Batman. The homophobic implication is that if you’re a maniacal killer you’re only a short step away from the ultimate depravity of homosexuality. To be fair though, Joker gets his kink on when he dresses up Selina Kyle in a Wonder Woman outfit, so he’s into chicks too. He’s just a guy for whom sex and murder are the same impulse.

    The Watchmen is positively chock-full of LGBT people, including Hooded Justice, Silhouette, and maybe Rorschach and Ozymandias. In the prose parts of the book, Golden Age Nite Owl says unequivocally that the desire to be a superhero is a kind of sexual aberration. If you’re determined to be outraged, you can argue that Moore is depicting homosexuality itself as a kind of aberration, since it leads to superheroism.

    I don’t personally have any reason to believe that Frank Miller and Alan Moore are homophobes. I just think that it’s hard to deal with the subject of homosexuality in any superhero comic — even a good one. The reason for this, I think, is that it’s hard to deal with any kind of sexuality in superhero comics. Throughout their early history, the superheroes were pretty much completely sexless. Sex has been retconned, if you will, into a genre that wasn’t really built for it. The Superman fantasy is about invulnerability and isolation, while sex is about the exact opposite.

    • (Robert–your comment will be going up. The system held it for approval as it had a url in it. I’ve been fighting the program for ten minutes trying to get it posted…not sure what the issue is,


  13. Well, I would greatly disagree that sex was never built into the Superhero genre in its early forms. I have always maintained that it’s not a coincidence that the tag line “This looks like a job for SUPERMAN” was always said while Clark was removing his clothes. I’m not being glib, here…I genuinely believe the subtext of that was intentional. And the bondage themes of Wonder Woman was utterly about submission and dominance in a sexual context. Or consider Phantom Lady, Sheena and others…you cannot believe there wasn’t intentional titillation on those covers. Even Tarzan was meant to be sexy…animal magnetism was a metaphor for “sexy” at the time.
    As to the LGBT elements in Watchmen….there’s nothing misguided about any of that book, Moore meticulously built that story, paying careful attention to each detail, and there’s nothing dismissive, marginalizing or cliched in any of it, (in my opinion). Your mileage may vary. Where I didn’t like the suggestion that Joker was sexually attracted to Batman in the Dark Knight, it didn’t offend me, or strike me as misguided. It seemed like an attempt to add another complexity to the many complex facets of that character. One or two authors since DARK KNIGHT have attempted to add that element to Joker’s personality and they have consistently failed at it, and the audience has responded that way. DARK KNIGHT was a complex and interesting “take” on Batman that included many elements unique to that story (Batman using a gun, Alfred dying) that do not translate well to other Batman stories.

  14. It’s a small quibble , but Tasmanian Devil was originally a member of the Global Guardians before his brief stint on one of the Justice League teams. After that, he was sent back to the minors with his old gang of international crime-fighters.

  15. Yes, appearing first in the SuperFriends, if I recall. But when he first comes out of the closet in a third tier Global Guardians backup story in JLQuarterly #8 (written by Kevin Dooley and drawn by Andy Smith…just proving I own every comic I make a reference to) he says “Things aren’t as hateful for gays in some places…the Justice League are GREAT!”. So, he was clearly in the JLA when he left the closet. And after he left that closet, the writers NEVER USED HIM WELL AGAIN. My point was that he was a member of DC’s premiere team, and the editors kept him in the background for the rest of his career. Other than the Crimson Fox, I can’t think of another JLA member so mistreated.

  16. I have always maintained that it’s not a coincidence that the tag line “This looks like a job for SUPERMAN” was always said while Clark was removing his clothes.

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. 🙂

    Until around 1990, Clark and Lois were completely chaste because one of them was super, and the other wasn’t. The only deviations from this formula occurred when Clark lost his invulnerabilty or Lois gained it.

    Sheena, Phantom Lady, and Wonder Woman may have been sexually titillating to male readers, but the characters themselves were not depicted as people with sex lives.

    I’ll grant you Tarzan, but I think that using him as an example of a comic book superhero is cheating, a little. He comes from pulp fiction, a different medium, and he was always way more popular in film, newspaper strips, and prose formats than in comic books. Conan and John Carter didn’t have to be asexual in their comic book adaptations for the same reasons.

    …Moore meticulously built that story, paying careful attention to each detail, and there’s nothing dismissive, marginalizing or cliched in any of it, (in my opinion).

    I agree, but Moore was deliberately commenting on superhero genre conventions and pointing out their logical consequences.

  17. With the very limited treatment of homosexuals in comic books, it is sad but probably true that the “10 Best Gay Characters” list would just be the list you read, but in reverse…


    Steven G. Willis

  18. According to J. Bone, Darwyn was referring to the Question.

    I suppose he wasn’t referring to Vic Sage being “turned lesbian after 60 years,” so much as “we killed him off to give his identity to a lesbian.”

    “Where I didn’t like the suggestion that Joker was sexually attracted to Batman in the Dark Knight, it didn’t offend me, or strike me as misguided. It seemed like an attempt to add another complexity to the many complex facets of that character. One or two authors since DARK KNIGHT have attempted to add that element to Joker’s personality and they have consistently failed at it, and the audience has responded that way. DARK KNIGHT was a complex and interesting “take” on Batman that included many elements unique to that story (Batman using a gun, Alfred dying) that do not translate well to other Batman stories.”

    You know, that’s just really interesting because it just highlights the special circumstances and the complicated nature of all this.

    But I don’t even think “elements that work with one interpretation and not another” go all the way to controversial aspects. (For example, a manic and Frank Gorshin-like Riddler works with campy Batman; a cerebral one works with serious Batman. ) But of course, it’s the controversial ones we end up focusing on.

  19. I have to say, I feel like you’re way off about Monsieur Mallah and The Brain. If anything they are proof that true love can transcend any barrier, including sex, species, and biological status…. I always found it a bit inspiring actually.

  20. There’s some truth to that, except that Morrison was clearly playing them as objects of ridicule, not sympathy. LATER writers have given Mallah and the Brain some modicum of dignity, what little they can muster, but Morrison was going for a sneer.

  21. Quick note about Northstar:
    Way back in the day, Byrne said in an interview that the reveal about Northstar being a fairy (with wings and pointy ears) was meant as a F-U to Marvel for not allowing the character to be openly gay.

  22. Thanks for an interesting and entertaining piece. So of course, I’m now going to moan …

    … well, not quite, I just want to say that complaining about the Pied Piper’s villainous name in connection with his sexuality is a tad unfair, as it’s not like DC came up with them together; you know that Piper was around for about three decades before he even got a sexuality. And the Hamelin story never said ‘paedophile’ to me, simply ‘terrifying, vengeful stranger’. Let’s just be glad Piper was handled, as you note, as well as he was.

    I love the ‘other rogues’ gag though!

    I’m scratching my head over your ‘This looks like a job for SUPERMAN’ remarks – is there some innuendo I’m missing? The guy’s changing clothes while giving us his catchphrase, which happens to include his name, that’s all.

    Less on the gay front, more on the aside side, Thomas Kalmaku hadn’t been referred to as ‘Pieface’ for years by the time of New Guardians.

    This is the first time I’ve seen the art associated with the rubbishly named Freedom Ring’s death. From everything I’d heard, I was expecting him to be impaled up the rear end by a penis-shaped missile. What we actually have is a bunch of spiky things, spread all over his body. I’ve seen a fair number of phalluses in my time and ‘phallic looking’ they’re not. This example strikes me as folk trying to find offence. Certainly, the timing of his death – so soon after Joe Quesada’s comments – is unfortunate, but I’d hardly say Marvel was taking the Michael.

    If Freedom Ring had drowned, would it have been a golden showers metaphor? I don’t want to think about what people would assume had he wound up gasping for air in a muddy swamp … seriously, I appreciate you standing up (single entendre) for us gays, but I think you’re reading too much into things here.

    Anyway, off to read the list of Bests! Thanks again.

  23. My famuly has no gay men

  24. Interestingly, Mallah and the Brain show up in the latest Tiny Titans collection (from TT #14 or 15, I guess), and they are gay there, too. (Or at least asexually in love and presumed both male; the characters are all like 6 years old in the book, after all.)

  25. @TheEnemy – I think you’re misremembering a quote somewhere, since the whole “he’s got AIDS; no he doesn’t — he’s just pining for Asgard a half-elf!” clusterfuck happened while Bill Mantlo was writing the book. I don’t know what’s the more depressing part of the situation — that it was a last-minute re-write for what was going to be Mantlo at last outing Northstar as Marvel’s first gay character by giving him AIDS and having him die in the same issue, or that he was “saved” by the current EIC’s “there are no gay characters in the Marvel universe!” edict.

    One of the more positive depictions that writers attempted recently was making Northstar the mentor of one of the X-Men’s gay students, Anole, (who’s also not very gay), but they were working under the handicap of 1) editorial not wanting them to mention that Northstar was gay (in 2004), let alone the kid, and 2) Northstar being dead at the time, so it pretty much wound up as a bunch of tearful implications that wouldn’t have been out of place back in the 80’s when Byrne was writing the book, and characters saying nice things at his gravesite. This, sadly, was still more actual character development than the writer on the main X-Men title he was supposed to be in gave him — about the only thing of note that happened there was having him pine over yet another straight guy.

    I actually love the conflicted, snarky, headstrong, low-bullshit-tolerance character that Northstar was under John Byrne’s pen, and I keep waiting for the writers to remember that he’s got characteristics aside from being The Gay One. I’m not holding my breath, though.

  26. @suzene – IIRC, Byrne made it sound like it was his idea — possibly he passed it to Mantlo.
    Possibly it was Mantlo’s F-U and Byrne was merely admiring it and got misquoted.
    Still kind of funny…. “He’s not gay but he is a fairy.”

    “I actually love the conflicted, snarky, headstrong, low-bullshit-tolerance character that Northstar was under John Byrne’s pen”

    Yeah, he was an annoying character at times but there was also something real about his attitude that made him interesting.

    Morrison had a good scene with him talking to Xavier and deliberately pushing to see how long Xavier could keep his cool. “I could teach gym…. all those young boys in shorts….”

  27. @TheEnemy – I’d be surprised, honestly; Byrne’s comments about Mantlo’s run usually indicate that Mantlo went in exactly the opposite direction that Byrne would have taken most of the characters, and he’s stated several times on his forum that Mantlo missed the point of a lot of the original team. I do recall Byrne having mentioned that when Shooter wouldn’t let him out Northstar, he responded by mentioning that the character was gay in every venue he could (save for official print interviews, naturally), so maybe that’s what you were thinking of?

    So far as the quote about Northstar teaching gym, that’s Austen, not Morrison (the quote being “…what would you have me teach, as a former Olympic athlete? Boy’s gym? Even you could not be so progressive.”) and he was another disappointment so far as writing goes — started off writing Northstar as an after-school special and ended up edging him toward a stereotype whose main function was to be besties with the character who was a stand-in for Austen’s IRL wife. Ugh. The silver lining there was that the New Mutants/Academy X writers at least tried to do something interesting with him as a teacher.

    • @suzene

      I’d be surprised, honestly; Byrne’s comments about Mantlo’s run …. so maybe that’s what you were thinking of?

      No , the “not gay but a fairy” line I got from Byrne.

      And what is it with Byrne and other professionals? Other than Kirby & Ditko, does he like anybody else’s work? He’s seems to have a bad rep for constantly complaining.

      the quote about Northstar teaching gym, that’s Austen, not Morrison

      Right you are. I forgot anyone else was writing the X-books while Morrisson was.

  28. I’m fairly certain that Extraño was some sort of knock on Dr. Strange. You note that he’s a Dr. Strange like character, and the meaning of the name. Hell, Dr. Strange seems to have been published as Dr. Extraño in Spain. I would also point out his coat design.

  29. Some very good points and some serious reaching. The Pied Piper lured children away through the act of blowing, and spikes are phallic? I say thee nay. Of course, those may well have been jokes…

  30. Jean DeWolff from what I remember had a crush on Spider-Man. Or was she bi? I don’t remember her ever expressing any lesbian tendencies, but I do remember her expressing interest in Spider-Man.

  31. Pingback: Flashback Friday: Letting Freedom Ring | Dennis R. Upkins

  32. Pingback: Flashback Friday: Letting Freedom Ring | thenerdsofcolor

  33. What a whiny bulshit article. Starting with the premise that a physically imposing Kate Kane is somehow antithesis to her being a good representation of lesbians..

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