Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Gay Subtext In Comics

I read an interesting article that was posted today in the Gendergenres mailing list that touched on the issue of gay depiction in one of Marvel Comics latest titles. The posting reported the recent reactions of certain American interest group to the move of making the "Rawhide Kid", one of Marvel's old time western heroes, an implied homosexual. Of course, these groups cited the same old reasoning that these comics are promoting homosexuality and that young impressionable children will convert en mass to gaydom after reading the comic. As I have pointed out before in one of my blog entries last week, this idea is a bit far fetch seeing that there are more adults than children who actually buy comics. I wished I had some time to research it but from my observation of the people who buy comics at my favorite book shop, the average age of the readers seems to be between the ages of 25 to 35. This age group would have more disposable income required to purchase these comics compared to the so-called impressionable children.

I have to say that "Rawhide Kid" might be the first gay comic book character featured in his own title. There have been a few openly gay characters that have been depicted in comic book these past few years but most of them are supporting characters in a title. Among the notable ones are "Northstar", a Canadian mutant seen these days in an X-Men title on Marvel and the gay couple of "Apollo" and "Midnighter" seen monthly in Wildstorm's "Authority" comic. There are also indications that the new version of "Colossus" in the "Ultimate X-Men" books might be gay as well as Felicia Hardy aka "Black Cat" in the "SpiderGirl" comic books. With regards with the last 2 characters that I singled out, their sexual identity is more inferred from their interaction with other characters around them rather than outright disclosure as in the case of the other two.

Some of the comic books on sale today could actually be enjoyed with so many levels of meaning. The gay vibe is actually quite evident if one tries to read between the lines and pickup on the coded messages that are artfully laid down behind the garish splash of colors that are published month after month. I have personally heard of some gay groups in the US who have embraced the X-Men comics as a reflection of their struggle for acceptance. The concept that mutants are the object of fear and persecution rings clear in the minds of many gays that face the same types of obstacles in their quest of acknowledgement. Even the philosophical arguments between Xavier and Magneto that have been outlined in detail in the comic books strangely mirror similar arguments that we have heard in the gay community. I would doubt that a normal child would have the necessary sophistication to grasp these concepts much less be influenced by it.

As I grow older, I have started to realize these messages evident in my favorite titles. Though they are not overtly pro-homosexual, they resound in my mind as I try to make sense of my life of sexual ambivalence. Of course the idea of having a secret identity is well entrenched in the psyche of all of us who are still in the closet. We fear that by exposing our real identities, we would put ourselves in a position of being vulnerable and may hurt the people who are close to us. This is no different that the reason why Superman still maintains the mild mannered alter ego of Clark Kent all these years. If there is anything that is promoted by reading comics, it would surely be the lesson not to display your "super powers" to the mere mortals who might persecute or harm you. Certainly it does not encourage people to come up and expose your "secret identities" to the whole world.

Of course if I look as good as Superman does in spandex, I might not care too much if anyone knows who I get into bed with!

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