I just powered through an audiobook for The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines which was a pretty thorough round-up of historical ladies in comics. It was, by and large a good listen although I have a minor problem with male voice actors for audiobooks who try to emulate characters voices as a whole. There seemed to be some uncharacteristic slut-shaming language used when talking about the rise of the virgin whore image of Britney Spears and its influence on character reboots. This might have been me mishearing the author as a lot of the book quite clearly illustrates the problematic and pervasive sexism in comic books. I don’t know if I should do a more comprehensive review, it feels like cheating since I didn’t technically read it.
In any case, it was a busy weekend for me where I had to concentrate most of my efforts on writing an article and copy for a newsletter, so I didn’t do much in the way of fiction. One day I will, but not today. I can’t share the article yet as it is still awful, and so I will cop-out and share something that I wrote about needing more gay superheroes in my life.
It was one of my earlier blog posts for my job and lacks the sophistication which I have begun to pretend my writing has these days. In any case, I’ll post the text below and will let you have at it. I hope you enjoy it and trust that the next week or so will be me rereading whatever comic books I can get my hands on and reliving my childhood superhero fantasies.
Superheroes: we all played them—whether you were one of the X-Men, wished you could turn invisible or simply pinned a towel to your shoulders and pretended to fly, we’ve all done it. And why not?
The masks, the capes, the power, they’re all fun. I used to play as Cyclops, usually because his power just made the most sense. I could blast people from across the room before they got anywhere close to me and that had some wonderful advantages over Wolverine’s power of enhanced smell.
Like many homos, I really fell for the combination of hot guys and the anonymity and mystique of having two personas. I suppose it resonated with something even I didn’t really know about yet, how being gay was allegorically like being a mutant. However, I wouldn’t realize until sometime during the second X-Men movie when Shawn Ashmore came out as a mutant to his parents. I laughed at my foolishness, both remembering my own experiences and finally drawing the parallels that had been there all along. My friends asked me what was up, and I explained that I had had a similar moment with my parents.
I think they got it, but they didn’t really say much after that because the gay conversations had exhausted themselves by that point; regardless, I laughed and enjoyed it. I thought of myself as a kind of gay superhero after that, but it wasn’t until several years later that I actually started reading comics again when I was tipped off that Colossus was gay. Reading up, I found that Colossus was dating the already-out Northstar.
So yes, I missed out on the revelation that Northstar was gay long before Ultimate Colossus ever came out—by no means is my knowledge of historical gay comic book heroes exhaustive. I did some more exploration and after finding some dykes on Buffy and Runaways, I fell for the Young Avengers. More accurately, I fell for Wiccan nee Asgardian (*chuckles* Ass-Guardian) and Hulkling, such a cute couple, and pretty up front about it from the beginning.
After the novelty went away, I felt robbed, even a little outraged. These characters should have been there for me. They should have been my own personal saviors where positive role models and historical figures fell short or, well, didn’t exist.
At the time when I needed some affirmation that gay was okay, I didn’t have anything. Arguably, I had Queer as Folk Monday nights at 10 but I had to sneak downstairs and hide what I was watching. Every time I heard a “that’s so gay” it only got worse. I was alone. I didn’t get better until I got much worse. I suppose my point really came to me when I watched Milk for the first time.
I pride myself on being in the know with gay things around my peers, but when I saw Milk I got angry.
True I cried through many parts of the movie, but in the end I was left sitting and thinking that I had no idea who Harvey Milk was. While it is permissible that I won’t learn about every American politician, he was a very important gay. He was a hero, but he was a hero that I was deprived of.
I don’t think I’ve got a good handle on gay culture or heroes apart from what I’ve gleaned from a smattering of mentors. I continue to sit and think and I still wonder about all the other heroes that I’m missing (super or otherwise), about the strength that I needed but was denied, and about those that never are given the chance to love themselves because certain “things” or people are omitted from history.