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It was in Astonishing X-Men # 5, the moment I realized why I was such a comic book fan. One of the lead X-Men, a beautiful mutant psychic known as Emma Frost was confronting a scientist who was trying to “cure” the mutant gene – and thus render mutants, including the X-Men, as harmless as the next homo sapien. “Nothing but noble intentions, yes.” She tells the scientist. “You’re a veritable Oppenheimer. What’s next? Eliminating the gay gene?” ‘Homosexuality doesn’t represent a threat to human existence,’ the Dr. answers. “We’re clearly watching different televangelists,” Frost quips back. Zing!
I’ve always loved reading comic books. I think I dressed as Captain America for three Halloweens in a row when I was in grade school. Comic books fed my imagination. And superheroes who struggled with being different struck a chord within.
On a level, a deep personal level that I couldn’t fully articulate at age eight, I understood the pain of feeling different. I could relate. And I learned that diversity was a good thing.
All from reading comics. Did I mention I usually had a pocket dictionary at my side when I read them? My vocabulary was routinely challenged by reading Spiderman, X-Men, Batman, Swamp Thing and, (like every good little lesbian), Wonder Woman.
The dialog and subjects tackled in these “picture books” aren’t dumbed down in the least. Love. Death. Good and Evil – and all the shades between. Betrayal. Loyalty. Duality. Sacrifice. Revenge. These are the grist of comic books, or graphic novels, which are a more accurate description for them. And there are plenty of titles that are for mature readers only: The Watchmen. Preacher. Sandman. Y: The Last Man. 100 Bullets. American Vampire. And of course Robert Kirkland’s juggernaut zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead, just to mention a few books that are decidedly mature.
Comics have inundated our pop culture like never before. The new Avengers movie is breaking box office records. Christopher Nolan’s revisioning of the Batman universe is nothing short of remarkable. Dark and brooding – Bruce Wayne’s Gotham is a twisted carnival mirror to our own world. AMC’s The Walking Dead just got picked up for a third season – and I for one, can’t wait to see Michonne come to life! By the way, if you’re a TWD fan you might want to pick up the April issue of Playboy to get the backstory on fan fave character Michonne. There’s just something sexy about an ex-lawyer bad-ass bitch laying waste to the walking dead roamers with a katana sword! Yeah, I may be a little twisted, but don’t judge me if you haven’t read the series – and fallen in love with the rich, complicated morality of the empathetic characters in Kirkland’s apocalyptic world.
And then there’s Comic Con International in San Diego. It’s three days of comic book worship, Hollywood hoopla, and cosplay that pump millions into the local economy. Tickets for the event sell out faster than Coachella! And this year Petco stadium is being turned into Land of The Walking Dead during Comic Con to celebrate TWD’s 100th issue which goes to print in July. Yeah, I’d say comics are firmly entrenched in our current pop culture.
So it only makes sense that we have gay superheroes. In 2006, DC Comics reintroduced Batwoman, this time as an out and proud lesbian who got drummed out of West Point under DADT. “Now she is many things:,” as her spiel in the beginning of every issue continues, “Estranged daughter. Greiving sister. Proud lesbian. Brave soldier. Determined hero.” Kate Kane fights criminals as Batwoman in her efforts to right the injustices and punish the criminals that abound in Gotham City – and still has time to romance her new girlfriend, police detective Sawyer, who is clueless to Kane’s true identity. That aught to be great lesbian pillowtalk when Sawyer puts two and two together. Check out Kane in DC’s New 52, which is a revamping of the entire DC universe of superheroes; from Batman to Superman, to Justice League to Green Lantern, and more, that began back in 2011. All the series are restarting at issue #1 and are being handled by some of the best writers in the business – like Grant Morrison, Brian Azzarello, Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder to name a few.
Marvel’s recent announcement that Northstar, (one of the Astonishing X-Men mutant superheroes), is marrying his boyfriend Kyle, has made national news. Although the original Alpha Flight member has been out since 1996, Marvel’s promotion of his upcoming nuptials has caused the knee jerk reaction of homophobes everywhere. How can we expose children to homosexuality! One Million Moms is groveling in the national spotlight with their protest of this event, calling for Marvel and DC Comics to stop writing gay characters.
“Children desire to be just like superheroes,” members of the ‘online activism campaign’ write on their website. “Children mimic superhero actions and even dress up in costumes to resemble these characters as much as possible. Can you imagine little boys saying, ‘I want a boyfriend or husband like X-Men?’
Their hysterical response is sad, but not unexpected. Look at all the controversy caused by the Archie comics with their gay marriage issue earlier this year. But what makes me laugh is how out of touch these anti-gay people are. I just have to chuckle how it’s okay for these poor “impressionable” children to be reading about genocide, murder, human experimentation, genetic manipulation, mind control, wars and conflicts – just some of the topics X-Men have tackled – but God forbid you mention the word homosexual and expose these kids to evil!
Which brings me back to my point that the comic world is decidedly adult these days. There’s a rating system for them; just like for TV, film and video games. The Astonishing X-Men is rated Teen Plus. I think teenagers have probably been “exposed” to the diversity of human, and superhuman, sexuality by the time they are allowed to read these adult themes. The onus is once again firmly placed upon the parents to regulate what their child reads and hears. And the One Million Mom hysteria over the X-Men wedding is sorely, if not hypocritically, misplaced. As Northstar would say, they can, “Kiss my Quebecois butt.”
Having gay and lesbian superheroes is a wonderful way pop culture is starting to reflect diversity in all its glory. It sends the message openly and overtly that it is okay to be gay. That’s a message the upcoming generations of teenagers need to hear and take to heart. And I can’t wait to see which superhero is coming out of the closet, (or phone booth), next! My money is on Wonder Woman – Diana is one hot Amazon. Another frontrunner is Batman, who famed comic book writer Grant Morrison called, ‘gay, gay, gay.’ DC Comics is set to reveal, or should I say ‘out’ the ‘well known’ character sometime this summer. It’s going to be interesting to see who is the newest gay superhero. A tip of the hat to Marvel and DC Comics for giving LGBT fans everywhere, heroes we can call family. Congratulations Northstar and Kyle! Have a fabulous honeymoon!
This article was originally published in The BottomLine Magazine, a SDGLN content sharing partner.