Welcome to the first installment of CBR’s comprehensive look at homosexuality in comics. CBR News spoke with nine comics industry professionals about the portrayal of GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual) characters and themes in comics, past and present.
Parts I and II will introduce the nine participants. Part I features Marc Andreyko, Lillian Diaz-Przbyl, Devin Grayson, Terrance Griep and Mark Millar, and part II introduces Allan Heinberg, Scott Lobdell, Alan Moore and Greg Rucka. In addition to biographical materials, each introductory segment will also include the participant’s musings on their own comics work that features GLBT characters and themes.
Parts III and IV will be the article proper, in which the participants address a wide range of topics. In part III, the participants discuss the Comics Code, the stigma of comics as a children’s medium, whether homosexuality is a lifestyle choice or a genetic predisposition, and the tendency for fictional GLBT characters to be defined by their sexuality. The topics for part IV include the “gay retcon,” the participants’ picks for well-informed portrayals of GLBT characters in comics, and the state of the union of homosexuality in comics.
Writer Marc Andreyko was born and raised in Cleveland, but has resided in Los Angeles for the past ten years. As a boy, Andreyko idolized his late cousin Todd Scheetz, so when Scheetz first started getting into comics, it was a foregone conclusion that Andreyko would, too. His earliest comics memory is reading “Spider-Man” #136 on a plane ride to Boston. Andreyko’s comics career began in 1994 with his Harvey Award nominated “The Lost.” He has since created DC’s critically acclaimed “Manhunter,” and collaborated with Brian Michael Bendis on Image’s “Torso” (which is slated for a movie adaptation with director David Fincher attached).
Andreyko has been gay for as long as he can remember, but he didn’t learn the term for it until he was 12. “I came out in stages,” Andreyko said. And the writer always assumed that his parents were aware of his sexuality well before he found the courage to speak about it aloud. “I mean, I was a theatre major, had tons of gay friends, directed lots of gay plays at college. Heck, I even went to the march on Washington in 1993!” But it was the murder of a college student named Matthew Shepard in 1998 that convinced Andreyko to openly come out to his parents. In October of 1998, the 21-year-old Shepard was the victim of a hate crime. The youth was brutally beaten for no other reason than being gay, and he succumbed to his injuries in a hospital several days later. “I realized how lucky I was and felt like a coward not knowing they knew the truth,” Andreyko said. “I mean, this young kid got beaten to death for being gay and what was I doing?”
That said, the decision did come with its share of sleepless nights. “I think all gay people have a little trepidation about coming out because you never expect the reaction you get,” Andreyko said. “Hell, if Cher — a patron saint of us ‘mo’s — was mad when her daughter came out, how would my parents react?”
But Andreyko’s fears turned out to be unfounded. The writer opted to tell his parents in the form of a letter, and after they’d read it he received phone calls from both of them expressing their unconditional support. “They said I was their son and they loved me and they wanted me to be happy,” Andreyko said. “My parents were and are awesome. If it bothered them, I never heard a word of it.”
Aside from the formal letter to his parents, Andreyko didn’t make much of a fanfare about his sexuality. “It was actually Jill Thompson (artist extraordinaire of ‘Sandman,’ ‘Scary Godmother’ and lots more) who was the first person to ask me if I was gay,” Andreyko said. “It was funny. I was jarred for a minute when she asked and then I said, ‘Yep, I am.’ And she laughed and said she always suspected I was a ‘fabulous gay man.'”
Andreyko’s sexuality has never been a burden, in the comics industry or any other walk of his life. “There is a huge gay audience in comics as well as a big contingent of creators, so it isn’t a big deal to most people,” Andreyko said.
Andreyko has been known to include gay characters in his work, but he doesn’t go into a project with a gay quota in mind. “I never actually set out with any real gay agenda as far as characters go,” Andreyko said. “When I create a gay character, I create a character who happens to be gay the same way, say, Peter Parker happens to be straight. It is an aspect of the character, but not the be-all-end-all of the character.”
|“Gorgeous Carat,” one of Tokyopop’s BLU line|
Tokyopop editor Lillian Diaz-Przbyl has loved comics all of her life. The Williams College graduate started working at Tokyopop in 2004, where she handles both licensed properties from Japan and Korea and also oversees the development of original material. Her titles include “Loveless,” “Saiyuki,” “Dramacon,” “Mark of the Succubus” and the graphic novel adaptation of HarperCollins’ hit children’s series, “Warriors.” Diaz-Przbyl serves as editor for Tokyopop’s BLU manga imprint, which specializes in yaoi and yuri, two subsets of manga that deal with male and female homosexual relationships, respectively.
Diaz-Przbyl mused that one of the reasons yaoi and yuri are so popular is because they subvert traditional gender roles. “While I think a real selling point of manga in general is its emotional realism and potency, it often occurs in very non-traditional, fantasy situations,” Diaz-Przbyl said. “Reality is not the object here. Men in yaoi don’t usually behave like real men (especially real gay men), and women in yuri don’t behave like real women (although the sort of close female relationships that yuri builds off of are seen as relatively acceptable in Japanese culture, up to a point – better your daughter fool around with her school friend than some boy, after all).”
“When reading yaoi or yuri, you don’t automatically have to associate yourself with ‘the girl,’ which can be very liberating,” Diaz-Przbyl continued. “There are a lot of ways that girls are ‘supposed’ to behave in relationships, and throwing that for a loop is very exciting. Even when characters do conform to the ‘standard’ relationship dynamics, the gender reversal factor still makes it feel more transgressive.”
Diaz-Przbyl observed that both genres have grown more explicit over the years. “But the focus is still the intensity of the connections between the characters,” she said. “There are homosexual themes even in very mainstream manga as well, and that is usually played for the drama-romance factor, rather than the explicitly sexual. I personally like my manga to be well-written and have compelling characters and so that tends to be my focus over explicit content, but every reader is a little different and gets something different out of the material.”
Diaz-Przbyl said there are some key differences between yaoi and yuri and gay comics. “Gay comics have a different target readership and a very different aesthetic than yaoi and yuri, and the stories and art style are tailored accordingly,” she said. “There are some gay readers who enjoy yaoi and yuri, but at least from a Japanese perspective, that’s not really the point. Either way, genre in general in Japan is distinguished through different publishers and different imprints. Gay comics for gay readers have their own imprints that do not usually overlap with the yaoi and yuri books.”
In fact, yaoi, which focuses on male homosexuality, is just as popular among young girls as it is young boys, if not more so. Diaz-Przbyl posited this was because yaoi is a fantasy medium. “Because it’s not intended to represent realistic situations per se, you can be a lot more invested in the context without feeling uncomfortable about it, which is something that a lot of teenagers can appreciate,” Diaz-Przbyl said. “It’s playing with sexuality and expressing desires in a private (or, with your yaoi-reading friends) kind of way. This is true about traditional romance novels as well, to some extent, but yaoi gives that extra bit of security. And what’s better than one incredibly handsome young man? Well, two of them, of course! Or a whole cast of them! The ‘pretty’ factor of yaoi is undeniably essential to the success of a series.”
Diaz-Przbyl endeavored to explain how comics editors at Tokyopop determine which content is appropriate and which isn’t for any particular book. “We editors are part of the licensing and acquisitions process, so we’re some of the first people to see the content, and it’s part of our job to decide if it’s something we’re comfortable publishing,” Diaz-Przbyl said. “We have chosen to pass over series that we don’t think are acceptable in that regard. If we don’t think a certain subject is being handled tastefully, we’ll skip it. Our definition of good taste is pretty broad, but it does exist.”
That said, Diaz-Przbyl insisted that homosexual themes do not necessarily, in and of themselves, have any affect on a book’s age rating. “We’ve actually got a very detailed list of criteria that help us to categorize a book within our ratings system, and while homosexuality doesn’t automatically bump up the rating, it is something that we’re careful of,” Diaz-Przbyl said. “Homosexual themes show up even in mainstream manga, after all, but most of the books in the BLU line have enough general sexual content to keep it out of the hands of the young ‘uns (two people having sex pretty much gets a Mature rating regardless of the gender of the participants).”
Writer Devin Grayson drew her first breath in a hippie communal farmstead in New Haven, Connecticut. When her parents split up two years later, Grayson and her mother relocated to Berkeley, California. Deciding at a young age that she wanted to be an actress, Grayson studied her craft at the likes of the American Conservatory Theater, the Drama Studio London at Berkeley, the Julia Morgan Bay Area Youth Theater Co., Camp Cazedero, the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, Jean Shelton’s and School of the Arts before shifting focus to writing and enrolling in a local community college. The new pursuit took her to Bard College in Upstate New York.
Grayson was aware of her sexual orientation well before she zeroed in on her eventual vocation. “I was attracted to both girls and boys very early on, but, being a kid, I had no idea that had a name,” Grayson said. “I remember being about seven and having this crush on a girl in my summer camp, Nicole. When we went swimming, her eyelashes would clump together in the most bewitching away — just like a Vegas showgirl, not that I’d ever seen one at that time — and I just thought I’d never seen anything so beautiful. At the same time, I was ‘madly in love’ with the camp counselor, George. He playfully asked me to marry him, and I said we’d have to marry Nicole, too, and being in his early twenties and joking in the certainty that I wouldn’t understand him, George grinned wide, grabbed a giggling Nicole, and said, ‘Even better!’
“Well, I didn’t understand him, exactly, but I got the sense from that that my attractions (which at that point weren’t even sexual) were supportable and made people happy,” Grayson continued. “Later that summer I realized George wasn’t going to marry me when I caught him sneaking off for hanky-panky with one of the female counselors, but by that time he’d saved me from a spider in my sleeping bag, so it was okay.”
As far as Grayson is concerned, love knows no gender. “I must have been 13 or 14 by the time I had the conscious thought, ‘I’m kissing a girl!'” Grayson said. “And even then, the self-censorship in that thought was at best half-hearted. I always, always just fell in love with people, regardless of gender. To this day, gender just isn’t that important a subject to me, which made constantly being singled out because of it in the comic book industry a very surreal experience.”
Grayson’s sexuality was never something she felt compelled to hide. “I never hid it except in the sense of turning a washing machine on so my girlfriend’s mother wouldn’t overhear us or something, but that was just being careful not to lose the heady privilege of sanctioned overnights,” Grayson said. “I guess I’ve always had a pretty highly developed sense of privacy, but the other factor is that you’re talking about teenage girls here. Most teenage girls obsess over one very best friend and squeal and hug and spend hours and hours and hours on the phone and behind closed bedroom doors and even holding hands together in the high school hallway and it isn’t sexual. When it is, how could anyone outside of the relationship tell the difference?”
Indeed, Grayson, who made no effort to conceal her feelings about her high school girlfriend, was taken aback when an oblivious male sophomore tried to enlist her help in delivering flowers to their mutual love’s locker. “He just assumed I was her best friend and that I’d help him,” Grayson explained. “I was simultaneously taken aback and pissed off, and that was the first time I didn’t immediately clarify the situation. I was just so caught off guard, and I didn’t know what to make of him, and I didn’t want to tell him anything.”
The people in Grayson’s life are generally accepting of her sexuality, but this wasn’t always the case. “At some point in my teens, my dad walked in on me kissing a girl on the living room couch, and he called me downstairs for a ‘private discussion’ and seemed very upset, though I honestly had no idea why,” Grayson said. “He asked if we were ‘practicing,’ and I laughed and said something obnoxious like, ‘No, Dad, we’ve pretty much got it down,’ and I watched him just deflate. He had no idea what to say or do, and I think even realized that he wasn’t totally sure why he was mad. A few hours later he interrupted us again to yell at me about putting the cheese away wrong –not wrapping it up properly– and he was way more upset than one would need to be over refrigerator cheese etiquette, but eventually I learned how to wrap cheese up properly and he learned that it was just as uncomfortable for him when I kissed boys, so he might as well stay out of the whole thing.
“Years after the original ‘cheese fight,’ my dad confessed that he was just worried that being attracted to both genders would make life more difficult for me,” Grayson continued. “My life has been difficult in spots. I struggle with chronic depression, insulin-dependent diabetes, and other health and life issues — but never because of my sexuality. That has always only made things better; allowed me to meet cool people, provided me with a loyal and supportive fan-base in comics, and deepened my knowledge of human emotions and behaviors.”
Such understanding has even informed Grayson’s work. “I don’t have to guess what it would be like for a male character to date a woman,” she said. “I have my own experience to pull from.”
There was one relationship in college about which Grayson was sworn to secrecy, for the benefit of her girlfriend’s family. ” She was a first generation Russian immigrant, and really didn’t want anyone knowing anything about her, but was particularly concerned about her family finding out,” Grayson explained. “I promised, imagining myself to be both gallant and protective, and within a week of being on the college campus and seeing the thriving, active gay/lesbians/bi-sexual/transgender student clubs, I started feeling very discouraged and isolated.”
In fact, the termination of that six-year relationship was due in large part to Grayson’s college sweetheart’s need to remain closeted. “I knew that her father knew, and had made peace with it — he started treating me like a son-in-law; demanding that I stand up with the family at funerals, thanking me for encouraging her to go to college and for helping to support her afterwards, never failing to include me in family events — and yet she wouldn’t come clean with him,” Grayson said. “Maybe it wasn’t necessary at that point, but he would ask her point blank and she would evade the question. Truthfully, I really loved being treated so nobly by him, and her denial to him and her mother and my friends –who obviously knew better– made me very sad.
“The people who might dislike me for being bisexual are without exception people I myself would dislike,” Grayson stated. “I love to preach tolerance, but truthfully I’m the least tolerant person I know. I cheerfully write off bigots, dogmatists, and hypocrites without a second thought. I don’t actually know anyone who would exclude or think badly of someone based on their sexuality, but I hear that people like that are out there, and I’m pretty sure that if I ever actually ran into one I would be able to give them fifteen way better reasons to full-out hate me, starting with my utter contempt for them.” Grayson said that for the most part, even though she engages in both straight and gay relationships, she has been welcomed with open arms by both groups. “I kind of stubbornly don’t believe/pay any attention to people who won’t admit that most people fall somewhere in the middle of the straight and gay continuum,” Grayson said. “I’m just extremely comfortable and confident about this one particular issue. If you try to talk to me about what it means to be female, on the other hand, I have a tendency to fall apart, because I’m not always comfortable with that designation. I don’t mean that I think I’m a male, I just never got enough positive female role-modeling or something.
“I guess the only community my bisexuality has ever left me feeling bereft from is womanhood in general,” Grayson continued. “There are certain female conventions and assumptions about females and such that I just don’t understand or relate to, and I feel nervous when speaking on the subject, I feel like an outsider in my own sex. But when it comes to falling in love with people without stopping to check the shape of their genitalia first? I’m beyond comfortable with that; I’m righteous about it. I feel no shame about the people I’ve loved or been attracted to, and I really don’t care what anyone else has to say about it, except in terms of politically defending the rights associated with same-sex relationships. Being who I am — including the bisexuality — has made my life rich and engaging and full of love and amazing people. Any community that can’t see value in that is not a community in which I have any interest or investment.”
Grayson was first indoctrinated in the ways of comics in her early 20s, when she discovered “Batman: The Animated Series.” “At that point, I’d never read a comic in my life and I didn’t know anything about the medium — they just weren’t part of my upbringing,” Grayson explained. “But I started watching ‘TAS’ compulsively, along with my girlfriend at the time, who was equally into it and very encouraging about me learning more about it.”
It didn’t take Grayson long to realize that she had a lot to learn when it came to comics. “While [my girlfriend] began amassing the finest collection of topless Bruce Wayne cels going, I went to visit a friend, who was working in a comic book store almost walking distance from my apartment in San Francisco, and asked him to tell me everything he knew about Robin,” Grayson said. “To which he replied, with absolutely no trace of irony, ‘which Robin?'”
With some prompting from her friend, Grayson eventually identified her Robin of choice to be Dick Grayson, the original Robin, who of course now goes by the moniker “Nightwing.” Not one to do anything halfway, Grayson left the comic store with a veritable treasure trove of comics merchandise. “I left the store that day with ‘The Dark Knight Returns,’ A handful of Teen Titans (not in order, X’hal help me!), an old ‘Batman’ Archive from the fifties, ‘The Killing Joke,’ ‘Watchmen,’ a bunch of ‘Sandmans,’ and Scott McCloud’s ‘Understanding Comics.’
“And on the way home I realized I could suddenly decipher all these icons on people’s T-shirts. I almost made this one guy spill his coffee by shouting gleefully in his direction, ‘Hey! That’s the Green Lantern symbol!’ If I ever see him again, I owe him a cup of java.”
Grayson’s next step was equal parts straightforward and unorthodox: cold-calling DC. ” I just didn’t know any better,” Grayson admitted. “And I happened to get [Batman group editor at the time] Denny O’Neil (because, by the way, when you call DC, they just put you through to whomever you ask for without even asking who you are, and I asked for ‘the Batman editor’). I also sent samples of my writing in to [editor] Scott Peterson, and was eventually offered a job by [editor] Darren Vincenzo.
“Later, Denny told me that my hook was simply that all major comic companies get hundreds of people contacting them every day saying that they know everything there is to know about comic books, but need a little help figuring out the nuts and bolts of writing or drawing,” Grayson explained. “In my case, I came to them explaining that I knew how to write, I just didn’t know anything about comic books. These are people who are passionate about comic books, so I can only guess that it was more exciting and enjoyable for them to take me through that part than to take a fan through writing 101.”
And so it began: Grayson went on to write such DC mainstays as Batman and the Teen Titans, but she also penned her share of non-superhero work, like her GLAAD-nominated “USER.” A Vertigo book, “USER” told the tale of Meg Chancellor, who explored her gender identity by role-playing as a male knight in an online RPG. In real life, Grayson is no stranger to online RPG’s, but the comparison to Meg Chancellor doesn’t stop there.
“For me, the issue has never been sexuality — crushes and lust and love come easily enough, and I’ve never cared what anyone else thought of my choices whether they were critical of the personality or gender of my chosen partner — it’s moving through the world with a particular set of gender expectations applied to me that’s always made me uncomfortable,” Grayson said. “It’s not that I’m a tomboy — I have a lot of very traditionally feminine traits and behaviors, but I also have several that are classically ascribed to males, and finding a way to make the world accept any kind of range or fluidity in your nature seems astonishingly difficult.
“Let me put it this way: when you’re involved with someone, you have them on your side. You’re not alone, and your heart or body or both are convinced of the worthiness of this person, so you have a particular kind of immunity to any disapproval that might be leveled at you in public. Add to that the fact that the best, deepest parts of relationships generally don’t happen in public. For me that adds up to a great deal of confidence and social autonomy.”
Of course, gender issues are another story altogether. “It affects how people treat me at work, the kind of assumptions people make about my life, Grayson said. “If I’m asked when I plan to marry and have a baby one more time, I’m going to have to scream at someone. That’s just not part of my agenda. It weighs on everything from the salary I’m paid to who approaches me about relationships to how salesmen treat me at car dealerships. Somehow, in my psyche, there’s a lot of freedom and power associated with being male, and I’ve always wanted that. If I felt more self-identified as a woman, it might be easier for me to just kind of fight the good fight, as I seem more than capable of doing when it comes to sexuality issues, but I feel incredibly alienated from a lot of female culture and indeed from a lot of females, and that leaves me with a sort of permanent discomfort and vulnerability.”
As a case in point, Grayson brought up her recent involvement with a book called “She’s Such a Geek,” an anthology about women in traditionally male venues. “I enjoyed contributing and I was thrilled when it was finally time to promote the book and meet some of the other contributors,” Grayson said. “I felt at long last I was about to meet a group of females to whom I would be able to completely relate. And in many ways that was true; I loved their essays, I loved doing readings with them, and I was immediately drawn to a number of them.
“But then we did a question-and-answer period at the end of the first public reading, and one of the questions that came up was, ‘What female characters do you most identify with in comics and sci-fi?'”
Grayson’s fellow authors threw out names like Kaylee (“Firefly”), Buffy, Kara Thrace (“Battlestar Galactica”) and Princess Leia. Not only was Grayson patently uninspired by the list, she found that she personally could find little in the way of female role models in popular fiction in general. “I never pay any attention to the female characters, at least not in a role-modeling way. I was all about Jayne — a male character in ‘Firefly’ for those of you who might otherwise think I contradict myself– Spike (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’), Lee [Adama] (‘Battlestar Galactica’), and Han [Solo]. It was just a sad, lonely moment for me. They were all very female-identified, despite all the other commonalities we shared, and even in their midst, I ended up feel like an outsider.”
For Grayson, her GLAAD nomination for “USER” is a career high. “I have never been more proud of any achievement, or had more fun at any party,” Grayson said. “I took my mom and aunt to the ceremony with me, and we had a blast. It’s just a beautiful, exciting, elegant event, and a truly right-on organization, filled with brilliant people with pro-active ideas and a great sense of humor — an all-too rare combination. I enjoyed every second of it, from flirting with the Jaguar rep to sharing a joint in the hotel kitchen with one of my favorite TV stars. Oh, and Judd Nelson talked to his dogs from his cell phone on the elevator and then started flirting with my aunt. You just don’t forget a night like that!
“It was also particularly gratifying because, out of all my work, ‘USER’ is by far the most personal. Having that resonate with people, especially in a peer community I have so much respect for, was a very powerful feeling.”
Terrance Griep has worn many a hat in his diverse body of work. His vocations include actor, radio personality, journalist, writer and professional wrestler. The openly gay Griep has been aware of his sexuality for as long as he can remember. “As a prepubescent boy, I had crushes on all sorts of males years and years before I knew what they meant,” Griep told CBR News. “For too long, I bought into the common lie that heterosexuality is somehow superior to other variations of gender identity. I spent my childhood trying to be perfect for everyone around me. Coming out was just a matter of growing up. Frankly, there was no drama associated with it — I simply stopped being in.”
Griep has spent many years wrestling in the Midwest Pro Wrestling circuit under the pseudonym Tommy “the SpiderBaby” Saturday, and was the first professional wrestler to come out. And not only did Griep come out publicly, but so did his wrestling counterpart.
During his teenage years, when Griep was much conflicted about his sexuality, he wished he’d had an openly gay pro-wrestler role model. “The great irony is that several of them were, but I didn’t know about it,” Griep said. “As corny as it might sound, I hope professional wrestling benefits from what I’m doing. If I’m completely honest, I’m most proud of the SpiderBaby as an aesthetic statement, a character who’s allowed to be overtly gay while all previous gay characters, from Gorgeous George to Billy & Chuck, have only been tacitly so, their flamboyance notwithstanding. Further, the SpiderBaby’s homosexuality is only a small part of who he is — he isn’t defined by it, as all other gay rasslin’ characters have been. At the risk of sounding self-important, I hope that complex characters like the SpiderBaby make sports entertainment stronger and bring in new fans.”
Griep remembers vividly the impact picking up a reprint of DC Comics’ “Showcase #55” had on his nine year-old self. “This is the coolest feeling I have ever had in all of my nine years,” the young Griep thought. He knew then and there that he wanted to “shape people’s emotions through words,” especially in the comics medium.
Over the course of his comics career, Griep has put his stamp on such familiar characters as Batman, Superman and Scooby-Doo, and the writer attributes this success in the comics industry to “good, old-fashioned pavement-pounding.”
“I bugged smaller publishers at comic book conventions, then sent what was published to every single DC editor every single time during the 1990s,” Griep said. “Eventually, people started reading the crazy person’s stuff and found that he was as good as he claimed to be.”
Griep is a member of the Advisory Board and a frequent contributor to Prism Comics, a non-profit organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered comics, creators, and readers. “Prism Comics started out pretty humbly: just a handful of gay fanboys posting on the Internet,” Griep said. “Shortly after they formed, I heard about them and offered my support. Since then, I’ve ever been involved in some capacity and extremely proud to be so. Currently, I’m on the advisory board, and I contribute regularly to ‘Queer Eye on Comics,’ a weekly comedy feature. I also donate some pieces of writing to the annual convention guides. The 2007 version just, ahem, came out, and it’s incredible.
“Prism Comics deserves some other credit that they never get. Yeah, they increase the positive visibility of GLBT comics fans and professionals, but, perhaps more importantly, they increase the positive visibility of comics, period — something our industry desperately needs.” Despite the fact that both comics and wrestling have been traditionally heterosexually dominated ventures, Griep’s sexuality –like the SpiderBaby’s– is just one facet of his life, and has never provided him any hurdles to overcome. “It’s irrelevant,” Griep stated. “When I started wrestling professionally as an on-the-record gay male, ‘Out’ magazine indicated some interest. The photographer who did the shoot was absolutely crestfallen that I hadn’t been beaten up in the locker room or the parking lot by a gaggle of flannel-wearing haters.”
Despite his longtime comics fandom, Griep never consciously modeled his wrestling character after Marvel’s friendly neighborhood webhead. “Spider-Man’s a good guy replete with misplaced doubt, while the SpiderBaby’s a heel replete with misplaced arrogance,” Griep explained. “I design all of my in-ring gear myself, and my favorite outfit reminds a lot of fans of Venom. Hmm… a writer turning evil, corrupted by his formfitting costume. Maybe Venom has been a subconscious influence all along.”
Scottish-born writer Mark Millar, like many of his British compatriots, cut his teeth in comics by writing for “2000 A.D.,” the UK’s premier science fiction anthology. These days, Millar is a household name in comics circles, lending his talents to such high profile projects as Marvel’s “Civil War.” But when he was still relatively new to the UK comics scene, Millar had the unenviable task of following fellow Brit Warren Ellis on WildStorm’s “The Authority.” The ensemble cast included Apollo and Midnighter, a gay couple who bear more than a passing resemblance to Superman and Batman, respectively. While the characters’ sexuality wasn’t exactly thinly veiled during Ellis’ run, it wasn’t stated outright until Millar took over the title.
“I think when Warren created [Apollo and Midnighter], he handled them very subtly and that was probably smarter, given it was still very unusual at that time,” Millar told CBR News. “Looking back, however, it’s almost hard to imagine any kind of controversy in a world where Kim Possible pal Ron Stoppable is very clearly gay. Summer 2000 seems so long ago now it’s almost another country. The changes made to ‘Authority’ were just because it was relatively new whereas now WildStorm books in particular can get away with much more adult or more unusual material. It’s almost quaint when you look back at what we thought was daring six years ago and interesting how quickly it all becomes mainstream.”
|Midnighter and Apollo|
Alan Moore once invoked Apollo and Midnighter as an example of mainstream comics’ “strange attitude” towards homosexuality. “I can remember that there was one superhero book that had a pair of Batman/Superman clones, and it was hinted that they were gay lovers,” Moore said. “And it was a very strange picture of gay men. They were both essentially kind of vicious, muscle queens.
“And I know that it was promised that there was going to be a kiss between these characters, and that this was a huge breakthrough for comics,” Moore continued. “And I remember that apparently when this kiss finally happened in the promised issue, it was during an overhead scene of a party, and it was basically ‘Where’s Wally’s Gay Kiss?’ It was a tiny little detail in the bottom of a crowded panel.”
Millar confirmed the staging of that particular panel was in fact a conscious decision. “It would have been ridiculous to have a double-page spread where we get the big gay kiss,” Millar said. “It would have sensationalized something we had as just a normal part of the story. We didn’t want to do the Northstar thing with him yelling, ‘For I am gay!’ surrounded by Kirby dots or whatever. We just wanted to make this natural and no big deal. It was just a part of the background, as it should have been. The minute the book becomes about their gay kiss as opposed to, say, fighting clones of the Avengers is the moment you lose your narrative.”
Come back tomorrow to hear from creators Allan Heinberg, Scott Lobdell, Alan Moore and Greg Rucka when CBR News presents “Homosexuality in Comics” part II.