From a young age, I knew I was different. I was picked on, teased and beaten up. I thought it was just a phase I'd outgrow. Unfortunately, as I got older, the feelings grew stronger. I understood things better now and as junior high and high school approached, I knew that I'd have to hide my feelings.
I'd pretend that I was only joking about what I liked. Or I'd hide things before I had friends over. At one point I'd gotten married, and as necessity deemed, I turned a blind eye to it for a while. After our divorce a decade later, all bets were off. There was no reason to hide it anymore. I was going to start chasing the things I'd always wanted and not be ashamed of what it meant. I found on the internet and through some fortunate chance meetings that I wasn't alone. There were millions just like me.
I'm a comic geek. And I'm proud!
You may have thought that was leading to me talking about my bisexuality or even my engagement with my boyfriend. Nope. That's a totally different ball of wax. But as you can see, growing up geek and growing up LGBT oftentimes have a lot in common. So for those of you who are unfamiliar with comics (or maybe you haven't picked one up in years), let me try to guide you as best I can.
I want you to picture in your mind what a comic book looks like. Most of you out there are probably imagining something campy and colorful – Superman whizzing through the air or maybe the X-Men exploding onto the scene. Some of you may think of Archie comics, all bright and wistful with corny jokes. More than a few of you may even be imagining throngs of the undead in packs, literally a mile wide, tearing through fields in search of human meat. Well, that's okay too.
See, comics are a medium that can encompass literally anything and everything when it comes to the story. Some of the best movies and shows were comic books first, and as The Walking Dead shows, this isn't just kid's stuff anymore. If you haven't gotten the chance to pick up a comic (or graphic novel, should you prefer the term), it's as simple as dropping in on your local comic shop. You can find one easily enough just by going to http://www.comicshoplocator.com/ or using the phone book. If brick and mortar stores aren't your thing, also not a problem. You can download apps like Comixology and read them on the go on your Smartphone or tablet.
But for now, let's narrow our discussions to super hero comics and how they pertain to LGBT issues. Unfortunately, comics were not always so friendly towards the LGBT crowd. In fact, in 1954 a German-American psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham published the now infamous book "Seduction of the Innocent". In this book, Wertham proposed that comic books led children to "deviant lifestyles" amongst many other allegations. His arguments stemmed from things like Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson living together as a millionaire playboy and his ward, eschewing female contact altogether and even in some cases, waking up next to each other in bed. This created an uproar that resulted in comic book burnings and the creation of the stifling Comics Code Authority. The CCA placed restrictions on any stories with homosexual themes or characters until 1989.
Since then, comics have become more and more LGBT friendly, but like most media, is in its awkward phase of acceptance. Much like kung fu and blaxploitation films of the 1970's, LGBT characters have often been explored and exploited throughout comics' history. Whether as a joke or as an honest to goodness attempt that fell short, the stinging of Northstar's ham-fisted dialogue in Alpha Flight #102 when he came out, was awful.
Also we can't forget the terrible Rawhide Kid Slap Leather series that was released in 2003. An entire five issue run dedicated to gay jokes under Marvel's MAX imprint (an imprint usually reserved for adult themes like strong language, sexual themes and gory violence – whereas this series really didn't have much, if any of that at all). Also the sensationalist bit that most studios went through when it was as if they came together one day and had a meeting, ultimately deciding that lesbians and bisexuals (as long as they were women) were hot.
Still, many strong and amazing LGBT characters have arisen in recent years that should be mentioned. Take a look at these guys and gals. You might find your new favorite character.
Apollo and Midnighter (The Authority / Stormwatch):
Though originally intended as analogues for Superman and Batman with a gay relationship twist, Apollo and Midnighter quickly came into their own in the pages of Warren Ellis' The Authority. Tastefully written (depending on the writer, there have been a few) and serious powerhouses in their own right, these two throw the corny and outdated idea of the effete gay man right out the window… and through five interplanetary warships.
The current incarnation of Kate Kane made waves when she first launched in DC's 52 storyline, and she's only gotten better with time. Her romance with Renee Montoya (who would later take on the mantle of The Question) was certainly a highlight. DC's subsequent reboot, The New 52 gave Batwoman her own series that only served to add depth to her character. Now if DC would only rescind their "no marriage" policy, maybe Batwoman and Maggie Sawyer could finally get married!
First appearing in Watchmen as a very interesting character (his "35 minutes ago" line is classic), there was originally a lot of speculation about Ozymandias. Until DC's Before Watchmen mini-series revealed the truth about his bisexuality. Whether you see him as a villain or a hero, one can't deny that the character is amazing.
Lord Fanny (The Invisibles):
Lord Fanny is a transwoman and easily one of my favorites. Her story and dialogue are over the top, but it fits in perfectly with the story of The Invisibles as a whole. Some of my favorite moments in the series are of her and include choice bits of NSFW language / actions, but rarely do we see a character in comics so up-front, honest, and in-your-face. Also? Her powers and abilities make her one of the most amazing in the book. Sadly, I can't divulge too much without giving spoilers. Trust me when I say that The Invisibles should be required reading for any comic fan over 20, and with all the Easter eggs, you may want to read it AT LEAST twice.
Mikaal Tomas (Starman):
James Robinson is easily one of my favorite comic writers ever, and just picking up this series, you'll see why. It's wordy, yes, but Tony Harris' art is top-notch and you'll be sucked in before you know it. I often recommend this series to older, more mature readers. Not because of content like language or violence, but to really get the gut punch that this series delivers, you've got to be able to appreciate concepts like nostalgia and legacy. Mikaal was a throwaway character created by DC decades ago, but in this series, he's one of several people to carry the mantle of Starman. The fact that he's gay comes out so matter-of-factly and without any pomp and circumstance that it's easily my favorite coming-out in comics. No one blinks, no one minds. He's gay and yet his character isn't defined by it. And in the end, isn't that how all of us want to be seen?
Questions? Comments? Something to add? Add fuel to the discussion below.