Is it just me, or is this the summer of comics stories with semi-creepy slightly homophobic subtexts? Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the stories about DC’s new Batwoman, the thrust of the movie Superman’s story and the character’s ongoing appeal, the controversy over sexualized kid-lit characters in Lost Girls and questions about the shelving of certain kinds of manga all have kind of unspoken, little-articulated darker sides, including but not limited to accusations of ruining “pure” creations for the sake of some abstract idea of political correctness, the notion that gay creators are out of control and unable to make art from a hetero point of view, the noxious and false notion that pedophilia is a mostly gay phenomenon, and that objections to depictions of sexuality are more justified if the sexuality in question is same-sex… I could just be paranoid, I don’t know, or I could be picking up on the inarticulate way all of us, including me, tend to talk about such material. It just seems to me that there’s a lot of agenda-making and masked dialogue going on here, and maybe it’s just more apparent in comics because the conservative nature usually on display in the funnybook world tends to be Warren G. Harding old.
Tom isn’t alone in this feeling. Shannon Garrity:
I’ve noticed this subtext, too, especially as regards gay issues. I think it stems from the still-common underlying assumptions that a) comic books are for children, and b) homosexuality doesn’t belong in children’s entertainment, no matter what the context… Coverage of manga often dabbles in both homophobia and cultural jingoism, with the underlying message that of course you can’t trust those freaky foreign types not to fill your children’s innocent American heads with gay smut. This is, of course, entirely true, but I’m all for gay smut.
I don’t think you’re being paranoid, either, though as a gay creator I admit to being so used to that kind of thing that it just sort of whizzes past. I don’t think it’s a culture war so much as the status quo; bubbles of tolerance aside, America’s not really that down with queer folks. I don’t know that comics industry coverage is particularly worse than anything else in that regard; I remember plenty of moral panic coverage around the time BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was coming out, as well as some vaguely patronizing stuff around THE SOPRANOS gay mobster storyline this season… Be that as it may, I do think it’s only fair to note that Alison Bechdel’s FUN HOME is probably the most favorably reviewed graphic novel of the year.