It has been a few months since the younger time displaced version of Bobby Drake/ Iceman was outed in the pages of All New X-Men. The resulting controversy is notable not so much for the fact that Iceman is gay (even though there was and is some of that) but the handling of Iceman’s outing. I wrote about this issue briefly in my last post, but I’ve decided to expand on some points. The important thing, though, is that I still have problems with how Iceman’s outing was handled.
There are two main problems at the moment regarding Bobby Drake’s outing (besides Jean Grey’s involvement): One, the lack of a parallel narrative regarding the elder Iceman. Two, the abruptness of the younger Iceman’s outing.
It is important to remember that LGBT people come out at every age. (Having come out at seventeen, it is something I myself often forget. See my issue with Mark Matthews’s coming out in Coming Out on Top for an example). Iceman comes from (if my memory is right) a very conservative background. It would not be surprising that he would be closeted and in denial for a significant part of his life. This is equally true of many other gay and lesbian superheroes and supervillains who have come out like Obsidian and Rictor.
Personally, I feel that the elder Iceman should start the realization process (if not the coming out process) concurrently to the younger Iceman’s journey. Yes, the elder “straight” character confronted by his “younger” gay self is an interesting story. But it is also fraught with narrative danger. Especially given the general abruptness of the storyline.
Again, Iceman’s outing should either have been foreshadowed or explored in more depth as a subplot. This is one of the biggest frustrations when it comes to LGBT characters in comics. Creators who genuinely want to diversify their casts tend to out with little buildup or fall out. Characters come out. They don’t start the realization process or build the courage to accept themselves and come out. LGBT characters also rarely get to be explored after acceptance when the weight of the closet has been lifted.
The abruptness of declaring or outing a character as gay with little buildup or fall out leads, I think, to a general trend of pushing LGBT characters to the background. Has Bendis done anything interesting with Benjamin Deeds yet? Has Anole been featured more besides a recent oneshot? Has Striker appeared recently? (I could also ask where the hell the Young Avengers are).
Maybe I’m being too harsh here, I can admit that. Perhaps the push to the background has more to do with which characters the creative teams wish to work with. Maybe no one wants to work with those characters? Maybe in the future a creative team will? (Thinking back to my own Teen Titans idea, I would have favored Gear pretty hard. And I would have raged if I had to use Superboy or Bart Allen’s Kid Flash).
Another problem may be the fact that Marvel, favoring team books, has a general problem characterizing all of the cast members in the various titles. Especially given the nature of contemporary comic book writing.
Regardless, it is ultimately the choice of the creative team to decide who they write about. The buck stops with them and the editors.
I just hope Iceman’s story doesn’t fall to the background. Given the events of All New X-Men 41, I don’t hold out much hope.
It has been a while since I blogged. I should probably update. Many of the updates in this post should have their own, larger, posts, but I’m watching my nephew and step niece at the moment.
Avoiding the Puppies
I wish I could say that I have not near obsessively followed the latest fight of the recurrent plague that afflicts science fiction and fantasy fandom. But I have managed to keep my fingers from writing anything about it. Too many pixels have already been wasted on this seemingly never ending fight.
The only thing I will say is that I am wasting my time on this. I should be writing.
That is all.
Late to Iceman’s Coming Out Party
A few months back, the younger version of Iceman from All New X-Men was dragged out of the closet by Marvel Girl. The revelation did not come without controversy. Thankfully, the majority of the blowback originated from criticism of how the story played out, rather than the revelation that Iceman is gay.
It has taken me quite a while to get around to reading the issue at hand. I follow All New X-Men through the trades as provided by my local library. So, I’m way behind.
Personally, I think Iceman’s outing could have been handled better. It needed foreshadowing. It needed build up. And it needs to go somewhere. Not at the end of a run with the future of the character (not to say the least about the X-Men as a whole) uncertain to say the least.
What I want to know is: what has happened to Benjamin Deeds since his coming out? Anything?
This is one of my problems with LGBT characters in comics. What happens after coming out? Do the characters continue to be interesting or do they fade to the background while other, straighter, characters get more attention?
What has happened to Benjamin Deeds, Anole, Striker, and all the others?
I’ll stop myself now before I go into a full blown rant. But I should return to this issue again, soon.
Primary World Epic Fantasy?
I want to write an epic fantasy set in the real world. I have two options for this: an expansion of my magic project and a return to my superhero project.
Expanding the magic project should not be difficult. I already have a good idea of how I’m going to do it.
My only problem is that I don’t want to create a “real” magical tradition and force all magic into that provincial box. I want to use as many traditions as possible. Which means I’m going to have to do a lot of research in order not to fuck up.
As for the superhero project, I want to write it. I just don’t know what I want to write. I’m not happy with my original plan. But I am, actually, fond of what my Teen Titans idea could lead to.
World Building Modern Fantasies
As much as I want to write a primary world epic fantasy, I also want to write an epic fantasy set in a more modern secondary world. I like ancient history a lot. Indeed, my portal fantasy is set on a more “ancient” inspired world. But I prefer modern history far more (when I wanted to be an English professor, I intended to focus on modern and postmodern literature). So it goes as no surprise that I want to write fantasies inspired by the times I love. Now what ideas do I have. . .
This is it for now. But I’m going to try and post more regularly.
Over at Mythic Scribes, Marc Davies has an essay up looking at the relative absence of GLBT characters in science fiction and fantasy compared to other genres. This post will echo and contrast with the argument and sentiments of that essay.
As a gay man (and as I’ve repeated a few times on this blog), I want characters with a GLBT orientation. And obviously, I’m not alone. There is a demand for a wider array of protagonists and supporting characters, not just GLBT.
So, what is my take on Davies’s essay? I largely agree with him, to an extent. The presence of GLBT characters in science fiction and fantasy is abysmally low. But, I think it is getting better. And I don’t think the situation is as bad as Davies’s argument makes it seem.
On television, I agree with him 100%. Besides Stargate Universe, Battlestar Galactica, Xena, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I cannot think of other science fiction and fantasy series that include GLBT characters. Ditto on movies.
Comics books are increasingly more inclusive. Both Marvel and DC are actively engaged in increasing the diversity of their characters. Have they both faced push back? Yes, but kudos to both companies (and their creative teams) for sticking to a commitment to diversity. Could they do better, yes. And I expect they will do better in the future.
With video games, I’ve read that there is strong homophobia in the gamer community. But those games that actively seek to add GLBT characters and include gay options should be applauded. Games like Dragon Age, Fable, etc. I wish I had more to say on this topic, but I’m not much of a gamer, honestly.
Now, on to books. Davies mentions two relatively recent novels as examples of GLBT inclusion: Iron Council and The Steel Remains. While these two novels have unambiguous gay male protagonists, there are several other novels and short stories that feature GLBT protagonists and secondary characters. And some of them are even decades old.
Finding and reading these works forms the challenge. Tanith Lee’s Tales of the Flat Earth have several bisexual male characters as protagonists. Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed has a gay character and The Left Hand of Darkness speaks for itself. Samuel R. Delaney has numerous GLBT characters peppered throughout his work. And there is Hal Duncan among many others.
Still, I do think there could be more GLBT characters out there. Especially in YA.
Now, I do have some strong disagreements with Davies’s essay. For one thing, his characterization of “gayness” is, unfortunately, stereotyped. Especially given that neither Cutter or Gil fit that stereotype.
This led, to my second major disagreement with his essay. Yes, fantasy is usually inspired by the medieval period in Europe. But fantasy does not have to blindly follow Earth’s history. Like Paul Cornell has said in a few interviews I’ve listened to, adding GLBT characters is the choice of the author not the inspiration.
Personally, I think representation is getting better. But more can and should be done. Perhaps my strongest area of agreement with Davies’s essay is his argument that art, in all forms, should challenge the beliefs and sentiments of the reader. Art entertains, yes, but it also does so much more.
I’m a lapsed comic book fan who has recently gotten back into comic book reading. In an earlier post, I described myself as a DC fanboy who wants to branch out into smaller publishers and creator owned titles. And I don’t know why I’m not enthusiastic about Marvel. I’ll aim to follow those two threads in another post or two on comics in the near future. What I want to discuss here is how I choose what comics I want to read.
Generally, fans of the Big Two (Marvel and DC) come in (roughly) permutations of two broad categories. Readers in the first category (and likely the most prevalent) are those who follow specific titles and characters. Readers of the second category are those who follow specific creators and creative teams. Now, the key to this formulation lies in permutations. Some readers start out being more character or title centric, but become fans of a specific creator or team and decide to follow their concurrent and subsequent work. And there are many other possible permutations (which can be left alone for now).
I describe myself as a mixture of the two. During my first period of heavy comic book reading, I was strongly character and title driven. Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Catwoman, Robin (Tim Drake), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), etc. are some of the titles I followed as a kid, creative team unimportant. Flash forward a few years. I’m now increasingly more a creator centric reader rather than a character/ title centric reader. Although the character/ title does still influence what I want to read.
Of the titles I’m following, the two that most align to focusing on character and title are Teen Titans and Stormwatch. The rest of what I follow are mostly geared towards creative teams. In fact, increasingly whether I like the creative team trumps whether or not I am “devoted” to the title or characters.
Being a gay comic book fan (I won’t describe myself as a geek) adds an interesting complication to things. Yes, part of the reason why I picked up Teen Titans and Stormwatch is because of the inclusion of gay heroes. While I am generally interested in the Teen Titans (and Tim Drake), Bunker did play a role in my picking it up. And of course, Stormwatch is notable for having two of the premier gay superheroes in Apollo and the Midnighter. Now, some could consider my picking up Earth 2 as being similarly influenced by Alan Scott’s sexuality. But at the time I picked up Earth 2 #1, I was under the impression that the new gay hero would appear in Geoff Johns’s Justice League! I picked up Earth 2 because I’m a fan of James Robinson.
There is, to a degree, a sort of politics that goes along with following the adventures of gay heroes. It is important to let the major publishers know that diversity is a good thing and encourage further inclusion. I want to read about the adventures of gay heroes. And hell, what about some gay villains, too?
But, this does not mean that I’m going to follow a series with gay characters if I don’t think it is any good. A good example is Stormwatch. Paul Cornell’s initial run is a great read and introduction to the characters. I hate to admit that I missed issues 7 and 8, and I’ve read issues 9 and 10. Right now, I’m not loving Peter Milligan’s run on the series. It seems to be a series of scattered oneshots and character pieces that don’t really go anywhere. Of all the titles I’m following, it is likely that Stormwatch will be the first I drop. Unless something changes.
Now, a few years ago, I was really into Young Avengers. Personally, I think it is a shame how badly mishandled the series was. Once Heinberg left Marvel after the first 12 issues, another creative team should have taken over the book. The occasional miniseries that come out in regards to various Events did the property no favors, in my opinion. Marvel should not have waited for Heinberg to finish out the concept with Children’s Crusade. It should have been a monthly ongoing. Now, fans of the team and its members will have to hope that other writes will release them from the Limbo of Forgotten Characters.
How fans choose to approach reading and collecting comics is an important one. And it is important to understand the reasons behind making conscious selections. Making the right choices can alleviate the frustrations that go along with being comic book fans.
As a gay comic book fan, I think it is important to include glbt characters in a number of roles. As I said earlier, I want to read about gay heroes and villains. But comic book shopping decisions must not be based solely on limited criteria.
I had intended this post to explore my love for Fairy Tail, but I decided to wait until I read volume 19. So, it could be a while. Instead, I have a potpourri post up tackling some issues that have been bugging me over the past week or so. Let’s begin with:
I’m dejected right now. Seriously, should I even bother to vote? Yeah, I could just vote for President Obama and the democratic senate nominee then ignore the rest of the ballot. But still, this is depressing.
What I find so distressing is the real weakness of the Texas Democratic Party in my area. I’ve checked and no Democrat is running for our congressional seat, or state house seat, or seat on the state board of education. Who am I to vote for, the Libertarian candidate if he/ she is less egregious than the Republican candidate?
Well, I guess that is what you get for having a one party state…
Next topic is . . .
Current Children’s Cartoons
This is an example of me putting my foot in my mouth. I had, for years, believed that PBS’s children’s shows were the best. But having watched many cartoons geared at children with my niece, I have come to the conclusion that I am wrong.
Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Go!, Ni Hao, Kai-lan, Pocoyo, Yo Gabba Gabba, etc. are all very good. And they’re all on Nick. That’s not to say that PBS’s offerings are any worse than I remember. But, PBS is not the only show in town anymore when it comes to excellent and educational children’s programming.
It is always nice to be proven wrong.
Moving on to . . .
Comics of two subjects
The rumors are true, Alan Scott is revealed to be gay in Earth 2 #2. Personally, I love this development. Reading James Robinson’s interview about his processes in making the decision is highly informative and, I think, paints DC in a much better light than a number of fans seem willing to grant. Unlike Northstar’s wedding next month, DC had not intention of announcing it. Dan Didio answered a question at a convention. The media (both comic and not) took it from there.
Despite the fact that gay and lesbian characters are becoming more common in all sorts of media, the inclusion and introduction of gay characters still draws media attention, however the company approaches the issue.
One aspect of this whole event is how much it reveals about the relative ignorance of how the creation of a comic book actually works. Robinson has been planning this book for at least eight months. And the same is true of Marjorie Liu’s run on Astonishing X-Men. Comic books are not produced on the fly. It takes months of planning, editorial input, rewrites, artwork, etc. to produce a final product.
Speaking of writing, I’m wondering if one of the problems with global manga may be issues of writing. Whenever I read articles on creating global manga, I mostly see it discussed almost exclusively in terms of art rather than writing.It is important to remember that sequential art tells a story. And that story requires some form of writing. To be a successful manga artist, one needs both excellent art skills and strong writing skills.
But regardless of my own feelings on the matter, I look forward to Deb Aoki’s look at ways to correct the sorry state of American manga.
Now finally. . .
As I have stated before, it is important for writers in this day and age to be willing to produce works in multiple formats. From novels and short stories to video games, comics, movies, etc all should be on the table at least in the contemplative stages. Now, some of these formats are harder to break into than others and all have their own intricacies when it comes time to shop your ideas and work around. And, at the end of the day, you may find yourself preferring one or two formats rather exclusively. The key thing is, I think, to explore one’s options to the fullest.
And this is true of how one publishes. I’ve gone on record that I prefer a more traditional approach to publishing, but I also think that all writers need to be aware of what e-publishing offers. Personally, I would feel like a hypocrite if I rooted exclusively for self e-publishing. How can I write about this subject when I don’t have an e-reader?
Anyway, that’s it for my 200th post. I’ll try to get a few more posts up later this weekend.
After my post on Tim Drake last night, I felt the need to update with the news coming out of DC that a long established, previously straight character will be coming out as gay in the DCNU.
I forgot to mention that DC has a new continuity, so who knows what is still canon and what no longer happened. So in a lot of ways, this opens the door for new story telling possibilities in regards to race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, etc.
Now, speculation is rampant over who the new gay character is. DC is rightly coy about it. But, there are some hints floating around. The character is prominent but may not have had a presence since the reboot. It is also intimated that he or she will be involved with a major Justice League arc in the coming months.
Like other GLBT comics fans, I’m excited about which character is coming out. I can’t wait. But, I’m not going to waste my time speculating who it is until it is announced.
Now, on to the next topic.
Howl’s Moving Castle (Novel and Anime)
I’ve recently watched and read the two versions of Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle. The anime film by Hayao Miyazaki is loosely based on Jones’s novel. As I read the novel, I could not help but compare the two versions. And I think, contrary to popular assumption, that the anime is better than the book. Why? One word: Wales.
That Howl (Howell Jenkins) and Suliman (Ben Sullivan) are both natives of Wales (and from the lateish twentieth century to boot) living in a fictional fantasy world (Ingary) where both are highly accomplished wizards. This bugs me to no end. If the parts dealing with Wales are cut, the novel would not be hampered in any way. As it stands, Wales (our world) makes an unwelcome intrusion into a fantasy story. It does not make the story any better that I can see. All it does, honestly, is allow for some playing around with Oz and Narnia.
Taking Wales out, I’m not sure which version I prefer. I think I would still go with the Miyazaki adaptation. I like that Howl is a rogue in the novel, a coward and dissolute. But, I much prefer the more heroic depiction of him from the anime.
In the end, both works are good. But I think the anime, with its themes of pacifism, war, rebellion against power, etc. is a more enjoyable work on the whole. Jones is, however, a very good and enjoyable writer.
Making Tim Drake Gay
I’ve been meaning to get to this. A week ago, Comics Alliance had an article listing ten already existing comic book characters who could conceivably be “outed” as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The argument is that these (and other) extant characters have been around for years (and will continue to be so) while newly created/ introduced characters are more likely to be exiled to comic book limbo after a while.
I see the point that Tim Drake (Robin/ Red Robin) has a stature and history greater than that of his new teammate on the Teen Titans, Bunker. And for that matter, Drake does have a higher status than Wiccan and Hulkling (who may be in the process of being sent to comic book limbo after The Children’s Crusade, though I hope not). So, outing Tim Drake (or any of the other characters on the list) makes some sense.
But some of the characters on the list really don’t make much sense. Gambit? Captain America?
As a gay man who grew up with Tim Drake as Robin, I would be thrilled if a writer and editor made the decision to out him. For me, fictional characters’ sexualities are by nature fluid. They are at the discretion of the writer. Making a character gay, straight, bi, or asexual is the choice of the writer.
Now, this brings me to reasons to argue that Tim Drake can be read as gay. GayComicGeek on Youtube has a pretty good video on this. While these reasons could help in a hypothetical coming out story (as happened with Rictor and Shatterstar), they can also be explained in other ways. That a straight man chooses to not have sex with his girlfriend or a willing girl does not equal gay. That Tim is far more affected by Superboy’s death than by his longtime girlfriend’s does not mean he is gay. There has been critical attention paid to these types of relationships (Sedgwick and Clum). And while they can be interpreted as homosocial and homoerotic, it does not necessarily make either character homosexual (nor does it preclude it).
Could Tim Drake ever conceivably come out as gay or bisexual (or even asexual)? The consensus seems to be no. Most readers do not see DC outing a major character of Tim’s status. I’m not so sure. I want to give the editors more credit than that. If he were to come out, I would be overjoyed. But if he continues to be confirmed heterosexual, then I have no problem with it.
Either with established characters or with newly created ones, the numbers of glbt comic book characters are growing, slowly but steadily. These characters, whoever they are, give glbt comic book readers characters to look up to, to read about, maybe to even identify with.