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Hero's List

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Ok, before this gets started, I know this can be a delicate subject. I have my fingers crossed that it can avoid the dreaded thread lock. Please do not feed the trolls.

 

While cruising around internetland and I came across the book, Hero, about a gay teen superhero. When I looked up the author's website I found this list attached to the book. Talking about how homosexuality is addressed in comic books, it includes both mainstream and independent titles.

 

So here we go. What are your thoughts on the list? Has anyone had to address this topic in their games before?

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Re: Hero's List

 

KARMA

Lesbian member of Marvel’s New Mutants. Raped as a girl by Thai pirates. Possessed by villain The Shadow King. Kidnapped and disfigured. Reappeared as grossly obese, too fat to move on her own.

 

I remember this storyline, but not perfectly, so bear with me. She did recover from this, when the New Mutants were taken to Asgard (something to do with Loki's scheme to make Storm a Thunder God under his command); Karma got seperated from the others, and deposited in a vast desert with no help in sight. Figuring she had no chance of survival, she lay down to die, and then was found by a little girl. Realizing she couldn't let her die along with herself, Karma struggled to survive; the only food source available were lizards, which she possessed with her own mutant ability, then killed. Over several months of this diet she eventually shed every excess pound, becoming as slender as she was before. But as it turned out, the little girl she was fighting to save was some sort of spirit.

 

Perhaps someone who remembers the story better can fill in the details--my point is that I don't believe Karma was being "punished" for being gay, anymore than Spider-Man is being punished for being straight, or male, or human, or whatever reason any of the trials he suffers through on a near-daily basis happen to him. It's just one of the myriad of unfortunate, downright nightmarish occurrences that can happen to you if you're a Marvel Comics superhero.

 

(I don't even remember Karma's sexuality being disclosed; I never read of her having a boyfriend, or a girllfriend for that matter. But it's been years since I've read anything with that character--can anyone fill me in?)

 

As for the rest of the list, I would say that while some of them are indeed regrettably stereotypical in their depictions, a number of the characters need to be taken in context of the work in which they appear. (Can any of the "heroes" in Watchmen be considered heroic? Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre, maybe, but the rest--not so much.) I don't doubt that there need to be more positive, more believable depictions of gay and lesbian characters in comics and everywhere else in the media. I think the solution to that is for there to be more gay and lesbian comic creators--not just writing for the mainstream comics, but creating their own characters and stories.

 

And there need to be much, much fewer creators like Orson Scott Card. Even zero would be too many, but we'll have to settle for that. It's difficult in any context to see his comments as anything but irredeemably bigoted. I'd check to see if he's a member of Reverend Phelps' church.

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Re: Hero's List

 

Card is Mormon.

 

The Watchmen book is a kind of historical book too though, so before I thought there were problems with the depiction of those characters, I'd be interested to know whether those characters were "appropriately" gay for the period (if that makes sense).

 

In any case, the author's main claim is that these kinds of characters "aren't allowed" in some sense, but that's a stronger claim than that they're merely underrepresented because it adds intent. I'm not sure there is any more intent in any of this than that the writers don't see a requirement of their stories that they include social messages about homosexual representation. In other words, on my view, a good story is color-blind, orientation-blind, etc. People may want to see themselves in these kinds of art forms, but I think that's a concern that will be established by the market before it's established by activism.

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I think a lot of details were left off the list. Ice being in hell sort of ignores the storyline's own commentary that it wasn't hell so much a plane where their own subconscious fears might be manifest, and one of Fire (and Guy's) fears was that Ice had somehow suffered. Heck, she then popped in another section of the series as a bad guy, but again it wasn't necessarily really Ice, or was it? It's left open a lot.

 

The comment about Living Lightning being a joke surprised me? Flatman certainly was, but while LL was indeed in "GLA: Missassembled" by Slott, he wasn't made fun of, so much as used to diss the Great Lakes Avengers. LL decides he needs to take a more public stance of his sexuality, and mistakenly believes Flatman represents the "Gay Lesbian Alliance". When he finds out otherwise, well, he can't seem to say "no thanks" fast enough :)

 

Now a lot of other characters I don't know about, but the rant's inaccuracies have me wondering what other details are being ignored just so they can be put on the list in the first place.

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I don't buy his premises.

 

Female characters in general are treated horrifically badly in comics (see Women in Refrigerators), and I don't buy that Lesbian characters are treated any worse than female characters in general. I am not saying that the lousy treatment female characters get is excusable; I am saying that the author is so focussed on his issue that he's missing some of what he's looking at.

 

Gay characters were extremely rare until the 1980s, fair enough. That follows the same trend as American popular media in general. Superhero Comics in the 50s, 60s and 70s were mainly a kids medium, and one under attack and close scrutiny by groups with what we now consider homophobic views; it's not all that surprising that they avoided sequences with Batman and Robin formally declaring themselves Life Partners.

 

I thought the gay characters in Watchmen were handled well. One was the First Hero, one was a highly respected long time hero, one died tragically as a result of the weakness her fellow heroes showed in rejecting her to avoid bad publicity related to her sexual preference.

 

In my own campaigns, there have been gay PCs and NPCs. Only one was run for camp value (by a gay player). Generally it hasn't been much of an issue.

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I remember this storyline' date=' but not perfectly, so bear with me. [/quote']

 

You basically missed the Big Snake Of Doom That Wasn't An Arakis Sand Worm, Nope that Kharma had to save the little girl from, other than that, you got everything right. She was also not known to be a lesbian at that point.

 

And as has been pointed out, what happened to Kharma wasn't all that different to what had happened to any randomly chosen X-Character...

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It's just one of the myriad of unfortunate' date=' downright nightmarish occurrences that can happen to you if you're a Marvel Comics superhero. [/quote']

I think this is the key point. The odds of being a decent, happy, well-adjusted superhero and living a happy life are extremely slim. The odds of being murdered by a teammate and coming back as a villainous zombie are substantially higher.

 

Childhood traumas (like being molested by Daddy) are so commonplace as to be cliche.

 

This list cites examples that go back to 1980, if not before. Heck, in 1980 I was a homophobe. Everyone I knew was also. People change. Society has changed.

 

I find it ironic that the creator of this list sees every tragic thing that happens to a gay or lesbian character as punishment for their orientation. If the characters didn't have tragic things happen to them, they would be boring and quickly fade into oblivion.

 

The author of the list believes "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" is ridiculing gays. My gay friends love it and can't get enough of it.

 

It's my (uneducated) opinion that the list is junk, and I don't care enough to spend the time to form an educated opinion on the matter.

 

 

Has anyone had to address this topic in their games before?

In my game: Sex (of any orientation) is assumed to occur behind closed doors. It really has not been an issue. I've had straight/gay/bi players, and they've had straight/gay/bi/asexual characters.

 

Villains never announce their orientation, and the heroes never take the time to ask.

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Villains never announce their orientation, and the heroes never take the time to ask.

 

Mostly the same in my games.

 

Except for Butch Beefbrick, Master of the Manly Men!

 

Gay as a Christmas Tree, that one, and with even more glitter.

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That's the most ludicrously one-sided list I've ever seen, and factually wrong at least a dozen times. Comic book portrayals of minorities in general certainly have a lot to answer for historically, but wild claims like this don't help the cause. dw

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I lost count of the number of things factually wrong in that list. Like Darren says, comics have a long way to go, but making up a bunch of BS to support your political point does just the opposite.

 

"Oh no! They made a Wolverine Hallowe'en costume for kids, those dirty homophobes!" :confused:

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Speaking as a gay guy myself, I have to agree with most of the posters here - though reading that list all the way through was starting to get to me in aggregate.

 

Gays didn't really start appearing in comics until we were pretty much into the Iron Age, when truly horrific things started happening to everyone, and depictions of corrupt "heroes" were popular. I missed most of the storylines he lists (not entirely unrelated to the last sentence), so I don't know the context a lot of this stuff happened in. Didn't even know a lot of these characters were gay! But bad stuff happens to all supers.

 

I agree with OddHat's take on the Watchmen, and I thought the guys in Young Avengers were done well. Northstar was always pretty much a jerk; I'd tend to believe his character was unpopular because of that more than because of his mostly closeted (as far as I read) sexuality. The astrally projecting gay guy killed by Wolvesbane was totally an accident, IIRC, and had nothing to do with him being gay.

 

There's contention online that Zach on NBC's Heroes was nixed because the actor (or possibly his agent) didn't want to play a gay character - possibly because of another role the actor was hoping to get. It might or might not have had anything to do with the show's creators or higher-ups, and it might just have been that the actor couldn't do both roles at once, and took the more lucrative one. There's a thread about it over on NGD somewhere.

 

I wouldn't expect to see many positive portrayals of homosexuality in villains because, well, they're the villains (though it could be done, and might be neat to see).

 

I'd never even heard of Freedom Ring, but with a name like that, I suspect the character wasn't popular because no one really likes characters who blatantly only exist to promote an agenda, however palatable the agenda. Wouldn't you be leery about a hero named Black Pride? Or the heroic, self-sacrificing exploits of Diversity Man? No one likes being preached to.

 

Okay, point is, I think the author of the list is reaching too hard. He's definitely describing some of that stuff from a skewed perspective based on what I've read, which makes me suspicious of the stuff that I haven't read.

 

On the other hand, some of the list is disturbing - the Bruce Banner in the YMCA thing, for instance, and the sheer number of weak or comedic examples. I don't doubt that some creators are grinding some pretty ugly axes, and some are apparently just laughably misinformed (Electro needed to find a shapeshifting prostitute? Has he been to NYC?). If someone were to argue that character deaths are proportionate with character popularity, and that openly gay characters tend not to be as popular, I wouldn't really disagree. But I don't see any conspiracy in it at this point. I've got pretty much the same attitude about the Women in Refrigerators list, actually. Disturbing in aggregate, but I'd like to see someone do a similar list for straight white males some day.

 

As another poster said, things are changing. I've lived long enough to appreciate just how much has changed for the better, faster than I ever would have believed. Support it. If you're not a comics writer, support it with your dollar, and maybe write some letters when you see something you dislike, and remember to write supportive letters when you see something you do like.

 

Edit: I'd normally be interested in his book Hero - I'm always up for novels about superheroes, and the gay protagonist would just be icing on the cake. But that list doesn't inspire confidence in the writer.

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I think that the writer of that piece has let his imagination run away with him. Perhaps he has read "Seduction Of The Innocent" one too many times ! "Madam Fatal" might be a cross dresser (man disguised as an old lady to lure muggers) but this is the first time i've seen the character alluded to as gay !:eek:

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Northstar. As noted before, he was a jerk from the very begining when Alpha Flight was just starting off. His gayness had nothing to do with him being a self centered twit. And all the story lines concerning him ran off from that point.

 

Monsieur Mallah and the Brain. I must have missed something here. I followed them from the original 60's Doom Patrol. There was a straight teacher-student-colleague vibe going then. This must be a newer interpretation, something retconned in the late 90's perhaps?

 

Machinesmith... A gay robot. Let me rethink that. A machine is gay because he/she/it likes another machine. Or is it that he/she/it is gay because the objects of affection are all male shaped machines?

 

Rawhide Kid, a retcon gone wrong. How many times has that happened?

 

Frenchi DuChamp. Was he nearly beaten to death because of the gayness, being an alcoholic or being a double amputee. Or any 2 out of 3. Or is his gayness the reason why he's also an alcoholic double amputee? Just goes to show that, with an axe to grind, anything can be twisted to your view point.

 

Mephisto. Huh? A being of godly power from a place outside of space-time is being pushed into modern western culture definitions of sexuality? The drugs must really be cutting in.

 

I wonder why he didn't allude to the Shrinking Violet / Lightning Lass lesbian relationship? Certified, just go back to reading what you want. Leave it to the small minds to mess with this.

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Monsieur Mallah and the Brain. I must have missed something here. I followed them from the original 60's Doom Patrol. There was a straight teacher-student-colleague vibe going then. This must be a newer interpretation' date=' something retconned in the late 90's perhaps?[/quote']

 

It came up in the early 90s (IIRC), during Grant Morrison's brilliant run on the Doom Patrol. It was mostly a throw-away line, but later writers picked up on it and made it a central plotpoint (the recent Teen Titans story, f'rinstance).

 

Frenchi DuChamp. Was he nearly beaten to death because of the gayness, being an alcoholic or being a double amputee. Or any 2 out of 3. Or is his gayness the reason why he's also an alcoholic double amputee? Just goes to show that, with an axe to grind, anything can be twisted to your view point.

 

He wasn't beaten because he was gay, he was beaten because a bunch of bad guys wanted Moon Knight to come out of retirement to seek vengeance. OTOH, Marc Spector reacted with visible distaste when Frenchie revealed he was gay (less at Frenchie's sexual preferences, I suspect, than at the fact that Frenchie revealed he was in love with Marc).

 

I wonder why he didn't allude to the Shrinking Violet / Lightning Lass lesbian relationship?

 

Also Officer Shauvaugh's love for Element Lad which led him/her to take a sex-change drug. This was in one of the later "5-Years Later" story arcs. I thought that was a pretty good "I sacrificed everything for love and still ended up broken hearted" story.

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Rawhide Kid' date=' a retcon gone wrong. How many times has that happened?[/quote']

 

I read parts of that series, and am convinced that whoever wrote it loathed both Westerns and homosexuals. So, of course, considering current editorial practices at the Big Two, he was the perfect choice to write a story that involved both topics.

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Put me on board with Darren and teh Bunneh.

 

Omitted or obscured:

 

(May be spoilers, so suitably covered)

 

 

Ice: Came back from the dead recently in checkmate. ALWAYS portrayed as a hugely sympathetic character, and has a HUGE fan following that doesn't care if she's gay, straight, or an asexual plant.

 

Renee Montoya: Retconned homosexual after a long established "straight" relation ship with Harvey Dent. As was Grace from the Outsiders btw...

 

Anyone on the Global Guardians: All listed as "mostly forgotten". Um...so were the straight heroes. I don't see a lot of people talking how dope Sampson was when he smote Joker with that jawbone...

 

And speaking of the Joker: Seriously, WTF?!?!

 

Ultra-Humanite: Also was an ape for the vast majority of it's life...should the furries be up in arms too?

 

Jetman: Um...did you READ Top 10?!?!

 

 

Okay, I'm done, I'm getting too pissed off to keep going. This is the most biased and slanted take on this I've ever seen. I agree that there are axes to grind and that some of the portrayals of homosexuality in comics have been fumbling and cringe-worthy, but this list is, at best, similar to the old "D&D promotes devil worship cuz theres devils in this Monster Manual thingie!!!" IE: It's mostly utter hogwash written by someone who has obviously not actually read the comics they are lambasting.

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It really isn't a far cry from how religious leaders and other figures are typically treated in comics, or most fiction for that matter (especially if you except Catholics and Jews). The list, if accurate, is definitely worse, but not by as much as one might think.

 

Still, it'd be nice to have more characters like WWTBAS' Parthenon: "I prefer to be thought of not as a gay superhero, but as a superhero who happens to be gay." The feedback I've seen here indicates that there are a few like that, but not so many.

 

And I'm speaking here as someone who's not generally a big supporter of the gay-rights agenda. (Though keep in mind, too, that I have at least two or three friends in the GLBT community.)

 

Oh, and the list omitted the Pink Flamingo, arch-nemesis of the Knight Watchman over at Big Bang Comics, whose homosexuality is alluded to frequently and with varying amounts of perverse humor depending on the time period being portrayed. (In Part 4 of the Knight Watchman mini-series he puts on a suit of powered armor and gushes, "So this is what testosterone feels like!")

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Actually, if you are looking for a gay character in the Champions Universe that I thought showed promise (Since I trust Darren and Steve aren't going to slaughter him cruelly), Hydro is a powered armor type who fits the "superhero who happens to be gay" situation.

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I looked at the list again -- the Joker is gay? Since when?

 

And he's offended by the nasty stuff that happened to Apollo and Midnighter in The Authority? Tell me please, is there any Authority character who hasn't been brutalized (even by superhero comic standards) at one point or another?

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I looked at the list again -- the Joker is gay? Since when?

 

This was dismissed in the same Flash issue where the Pied Piper came out, way back in the very early 90s.

 

He is often drawn in a rather androgenous way, however.

 

Apparently Harley Quinn is just a beard...

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Speaking of the Authority' date=' I might be misremembering, but isn't Swift a lesbian?[/quote']

 

If I was a woman in that universe, I'd be a lesbian too.

 

Except the women there are probably psychotic jerks too, which makes celibacy sound attractive. Unfortunately that would just make you a target.

 

Suicide sounds like the sexuality of choice in the Authority world. "Get me out of here."

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I wouldn't expect to see many positive portrayals of homosexuality in villains because' date=' well, they're the [i']villains[/i] (though it could be done, and might be neat to see).

 

 

Well, in the Astro City collection The Tarnished Angel, we find out that one of the 'black hats' (minor hireling supervillains) who's already been killed*, the Chain, was gay and apparently had a loving relationship with his partner.

 

Myself, I don't know why showing a villain who happens to be gay as being nasty with his/her lovers would be odd: if they're violent and narcissistic enough to become supervillains, I can't help but to thin that they'd be bad news for anyone to get involved with.

 

* -- Maybe his death could fit him onto that list, but then again, the story was about a killer bumping the black hats off.

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