There Go My (Comic Book) Heroes!

There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary
Chorus to My Hero by Foo Fighters from their 1997 album, The Color and The Shape

NEWS FLASH! Two of Marvel comics’ most masculine heroes, Hercules and Wolverine, embrace and share a…a… KISS!
“What the fuck??!!?? Say it ain’t so, RobFather!!”

Well yes, faithful reader: it’s true! The picture shown is real…but only in an ALTERNATE universe/dimension… and this scene happens in Marvel’s X-Treme X-Men issue No. 10. (See the comic book news blog Bleeding Cool for more info.) For those who don’t follow comic books or who sometimes keep tabs on their favorite comic book characters, the Hercules and Wolverine characters in this alternate universe are part of a PARALLEL dimension; DO NOT confuse them with the popular and much-loved Hercules and Wolverine of “our” universe/dimension. Fans of these popular comic book heroes can now relax. [Sighs of relief fill the room]  Oh, and you haters of anyone gay or bisexual in fiction and non-fiction literature can relax as well.  [More sighs of relief fill the room] I can already “hear” some you saying, “GAY! GAY! GAY! Everybody’s GAY!! Dammit!”  Yeah, I hear your bigotry loud and clear. You have a right to feel the way you do but remember: THIS BLOG IS A NO HATE ZONE therefore, kindly refrain from making any nasty comments here that might be perceived as hatred towards the hardworking comic book story writers and artists who simply make a living by their expression of art imitating life. Get over it and get over yourselves.
Ok! Now that the ground rule has been reaffirmed, let me continue.

In this alternate universe, both Hercules and Wolverine are bisexual men which obviously mean that while both of these men are emotional and sexually attracted to men, they also are attracted to women in the same manner. Bisexuality is simply a special blessing given by the Creator to certain people to enjoy the benefits and pleasures of both genders; nothing more, nothing less. (Click here to read my article on bisexuality). I think its fuckin’ kool that Marvel took this daring step with these particular two very masculine characters.  Doing so helps break down the public stereotype that most or all gay or bisexual men are effeminate. Nothing could be further from the truth!  You’d be surprised at how many masculine men are gay or bisexual or how many feminine women, for that matter are gay or bisexual. And by the way: whenever you meet people, try to dismiss the general assumption that every masculine man or feminine woman is “straight” or is “100 percent” heterosexual because that certainly is not the case.

Referring back to my comment about “hearing the bigotry” of haters of gay and bisexual characters in fiction, perhaps it’s best if I gave a brief history on the more-open introduction of gay and bisexual characters in mainstream comic books, not just for the haters of gay and bisexual people but for readers who aren’t at all into comic books. (See? I try to think about the needs of everyone!)

Sexuality and Comic books (1) –
First, any mention of homosexuality in mainstream United States comics was forbidden by the Comics Code Authority (CCA) from the code’s  first inception in 1954 until 1989. The Comics Code Authority was formed in 1954 by the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA), to allow the comic publishers to self-regulate the content of comic books in the U.S. It was formed as an alternative to government regulation. Consider what the country had going on at the time of the code’s inception. It was the period of the second Red Scare, a time more popularly known as McCarthyism. A lot people were scared to let their imagination, certain thoughts, feelings or expressions about sexuality and other forms of free-thinking run wild for fear of being seen as unpatriotic, lacking certain religious values and convictions and/or a Communist.  Anyway, members of the CMAA submitted comics to the CCA, which screened them for adherence to its Code, then authorized the use of their seal on the cover if the book was found to be in compliance. Nearly everyone reading this article can recall seeing that ugly black and white stamp on the upper corner of a mainstream comic book. At the height of its influence, the CCA was a de facto censor for the U.S. comic book industry. (Click here to learn more about the Comics Code Authority).

Second, with the death of the Comics Code Authority in January 2011, Marvel Comics was one of – if not the first, main comic book publishing company to lead the way in either introducing LGBT characters or revealing the sexuality of certain highly popular characters. When I say “reveal”, I mean that in reality, a part of the mythos of certain characters was modified or re-written to bring the character “up to date” (which is standard practice in general comic book writing) in order to reflect the current times.  Aside from the person who created the character (and anyone else who owns the rights to that character), I do not know who else is involved in the decision-making process of selecting exactly which character(s) is going to be homosexual, bisexual or even asexual in a series.

Finally, for decades many people just assumed that all or at least certain comic book characters were heterosexual or “straight” … just like most people in the real world tend to do regarding the sexual orientation of other real people. If most comic book readers were like me – before puberty, and later during puberty, then the sexual orientation of ANY character barely even came to mind nor did it matter much. (Ahhh, the simple innocence of just reading a comic book story without giving any regard to the ethnicity, religious, political or sexual flavoring of the characters. Those were the days!)  Anyway, during puberty many males (I can’t speak for females) tend to look for certain things sexual in their comic books. This is perfectly natural. Looking for things sexual in any form of literature doesn’t necessarily mean that guys will masturbate to those things considered sexual, especially from a comic book, although there are many guys who do. There’s no shame in that. Keep in mind that certain art work depictions of male and/or female characters and/or related storylines do tend to trigger or enhance a male’s masturbatory fantasies.
Try to remember two important things about this statement:

  • Genetically, men are wired to be sexually aroused by visual stimulation. (I’ll write more about men and masturbation in a future blog article)
  • Guys who are stimulated by a male character depiction in comic books do NOT necessarily give or imply any suggestion to the reader’s actual sexual orientation. Many males (young men in particular) look at other men in comic books, magazines on television, the movies and the internet for inspiration and motivation for understanding, building and shaping their own bodies and to resemble the men featured in such media. Dads should understand this but moms need not panic should they ever notice young Tommy staring at non-sexual and non-pornographic pictures of men.

Sexuality and Comic books (2) –
The Hercules & Wolverine gay story line isn’t the first time Marvel, DC or other comic book publishing companies had ever featured LGBT characters and/or storylines. In fact, there are hundreds of titles in recent years that feature gay and/or bisexual characters which are published by mainstream comic publishers like Marvel and DC.  Several independent comic book publishing companies feature adult-oriented comic books for mature readers. Such comics feature heavy use of graphic language, sexual activity and/or gore, among other things. Then there are comics that feature nothing but gay and bisexual characters and storylines. And yes; those comics are pornographic in nature as they do contain images of graphic sexual activity. Today, there is something for just about everyone in the world of comic books – either in print, on-line or in digital format for downloading.

Here are examples of gay characters featured by two of the major and most well-known comic book publishing companies, Marvel and DC:

  • Northstar. In 1992, some 21 years ago, Marvel Comics revealed that Jean-Paul Beaubier, code-named Northstar of the Canadian mutant team Alpha Flight (Marvel Comics’ Canadian version of America’s X-Men) to be gay. To this day, Northstar still carries the title as being the first openly gay character in comic book history! Over the years, there were alternate universe stories (under the Ultimate Marvel universe series) where Northstar and the X-Men’s Colossus (Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin) dated. Sometime later, Marvel featured a series featuring Northstar dating his Black boyfriend Kyle Jinadu.  In 2012, Northstar married Kyle in one of the first gay and interracial weddings in comic book history! Talk about milestones!
  • The Rawhide Kid. The Rawhide Kid, whose real name was Johnny Bart (but originally given as Johnny Clay) was a fictional 19-century American Old West heroic gun-fighter who was wanted as an outlaw. The Rawhide Kid debuted in the mid-1950’s under Atlas Comics, the predecessor to Marvel Comics. The comic was a 16-issue series that ran from March 1955 to September 1957. After a short hiatus, Marvel Comics took over the comic in 1960. Without any break in series continuity, Marvel ran the comic (starting from issue No. 17) August 1960 to May 1979. The late 1960’s up to the last issue in 1979 was the period when I read and collected the comic. During the 1950’s to its last series issue in 1979, Rawhide Kid was not a gay character nor was any indication given as to what his sexual orientation might be. Remember what I said about comic book story innocence; normally that specific characteristic wasn’t given much, if any thought when I was boy/teenager. When I read the comic, thoughts of Rawhide Kid’s sexuality certainly never entered my mind. After the end of the series, The Rawhide Kid would, over the years, would make guest appearances in other comic books published by Marvel or be featured in a miniseries. Skipping directly to 2003, the character was again “over hauled”- this time, changing his mythos to be a gay character and featured in a controversial five-issue miniseries targeted mainly for adult readers. Each comic in the series had a “Parental Advisory Explicit Content” warning label on its cover. The Rawhide Kid had become the first gay lead character to get his own comic book.
  • Not to be outdone, Marvel’s rival, DC Comics has done a good job in their own introduction and changing up the mythos of some its own characters. In 2006, Batwoman came out as a lesbian. In 2012, it was revealed that the original/Golden Age comic book hero Green Lantern (Alan Scottnot Hal Jordan, as many had mistakenly assumed) would be featured as a gay man on DC’s alternate universe called Earth 2. Of course, DC had to re-write certain things about Alan Scott, including restoring his youth.DC Comics logo
  • DC’s former Justice League of America member Obsidian had been re-written as being the son of Alan Scott (the Golden Age Green Lantern – and prior to the rewrite of GA-GL). Later in 2006 (under new writers) Obsidian was “confirmed” to be a gay character.

There are so many “alternate universe/dimension” stories that it would take far too much time for me to explain them all here, let alone keep each of them straight AND STILL maintain your interest in this article, therefore I simply won’t discuss them. I’ll leave it up to you to do the research. Good luck with that! Seriously, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!

Readers, if you decide to do the research, remember what I said earlier about comic book publishing companies re-writing, changing or modifying a character’s origin and general mythos. Their intent is to keep a particular character alive and current with the times. I’ve gotten into a few friendly debates with my teenage son over the mythos of certain characters. I will always remember the original storylines, origin and mythos of certain comic book characters while he just knows what the storyline writers and publishers are giving in today’s comic books – as well as the movie plots for the same characters. My son can only give me so much of an argument because he fondly recalls me telling him the origins of certain characters as I remember them, years before when he was a boy. Therefore, while he and I will always have a playful stalemate debate on this subject, he does have an exceptional advantage over some of his peers whose own fathers or older brothers never shared such original stories.

Don’t be surprised if someday the decades-long and much joked-about sexually ambiguous relationship between Batman and Robin (aka Bruce Wayne and batman-and-robinDick Grayson, respectively) is FINALLY written as the two being on some alternate Earth where they are (or were) in fact, in some hot, steamy gay relationship.  Indeed, comic books are all fiction and, just like any fictional story, anything is possible! (Although, I’ll bet Batman creator, the late Bob Kane might not approve!)

If you are as into comic books as I am – or perhaps more truthfully I should say, “once was(since my being an adult with a job and other responsibilities and interests, I cannot always stay on top of everything in the world of comic books as before), might I suggest that you be willing to let your imagination go with the creator/writer of a character… no matter how much you think you now know or remember about that character. Trust me when I say that you’ll either find the revamped character to be interesting or you’ll decide that you’d much rather stick with the “good old original” mythos for the sake of nostalgia. Either way is fine.

Finally, a few words of advice to the older male and female readers of comic books:

  • Never aggressively knock or argue the new or modified mythos of old characters written for today. Those storylines are written and targeted primarily for the younger generation. It is now their time to enjoy comics in their own way.
  • Never say to a young reader, “That’s not the way it happened”, or “That storyline is wrong”. Instead, offer to share with them an alternative origin – the one you are already quite familiar with! Many young readers often find alternative beginnings and endings fascinating – especially if such stories are told in an exciting manner! One of the reasons I became hooked on comics (since I could first read) was because some old guy shared his knowledge of certain stories with me.

I’m not as much a collector or reader of comics as I used to be. However my love, interest and fascination of comic book characters – old and new, clean or dirty (sexually speaking) and stories written on the “what if” or the alternative platform (as with this Hercules and Wolverine gay storyline) has never diminished. It all helps me to maintain a certain attachment to my youth and I find it very refreshing that with certain characters I loved, writers are willing to keep up with the times.

Read more about the Hercules and Wolverine kiss here: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/02/24/now-its-time-for-bisexual-wolverine/

Keepin’ It…REAL!

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