Comic book writer and artist Patrick Zircher does love his Twitter when he is not spending eleven hours at the drawing board a day. And sometimes when he does as well. He recently tweeted the following observations. "A lot of superheroes are very metrosexual lately; groomed, hipster-haired, sexually ambiguous. A lot of overlap between costumes and gay/bi culture. Working with six re-designs of known characters and, well, all the males are very pretty. The women strong. Not sure that makes story 'sense' with three of them. It reminds me of when they revamped Tony Stark as "teen Tony"–except they're not teenagers. Not a trend I love. I think it's, partially, a manga influence. Not sure making the heroes look younger, hipper, than their age will attract young readers. Kirby's Captain America looked 34– it didn't scare kids away. Some of it is art style–drawings that look like they're from fashion magazines–heroes with less muscle tone, male model thin–strong interest in their hair and clothes."
Cue lots of people posting images from all manner of classic superhero comic books that also fit that model. As well as George Washington. Comic book artist Brian Blacketer replied "I mean that makes sense though right? Superheroes have always been about flash and style, and right now queer culture is big on glitz and glam as well as growing in acceptance within our society"
Patrick Zircher replied in a series of tweets which took it further:
No, it doesn't particularly make sense. Heroes are very physical, they punch stuff– more of less diametrically the opposite of queer culture. I wonder about sales, queer culture books don't rank so high in sales. Think it's an attempt at pleasing everyone– which no one can do.
I was looking at a queer horror anthology a couple of weeks ago. It ranked, in sales, #53 amongst horror anthologies. It'll be interesting how much crossover will succeed.
All this stuff I just tweeted, there are creators who are literally afraid to say it. Masculinity is out of fashion, that's not a false observation. We live in weird times.
Masculinity is out of fashion yet the alternative hasn't proven to be a sales driver in superhero comics. I think maybe someone should take a "facts are facts" look at things.
I think they used to call metrosexuals dandies. I just never thought of superheroes as dandies. They weren't written as dandies. Okay, Hawkeye back in the day, maybe.
Just received the most recent Luke Cage reference. Happy to say he looks like a man, not a teenager or a metrosexual :) Not wearing a scarf, a bare midriff, or a fancy haircut. Ironically, he started out wearing a tiara :)
There was plenty of pushback, here are some of my favourites:
Giggerton posting "Dude, you've *literally* drawn Midnighter" with his own image, above.
Joe Glass pointed out "So, you think queer people don't fight? That we all just get where we are with our rights through hugs & rainbows? Try telling those at Stonewall who literally fought the police in the streets. Or perhaps you wanna tell gay boxer Orlando Cruz that he can't punch people, he's gay"
Chris Shehan wrote "I drew a comic where the heroes were 2 gay boys. They killed monsters and liked punching and also were emotional and soft and they kissed and had gay sex in the woods. And the sales were pretty good. Great chance to not use your oldness as a shield and actually learn and grow."
And Steve Orlando tweeted "Punching is the opposite of queer culture? Patrick, you've got a right to whatever opinion you like, but we've had to fight for every right we've gained, often physically. Not to mention to defend ourselves. Maybe I'm reading you wrong?
Tom Taylor, writer on Superman: Son Of Kal-El which features a queer couple in the lead, posted "Hey, Patch! Happy to report, this book is selling great. #1 or in the top three every week it drops on Amazon. And the hardcover is selling gangbusters. DC are very happy. Jon is a bisexual Superman, and he doesn't punch a single person in the entire arc."
Laura Helsby wrote "Masculinity isn't out of fashion, maybe your idea of it is, and that's fine. Also Jon's Superman book did extremely well so to say queerness isn't a "sales drjver" is a little disingenuous i think. I was also part of a queer anthology that did *extremely* well in funding and has now been picked up by a publisher, so again, I think as far as sales go, we do fine."
Heather Antos: "Punching is the opposite of queer culture" Meanwhile the literal gay rights movement started with the Stonewall RIOTS but okay."
And Avram Grumer posted "Ah yes, nothing physical about queer culture!"
But Patrick Zircher was adamant, saying "I'm not backing down on this. An effete un-masculine design for a masculine character is the wrong design. People want to read more into it? Let them. Bullshit is bullshit, if 50,000 people want to pretend its pizza and eat it, that's their business. I'm not going to."
It's also worth noting that Patrick Zircher hates Comicsgate and Comicsgate hate him. But this is an argument that certain Comicsgate folk may warm to. It will be interesting to see how they square that circle. I expect a "come to Comcisgate, all is forgiven" message, followed by Patrick Zircher sending out various expletives.
But it may also be worth noting that the association with superheroes and queer culture goes back a long way – and I don't just mean Greek and Roman times. One of the main thrusts (and I use that word advisedly) of Dr Frederick Wertham's Seduction Of The Innocent was that Batman and Robin presented as a homosexual couple. There have been gay superhero "jokes" for decades. The Batman 66 TV series was absolutely camp, but no one said it wasn't masculine. But as the more over-typical masculine examples fill the pages, the more they are interpreted as gay macho culture as well. Trends come and go. But right now the best selling superhero comic book is about a dog. A Dog-Man. The second is his female side-kick teenage kid Cat-Kid. Which throws everything up into the air, and I'm sure psychologists will have a field day…
And if nothing else it will lead to some fun conversations in the bars at New York Comic Con.