By Joe Glass
This week sees a lot of great LGBTQ content from DC, the most I can think of coming out from a single publisher in the same week for a while.
Now, small warning, there may be some spoilers here. I'm going to try and keep them to a bare minimum, but some may still slip through, especially for Multiversity, I'd say.
I won't discuss this week's Batwoman much as it's had some discussion on Bleeding Cool already this week and I wouldn't want to spoil the emotional core of this issue. Suffice to say, that this book continues to focus on the relationship between Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer and not shy away from it given the controversial editorial NO MARRIAGE ALLOWED mandate, the book has been a blessing and continues to be awesome and the only comic from one of the major mainstream publishers featuring a solo LGBTQ lead still (Marvel really has some catching up on that one).
This week also saw the release of Teen Titans#2, which offered a pleasant surprise to me.
The issue is very much a Bunker issue. Sure, everyone else appears, and Beast Boy plays a great comedy foil to Bunker (as well as a great Grumpy Cat), but the major focus of the issue was clearly gay teen superhero, Bunker.
What made it even more fantastic? What could have been a tiny and fleeting momentary scene at the end of Teen Titans #1 last month, when Bunker confronted a homophobic bystander, actually continues to play out as quite a big event for the character in this issue. What's more, for two issues in a row now, the gay teen hero is the saviour of the day…and he's pretty bad ass about it to boot.
It's really great to see issues such as homophobia being tackled explicitly in the comics, whereas when Bunker was originally introduced we were told he had a blissful life in that respect to try and show a positive light on being gay and coming out. Whilst I lauded Scott Lobdell for that take at the time, and still do, it's also great to have the harsh realities of being an LGBTQ person highlighted in such a major way. What's more, it doesn't make it a simple black and white matter either: Bunker's reaction last issue was violent and dangerous in many respects, and it continues to show the moral quandary of standing up to this kind of hate: the immediate response is to want to fight back and lash out, but is that really the best way? Will Pfeiffer should be congratulated on tackling such a complicated topic in such a truthful way.
What is perhaps a slight shame is that previously, when Bunker was first introduced, he was presented as a somewhat flamboyant and campy gay kid (I likened him at the time to a comics version of Glee's Kurt Hummel), but now, whilst still wearing his costume in all kinds of shades of purple and fuchsia, he's played a lot more straight (no pun intended) and aggressive, but wonderfully heroic and bad ass all the same.
Another great thing about this focus is the relationship between Bunker and Beast Boy. Roomies, one gay, one straight and close friends. Personally, I find that this is a relationship that is sorely lacking in any kind of media at the moment: close friendships between a gay man and a straight man. Typically, we get gay men and straight women being close friends, but rarely homosexuals and heterosexuals of the same gender. For a while, Marvel were doing a great job with the friendship between Anole and Rockslide, but with those characters being quite separated of late, it's a relationship that has been sorely lacking in comics too.
And just check out their awesome apartment!
Finally, the big one for me: this week we see the introduction of two new gay characters in Multiversity #1 by Grant Morrison, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Nei Ruffino.
(By the way, Multiversity#1 is an amazing comic, a fantastic start to this epic series, and there are so many dense levels of idea in this one issue alone, someone should seriously write an essay on it (if I don't get to it soon). Nix Uotan, trolls, the actions of the reader on the comic space, a peaceful Superman and using stereotypes in a good way, to name just a few of the incredible things you could write about this issue. Pick it up, seriously)
We don't get much about them this issue, other than they are the Red Racer and (presumably) Power Torch of the Justice 9 from Earth-36, real names Ray and Hank respectively, and whilst not explicitly stated, their relationship is made pretty clear from their emotional farewell scene.
What's more, I found Red Racer immediately inviting as a character, coming across as a bubbly, positive geeky guy, which I think makes us immediately care for the character. Add to that the great emotion played out in the two characters farewell scene, and I found them and their relationship immediately compelling and I want to know more.
(In fact, DC, here's a freebie: how about for next year's September special month, replace your entire line with 52 single issues, each from one of the different parallel Earths? Maybe they should even be a 'pivotal issue' from the comics' line of that Earth…and Earth-36's could be when Power Torch and Red Racer became a couple? Maybe written by Gail Simone and drawn by Babs Tarr? Or hell, I'll write it!)
My one concern: I fear for Red Racer already. Maybe this is a sign of how well Morrison drew me in to like the character, but he's basically a Flash analogue in a multiversal crisis, and that never ends well for the speedsters. We know how much Morrison likes his big classic imagery from DC past, and we saw him riff on the idea in Final Crisis by seeing a Flash revived; maybe this is his chance to kill a Flash in a Crisis…which, man, I really hope doesn't happen.
This is the kind of thing I'd like to see more of. LGBTQ characters appearing across the line, naturally and in various roles, from supporting character to the lead. This has been a good week for comics and the LGBTQ.
Joe Glass is a Bleeding Cool contributor, and creator/writer of LGBTQ superhero team comic The Pride, which is available on Comixology and at The Pride Store. He is also a co-writer on Welsh horror-comedy series, Stiffs, which can be bought at the Stiffs Store and is now also available on Comixology. You can follow him on twitter and tumblr.