On the front page of Saturday’s Style section, Washington Post writer Michael Cavna touted the new “relevance” of promoting homosexuality in comic books and strips now that President Obama has un-closeted his long-obvious support for gay marriage. Guess who wasn’t relevant: conservatives who thought it was a bad idea.
The headline was "Comics' gay couples land with election-year splash." Cavna began with Archie Comics executive Jon Goldwater, who was stunned when someone couldn’t believe they still made Archie Comics. So obviously, it was time to go gay: “If we didn’t change Riverdale, we would risk becoming irrelevant.”
Led by Goldwater, the creative minds at Archie Comics decided to “update” their characters, which hark back to a mid-century era of malt shops and letterman sweaters — when the jalopy chassis and presumed chastity went hand-in-hand.
That’s just like the Washington Post, putting “jalopy” and teenage “chastity” in the same mental box. Cavna touted the comical revolution toward “tolerance” in the world of superheroes as well:
This week, Marvel Comics announced the proposal and same-sex nuptials of Northstar, its first gay superhero, in “Astonishing X-Men” No. 50 (published this week) and No. 51 (it’s a June wedding). And just days before, DC publisher Dan DiDio said at London’s Kapow comic convention that a major DC character would soon become “one of our most prominent gay characters.”
“It was only natural that when New York legalized gay marriage last year,” says Marvel’s Tom Brevoort, editor of the “Astonishing X-Men” project, “our thoughts would turn to what impact this might have on Northstar and his ongoing relationship with his partner, Kyle. The story grew organically from there — and the zeitgeist at the moment gives it even greater relevance.”
Is 2012, then, a flashpoint for depicting gay relationships in mainstream comics — or is this just an editorial blip made brighter by the glare of electoral politics?
Tom Batiuk, an Akron native, Kent State graduate and Medina resident, is an Ohio man through and through. So it struck particularly close to home last year when he read about a parents’ group in the southern part of his state protesting a high school’s “tolerant attitude” toward gays.
“I still go out to my old high school,” says Batiuk, who was a classroom teacher before launching his syndicated comic strip “Funky Winkerbean” 40 years ago.
On the comics pages this month, Batiuk’s response to the parents’ protest has played out among “Funky’s” characters at Westview High. Two male students sought to attend the prom together, sparking what the cartoonist characterizes as a generational showdown. King Features says the story arc is now concluding.
“I’m not trying to proselytize here,” Batiuk says. “I had a viewpoint and I knew which side I came down on. It’s less an issue of [being gay] and more an issue of tolerance and intolerance. And that idea has been in ‘Funky’ from the very beginning.”
The phoniest thing the pro-gay activists do is claiming they don’t “proselytize” – as they pound the drums for mandatory “tolerance.” Does this image look like a balanced portrayal, or like propaganda?
Cavna rounded out the story with Paige Braddock and her online comic strip “Jane’s World,” which is centered on a short-haired lesbian in glasses and a black turtleneck. She called the strip “the lesbian heir to hard-luck Charlie Brown.”
The sense of the story was that the cartooning world is going to drag the real world into “reality,” that comics must speak for “the youth” and the “cultural shift” that’s under way. Ironically, the same story that began with someone who didn’t know Archie Comics were still being made then touts that nobody protested the gay marriage in Archie Comics:
Goldwater also notes that he has received no subscription cancellations over the same-sex nuptials, and “not one person has called” to complain.
Keller is “the most important new character in Archie history,” Goldwater has said. And last year, Archie Comics contributor Dan Parent received a GLAAD media award nomination for Keller’s creation. [Notice the Post doesn’t feel the need to spell out the gay censorship group’s name.]
Goldwater does acknowledge that he’s mindful of the political climate. “We work in a bubble [here] while feeding off the climate,” he says. “We are not immune to what’s going on in the world and the rhetoric and the attacks that political parties are throwing at each other. . . . Readers deserve that we reflect some of what’s going on in society, and part of that is the political process. At Archie, we have a very strong point of view.”
Goldwater, like Batiuk, believes being relevant to the next generation is a creative imperative.
“We have to speak for the youth and to where the cultural shift in this country is going,” he tells us. “They’re the ones who are going to pick up the flag and wave it.”
In other words, Batiuk feels "we have to" ... proselytize. He told The Huffington Post "It shows promise that this emerging generation will one day bring this cultural war to an end. Until then, this story is an attempt to reach across the divide and speak to the intolerance that still exists on the other side." In other words, liberals seek to "reach out across the divide" and tell conservatives to shut up and get with the new "relevance."
Cavna and The Washington Post have expressed the first step in the cultural war on intolerance (and the allegedly impending cultural surrender of the conservatives): don’t let the other side offer their “intolerance” in your stories.