Harley J. Sims

The latest trend in comic books—gay superheroes

Harley J. Sims
By Harley Sims
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June 20, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - DC and Marvel, the comic book publishing giants owned by Time-Warner and Disney respectively, have apparently agreed on something: June is Gay Month in the multiverse. First came DC’s unveiling of a gay Green Lantern, which followed a month-long media circus of publicity and speculation. In May, DC had announced that one of its most famous and longstanding superheroes would soon be coming out of the closet. “Could Superman be gay?” headlines blazed.

The partnership of Batman and Robin has long been subject to such innuendo—would this be the final unveiling? And of course there’s Wonder Woman, the Amazonian dominatrix no man could beat in an arm wrestle, much less sweep off her feet. As the Hollywood tattler TMZ suggests, DC’s decision to go with the Green Lantern made all the publicity into something of a shell game, since the Green Lantern is more of an intergalactic police corps than an individual, and that there are more than 7200 Green Lanterns on the roster. The Green Lantern shown kissing another man in the second issue of DC’s Earth 2, is not, in fact, the Hal Jordan most associable with the franchise, but rather a reinvented version of another man, Alan Scott (who, first introduced in 1940, was nevertheless a married father of two).

The gay Green Lantern is thus a reboot of a reboot, a reimagined figure of a reimagined DC Universe—which, as any comics fan will tell you, is actually a multiverse. The new figure is thus so far removed from the original, only Stephen Hawking could theorize introducing them to each other. As with Kate Kane, a lesbian and the current Batwoman introduced by DC with comparable hype in 2009, the figure’s peripheral status suggests a largely commercial purpose.

Not to be outdone, Marvel Comics will host its first gay marriage proposal in Astonishing X-Men #52, due out on June 20. The issue, complete with an open-cover illustration of the ceremony and all its colorful attendees, will showcase the nuptials of the Canadian superhero Northstar and his civilian partner, Kyle Jinadu.

No longer to be contented with a simple coming-out party, Marvel is able to amp up its own exhibition of gay themes because gay characters have longer standing in its universe. Though he doesn’t have the recognizability of the Green Lantern, Northstar was first introduced in 1979, and has been portrayed as being openly gay since 1992, only a couple of years after the Comics Code Authority dropped its prohibition of such content. He is foremost among a number of what one might call ‘non-heterosexual’ characters, including shapeshifting bisexuals Mystique and Hulkling, as well as at least one artificial, bio-engineered humanoid from a dimension incidentally known as Mojoworld. The character, whose name is Shatterstar, has made clear to readers that he is anatomically equipped and sexually functional. He recently shared a kiss with teammate Rictor, a bisexual mutant with the ability to generate localized earthquakes.

The fact that homosexual characters and themes have been around in superhero comics—for decades in some cases—may cause some to ask why these publications and their campaigns are happening again. Something of an answer lies in the fact that, for the most part, these characters are being treated as sociopolitical mascots rather than as fictional beings. The majority of debates about their validity concern issues of homosexuality and gay marriage in the real world. DC Comics’ vice president Bob Wayne speaks of the decision to reveal one of its heroes as being gay as evidence of an evolved perspective, echoing American president Barack Obama’s words on accepting gay marriage. This reversed a policy outlined only last year by DC co-publisher Dan Didio that any homosexual characters would be newly introduced.

Whether or not audiences accept the new Green Lantern, there is no denying that Wayne’s words—like Obama’s—are intended to insult those who disapprove. He might have spoken of one’s perspective changing, shifting, or even becoming more compassionate, but to use the language of evolution—that’s a calculated jab, doubly so if one considers Christian audiences to be their intended target.

Whether this sort of publicity is good or bad for comic sales and gay rights movements, there remains a matter that, for its complexity, is much easier to ignore. This is the matter of imagination itself—that intensely private activity that is responsible for the very existence and appeal of superheroes.

Contrary to popular belief, literature—and this includes comic books—is not simply a conduit by which authors can instil values in readers. It is instead a medium of communication whose significance, whatever the intention of the writer, is very much shaped by the existing experiences and positions of the reader. We are not slaves to what we read; a work of literature may ultimately lead to the alteration of one’s pre-existing beliefs, but this power is no more within literature itself than the power to change reality is within any single reader.

Introducing gay characters such as the new Green Lantern may not ‘turn readers gay’ as some advocates have quipped, but nor will his introduction fall upon so many empty canvases. As the froth of pop culture, superhero comics are never very substantial, and the reasons given by publishers and writers for including gay characters — that it is more like the real world, that it is current, or that it will encourage acceptance and open-mindedness — fail to respect the very humble limitations of their very humble medium. While readers of comics are geared to be alternative — comic-book worlds explore multiple realities, and one must be open-minded in the basic sense to have a good imagination — they are not without their own identities. They might, as publishers have claimed, have no problem with the Green Lantern being gay, but not because they’re taking their cues from DC.

Second, and more importantly, imagination is metaphysical. Sexuality, on the other hand, is fundamentally physical. While imagination and sexuality might cooperate in many ways, actual portrayals of sex in comic books remains an embarrassingly taboo fringe element of comics subcultures — in essence, geekiness among geeks. Erotic anime, or hentai, has its own small corner in your local comic book shop, just like pornography in a video or magazine store. Publishers of superhero comics are not blind to this segregation. They recognize that most readers of comic books would, despite their vivid imaginations, still prefer relationships with actual people.

Superhero comics will show kisses, hugs, and occasionally some nudity, but they are still in the business of saving the Earth from shapeshifting aliens, not exploring the potential Kama Sutras of multi-limbed beings. When, in the 1995 film Mallrats, Brodie (Jason Lee) pesters Stan Lee about the erotic abilities of various superheroes, it is ridiculous and pathetic. “We never really tackled stuff like that in the old days,” the comics icon replied, waving the questions away. Even today, and despite the occasional headline-grab, comics still don’t. Stan Lee later tells Brodie’s friend, “you know, I think you ought to get him some help. He seems to be really hung up on superheroes’ sex organs. But he’ll outgrow it.”

The irony is that if there is one thing the industry can truly be condemned for in all this, it is for failing to portray the diversity of the real world. For example, the Green Lantern franchise has handled gay issues before. In 2000, the series introduced Terry Berg, an openly gay seventeen year-old assistant to another version of the Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner.

When Berg was beaten into a coma by a gang of hateful thugs, even Lex Luthor condemned the attack and its motivation, suggesting it’s far worse in the DC universe to be a gaybasher than a supervillain who routinely plots the deaths of millions (gays no doubt among them). Marvel, meanwhile, has its own examples. Among the attendees of the gay wedding on the cover of Astonishing X-Men #52, the superhero Wolverine stands prominently. Hailing from northern Canada and in almost every way a stereotype of the tough-talking, hairy-chested, tanktop-wearing, beer-drinking working man, Wolverine is nevertheless fine with all this. Somehow, his adamantine claws seem more plausible. To offer dissenting perspectives from heroes or villains, even in the names of diversity and credibility, is simply too unfashionable. For those in the business of superheroism, it all seems pretty cowardly.

Harley J. Sims is a writer and independent scholar living in Ottawa, Canada. He can be reached on his website at www.harleyjsims.webs.com. Reprinted under a Creative Commons license from Mercatornet.com.


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Medical staff arrested in India after accidentally aborting baby at 8 months

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

A doctor and a nurse at a prominent private hospital in India have been arrested after they allegedly administered abortion drugs to a eight-months pregnant woman accidentally, resulting in the death of her unborn child.

"We have immediately registered a case and arrested the doctor, whose negligent act has caused this," said South Jammu Superintendent of Police Rahul Malik, according to the Hindustan Times.

The woman's husband, Rakesh Sharma, told the paper that the doctor mistook Shruti Sharma for another patient who was scheduled for an abortion at the JK Medicity Hospital in Jammu on Friday afternoon.

Shruti had gone to the hospital after her gynecologist advised a routine medical examination to safeguard her and her baby's health.

Rakesh alleged that the doctor gave his wife the abortion pills without consulting her medical records. “Doctors and paramedical staff instead of administering glucose, gave her abortion medicine, which was actually meant for another patient,” he said.

"It is the worst case of negligence. I feel strongly that such hospitals should be closed. If this has happened to me today, tomorrow it can happen to any body else," Rakesh said.

While the JK Medicity's administration said it has launched an inquiry into the incident, a report from the Jagran Post stated that the district government has revoked the hospital's license.

"Jammu and Kashmir Government has ordered sealing of the private clinic after suspension of its license to operate in the wake of the incident," said Minister for Health and Medical Education Taj Mohiuddin according to the report.

National media have reported that the incident has brought illegal abortion practices in India to the attention of both the public and government officials.

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According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortion is legal in India up to 20 weeks. However, the opinion of a second doctor is required if the pregnancy is past its 12th week, and abortion-inducing drugs such as mifepristone and misoprostol are allowed only by prescription up until the seventh week of pregnancy.

Moreover, abortions can be performed only in government licensed medical institutions by registered abortionists.

Indian Express reported that the accused in the incident, Dr Amarjeet Singh, practices ayurvedic medicine (traditional Hindu medicine) and is "unsuitable for carrying out abortions."

A video posted by IndiaTV shows the parents surrounded by family members and relatives at a protest outside the JK Medicity hospital where the group is demanding punishment for those involved in the death of the child.


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News editor fired for criticizing ‘gay Bible’, files complaint

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By Kirsten Anderson

The former editor-in-chief of Iowa’s Newton Daily News has filed a religious discrimination complaint after he was fired over a post on his private blog criticizing the pro-gay Queen James Bible.

The Bible revision was produced by homosexual activists who claim to have edited the eight most commonly cited verses against homosexual behavior “in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.”

On his private blog, which has since been deactivated, Bob Eschliman wrote in April that “the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo” are trying to reword the Bible “to make their sinful nature ‘right with God.’”

After public outcry from homosexual activists, Shaw Media, which owns the paper, fired him on May 6.

In a statement the day of his firing, Shaw Media President John Rung said Eschliman’s “airing of [his opinion] compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it.”

“There will be some who will criticize our action, and mistakenly cite Mr. Eschliman’s First Amendment rights as a reason he should continue on as editor of the Newton Daily News,” Rung said.  “As previously stated, he has a right to voice his opinion. And we have a right to select an editor who we believe best represents our company and best serves the interests of our readers.”

Rung said the company has a duty “to advocate for the communities we serve” and that “to be effective advocates, we must be able to represent the entire community fairly.”

Eschliman, who has been writing professionally since 1998 and became editor-in-chief of the Newton Daily News in 2012, says that the company was aware of his personal blog when he was hired and never indicated it would be a problem for him to continue sharing his personal political and religious views.

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In his religious discrimination complaint against the company, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), he says that he believes he was singled out for termination because of his Christian views concerning homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.”

“As a lifelong writer, I have maintained a personal blog on the Internet with some personal thoughts and writings,” Eschliman wrote. “Newton Daily News, my employer, never had a policy prohibiting personal blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. In fact, my employer encouraged us to engage in social media on a personal level and I am aware of several employees of Newton Daily News who continue to blog and are still employed with Shaw Media.”

“There is no question that I was fired for holding and talking about my sincerely held religious beliefs on my personal blog during my off-duty time from the comfort of my own home,” Eschliman wrote. “Shaw Media directly discriminated against me because of my religious beliefs and my identity as an evangelical Christian who believes in Holy Scripture and the Biblical view of marriage.

“Moreover, Shaw Media announced that not only were they firing me based upon my religious beliefs, but that they would not hire or allow anyone to work at Shaw Media who holds religious beliefs similar to mine, which would include an automatic denial of any accommodation of those who share my sincerely held religious beliefs,” he added.

Neither Shaw Media nor the Newton Daily News have been willing to provide further comment to the press on the matter, citing pending litigation.

Matthew Whitaker, an attorney with Liberty Institute who is assisting Eschliman with his complaint, said the law is on his client’s side.

“No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs,” Whitaker said in a statement. “In America, it is against the law to fire an employee for expressing a religious belief in public.  This kind of religious intolerance by an employer has no place in today’s welcoming workforce.”

According to Whitaker, if the EEOC rules in Eschliman’s favor, Shaw Media could be forced to give him back pay, front pay, and a monetary settlement.


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If you find this filthy book in your home, burn it

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By Jonathon van Maren

I don’t believe in book-burnings, but for the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy, I’ll make an exception. I prefer charred books to scarred people.

The 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy, for those of you living outside “civilization,” is a repulsive and poisonous stack of porn novels that celebrates the seduction and manipulation of an insecure girl by a powerful businessman who happens to like spending his recreational time engaging in what is now popularly known as “BDSM.” For those of you who are fortunate enough never to have heard of this glorification of sexual assault, the acronym stands for bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. In 50 Shades of Grey, the man in question inflicts all sorts of pain on the girl, because he is a sadist, which used to be a bad thing. (How utterly confusing it is to see the “feminists” of Planned Parenthood and elsewhere celebrating this phenomenon—wasn’t domination something they sought to subvert? Didn’t bondage used to be something one wanted to be freed from? And sado-masochism—I could vomit.) And now this trash has been developed into a film, the trailer of which is all over Facebook.

50 Shades of Grey and the new “BDSM” phenomenon are nothing more than the celebration of pain, rape, and destruction.

A lot of people seem to be taken with these books, especially based on the number of people I’ve seen unashamedly reading it at airports. These porn novels are “hot,” many reviewers tell us confidently. Yes, hot as Hell and halfway there, I think.

Consider this, for just a moment: In a culture where broken families are often the norm, we have a generation of girls often growing up without fathers, never receiving the paternal love and affection that they need. Thus the famous “Daddy Issues” that so many comedy sitcoms repulsively mock, as if hurting girls seeking love and affection in all the wrong places is some sort of joke. Conversely, boys are also growing up without fathers, never having a positive male role model in the home to teach them how to treat women with love and respect. And what is teaching them how to treat girls? At an enormous rate, the answer is online pornography, which increasingly features vicious violence against girls and women. The average first exposure of boys to pornography is age eleven. It is an absolutely toxic mess—insecure and hurting girls seek love from boys who have been taught how to treat them by the most vicious of pornography.

Introduce into this situation a book, written by a woman, glorifying the idea that girls should expect or even enjoy pain and torture inside of a sexual relationship. How does a girl, insecure and unsure, know what to think? The culture around her now expects her not to need a safe relationship, but a “safe word” to employ in case her sadist partner gets a bit too carried away in the pain-making. Boys who might never have dreamed of asking a girl to subject herself to such pain and humiliation are now of course emboldened to request or even expect this fetishized sexual assault as a matter of course in a relationship. After all, much of pornography now features this degradation of girls and women, and a woman wrote a book celebrating such things. It might seem sadistic and rapey, but hey, sexual freedom has allowed us to celebrate “bondage” and sexual liberation has allowed us to liberate our darkest demons from the recesses of our skulls and allow them out to play in the bedroom. Boys used to get taught that they shouldn’t hit girls, but now the culture is telling them that it’s actually a turn-on.

I genuinely feel sorry for many teenage girls trying to navigate the new, pornified dating landscape. I genuinely feel sorry for the legions of fatherless boys, exposed to pornography before they even had a chance to realize what it was, enfolded by the tentacles of perverted sexual material before they even realize what, exactly, they are trifling with. It brings to mind something C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Wouldn't it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men start going wild inside, like the animals here, and still look like men, so that you'd never know which were which.”

50 Shades of Grey and the new “BDSM” phenomenon are nothing more than the celebration of pain, rape, and destruction. Find out if the “sex educators” in your area are pushing this garbage, and speak out. Join campaigns to make sure that promotion of this filth isn’t being funded by your tax dollars. And if you find these books in your home, burn them.


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