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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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

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By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

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By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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