The Week in Gay Geek: Diane von Furstenberg teams with Diana Prince.




ANOTHER DAY OF WONDER:
Has it been a year already? In a week-and-a-half, it’ll be time for the third Wonder Woman Day. The event, organized by gay writer Andy Mangles, raises money for domestic violence shelters and crisis hotlines. This year, the day is being celebrated in Portland as well as Flemington, New Jersey with creator appearances and a silent auction for Wonder Woman original art. The art being auctioned includes work from gay artists like J Bone, Tim Fish, Patrick Fillion and JA Fludd.

Wonder Woman Day art by J Bone and Tim Fish

Wonder Woman Day art by JA Fludd and Patrick Fillion

Online
bidding
will be open until October 25, the day before Wonder Woman Day. After that, bids made in
person get a last chance to beat the online bids.

CHAMPIONS COUNTDOWN:
Considering the gay following superhero MMO City of Heroes has it’s not surprising that gay gamers have had their eye on Champions Online, a new superhero MMO game from the same studio that developed City of Heroes. The game is now getting closer to completion and is now taking applications for the closed beta testing.

Champions Online

I’d certainly like to see a good number of gay gamers get into the beta. MMOs have long been a dangerous ground for gay gamers since it’s an environment with opportunities for harassment. Many games try to create a way to keep that danger under control, but that can have mixed results. A mix of perspectives helps make any test better and the gay gamer’s perspective should be a part of it.

THE LINK BETWEEN THE RAWHIDE KID AND FREEDOM RING:
Brian Cronin‘s Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed columns at Comics Should Be Good is frequently a source to discovering new revelations about what could’ve been. Recently, we learned about Jim Shooter meant for Harbinger‘s — to be gay and now one more never-outed character has been revealed.

Back in 2003, one of the titles in Marvel’s Tsunami line was a new X-title, New Mutants from husband and wife writing team Nunzio Defilippis and Christina Weir. Defilippis and Weir already had a gay-inclusive history — their 2003 Oni Press graphic novel Maria’s Wedding focused on a family split over the last major family gathering, a same-sex wedding.

Defilippis & Weir’s New Mutants and Maria’s Wedding

By the end of New Mutants‘ second story arc one of the team, Anole, would have come out as gay only to face rejection from his parents and best friends, tragically pushing Anole to suicide. However, the story never hit comic shops. As Defilippis explains:

 

We finish up Issue 12, and are starting to hear rumblings from Marvel. Issues 8 & 9 are drawn, Issue 8 is colored and lettered and going to the printer. But there’s finally a new guy at Marvel to replace Bill Jemas. And his mandate is to be less controversial. So a gay student killing himself is not a story he wants to see in his young-reader friendly book. Now, we can’t blame them for that – if they want the book young-reader friendly, a suicide story isn’t right for it. It’s simply bad timing – their definition of the book is changing after a story is already all but done.

 

 

So ideas are sent to us for ways to soft-pedal this story. Can we eliminate the lesbian kiss that sets off the parents? (The answer there is no, because without it, the story has no starting point) Can we not show the kiss, maybe have it happen off panel? (we tell them that’s a
cop-out, so they opt to show it in silhouette only) Can Northstar never mention he’s gay? (This one threw us off, because he’s been out of the closet for a decade). Eventually we seem to defuse the situation (by silhouetting the kiss – the other stuff didn’t happen, thankfully), and go about our business.

 

 

So we head home for Thanksgiving, and get the news – the issue has been stopped at the printer’s. It was printed, but they don’t know if they’re going to distribute it. Marvel is deciding what to do.

 

This revelation helps shine a light on Marvel’s troubling recent history with gays. Earlier in 2003, the company made waves with Rawhide Kid, a mini-series published under the mature readers Max imprint that revealed the classic western superhero as gay. A storm of controversy surrounded Rawhide Kid, with conservatives offended by the gay-focused comic and gays offended by how the title turned out to be little more than a parade of innuendo-based humor and that the story’s gay protagonist was the butt of the jokes.

Marvel’s Rawhide Kid and Marvel Team-Up

Fast-forward to Marvel’s next public outcry in 2006, when Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada mentioned to a convention panel that, due to the Rawhide Kid controversy, Marvel wouldn’t be publishing any titles starring a gay character unless it were a ‘mature readers’ title. That statement inspired a wave of anger across comic blogs. If true, the policy amounted to a ban on gay characters since Marvel had given up on titles marked for ‘mature readers’. What did it mean for the new hit series Young Avengers, an all-ages title with a prominent male couple? Some fans also pointed out the premise was stupid — Rawhide Kid was a mature readers title, so what is gained by ghettoizing gay characters to ‘mature readers’ titles? Labeling Rawhide Kid as not for children certainly didn’t make it immune to cries of "Will somebody think of the children?"

Things got worse when Quesada tried to address the criticism. He said that the policy had been rescinded and pointed to Marvel Team Up, a series with a rotating cast currently starring a
new gay character, Freedom Ring, as proof. However, fans were aware by then that Marvel Team Up had been canceled (so the effect was like Fox bragging about its gay inclusiveness and pointing to Do Not Disturb as an example) and, more importantly, Freedom Ring’s story was in comic shops when Quesada initially discussed the policy. A few months later, the final issue of Marvel Team Up made critics even angrier when Freedom Ring met with a grisly death — if Marvel Team Up were a sign of Marvel’s gay newfound inclusiveness, it didn’t feel like much of a welcome mat.

Anole in New Mutants follow up title, New X-Men

Now we realize that in between those two incidents there was another gay-inclusive story that Marvel nixed. As part of the Tsunami line, New Mutants was meant to reach the manga audience that was booming in bookstores, a younger and more female audience than the typical Marvel comics reader. When Jemas left Marvel, that probably signaled a shift from seeing a controversial title like Rawhide Kid as one that generated buzz for Marvel to one that sees controversy as a headache.

As infuriating as the story may be, there’s a silver lining. According to his wikipedia entry, Anole was outed to readers in a 2006 mini-series, The X-Men: The 198 Files.

A FAMILIAR BIT OF CULTURE SHOCK:
There’s long been a divide between the female fanbase for YAOI and gay men who turn to the genre seeking stories that reflect their lives, sometimes creating a battle between heterosexual privilege and male privilege. That battle resurfaced with Isaac Hale‘s report on this year’s YAOI-Con.

 

One thing I would like to discuss is my largely negative personal experience at Yaoi-Con as a homosexual male. There were definitely some nice aspects of the Con: I wasn’t assumed to be heterosexual (as I am everywhere else) and I was definitely welcomed by all the panelists and industry staff with great warmth. Furthermore, it was just relaxing to be in a place where male x male romance was desirable as opposed to being stigmatized. Generally though, that’s where my warm fuzzies ended. Many of the cons main events were they "Bishonen Bingo", the "Continental Bishie Brunch", the "Bishonen Auction" and the "Bishonen Spanking Inferno" were horribly objectifying and dehumanizing…Every single one of the above Main Events emphasized the power differential between the paying benefactors and the nominally "gay" boys they were objectifying….I use quotes because part of the appeal is that all of these boys at the Con are nominally gay, though most aren’t in real life.

 

One of the uncomfortable aspects of boy-meets-boy manga is that some of the straight women who create and read it look at gay men the same way some straight men look at lesbian sexuality — strictly as something to titillate them and turn them on. Once their fun is done, they feel free to express apathy or even antipathy to the issues that affect the lives of real same-sex couples. That is, thankfully, merely a small part of those who read and create boy-meets-boy manga and when I examined the genre, I focused on creators like Fumi Yoshinaga and Yugi Yamada, whose work are improved by their attempts to depict male couples with a touch of realism.

Still, it’s a familiar bit of culture shock, a realization that the genre doesn’t offer the opportunities for representation initially expected.

Fumi Yoshinaga’s excellent The Moon and The Sandals

The comment thread that follows has its interesting and infuriating moments but the one that I’m still contemplating comes from lesbian Yuricon founder (Yuri is lesbian-themed manga created with a straight male audience in mind) Erica Friedman.

 

One of the many reasons I founded Yuricon was specifically to combat this issue – with a staff that has a really reasonable representation of GLBTI members, as well as a nice mix of straight men and women, we find it very easy to welcome all people without pandering to stereotypes.

 

 

In fact, I have gone so far as to reject both staff applications and memberships when the comment was something like, “I don’t mind if two chicks kiss in front of me.” It was clear that the person completely missed the point of the event as a celebration of anime and manga and was instead looking for a public experience focused on titillation.

 

That got me thinking about how I’ve mostly seen gay men discussing YAOI in blogs or more general forums, but I’ve yet to encounter an active space where gays readers can discuss the genre. Is there such a space? If not perhaps there needs to be one?

THE FIERCE AND THE FAB:
Oooh, it’s a gay geek crossover! Fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg is teaming up with iconic superhero Wonder Woman this Christmas. Not only is von Furstenberg coming out with a holiday collection inspired by the Amazon princess, DC will also be publishing a companion book which will feature an original comic, titled Be the Wonder Woman You Can Be, Featuring the Adventures of Diva, Viva & Fifa, a reprinting of Wonder Woman‘s first appearance and prose pages written by people like Lynda Carter and Gloria Steinem.

Diane von Furstenberg

Over the decades, I’ve felt that Warner has really struggled to figure out how to take advantage of the powerful icon that is Wonder Woman. Maybe von Furstenberg might be able to help them figure out how to make the character relevant to audiences.

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