5 Comic Book Characters that have Come Out

Renee Montoya – Gotham Central #6-10

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Although she was technically publically ‘outed’ and we don’t actually see Renee come out to her parents, Montoya coming out to her parents is an important moment of LGBT issues in comic books. The experience turns out not to be the greatest one, however what makes this so significant is actually the pure emotion it portrays and not the act.

Before she does so there is a scene where she is asked by her brother why she wants to tell their parents as it will only make them ‘suffer’ and she defends herself by telling him that being a lesbian is part of her and that she refuses to lie to them anymore. This is made even more symbolic by the way she repeatedly shifts between speaking English and Spanish. The Spanish represents her heritage or identity whereas the English represents her ability to conform or seem ‘ordinary’ to everyone else in Gotham as well as the reader. This automatically can be paralleled with her hidden lesbian identity in relation to the heteronormative façade she portrays.

After coming out to her parents we are presented with her experience of how it went. Already aware that her parents will most likely not take her coming out to them well, we feel Renee’s pain and sense of loss the moment she tells her girlfriend what happened. Her mother’s extreme religious view towards her own daughter is heartbreaking yet depressingly realistic to some people’s own experiences with coming out to their parents. What adds to this heart crushing scene is when Renee breaks down into tears; until this moment Montoya has been portrayed as a hard faced cop who hasn’t let anyone get to her including her homophobic colleagues. The gritty realism of Renee Montoya’s coming out not only sheds light on homophobia in the workplace but also homophobia in strict religious households where the hate of homosexuality can overpower the love of a child.

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Iceman – Uncanny X-Men #600 (present drake) & All-New X-Men #40 (past drake)

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With the LGBT connotations that can be easily made between homosexuality and the struggles the x-men face in the comics, it would have been remiss not to have mentioned an x-man in this list. Not only is it an x-man but it is one of the first; Iceman, however his coming out is one of the most complicated due to time travel. In short, there are two versions of iceman; one from the past and one from the present.

The past Bobby Drake (Iceman) is 1st outed by Jean Grey through telepathy who questions him as to why he acts overly straight when she knows he is gay. Attempting to deny his sexuality, she confronts him with his own thoughts. In this sense, Jean Grey allows the past Iceman to truly be honest with himself.

Later on, the past version of Iceman confronts his present self over his discovery of himself and questions him why he hasn’t come out yet. The present Iceman repeats the same reason his younger self gave that he is scared of having to deal with being both a mutant and gay and one is easier to hide than the other. Again, this ‘coming out’ creates something that one battles with mentally into something physical, the past Iceman representing his honest self and the present Iceman representing the straight façade that a lot of gay people put on before coming out.

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The Pied Piper – The Flash #53

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This scene is given a strong impact as it is actually the first opening pages of the Fast Friends story line. It is brought about by a discussion between The Flash and the newly reformed Pied Piper talking about the rumours that the Joker being gay is true or not. The Flash naively states that there are telling features before Pied Piper claims that he can’t think of any villains that are homosexual other than himself. This automatically counters the Flash’s idea of the gay stereotype and ultimately breaks down the stereotype and stigma behind being gay with the suggestion that homosexuality isn’t evil.

Although The Flash is taken aback by the Pied Piper’s revelation and appears to leave him standing on the rooftop alone straight after, his coming out is handled very well. The Pied Piper’s coming out scene accepts that sometimes it can be an awkward situation to have however; it portrays Piper as being comfortable in his sexuality, stating his sexual orientation in a matter of fact way. Most importantly, DC doesn’t define the character by his sexuality but more his coming out is an addition to his character already.

Northstar – Alpha Flight #106

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Perhaps the most influential of all these gay comic book characters, Alpha Flight’s Northstar’s coming out is pretty blunt. However, what it makes up for in frankness it makes up for in pure bravery.

After adopting an abandoned baby girl born with AIDs who dies a few weeks later, Northstar uses his fame as a superhero and Olympic medal winner to publicly announce that his is gay in order to give media attention to HIV and how to prevent it. Although not a disease that only affects gay men, it was considered at the time of his coming out as one. Additionally, Northstar’s coming out was also Marvel’s first attempt at introducing a gay superhero into the universe, completely disregarding any trace of of the Comics Code Authority having ever prevented homosexuality from being discussed in comic books. Moreover Northstar also became the first X-Men to have a gay wedding showing that Northstar is a significant character in discussing gay rights in the Marvel universe.

By saying ‘I am gay’, Northstar not only represents how coming out can feel like you are being judged by everyone but also it gives hope that by coming out you can not only help yourself but help others around you; whether that be them going through the same feelings as you have or in some other way.

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Anole – New Mutants vol. 2

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Not an actual representation of coming out but one that would have made a big impact if it had gone ahead. There were plans for the Marvel writers to give Anole a coming out scene where his family and friends are horrified by his sexuality and ultimately reject him entirely. This would have lead Anole to have committed suicide. It would have been interesting to have seen the repercussions of such a negative experience of coming out as it would have drawn light on the gay teen suicide rate. However, by scrapping these plans, Marvel have still given Anole an important role in LGBT comic book history as he has slowly become recognised as a gay character who is comfortable in his own sexuality and at times has helped others around him come to terms with their own as well as shed light on some of the other experiences that the LGBT community have had.

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It’s Not You, It’s Me – Saying Goodbye to a Book that Wasn’t Right for You

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Most of us can relate to having had an awkward breakup in our life and those lucky enough not to will be able to when I compare it to books you began reading but have lost interest in. There are two options here; keep reading and hope it gets better like it was when you first began or… come to realise that it isn’t what you are looking for and break its paper heart by ending it there and then. Unfortunately I’m the first option type of guy. Call it deluding oneself or arrogance but I force myself to finish a book I have started – this had led me to reluctantly reading Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 (too weird for me) and Stroud’s The Amulet of Samarkand (just didn’t capture my interest). But is that a bad thing? Aren’t parents always telling us to try new things?

After all there are books that I am glad I have read which I perhaps did not enjoy at the time. One such example is Dante’s Inferno which I can guarantee is not a book for the inattentive. Dante’s classic needs complete attention at all times due to the lack of poetic rhythm lost in its interpretation. However, the one thought I had that helped me finish it was the overall sense of accomplishment in doing so. That and the thought about being able to name drop it at dinner parties with a glass of red wine in one hand (something I have now done). Moreover, some books, like a fine wine, do get better with time. For me, Wong’s John Dies at the End is a perfect example of this. Originally I found it to rely too much on the bizarre, leaving little room for any such narrative however, by a quarter of the way through I found myself finding difficult to put down; I was hooked. The book just needed some time to establish the character in order to guide the reader into the uncanny.

It is official, some books just aren’t suited for me but, like an ex, I know that they are perfect for someone else out there. The truth of the matter is that one should never be ashamed to admit defeat on a book nor give up to easily (all relationships require a little work even ones with books). However, next time you have an awkward moment when you see that book lying on your shelf, taunting you with the fact that it beat you, keep smiling. You gave it a go and there’s no shame in that. Pick up that book and hand it to a friend, a family member, a charity shop or a complete stranger, who knows, it might just be the right book for them.

Fangs for the memories– How the concept of the vampire has shifted in the media

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After the sad passing of Christopher Lee I wanted to think of a way to commemorate his life and what better way than talking about a role he played for almost 20 years; Dracula. Its late posting after the sad news was due to wanting to make the article as informative and structured as possible to give Lee the respect he deserves.

So I would like to dedicate this article to Christopher Lee; the man whose performance of the bloodsucker remains as a cultural icon of the vampire to this day.

It is no coincidence that vampires are called the living dead; the legend of the bloodsuckers never seems to die down.  However, where the legend begins is not easy to pinpoint; most cultures appear to have had their own versions of vampiric entities long before Polidori’s The Vampyre in 1819 or Stoker’s Dracula in 1897. Vampires have permeated out of myth and into popular culture making them real in some sense but with each portrayal of the vampire, what they are used to represent becomes something completely different.

Perhaps thought to be the key text when discussing vampires, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was used to revive the Gothic genre. Count Dracula was the epitome of everything the Victorian Britain wasn’t. The vampire was used to take advantage of contemporary issues of the day, one such issue was the fear surrounding the foreign Other, the vampire myth itself added to this fear as Britain was unaware of the Eastern European legends until then. By doing so, xenophobia was interlinked with the fear of the unknown.  However, it is sexuality that sums up Broker’s vampires fully by depicting and interpreting human instinct that the sexually repressed British male ignored. Vampires were used as the physical portrayal of a sexual liberation thought to be highly dangerous at that time. However, the female vampire; Lucy is not viewed as threatening as Dracula. She remains passive in her hunt for blood by feeding on children without killing them, something that the 1960’s and 1970’s soon changed. The Hammer House of Horror Studios added to Stoker’s portrayal of the vampire by making female bloodsuckers an even bigger sexual threat than Dracula was. They were regularly presented as being busty female seductresses who would ultimately ensnare men with their bodies and looks. With a predominately male audience, it was a means to reinforce the heterosexual ideology of the time by sexualising women but also to suggest that sexually active women were dangerous.

During the 1980’s, a new form of vampire manifested itself through Anne Rice’s  Interview with a Vampire, heterosexuality was replaced with homosexuality, with male vampires feeding on men instead of the traditional female in distress. Additionally, discussing homosexuality in correlation with death ran parallel with the AIDs epidemic making vampirism the epitomising example of the HIV carrier in the 1980’s. Moreover, Rice writes Louis de Pointe du Lac as a sympathetic character rather than the monstrosities that were portrayed before it allowing readers to empathise with the man who had been ‘infected’ with this curse. In doing so, HIV carriers were perhaps viewed a little more sympathetically. On the other hand, they may have been viewed as something less than human. In the 1990’s Joss Whedon attempted to also change how a certain minority was viewed; women. Buffy the Vampire Slayer challenged gender norms with a female lead that fought off the bloodsucking undead while fighting every day high school issues at the same time. Not only did this mean that everything vampire was now not completely focussed towards a male audience but it also started to mean people began to discuss gender stereotypes rather than reinforcing them within the horror genre. Nonetheless, it can be argued that despite Buffy challenging gender norms unlike other vampire platforms did before, women were still viewed as threatening (something that Whedon challenged later on within Buffy with her boyfriend Riley who felt emasculated by her ability to protect herself).

In 2005 Stephanie Meyer brought to the world another form of the vampire, similar to Rice’s portrayal, the main vampire presented was one that audiences could feel sorry for. Edward Cullen was a pessimistic vampire who was troubled by the fact that he has fallen in love with a human but does not want to condemn her to a life of vampirism to be with her. This is the same form of vampire that Harris used in her True Blood series with Bill Compton. These vampires represent a form of forbidden love that ultimately is a form of sexual fantasy where although humans shouldn’t be with vampires, can’t help but do so. Although, the vampire still follows the theme of sexuality, this form seems to struggle with the sexual liberation of Stoker’s and removes vampires as being a sexual threat all together.  In fact, True Blood reverses the roles of man and monster by portraying vampires as those sought out by humans for sex instead. Additionally, it ironically twists which are the sexual threat when people are found killed by other humans for fornicating with vampires.

Most recently, the vampire has once more transformed itself, however unlike the others it seems to be paying homage to one of its original roots, Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Characters such as Adventure Time’s Marceline the Vampire Queen as well as the Canadian web series’ Carmilla (based on the Le Fanu’s original text) both present female vampires in a lesbian manner as Le Fanu did. However, both programmes have altered its reasoning to do so, unlike the 1871 Gothic novella, both contemporary series attempt to normalise lesbianism although the latter does so more explicitly than the former. This ultimately shows the changing societal opinions as lesbianism has come to be seen as an accepted sexual orientation whereas before it was seen as a monstrous act.

Perhaps most interestingly, vampires have also become used in order to define some people’s identity. With the option to be vampires in videogames such as The Sims series and Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series, players can ultimately live the life of a bloodsucker.  Additionally it was only a little less than a decade ago that everyone had a Facebook app that allowed you to ‘convert’ your friends into your own vampire coven online. However, some have taken vampirism as an identity outside of the virtual world and into reality itself. Fan clubs as well as communities for “real vampires” have been set up for those that relate to the creatures of the night.

It is evident to believe then that, throughout history, vampires have been appropriated for multiple reasons other than its original purpose; to explain the unknown. It is perhaps due to vampires being uncanny in the full sense of the word; a mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar that is experienced as being peculiar. Since people can ultimately relate to the vampire as something similarly human, they are perfect characters to imprint with; allowing subtle critiquing or reinforcement of societal norms of the time such as sexuality or gender. However, no matter when or where vampires are portrayed, one thing remains certain – through becoming part of not only Britain but the world’s cultural capital, the vampire myth, similar to the notorious monster itself, shall live on.

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5 Most Emotional Book Character Deaths

Simon (Lord of the Flies – William Golding)

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A book about how a group of young boys would cope on a deserted island without parental supervision, Golding’s classic delves into the innate evil that lurks in everyone’s soul. Without societal authority, in this case parents, the young boys slowly digress into animalistic creatures with no sense of morality. The only characters who don’t allow themselves to become savages are Ralph, Piggy and Simon. It is the death of Simon which arguably begins all the children’s descent into savages as he is massacred by all the boys on the island who are too caught up in taking part in a tribal ‘hunt-dance’ to realise that the beast they are attacking is Simon. It is a tear-jerking moment as the only reason he got killed was for trying to tell the others that there is no beast. The only beast is savagery. In this sense, the ‘beast’ kills Simon before he can tell the others. As with all of the deaths in The Lord of the Flies, Simon’s death represents the loss of something, in his case it is truth, innocence, and common sense. His violent death is juxtaposed with the description of his body’s final resting place is depicted as beautiful; his body is gently picked up from the beach by the tide and calmly pulled out to sea with luminescent fish and plants lighting the area, adding to the horrific nature of the children actions compared to the nature of the island.

The Banderbear (Beyond the Deepwoods – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell)

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While making his way through the Deepwoods, Twig, the protagonist, encountered the banderbear; (an enormous, hairy, tusked bear-like creature). Although fearsome in appearance, the banderbear was shy, timid and friendly; after Twig helped him with his toothache by pulling the rotten tooth out, the two became good friends and travelled through the Deepwoods together. However, the friendship was not to last when a group of wig-wigs (small, orange, fluffy creatures which act like piranhas) decided to hunt both Twig and the unnamed banderbear. Knowing that the wig-wigs would eventually catch up with them, the banderbear decided to lift Twig into a nearby tree to put him out of the wig-wig’s reach. In doing so, the wig-wigs were able to catch up with him and devour him in front of Twig. His last words were ‘T-wuh-g…Fr-uh-nz’. Perhaps not as emotional as it may sound, the book was advertised for 8 – 12 years and in such has always remained locked in my mind as one of the most traumatic deaths I have read.

Arran Harper (The Enemy – Charlie Higson)

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Set in a post-apocalyptic world where anyone over the age of 14 turn into cannibalistic zombies, it goes without saying that a lot of children die within the book. However, Arran’s death is the saddest and also the most surprising. Set out as the protagonist, it comes as a shock that he dies on the way to Buckingham Palace, early on in the book. He was the leader of the Waitrose survivors (children who have set up base inside a Waitrose) but early on gets bitten by a zombie that bared a striking resemblance to his mother at a swimming pool while serving as one of the scavenger party looking for food. However, the bite does not kill him but does begin to get infected, causing him to become ill and delirious. Nonetheless, the reader assumes that since he is the main character and it is still early in the book that he will survive or at least die near the end. His death comes when the children are ambushed by a group of zombies led by a smart zombie named St George at Camden. Having won the actual battle, the zombies retreat and Arran gives chase only to get shot with an arrow in the chest by another survivor; Sophie. In the confusion of the zombies running away in her direction, she mistook Arran as one. With such severe injuries, he dies there surrounded by the Waitrose crew, his last words are “I love you, Mom” reminding us that he was just a child.

The Unnamed Father (The Road – Cormac McCarthy)

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Another post-apocalyptic novel, The Road follows an unnamed father and his son on their journey to head south to survive the oncoming winter. With the constant threat of attack from cannibals, exposure, and starvation the father is constantly trying to prepare his son for the time when he will no longer be there to protect him. The father’s death comes after their journey to the sea where he has been shot with an arrow and realises that he will die soon. In an attempt to reassure his son the father tells the boy that he can continue to speak with him through prayer after he is gone. With the boy pleading for his father not to leave him, it is hard not to get a lump in your throat. Additionally, with the son unsure where to go now that his father has passed away, we feel a responsibility for this child to remain safe. That feeling is left shaken when a man who claims he has been tracking the pair convinces the boy that he is one of the “good guys” and takes him under his protection. With a sense of uncertainty as to whether the boy is safe, the reader feels powerless and even more depressed.

Brom Holcombsson (Eragon – Christopher Paolini)

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Ever since Eragon had to escape his home town of Carvahall with his dragon because the Evil lord Galbatorix felt threatened that he would overthrow him, Brom has been by his side, fighting and teaching him things such as the use of the magical powers bestowed upon a Dragon Rider and the art of swordsmanship, as well as teaching him how to read. When attempting to destroy the Ra’zac (an ancient race that feeds on humans as well as Galbatorix’s servants), the heroes are ambushed and attempt to escape. However, while escaping one of the Ra’zac threw a dagger at Eragon, but Brom moved into its path in order to save Eragon but leaves him mortally wounded. Before passing away, Brom confesses his past to Eragon claiming that he was once a dragon rider himself before his dragon was killed and he went into hiding as a storyteller in Carvahall. In order to give Brom a proper burial, Eragon created a tomb out of sandstone which Saphira turned to diamond with her magic in order to preserve his honour forever. Although sad, the death of Brom constantly hits home throughout the saga as more secrets that he kept are revealed such as Eragon’s parentage and the truth behind his sword Zar’roc.

Not just Pulp: A Comic Book Conundrum

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Comic books. Just the words bring to mind an image of a socially inept spotty teenager with too much time on his hands. Seen as a nerdy pastime (just look at The Big Bang Theory) comic books and graphic novels alike have both been misjudged and undervalued by the everyday public. There is more to them than meets the eye than simply the out-dated assumption that they are for kids. In fact, quite a vast array of graphic novels portray within them images I certainly wouldn’t want my kids exposed to due to its mature material. They are not something to scoff at simply because of the stereotypical and ultimately negative images society has assigned onto comic book readers. After all, leading bookshops such as Waterstones are expanding the number of shelves they allocate for graphic novels in their stores so surely they must see something in them that others do not.

Graphic novels have recently become integrated into popular culture than you might have originally guessed. Obviously they have been used as the core material for an abundance of movies such as the Batman and Spiderman film franchises. Yet, comic books have permeated into filmdom much more than these frankly obvious examples. How many people knew that V for Vendetta, Sin City, Constantine as well as 300 were all adapted for the big screen from graphic novels? These adaptations were created because their original media platform were thought to be worthy of captivating a much larger audience in the cinema. Additionally, comic books are also used in some cases to continue already aired TV programmes that were extremely popular but too expensive to screen continuously; two examples of this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which began publishing ‘seasons’ through graphic novel format after the season 7 finale on television, and another cult television series Farscape which has so far released 8 graphic novel volumes since 2003. Additionally there have been some examples where films have also been adapted into comic book format such as the Star Wars franchise; however there are very few compared to television adaptations.

Graphic novels are also used because they can express views on key social issues more easily than other forms of literature due to the blurred lines they draw between word and image. Comic books have already been used to discuss mental illness (Batman), anarchy (V for Vendetta) and even environmental issues as seen in Swamp Thing just to name three. A key figure in this approach to using graphic novels as a conduit to discuss important subjects that were originally thought as too complex for comics is Alan Moore. Moore is thought to have helped add a greater respect for the medium by evolving them out of the simple pulp comics of the 1950’s and into mediums which stand on their own due to their social critique.

Just as comics have evolved from simple pulp, so has literature. It is a fluid concept that constantly changes over time. Arguably graphic novels are simply the next evolutionary step of literature; moving contemporary texts away from the post-modern writing style. What other alternative can literature make after post-modernism which is defined as a style that attempts to be different than any other form of literary movement that has preceded it? Additionally, classic texts such as Brontë’s Pride and Prejudice have been converted into graphic novels suggesting an attempt to ‘modernise’ old classics. Other popular texts which are not renowned for being classics such as Meyer’s Twilight saga have also been converted into comic book format, again suggesting a leap towards a future where graphic novels are viewed as a key form of literature rather than a form of low art only geeks and adolescent boys read. Proving that comic books are NOT just for kids!