Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Monday, April 19, 2010

things comickal

-- things comickal -- costume fetishists and comic fans

Well ... the article winds up being a decent enough overview of the evolution of gay and lesbian superheroes in comics, and a little bit of gay and lesbian comics readers, but it certainly starts out ... oddly.

Gay Parties in New York Attract the Superhero Crowd -

DIM lighting. Rendezvous-friendly nooks. Muscled bartenders. Pulsating dance music. At first glance, it could be any Saturday night in any gay bar in New York.

But then you notice, off to one corner, Superman flirting with Green Lantern. And there, across the room, someone in the form-fitting outfit of Black Adam, Captain Marvel’s foe, determinedly working the floor. In fact, there seems to be an inordinate number of men here tonight who look as if they have all but jumped from the pages of a comic book. And in some way, they have.

This is Skin Tight U.S.A., the occasional costume-fetish party held at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village, which draws a regular group of men (and their admirers) who enjoy a special kind of dress-up. Some wear heroic outfits; some, wrestling gear. The crowd can range from 25 people on an average night to 250 on a spectacular one. The common thread is that the muscle-cuddling garb often leaves little to the imagination.

“I was always attracted to the superhero physique,” said Matthew Levine, 31, who helped found the party in 2005 with Andrew Owen, 44, and who was one of the few participants willing to be named. The two become friends as, respectively, the graphic designer and Webmaster for Hard Comixxx, a predecessor of Skin Tight, once held at the Eagle bar in Chelsea. Mr. Levine is a big fan of the X-Men (who have a handful of gay characters) and the Transformers (all of whom seem straight) and has been reading comics since he was 8. “As I got older,” he said, “I realized, ‘Oh, this is why I admire the Grecian ideal of manhood and musculature.’ ”

The Skin Tight party — in which the costumes range from the familiar (like Spider-Man) to ones that only a comics geek would recognize (like the 1993 version of Superboy) — is one way that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender comic book fans are expressing themselves today. They are coming out, loud and proud, in blogs, peer groups, Web comics and more, simultaneously pronouncing their sexual identity and their devotion to comic books. But it wasn’t that long ago that the environment was less than welcoming for those who wanted to make the two seemingly disparate worlds one.

“Growing up in the ’80s, I guess I didn’t even think gay super-heroes or supporting characters were a possibility,” Dan Avery, 37, an editor of Next, a guide to gay night life in New York City, wrote in an e-mail message. “I do remember feeling like I had two secrets I had to keep: being gay and being a comic-book fan. I’m not sure which I was more afraid of people discovering.” These days, Mr. Avery is a member of a group of gay men who meet regularly to discuss the latest comics.

Someone who understands the past reluctance to come out is Andy Mangels, 43, who since 1988 has moderated the “Gays in Comics” panel at the Comic-Con International in San Diego. That same year, he wrote “Out of the Closet and Into the Comics,” an article for Amazing Heroes, a magazine that covered the comic book industry. The article included a handful of anonymous quotes from gay and lesbian creators. “They were all scared of how the industry would treat them,” Mr. Mangels said in a recent telephone interview.

Though the comic book industry has moved beyond the hysteria caused by “Seduction of the Innocent” — the 1954 book by the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham that suggested a link between reading comics and juvenile delinquency, saw Batman and Robin as a homosexual couple, and posited Wonder Woman as a fan of sadomasochism — true gay and lesbian characters have been slow to emerge.[...] These days, gays and lesbians have their own heroes to admire....

I get the idea of writing a hook to pull readers in, truly I do. It would just never have occurred to me to make costume fetishists the lede on an article about gay comics content and gay comics fans. It reads like there might actually have been two entirely independent articles at one point, but there wasn't enough of either of them to work, and so they got smushed together. Which kind of works. Kind of.

Posted by iain at 04:02 PM in category things comickal