Nov 18, 2015

Gay Comics of the 1980s

When I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I was astonished.  There were no gay characters in any comic book or comic strip I had ever seen before, even in gay magazines, except for an occasional Donelan cartoon or Tom of Finland erotic drawing,  but here there were entire strips with all-gay casts (except for the occasional heterosexual villain). In Frontiers, the weekly news magazine. In the monthly anthology Gay Comix (1980-1988), by Kitchen Sink Press.  In the Meatmen anthology of trade paperbacks, edited by Winston Leyland (1989-1999).

During the late 1980s, they stopped being called "comix" (underground, radical) and became "comics" (mainstream).

Here are my favorite gay comic titles:

1. Murphy's Manor (Kurt Erichsen), about a regular guy who works as a librarian in Black Swamp, Ohio, and his various gay and lesbian friends.

The Sparkle Spinsters, led by the flamboyant Duchess (right), sometimes appear in a separate feature.

 Kurt Erichsen offers .pdfs of Murphy's Manor from 1981 to 2005 on his website.

Jayson, by Jeffrey A. Krell.  Jason Callohide is an underemployed liberal arts graduate sharing a single apartment in Philadelphia with his straight gal pal, Arena Stage. They are drawn in the clean, spare style of Archie Comics.

 Jeffrey A. Krell has published several trade paperbacks of Jayson's adventures, the most recent in 2012.  He also produced an off-Broadway musical, Jayson

Poppers, by Jerry Mills, set right in the heart of West Hollywood, starring Yves, a regular guy who works in a bookstore, his hunky best friend Billy, and the flamboyant Andre. It features all of the glitz, glamour, sex, and drugs that you expect in the pre-AIDS era of sexual liberation (it's even named after a psychotropic drug, amyl nitrite)

But beneath all that it's about friends sticking together in a hostile world, about the search for a place where you belong.

Jerry Mills died of AIDS in 1993.

You can get gay comics now on Amazon -- they arrive in mail in 10 days, hidden from view in a brown box -- but that can't match the immediacy of walking down to the Different Light Bookstore on Larrabee and Santa Monica and grabbing them right off the shelf.

See also: Donelan; Howard Cruse; Tijuana Bibles; and Tom of Finland.