Feb 9, 2013

Superhero Sidekicks in Bondage

Pulp magazine covers often featured a woman drawn in the style collectors called GGA or Good Girl Art, tied to something and about to be murdered or violated by a drooling villain, while the hero rushes to the rescue.  But in superhero comics of the 1940s, the teenage sidekick was either tied next to the GGA woman, or else tied up all alone, and while GBA is not an official comic book term, his muscles were displayed quite as prominently as her breasts, providing hours of fun and excitement for gay kids of the pre-Boomer generation.


The Human Torch’s sidekick Toro, nearly-naked, muscles straining, chest heaving, is tied spread-eagle in the path of a tank , tied to the barrel of a cannon, or being lowered into a buzz-saw machine.


 3 of the first 10 covers of Detective Comics after the introduction of Robin, and nine of the first thirty, feature a surprisingly fit Boy Wonder tied up and about to stabbed, shot, drowned, or otherwise violated, while Batman rushes to the rescue.

As World War II progressed, many other superhero comics followed suit. The magazine racks of every drugstore were overflowing with images of superheroes rushing to the rescue of bound-and-threatened GBA sidekicks.

Captain America rescues Bucky in eight of the first ten covers of his comic book, and fully half of the first thirty.  Bucky is often (but not always) drawn as a muscular teenager, and his green-skinned, fairy-tale ogre captors have devised much more creative methods of execution than Robin’s.  He is strapped to an operating table next to a monster, while a leering Nazi doctor prepares an injection; mummified and threatened with an Iron Maiden.





He is hanging from his wrists and threatened by hot coals; in a cemetery, about to be buried alive; thrown overboard with a 500-pound weight around his neck; strapped to a table while a bed of spikes lowers onto him.











Roy the Super Boy, his massive chest jutting out of his red-and-white striped shirt, is tied to a rocket about to be launched into space, or about to be doused with nitroglycerin and ignited, while his superhero, the Wizard, rushes to the rescue.


Dusty the Boy Detective, in a skin-tight blue costume, is about to be stabbed, or tied to a runaway jeep.

The Black Terror's sidekick Tim is tied up, muscles straining in GBA form, about to be run over by a jeep, castrated by a buzzsaw, executed by a Nazi firing squad, or used for archery practice by a weird cult.



Comic books and pulps were not alone in featuring attractive people tied to things and about to be violated in sexually symbolic ways. Men were rescuing women everywhere, in order to create suspense and clarify the emotional investment of rescuer and rescued, who finally realize how much they care for each other.  The woman generally reacts to the narrow escape by melting into the man’s arms for a fade-out kiss.

But superhero comics presented boy instead of girl bondage threats, identifying the teen sidekick as an alternative to the spunky girl-reporter as an object of desire. The comic book superhero and sidekick walked into the sunset together through the War and for several years afterwards, but by the 1950s, Robin, Buddy, and Bucky had surrendered to girl-craziness or retired.