Jan 13, 2014

Rufus and Joel, the Gay Couple of Gasoline Alley

When you search on "Gasoline Alley" and "muscle" in Google Images, this is what pops up.  I don't know why, but I never pass on beefcake photos.

I already posted on Skeezix, Walt Wallet's adopted son in the long-running Gasoline Alley comic strip, who was something of a gay icon in the 1930s -- thirty years later, my father took to calling me "Skeezix" when I failed to express adequate heterosexual interest.

So I felt it was my duty to read some of the more recent Gasoline Alley strips.  I picked an anthology from 1963-65, when original cartoonist Frank King handed it over to Dick Moores.  Who presumably tried to modernize the plotlines.

I knew it wasn't a humor or adventure strip, more soap opera like Mary Worth.  But come on, there wasn't even any soap opera.

The stories were mostly about Walt Wallet's innumerable children and grandchildren getting bank loans to start a new business, introducing new products to the sales team, putting additions on their houses, buying a replacement valve at the hardware store, and balancing their checkbooks.  I'm not kidding.

No beefcake during the two year period -- there were some cute guys around, like Chipper, Walt's college-age grandson, but the days of Skeezix ripping off his shirt were over.

And everyone was aggressively heterosexual.  When they weren't discussing finances, they were discussing who was in love with who.

With two exceptions: Rufus and Joel, outsiders in this aggressively "normal" universe.  Drawn in caricature instead of the empty-eyed stylization of the Wallets, lower-class where everyone else was well-off, and quirky.

Other characters age normally, one day at a time -- Walt Wallet is well over 100 now, and Skeezix over 80.  But Rufus and Joel do not. They have no jobs, houses, wives, or children, so nothing connects them to space-time.  They are eternal outsiders, like the Wandering Jew of the Middle Ages.

The two live together, vacation, and embark on crazy schemes together. They are treated as a couple by the other characters: when one appears alone, they always ask about the other.

A gay couple in Gasoline Alley?

To see what they were up to lately, I checked the always reliable Comics Curmudgeon website.  And found a continuity in which Rufus must marry to get an inheritance, so he marries Bessie, Joel's donkey.

Sounds like a parody of the "slippery slope" argument against gay marriage.

Maybe Joel and Rufus are still a gay couple.

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