Jan 13, 2016

Contemporary Graphic Novels: Heterosexism, Homophobia, and Gore

I grew up on comic books -- all of the Gold Key jungle adventures, Uncle Scrooge, Little Lulu, the Harvey ghosts and witches, Archie, an occasional Batman or Superman.

And comic strips -- Peanuts, B.C., the Wizard of Id, Beetle Bailey, Doonesbury.  More recently I've been buying complete runs of classic comic strips like Popeye, Li'l Abner, and Pogo.

So I want to like modern graphic novels.  I really do.

I keep buying them off Amazon, after careful researching plot summaries and reviews.  They must have a male protagonist, no wife or girlfriend mentioned, and no "homophobia" in any keyword search.  I also search for "gay" and the author's name, to see if there are any casually homophobic comments.

I rejected The Goon because the muscular lug believes that he's too ugly for "any woman" to want him,  The Sandman because Morpheus, the God of Sleep, goes to the underworld to rescue a woman he once loved, and Stormboy because the cover had a naked woman on the cover.

Still, after all that research, I'm usually disappointment.  Heterosexist boy-gets-girl plotlines are everywhere, just not mentioned in plot summaries, and homophobic comments are more common than in 1980s Brat Pack movies.

My latest haul:

1. Kill Shakespeare, by Connor McCreary and Anthony Del Col.

"A fantastic concept, cleverly executed with style and smarts"
"Lke the best of Shakespeare himself."

In a weird fantasy world where all of Shakespeare's characters are alive and co-existing, Hamlet joins Falstaff and Juliet to seek out their Creator.  Othello and Iago have a bit of a subtext, but Falstaff wenches outrageously, and Hamlet falls in love with...you guessed it.

2.Deadly Class, by Rick Remender and Wes Craig.

"Enough good things cannot be said about Deadly Class.  It' a book that can make people fall in love with comics."

 A homeless boy enrolls in a private school for teenage assassins, and learns the art of murder, in dialogue peppered with homophobic statements, including a liberal assortment of "fags" and "c*ksuckers."  Oh, and he has sex with an assortment of naked ladies.

3. Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory

"Overflowing with big imaginative ideas."
"An entertaining and surprisingly compelling bit of storytelling that almost defies description."

In a future dystopia, detective Tony Chu is cibopathic: when he eats meat, he can see the animal's final moments.  Good with murder investigation, if you don't mind eating parts of a human corpse. He has a partner, who is killed before any buddy-bonding can occur.  And -- wait for it -- he falls in love with a woman.

4. Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities, by Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz.

"Six-shootin' satisfaction."
"This is one crazy book -- well-written and worthy of your hard-earned cash."

Billy the Kid joins a traveling "freak" show to search for a mystical object called "the Golem's Heart."  It turns out to be the Heart of Frankenstein.   On the way, he litters his speech with homophobic epithets, from "sissy" to "daisy pickin', knob-polishing', pickle-swallowing, effeminate sack of mule crap."

I'll admit, that is one of the more colorful ways that someone has expressed how much they hate gay people.

5. Manifest Destiny, by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, and Owen Gieni.

"The monsters of the western frontier in the adventure of a lifetime."

In 1804, Lewis and Clark set out to find the Northwest Passage.  But their real task is to find monsters.  They do: Buffalo minotaurs, fairies, a telepathnic carnivorous flower, and disgusting plant-zombies.

Still, sure fire buddy bonding, right?

Wrong.  They meet any number of shapely young ladies, dream of them nude, and discuss the special characteristics of Native American women's pubic hair.  Nauseating.

Well, we'll keep on keeping on.  I just ordered:

1. Incidents in the Night, by B. David.  The hero goes on a tour of Parisian bookshops and uncovers a plot to change history.

2. Birthright, by Joshua Williamson.  When a boy is swept away to a parallel universe, his father must join forces with a man from the world to save him.

3. Battling Boy, by Paul Pope.  A boy is swept away to a crazy alien world, where he is hailed as a superhero.

4. Top 10, by Alan Moore. A cop patrols the streets of Neopolis, inhabited entirely by superheroes.

5. Age of Bronze, by Eric Shanower.  A graphic novel retelling of the Trojan War.  How can you go wrong with half-naked Greek heroes?

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