Jul 9, 2016

Leonard and Larry

I moved to West Hollywood in 1985 in the midst of a Renaissance of gay comics.  Humor and not-so humorous strips were appearing in Frontiers and the Advocate, in the Gay Comics magazine, and in the annual Meatmen anthologies.  My favorites were:

Murphy's Manor, by Kurt Erichsen.
Jayson, by Jeffrey A. Krell
Poppers, by Jerry Mills
Dykes to Watch Out For, by Alison Bechtel
The single-panel Donelan cartoons.
And of course the erotic comics of Tom of Finland, Sean, and Cavello.

I wasn't a big fan of Howard Cruise's depressing Wendell, and even less of a fan of Tim Barela's Leonard and Larry.

Maybe I was just jealous of Tim Barela, who my boyfriend Lane had a crush on.  When Tim said "Jump," Lane said "How high?"  I was pretty sure that if Tim ever asked Lane to move in, the U-Haul would be packed and ready to go in five minutes.

But even without the real-life drama, I didn't like Leonard and Larry.

1. Leonard Goodman and Larry Evans are a middle-aged bear couple, one short and Jewish, the other tall and redhaired -- ok, that sounds a little like Lane and me.  Except they live in a house in a straight neighborhood somewhere in Los Angeles, they have mostly straight friends, Larry has kids from a previous heterosexual marriage, and so on and so on.  Way, way too assimilated!

Aside from an occasional depressing encounter with homophobia, they could be Hi and Lois, or Blondie and Dagwood.  What's interesting about that?

2. All of the characters look alike: white, with long faces, sharp noses, and prominent eyebrows. The men all have facial hair.

These are the plumbers, but the guy on the left could be Leonard's brother, and the guy on the right is Leonard's twin.

Ok, so Tim Barela likes a certain facial type, but everyone looks like a clone of the same person, like the Bizarro World in Superman comics.  It's hard to tell who the characters are, who's talking.  And how about a little ethnic diversity?

3. It wasn't funny.  Of course, a lot of gay comics weren't supposed to be funny -- Howard Cruise expected his stuff to elicit anguished wails, not belly-laughs..  But Tim Barela always claimed that he was drawing a humor strip, and there were indeed occasional wry observations on the annoyances of everyday life in the Straight World.  But wry is not the same thing as funny. 

By the way, when I was googling for Tim Barela, I found another one, a 16-year old gymnast from Bochum, Germany (10 in this photo).  The kid has a bright future ahead of him, as long as he doesn't decide to become a cartoonist.

The annoying story of me and Tim Barela is up on Tales of West Hollywood.

See also: Gay Comix