Jun 13, 2020

Gay Teens in the Summer of Love

In Island of the Lost (1967), South Pacific Islander Tupana (Jose De Vega ) befriends a shipwrecked anthropologist and his clan. He grins at hula-dancing castaway Judy, and kisses her, and holds her hand.  When the rescue boat arrives, he says goodbye, but at the last minute he decides to forsake his homeland and swims out to join her.  At least, that is how the scene can be read.

But Tupana also befriends another castaway, Stu (Luke Halpin of Flipper); they go fishing, and learn to dance, and touch each other's shoulders, smiling.  It is Stu who actually pulls Tupana aboard the rescue boat.  We are not absolutely certain, amid the fade-out hugs, which one Tupana has decided to followed.

In 1966 and 1967, as the first of the Baby Boomers was driving off to college, or flying off to Viet Nam,  teenage boys gazing at girls were as common as tie-dye t-shirts and patchouli incense.  But, within their quest for The Girl who would give their life meaning, gay kids and teenagers often noticed them grinning at boys.

In The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966), Renaissance Irish prince Peter McEnery rescues a princess, but he also spends an inordinate amount of time being rescued by an older man (Tom Adams).

In C'Mon, Let's Live a Little (1967), college freshman Jesse (Bobby Vee) woos the Dean’s daughter, but he also gleams at his grinning, redheaded boy friend Eddie (Eddie Hodges).  And while Jesse is off wooing a girl, Eddie sits alone in the dorm room, despondent, singing about lost love.

In It's a Bikini World (1967), teenage casanova Mike Samson (Tommy Kirk) trolls the beach in search of babes, but he also has a remarkably expressive bond with his best friend, Woody (Bobby Pickett).

In the comics, Robin and Jimmy Olsen date girls, but they are heartbroken when they believe that their superhero pals have found someone else.   Korak Son of Tarzan rescues a young African diplomat and introduces him to a girl, but not before the duo spends many panels gazing at each other with unparalleled delight

During the Summer of Love, nearly every teenage boy, whether star, buddy, or villain, was portrayed as aggressively and unequivocally girl-crazy.  Yet they often, perhaps usually, desired each other or fell in love with each other.

Their bonds were exclusive and permanent, yet always submerged beneath a girl-crazy façade.  They would gaze at each other while discussing how much they liked girls, or while competing over the same girl, or while consoling each other when their attempts at getting girls faltered.

Their bonds were intense and passionate, yet always tentative, fragile, easily disrupted.  They would express their desire through hints and innuendos, through subtexts and double-entendres, through ambiguities in spectacle or plot, through moments stolen from the “main” story, lest anyone notice. Lest anyone realize that two boys or two men could walk into fade-out sunsets together.

See also: Fighting Prince of Donegal


  1. Pretty sure Batman and Robin being lovers was the rantings of a man who also wondered why Wonder Woman didn't have a man in her life. (I mean, Wonder Woman is bisexual, but still...)

    For Robin, the obvious problem being that Batman referred to him as a son as early as 1942 during an arc where Robin's uncle absconds with him to the Grayson brothers' native England and uses him to extort the Wayne fortune. (Yes, I know England has other problems in 1942.) That Robin also set him up with Catwoman.

    The Teen Titans became the major source for Robin's gay subtext. Most of the fan base thinks of him as bisexual, but notably with guys closer to his own age.

    There is, however, a subculture which likes the idea of him with Batman or Batman clones. Or Jason Todd. Or his reanimated assassin ancestor? These people like to say these aren't "real" incest because they're not blood relation, but let's be honest: They're getting off on the incest.

    1. The pre-World War II Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson had a quasi-romantic relationship, exclusive, passionate, and domestic. Adult-teen homoromantic pairs were very common in the 1930s; even the Tarzan series got rid of Jane to emphasize the Tarzan-Boy relationship. After World War II, most of the homoromantic pairs vanished, and those who remained were heterosexualized. Bruce and Dick were aggressively cast as an adopted father and son, with Bruce going on dates and Dick doing homework and hanging out at malt shops with girls.

    2. Batman went the opposite direction, though. At least Earth-Two, the DCU prior to the Comics Code. In Batman #2, we get Catwoman, and Robin is always trying to set them up. (Dick being on Team Selina is a constant in the various timelines.)

      By 1956, Bruce and Selina are married. When we return to Earth-Two years later, they have a daughter, who is mentored by Dick, now a political wunderkind and ambassador to a surprisingly democratic South Africa. And Bruce is dead.

      At some point, Helena Wayne seduces Dick. It's gross, made worse by dialogue reminding us that he's twice her age. Why is this in Wonder Woman?

      They die near the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Teen Titan Kole tries to protect them but the Anti-Monitor overloads her barrier, killing all three of them (which makes me feel bad for imagining her recently ex-boyfriend "help" Earth-One's Dick Grayson get over Starfire's marriage to a prince and suggesting he could be her courtesan because aliens lack social skills), but are reborn in Convergence. (Brainiac collects cities from doomed universes, Arak makes them fight, as restitution Brainiac sends them back in time to undo Crisis in Infinite Earths and other crises. And they're wondering where Superman and Power Girl went. And they're teenagers again.)

  2. You do realize that Robin made his debut in 1940, at age 8. So, what pre-WW2? Hitler had already invaded Poland, Japan was already invading China.

    On the plus side, Marv Wolfman essentially gave him a boyfriend in 1984, on the thirtieth anniversary of said deranged rantings. On the latest Titans adaptation, they're even canon.

    FWIW, the Joker is in love with Batman, at least in recent years. He actually tries to kill the Robins (kills one, fakes killing one, is killed by one) because they're symbols of domesticity. But there are three Jokers, so who knows?

    1. I use pre-War to include the War itself, so anything up to 1944. It was really 1948 before things like rationing ended.

    2. So, 1942. When Batman outright refers to him as a son for the first time. Yeah, you're not winning this one.

      I mean, Batman is abusive, but more in a violent way.

      What is interesting is how the fan base is repulsed by hetero "not real incest" but seems to just dap to gay "not real incest" or Dick paired with Deathstroke, Owlman, Owlman back in the main reality, Midnighter, or Raptor. Bonus points for Owlman being his uncle and Raptor being his mother's old boyfriend.

    3. I wrote a book on it. Well, a book chapter, anyway. I think I'll win.

    4. If you cited Wertham, the man who started this, as more than "lol parents be stoopid", you lose a lot of credibility. As I said, he also had issues with Wonder Woman's independence.

    5. I only cite Wertham as "what an idiot!"

    6. Well, that's where a lot of it comes from. (And my generation would never think of an eight-year-old as, you know, sexual or romantic.)

      What I find interesting is, in the 80s, Marv Wolfman is either the most clueless straight writer when it came to bi coding, or did it all deliberately. My favorite is Nightwing saying he's be hard-pressed to say no if Jericho tried to seduce him.

      A lot better than anything Tom King ever wrote.

  3. A lot of these superheroes had young sidekicks in the original Captain America - Bucky is kid

    1. The problem is "thirtysomething and minor" and "romantic relationship". (An aside: DC is actually trying to de-age Bruce for another reason: The man's practically ancient at this point. That sliding timescale stops working when you collect children like they're pokémon. And it's entirely possible Bruce is a grandfather already.)

      I could say who Bruce and Dick (and for that matter, Tim) REALLY have gay subtext with. For two out of three, it sounds, ah, super. (Dick's corresponding Kryptonian is two Supergirls, well, Supergirl and a shapeshifter created by a good Lex Luthor from another universe because the original Supergirl died in Crisis but so did "another universe", so he gets other Titans: Kid Flash, Speedy, and Jericho, maybe some of the original Aqualad. Or in the Young Justice cartoon, the new Aqualad.)


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