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Friday, July 02, 2021 

Sugarcoated articles on LGBT comics in Baltimore, and the history of Northstar

The Baltimore Sun wrote a fawning article about a store manager in the city who's making it a specialty of selling and emphasizing LGBT comics:
Now in Baltimore, Nordell is running her own store, Dreamers & Make-Believers, featuring authors and artists who are women, Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC) or LGBTQ. Drawing on community support, she started with an e-commerce site, with plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in August in Brewer’s Hill.

Nordell, 31, believes in the power of comics and graphic novels to tell stories that represent real-life situations, she said, adding the visuals allow people to see stories unfold in more intimate and vulnerable ways. And she wants more people to see themselves in comics.

Representation is always important. The folks whose voices have been elevated for a long time were only representative of a certain subset of a population,” said Nordell, a white queer woman. “And a lot of us got to sort of try to read between the lines and find whispers of ourselves in those stories. What we needed was representation of who we are.”

Long a pejorative term, queer recently has been embraced by some in the LGBTQ community who identify as non-heterosexual.
And by that definition, do they mean they won't lead relations with the opposite sex, or worse, reject the opposite sex? Or just as bad, want to defy science and logic, and pretend they're the opposite sex by taking up the transgender agenda? What does the merchant's race have to do with anything either, you could also ask? Besides, for somebody telling she wants more to "see themselves" in the medium, I don't see her putting any emphasis on Bulgarians or Lithuanians.
After comic books were popularized in the United States in the 1930s, women and, especially, characters of color were underrepresented and often written in stereotypical and offensive ways. For decades, starting in the 1950s, major publishers adhered to a Comics Code Authority that forbid “sexual abnormalities” and “sex perversion,” understood as LGBTQ characters and themes. The code was amended in the late 1980s to allow LGBTQ characters and cast off for good in 2011, the same year Archie Comics introduced its first openly gay character.
As I'd mentioned before in the past, of course it was a terrible mistake to restrict such issues from storytelling in the medium, mainly because that surely led to quite a bit of the corruption we see now: children's animation, for example, shoving the agenda down the throats of the youngsters, when here, there could've been a bundle of cartoons marketed for adults years before that could've given the subject focus, yet animation, more so than comics per se, continued to be relegated to a children's status in the western world as opposed to Japan for many years, well into the mid-90s, and even then, it remained pretty much a "children's medium" in the USA/Canada and other such countries, largely avoiding serious issues like drug trafficking, sexual assault, terrorism and alcohol addiction. Some wouldn't even get into subjects like consensual lovemaking between a heterosexual couple, clearly hinting that petty prudishness on sexual relations lurked around the corner. And religion was rarely brought up, save for cartoons like A Charlie Brown Christmas, one of the first adaptations of the Peanuts strip, broadcast in 1965.
But now, the most visible platforms for franchises aren’t comic series; they’re film and TV. Each of the 23 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe released to date, for example, grossed an average of just under $1 billion worldwide. No LGBTQ heroes have been featured yet, though trade publications have reported that “Eternals,” to be released Nov. 5, will be the first film in the series to present an LGBTQ relationship prominently.

Nordell acknowledged that some LGBTQ characters and storylines from comics have been depicted before larger audiences on screen. For instance, among DC Comics characters appearing on the CW Network are Batwoman, a lesbian, in a namesake series, and the trans hero Dreamer on “Supergirl,” played by the trans woman Nicole Maines.

But Nordell said that the sexuality of the DC villain Poison Ivy, who’s bisexual, or Marvel’s Hulkling, who is a married, gay hero, has not been explored in movies or TV.

“We need a rainbow — diverse stories that represent all people,” Nordell said.
We need serious focus on topics other than something that's a poor influence (or focus on why it's a poor influence), and nowhere near as serious or challenging as subjects like Islamic terrorism, a subject that's become almost entirely taboo in the entertainment world in the past 20 years since 9-11. Such lazy babble that's long become cliche among these PC advocates with their one-sided agendas.

There's also a man interviewed here who says:
Growing up as a bisexual man, he said, he didn’t feel represented in popular culture.

“Bisexual men are still often missing from representation from the media. … That’s gonna be my focus. And that’s making sure that we have that representation within the store,” he said.
Yawn. If memory serves, didn't John Constantine, Hellblazer, begin going that direction in the early 90s, as DC's now defunct Vertigo imprint was getting underway? All these SJWs care about is making sure there's whole shiploads of what they believe are "serious" issues, and little else.
Young adult comic books creator and writer Barbara Perez Marquez, of Butchers Hill, is among 11 writers behind “The Cardboard Kingdom” series, illustrated by Chad Sell. The second installment, “Roar of the Beast,” released June 1, is offered on the Dreamers e-commerce site and will be on the shelves. The series tells the story of a racially diverse group of boys and girls engaging in imaginative play with cardboard.

As a queer, Latinx woman, she said that growing up, she didn’t see herself represented in many outlets.

“As I grew older, that intersection of where I live, where I’m also queer and of color, it’s been a bit of a struggle. I think nowadays in publishing, we’re seeing a shift from my teenage years, so I’m excited to see where we’ve been,” she said. “But I think a lot of my work ― especially with my writing as it is for younger audiences — it’s to create that representation that wasn’t there when I was a kid.”
I see they also made sure to bring in a young-adult author to further their whole propaganda joke. If "representation" is all that matters in the end (and very selectively at that), and not story merit, you know it's all part of political ploys, and again, little else. By the way, don't these folks know "Latinx" is an unpopular slang?

Besides the above, there's also this fluff-coated history piece on Hyperallergic discussing the history of John Byrne's creation for Alpha Flight, Northstar/Jean-Paul Beubier, who was never really handled well, no matter how good the writing on the 1983-94 title was:
Besides men coming in and out of his home, or lingering shirtless in the background of panels, Northstar was coded through the unique perspective of how straight men typically view gay men. As Ben Bolling points out, he was portrayed as vain, sarcastic, and reckless, but more interestingly, he was given a backstory full of poverty and abandonment. While this is a common background in action/adventure drama, it parallels tightly with sociological work on the queer community in the late ’70s. Material like the documentary Paris is Burning exists as a reminder that the queer community was viewed as an economically suppressed class for decades.
If you look at the homeless situation that some LGBT practitioners still go through today, in California, no less, it's not like that's changed much, and with the way the west coast is going now, it could easily increase, while liberals don't do anything to help them out of the gutter. As for Northstar's poor manners, no, it's not great, but of course, that's the fault of the writers.
In the ’80s Northstar’s creator left his flagship and the subsequent writer, Bill Mantlo, thought he could publicly discuss Northstar’s sexuality by killing him off through a long, drawn out illness. Sean Guynes argues that a national controversy convinced the Marvel editorial team not to kill their only queer superhero for the sake of discussing AIDS through the lens of the superhero genre.
If Mantlo was considering putting Northstar in the coffin, that was decidedly not a good idea (yet this actually happened, in a manner of speaking, as is further discussed below), no matter how much the science fiction premise of resurrection could always be brought in to reverse such a situation. But in the end, Marvel never clearly explored the AIDS issue either (the illness Northstar was going through was subsequently dropped), and it was the less talented Scott Lobdell who actually got the assignment to clearly identify Northstar as homosexual. By the way, how come neither Lobdell nor John Byrne are mentioned here by name?
Between February and March of 2005, Northstar died three deaths. Each death was meant to build pathos for his straight teammates. Many of Marvel’s readers were horrified that three different writing teams had all, independently, settled on the same idea. There seemed to be no plans within the creative department for their intellectual property besides using him as a martyr. In a cast of thousands, lesser-known characters can end up as cannon fodder. Perhaps some writers viewed him as a vestigial piece of lore, a lingering reminder of a period when queer characters were literally unprintable. The 21st century saw huge leaps in representation as independent comics proved to larger publishers that queer narratives could not only make money but draw a sustainable audience. LGBTQ characters became more common across many genres of graphic novels and comics.
Again, it was a bad idea to kill Northstar, one all too common in mainstream superhero stories. But did they do that because they didn't have what it took to decide whether he could take up heterosexual relations? I don't know, but one thing's clear: if homosexuality, in the end, was the only defining trait they could think of for a character like Jean-Paul Beubier, it just testifies how bankrupt they are. They're not very honest or clear about how the mainstream added more representation either: when all they can think of doing is turning Iceman homosexual at the expense of his past heterosexual relations, and put Kitty Pryde at least halfway along the same path, something is terribly wrong. But if you want to know of something really disturbing, here it is:
Perhaps it seemed that to keep the first out gay man was a pointless exercise, especially one so mired in outdated stereotypes. For example, at one point in the original Alpha Flight series it was strongly implied that Northstar slept with a man for food and shelter while he was on the street — which essentially makes him a sex worker. While it was portrayed in the comic as a favor, clearly someone on the editorial team re-considered the implications of their relationship. Under Bill Mantlo, their relationship was retconned into more of a father-son mentorship. Contemporary straight writers may have felt uncomfortable navigating such a specific trauma narrative and sought to disentangle themselves. However, the lack of trauma does not erase the metanarrative. No subsequent origin took its place, and instead Northstar became unmoored, defined mostly by his sports career and occasionally by his husband.
I read a lot of the original AF series, but unless it involved the dead restauranteur Raymonde Belmont, I can't recall if this was actually written in. But if it was, it's most truly disturbing they'd establish him working as a male prostitute, no matter how indirectly. If Byrne was the one who came up with that, it only adds to several very questionable moments in his resume from the times. IMO, Mantlo did the right thing to conceive some clarity for any such questionable moment in the original series' run.

If there's one thing the 2nd article would have to have gotten correct, it's that Northstar was otherwise pretty badly written, mainly because they stuck with the premise of keeping him a gay man who wouldn't abandon his lifestyle or try to relate better to the opposite sex, all because they didn't have what it took to move away from what basically amounted to ideologically driven direction. As a result, he was written into a corner.

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