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Does Liking Superheroes Mean You’re Gay?

This article in last Sunday’s Times makes the connection.

I don’t know. As a life-long (well, until very recently) devotee of superhero comix, I had a complex reaction to the story.  On one hand, I found it did capture something about the escape that geeks and misfits find in the genre, and to the extent being gay makes one a geek or a misfit (by some process of self- or other-imposed exclusion), I guess there’s a connection. Over the years, I’ve had disturbingly detailed conversations about minor-key superheroes like Light Lass, Matter-Eater Lad and Duo Damsel1 with other gay men (few women, straight or lesbian, seem to have much interest — although one of my twin daughters is making me beam with pride at her ability to recite the Spider-Man origin story).2

Yet the story was by and large an annoying example of the kind of simplistic banality that’s found a home in the Styles section. Plenty of people, gay and straight, are (unduly) fascinated with superheroes, while many gays — including the one I live with — think the whole genre is no better than soap opera. A few years ago, a former (straight) student and I had a distressingly animated argument over who was the best Green Lantern3 of the several that have worn the powerful ring. David listened with the detachment of a good anthropologist.

On some level, it’s just harmless fun that loses some of its appeal with too much analysis. When I first moved to Philadelphia, two of my (again, straight) friends and I co-hosted a Halloween Superhero Costume party in honor of Superman’s 50th Anniversary. While I dressed as the quite justly overlooked Chlorophyll Kid4, one co-host was MegAchiever (Battle Cry: “Name something you can do better than me5 and you will have named something totally irrelevant in life!’) and the other was The Generic American Hero, whose costume prominently featured a product bar code.

The best story I’ve read about comix and the people who love them is Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Chabon’s own love for the genre bursts through this enthusiastic and beautifully written novel. If I were to engage in the current ego reinforcement program of the blogosphere by listing my ten favorite books (why 10? and who cares?), this would be one of them.

  1. Formerly Triplicate Girl, until one of her selves was destroyed by Computo.
  2. In her version, though, Peter Parker was renamed “Beelzebub.” I expect a visit from the Department of Human Services any day now.
  3. Alan Scott
  4. With the ability to make plants grow at amazing speeds, of course.
  5. Excluding grammar, apparently
  1. Nathan Garrison
    April 23rd, 2010 at 12:51 | #1

    I’m with you in that I’m not sure I see the connection the article is making. I’m a comic book fan myself and I’m friends with several others. We’re all straight and several of my friends are married. I had not previously met a comic book fan who does openly identify himself as a gay, and I’m forced to ask myself why it matters anyway. I’m not sure that one’s ability to enjoy comic book superheroes has much to do with sexuality or that we should waste our time worrying about such a connection if there were one. I’m more inclined to suggest that the connection is one of imagination anyway, so perhaps that means gays are more imaginative? As a straight man, I’m not sure that I would want to be advertising that my imagination and sense of fun is so underdeveloped. Who writes this stuff anyway?

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