For a special weekly series during the month of June, guest columnist Dane Hill shares his experiences as a gay comics reader and the power of being represented. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.
To end Gay Pride Month on a fun note, I thought I would do the ultimate comic geek exercise and count down the hottest men in comics, according to my personal gay southern-grown tastes. So, without further ado, Dane’s Top 10 Hottest Comic Book Characters. Or Dane’s Comics Boyfriend Wish List:
10. Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz) / Karate Kid (Val Armorr)
Ok, I’m cheating here. Sue me. The Legion of Super-Heroes is what got me started in this hobby. Of all the Legionnaires, Lightning Lad and Karate Kid stories gave me the most thrill. LL’s costume is probably my favorite costume of all-time. While Karate Kid was my favorite Legionnaire, period. [pauses to think] Hmm, you could just as well add Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf and Element Lad to the list. Colossal Boy was pretty cool too. Ah hell, just say half the male Legion and be done with it. Long live the Legion! (Favorite artist: Neal Adams and Mike Grell)
9. Sunspot (Roberto “Bobby” da Costa)
The New Mutants was my favorite series and what introduced me to the Marvel Universe. I got in on the ground floor when they debuted with a graphic novel. And while southern-bred Cannonball should have been more my type, I was always attracted to Sunspot, a beautifully dark-skinned and lean South American who turns into a silhouetted strong man crackling with power when energized. His look was perfection. And his hot-headed loner attitude pinged my young gaydar. (Favorite artist: Sal Buscema and Bob McLeod)
8. Hellstorm (Daimon Hellstrom, aka The Son of Satan)
The ultimate bad boy. I mean, he’s the son of the Devil for pete’s sake! Oh, and his costume is to be shirtless. Yeah, I’m shallow. But I’ve always taken notice of his appearances. (Favorite artist: the dude’s half-naked, I’m not picky)
7. Falcon (Sam Wilson)
One-time partner to Captain America, he was one of the first action figures (Mego!) I played with. I remember finding the openness of his costume completely fascinating, and constantly peeking underneath the costume all the time. To this day, I find that Mego figure more titillating than the character in the actual comic. Yeah, I’m a weirdo. (Favorite artist: Mego)
6. Angel (Warren Worthington III)
I mean, come on… he looks like an angel, for God’s sake! Rich and classically handsome features. Did I mention he has wings and LOOKS LIKE AN ANGEL?? (Favorite artist: John Byrne and Alan Kupperberg; favorite costume: red with golden halo symbol on chest, blue variant costume a close second)
5. Iceman (Robert “Bobby” Drake)
A sentimental favorite from his Spider Friends days. A jokester who’s never quite grown up. Cool and handsome, plus how slick are those ice slides of his? Not to mention, at one point when he iced down, he was shown in his skivvies! Bobby is the fun boyfriend that I would enjoy taking home to Mom to torment. (Favorite artist: also John Byrne and Alan Kupperberg)
4. Kevin Keller (Kevin Keller)
As American as apple pie, new to comics but already a fan favorite. He’s the Mr. Popular we all crushed on in high school, or wanted to hang out with after school. Smart, athletic, handsome. Oh god, just ask me to the prom already! (Favorite artist: Dan Parent)
3. Northstar (Jean-Paul Beaubier)
Comics’ first openly gay man. A second-rate character who exploded onto the A-list when he came out of the closet. Once a hot-headed and self-absorbed mess, he’s matured over the years into the no-longer-eligible bachelor we see today. Plus, what’s up with his exotic elvish features? Yum! (Favorite artist: John Byrne)
2. Superboy (young Clark Kent / Kal-El)
An orphan with a tragic history, mysterious and full of unmatchable powers. Searching to find his role on this new planet, while discovering the extent of his abilities. I’ve always enjoyed following Superboy more than Superman, if that makes sense. Mainly because of his Legion of Super-Heroes membership. Alien or not, sign me up. I’ll take me an alien boyfriend if they come looking like him! (Favorite artists: Neal Adams and Mike Grell)
1. Captain America (Steve Rogers)
THE perfect All-American man for the guy looking for someone with old-fashioned values. Well, those values don’t come any truer than someone displaced from that actual era where the term “old-fashioned” comes from. If he wasn’t the perfect boyfriend before, once the equally perfect Chris Evans was cast in the role of Cap for Hollywood, there was no other character that could begin to compete with this hunk of gentleman. Hmm, Steve and Dane Rogers-Hill… I like the sound of it! (Favorite artists: Mike Zeck and John Byrne)
Honorable Mention: Spider-Man (Peter Parker)
Down-on-his-luck nerd, who just so happens to be a hot adorkable genius. Sure, the whole spider thing is a little creepy. But damn, he fills out the tights nicely. And funny as hell. Gotta love a man with a great sense of humor. Still, my phobia of spiders drops him out of the Top 10, which is par for the course for his luck anyway. (Favorite artists: Todd McFarlane and Ron Frenz)
For a special weekly series during the month of June, guest columnist Dane Hill shares his experiences as a gay comics reader and the power of being represented.
When I was approached to write this weekly column for Gay Pride Month (that would be June), my initial reaction was to feel honored to be considered. Visibility on the subject is perhaps our most potent tool for understanding. Every positive example, whether it be through mass media entertainment or via humble blogs such as this, helps to humanize the issue just a little more for those who don’t quite understand it. More importantly, each hopefully provides a small amount of encouragement to the young kids who might be struggling with their identity. So, here I am, sharing my thoughts and sensibilities as a lifelong comic book fan… with a gay spin.
I grew up during the ’80s. In the South. Not the deep South of small town life that Hollywood makes to look so damned quaint. Or conversely, that the nightly news trumps up to look so god awful backwards and poor. No, mine was your typical suburban family lifestyle, albeit surrounded with a hint of cotton and a breath of marshland (Georgia), and then later came a slant toward the political (Northern Virginia outside of DC). I imagine my surroundings had been much the same as any other white middle class community found around the country, though perhaps with a greater focus of church on Sundays. I was a kid coming of age during the time of Star Wars, Atari and cassette tapes.
However, my great passion was comic books (and baseball, but let’s stay on topic). My love for the medium began with The Legion of Super-Heroes, thanks to those nifty little digest compilations published by DC Comics and found in convenience stores. A Superboy-led team consisting of Lightning Lad with his purple and white bolted uni, Cosmic Boy and Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf (the original Wolverine), and my favorite, Karate Kid, in his orange belted gi. On and on they appeared on the pages, all handsome and muscled under their skin-tight costumes. To this day, I hold a special place in my heart for those 30th century heroes. My Legion love soon graduated to an obsession for The New Mutants and Power Pack, not to mention the standard fare of Uncanny X-Men, Alpha Flight, The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man, all published by Marvel Comics. DC Comics heroes took a bit of a back seat, though they remained part of the staple. As you can see, I gravitated toward kid and teen groups who were coming of age alongside me, granted, while they were playing super-hero. Maybe subconsciously, I longed for that kind of life-and-death companionship, where nothing could break their bonds. Still, none were gay. And sadly, it never occurred to me that any of them could actually be gay. It just wasn’t an option.
I, of course, was harboring this growing secret inside me while I escaped into my fantasy worlds. I wasn’t lonely per se, as I did have a handful of friends and family. It was just incredibly isolating. There was little to no visibility of gay people out there for me to better understand what was going on with me. I desperately wanted to see examples of gay people in the world. I just never looked toward my comics for that fulfillment. Perhaps, because I knew that Marvel and DC could never write such a character into their stories. Think of the shitstorm, for lack of a better word, it would have created at the time. Comics were still “for kids”. Vertigo and MAX lines had yet to be created “for adults”. The closest they would come are the side jokes made about Batman & Robin, and the lustful insinuations made by fanboys of Wonder Woman and her Paradise Island of all women. The “Big Two” comic book publishers were absolutely and utterly devoid of gay content. And I could find no fault in that as a young struggling teen. It was the world we lived in. Later, rumors would surface that there was actually a “no homosexuals” policy at Marvel. However, then-Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter denies such a policy ever existed. Regardless, there was the Comics Code Authority to contend with during that era, which would have shot down the stories immediately. What they failed to understand overall though was that I wasn’t some susceptible kid needing protection from so-called sexually deviant subject matter. I was a scared boy, growing progressively more lost, who simply needed the reassurances of a friend. Comics happened to be my most trusted “friend” at that age, and they let me down with their silence.
There was an alternate independent world of comics, but for me that consisted of mutant turtles, realms of magic, trollords, fish police and a peculiar barbaric aardvark. Then again, there were those elves being reprinted, ironically enough, through Marvel at the time. A small black-and-white title called Elfquest, whose main two characters Cutter and Skywise held a lifemate bond together, even sharing their secret soul names with each other that normally would only be shared with their “wives”. Yet still… not truly gay.
And then came a single revolutionary moment…
In 1992, a character well-known within the Marvel universe came out, shockingly and defiantly. Alpha Flight hero Northstar admitted he was gay, and it was a game changer. Perhaps even more important, when I went back to re-read his early adventures that I grew up with, there they were… the clues and tell-tale signs that writer/artist John Byrne had written into the character from the beginning! Right in front of my face the entire time! This wasn’t just a retro-conversion of a character. This was a character who harbored this same secret all along like myself! We were out there in the world after all. It was at that moment that I questioned: Were there others?
Peter Parker? No, he had Mary Jane. Daredevil? Maybe! Bruce Wayne? Despite all the jokes, I could suddenly see truth behind him! Alex or Jack from Power Pack, or Sam Guthrie from New Mutants? The possibilities suddenly became endless. These were no longer code-named heroes, but “real” characters living secretly underneath the pages. I read my comics with an entirely different perspective. My world shifted a step to the left, and I knew it was getting better.
Of course, Northstar’s sexuality vanished again for the better part of a decade, as if his declaration had earned him a spot on the inactive roster at Marvel. It was obvious that his sexuality still made the Powers That Be at the company jittery. I liked to imagine that there had been a small conspiracy inside Marvel, and maybe there had been, to get that issue (Alpha Flight issue #106) quickly out the door and to the printers before those nervous big-wig suits caught wind of it. Get it out to the world once and for all, for better or worse, the creative team’s own internal defiance like the character himself, the Comics Code Authority be damned. I feared someone may have lost their job by standing up with integrity. Whatever the consequences or reasons for shoving Northstar back into the closet, it was too late. Comics changed forever that day. Particularly for a certain segment of readers. A character was out. Like a genie from his bottle. And there was no going back. Gay kids got their example, and a whole new world opened for them.
Southern grown Dane Hill has worked in the dot-com industry for the past 15 years, having put his Drama degree from the University of Virginia to good use. His passions have been comic books and baseball since he was knee-high to a grasshopper.
Comic book artist Dave Cockrum passed away at the age of 63 this morning due to complications from diabetes, according to author Clifford Meth. He wrote:
With a heavy heart, I regret to inform you that Dave Cockrum passed away this morning. After a long battle with diabetics and its varied complications, Dave died in his sleep early this morning.
Dave’s many creations—including some of the X-Men’s staple characters—brought tremendous joy to his legion of fans. For three decades, he was a beloved fixture at comics conventions across the country where he would sketch for a pittance and encourage would-be creators. Those of us who knew Dave personally will remember him as one of the sweetest, jovial, most generous individuals in the comics industry. I’ll miss my friend very much.
There are no details of services at this time. Dave asked to be cremated and his widow Paty is burdened with the news, so well wishers are asked not to call. Email can be sent to email@example.com
Cockrum is most remembered for designing the “All-New, All-Different” X-Men that debuted in Giant-Size X-Men #1 in the summer of 1975, introducing the world to Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus. The resurrected X-Men property would continue to grow over the following decades, continually utilizing characters and concepts first established during Cockrum’s run on the ongoing X-Men series. Before making history, he also had a successful tenure on the Legion of Super-Heroes. Tom Spurgeon’s The Comics Reporter has a great obituary/article on Cockrum.