Random Reviews/Special Pride Edition: Gay History in Comic Books!

Published by on June 21st, 2011

I recently came across a comic book that had mysteriously come back into my possession.  You can tell it’s from my childhood and not something I rebought, as it is stapled and taped back together.  Fittingly enough, this comic is called The Spectre and features a rainbow of magical characters; check out the Pride colored cover:

“Um, that’s a big menu…”

The reason I bring this up, is that I found some homo-centric stuff in this issue; stuff I certainly didn’t understand at the time.  I remembered this comic being really dark (which, there is some of that, just hold on!), but it has some witty gags in it.
First, let’s meet the more interesting characters:

  • The Spectre: A ghost who wears unfortunate high waisted green shorts.  He does virtually nothing in this comic. Damn, I did say “interesting” didn’t I? Moving on…
  • Zatanna: Italian-American sorceress who speaks her spells backwards and in the 80s wore a bikini, cape, thigh high boots and, of course, a lobster head piece.  When enemies don’t want her to speak her spells, they make her vomit, gag her, slash her throat, or just shoot her in the neck (go, Joker!).
  • Madame Xanadu: She’s really just a psychic with powers she never uses, but hey, gotta love that name!
  • The Enchantress: A witch.  (Pretty much all these characters come from the 60s or 70s, a much simpler time in comics)  Enchantress is actually a succubus (80s revisionism can add depth and also be really confusing!), so to handle her evil temper tantrums, Madame Xandadu controls her with jewelry: a necklace and ring that create a magical feedback loop… Yeah, nevermind.  Basically, diamonds are not this girl’s best friend, m’kay?
  • Deadman: An aerialist who was killed and now does back flips into living people’s bodies and controls them for short amounts of time.
  • Some Other Characters: Don’t worry about them.

Speaking of Deadman, he is part of a hilarious segue that makes me bring this comic up in the first place. He shows up and basically says that he hopped into the body of a gay guy who was hooking up and isn’t afraid of… “AIDS rally” says the reporter in the next panel.  Take a look:

“Humanity = Dinosaurs”…got that, Reagan?

Ok, so it gets even gayer! Now, the storyline basically boils down to the characters having a meeting in a haunted house.  Meanwhile, the villain, whom they never meet, is letting a demon remove her face and suck on her skull to gain power.  Got that?  Later on, she puts the skin back on, but it’s understandably saggy now.  (This is the dark part I mentioned early, in case you were really waiting for that.)

Anyhoo, remember I said that Madame Xanadu put magic jewelry on Enchantress to keep her calm?  The haunted house, which can grow arms (no, really!), steals the ring.  So, the witch gets upset, and makes the house float…and then aims it at the AIDS rally!  In case the Wizard of Oz-ness of this didn’t register: a witch is going to smash a gaggle of gay guys with a haunted house!  (It’s ok to laugh, it’s just a comic book!)

So, there’s cops in helicopters watching this and one says “It’s the queers, dammit!  They’re bringin’ the end of the world…just like the Bible says! We’ve been too easy on the fags!  …Kill ‘em…crash right  into the whole limp-wristed crowd of ‘em!” But, Deadman comes in for another funny segue:

Sorry, it’s hard to scan things that don’t lie flat. Kids and staplers, bad combo!

Ha ha!  Well, I thought it was all pretty funny, myself.  I didn’t remember any of this from reading the issue as a kid, because I was too precious at the time to understand any of it.  But, it’s nice to know that in 1988, comic books were dealing with some heavy poop and doing it with humor.  Go, comics!


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