Here’s how the comic books dividing lines worked in my house when I was a kid. The boys started off with DC and Batman and Superman and Superboy and then we got sophisticated and left Lois Lane’s 1000th stupid scheme to find out Superman’s secret identity and Jimmy Olsen being turned in a cockroach or something and moved over to Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and the wondrous splendor of Stan Lee/Jack Kirby’s Marvel Universe.
My sisters read Archie Comics. And they were welcome to it. Which reminds me…ever notice you never see Jimmy Olsen and Archie at any of the same parties? Archie Andrews has never been cool, never been hip, or anything but a series of unfunny gags from the world’s oldest teenager. The dilemma was how to make anybody give a damn about this terribly trite ccomic book.
The solution to this problem was to create an alternate universe with an adult Archie. It’s Middle Age Archie is going to get taken out as he courageously bites the dust saving his gay friend, a U.S. Senator from an assassination attempt.
This is the standard go-to move for the comic book companies to drum up buzz. Take a beloved character like Superman, Batman, Captain America, announce they are going to be killed off and wait for the headlines. And it works! But what nobody bothered with was diggging into why Adult Archie was really about to bite it and it turns out because the title flat out doesn’t sell. According sales figures from May, Life With Archie was #386 out of #439 comic books in sales. It sold an impressive 2,064 copies.
To put it another way, if Adult Archie wasn’t about to die, they would have to kill him. Shooting Archie is a mercy killing.
Far less of a contrived stunt is the Secret Life of Archie. What secret? There’s a pretty good reason he never chose between Betty and Veronica.
Hey kids! Suggestively Gay Comics! I’m not saying. I’m just saying.
Whether its offing Archie and Wolverine, making Captain America a brother or Thor a woman, it’s all about pandering and pandering desperately for a little bit of attention. Comics exist primarily as intellectual property for films and to tell the same stories in ever more expensive formats. Whether they call it The New 52 or Marvel Now, what comics primarily provide is not occasionally innovative fun, but meaningless “event” after meaningless event.
It’s 2014 and there is still only one monthly title from the majors with an openly gay hero. It’s hard enough to get the heterosexual White males that make up the core of the comics audience to support titles with women or racial minority heroes. When Marvel replaced the Ultimate Comics version of Peter Parker with Miles Morales, a Black and Hispanic teen that was a major change and I recall the howls of outrage fueled in part from racist comic fans. It’s no accident a lesbian lead character is as far as pushing the envelope with sexual orientation goes. A homosexual super hero’s got no shot.
Homophobia is one reason the concept of gays in comics is confined primarily to second-stringers, supporting characters and heroes which can be created, discarded and forgotten.
The takeaway from all this is its okay to kill off a long-running established characters (because they always come back) and its okay to give over their name and uniforms to a woman or person of color (because they will eventually take the name and uniform back) or to marry them off, rape and murder their wives, husbands and family members, impregnate them, body swap them, paralyze them, lop off a limb, steal their sight, make them old and infirm, and pretty much do any blessed thing to a long-running established character because you can always retcon it out of existence.
Don’t stress over Dead Archie, Muslim Ms. Marvel, Thor with breasts in her breastplate or Afro Cap. Before you can start to hate it, it’ll be over.
Just don’t make them gay. Phony diversity is cool, but that is the Line of Death which must never be crossed. There are straight fans who would riot if a major super hero came out. Or create really angry Tweets. The prospect of pissing off all those timid editors and misogynist, homophobic fanboys would be reason enough to do it. Every group wants to see themselves in their heroes and not only the ones whom are popular with the majority and comics shouldn’t pander exclusively to the majority while the minority settles for tokens and table scraps.
I would be a lot more interested if we were about to get a Black writer on Captain America. Or about any comic book from Marvel and DC. I’m over diversity for the sake of appearances thing
If Lois Lane can turn into a Black woman it’s equally possible for Superman and Batman to look deeply in the others eyes and tenderly whisper, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Is that an image that disturbs you, dead reader? Perhaps, but enough with seven decades of the side eye and vague hints. Go big or go home.
It’s only a comic book and comic fans like difference in their comics. Just not the radical kind.