Thursday, January 14, 2010

Coming out in Comics: Superman and Adam Strange

Check out this cover of Superman: World of New Krypton #11:

Well I saw that and thought it was the most homoerotic cover ever.
Why is this?  Partly it's the poses - they are sticking close to each other, grinning at each other with a conspiratorial look.  We can clearly see Adam Strange's arse, and you could claim that Superman's leg is poisitioned somewhat coyly.  So why did I think Gay! when I saw it?

I think it is a combination of things:
1) We rarely see men's arses displayed and highlighted quite so (Green Lanterns aside).  Usually women's bodies are shown off in this manner.  So when I see men being positioned like women I read it as gay.  Obviously this relies on cultural structures defining what it means to be 'man' or 'woman and what it means if you veer from these norms.  I'm not proud of my thinking.

2) As a culture I think we are still very used to tallking about hotness in terms of the male gaze, so even if we see hot men, we assume the intended audience is men, not women.  So when we see stuff that shows hot men objectifying themselves, we call it homoerotic, not hot images used for women's titilation.  There is an exception to this of course - which is the images used in teenage girls magazines, or topless blokes in films aimed at teenage girls, and stuff like that.  But I'm not aware of similar things explicitly aimed at, or generally labelled as such and recognised as being aimed at, adult women.

3) We are unaccustomed to seeing 2 men have an equal, close relationship that is purely platonic and not sexual.  If we do see men being close friends the authors or artists usually go to great lengths to include a female love interest, to assure us that the characters are still hetero males.  This image is lacking women, so when we see them Supes and Strange looking at each other in a way that was probably intended to look like they were planning and plotting the way out of their fight, we read it as sexual.

4) Relatign back to point number 1, there are the poses themselves.  They don't look ready to fight, they look like they are pirouetting in mid air.  They are off balance - this is an artistic tactic used to sexualise women.  When it's used on 2 men who are focused on each other like Supes and Strange are, it looks like they have a sexual link.

Then there's the thing about equating femininity in men with them being gay - again, I'm not proud of my thinking.

5)  Lastly, the boyfriend thinks Adam Strange is particularly camp.  I'm not so sure of that one, but seeing as when I showed it to him and asked his opinion of it, he immediately yelled gay, I thought it was worth including.

In conclusion, I think that 1), my base reactions show I'm not as lliberated as I thought, and 2), regardless of the liberalness of my views this cover will provide slash fodder among fan fic writers.

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