BOYTOONS MAGAZINE #42 – The Male Esthetic in Mainstream Comics.

A recent trip to my favorite local comicshop left me wondering a very important question. Are mainstream comic companies suddenly a lot more concerned with the male esthetic? My observations would seem to indicate so. I mean, for a straight boy, the amazing Terry Dodson takes a lot of care to make sure that Spider-Man has a butt of steel, and we are proud to count the exceptionally talented Stephen Sadowski as one of our fellow gay fanboys. It is very nice that DC never restricted the amount of Boytoon beefcake he so expertly put on display for us. Sadowski’s stint on the JSA was a nice beginning to this new trend of sexual equality for male comic book heroes.

Another one of my all time faves comes to mind. The newly redesigned Masters of the Universe comics, with gorgeous artwork by artists such as Emiliano Santalucia and Enza Fontana, as released through MVC, were not shy to show off those buff barbarian bods! Just have a look at the delicious Stratos on today’s Boytoons Magazine cover! The attention to detail is pretty grand, from the nipples to the body fuzz! It’s a gay reader’s dream come true!

And then there are the mainstream gay characters which are so brilliantly inserted into the fold without the hype or the fuss, making them by far more convincing and successful as gay pop icons. Just look at Wildstorm’s Midnighter and Apollo for example! I can’t tell you how excited I am about the ongoing Midnighter series that begins later in 2006. It will be written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Chris Sprouse.

So maybe the big boys are taking notice that a great deal of their core readership is actually comprised of gay fans!

To this, I say, it’s about time! But ironically, mainstream comics seem to do “homoerotic” best when they are not actually trying to make a big show of it! I don’t know if any of you remember the short-lived “Rawhide Kid” that Marvel released a while back? Let me just say that despite lovely cover art, the actual 2-issue series was not really all that exciting.

This excerpt from a review of the new Rawhide Kid series at PopMatters.com sort of sums up the feelings of a lot of disappointed fans: “So, what is Rawhide Kid? It is a publicity stunt that certainly garnered some attention, but probably didn’t garner many new readers. It is a comedy that isn’t really funny. And finally, The Kid is a pretty stereotypical gay character who wears chaps. He’s no John Wayne, and he’s no Clint Eastwood. He’s a gunslinger, a brawler, and a damn snappy dresser.”

My advice to the Mainstream comic companies is simple: don’t force it! You do gay a whole lot more convincingly and successfully when you aren’t deliberately trying to be “hip”! Gay isn’t “hip” or a fad! Gay is a part of life, and it’s important to depict gay themes in the same manner as one would depict hetero themes, and by that I mean with a touch more realism and less stereotyping. Oh yeah, and more gay creators would be a good idea! I’d like to think that we can write and draw ourselves a bit more accurately than someone who has not walked in our shoes.

And to the beefcake being dished out, I say, bring it on! Big buff boys wearing spandex are going to have bulges. It’s about time you all started accepting that. I have to say, it is very refreshing to see that the male esthetic is being treated a little more on par with the female esthetic. For years we’ve endured huge knockers and gynecological shots on our favorite female characters, and as much as I adore Adam Hughes, I think of Wonder Woman as an Icon, not a playboy bunny. Sex has its place, and a little playful skin is not usually a bad thing… it’s just nice to see it is finally starting to be dished out more evenly!

Comments

  1. Hey Patrick,

    Awesome post again!! This one touches home, as like you I am a hug fanboy!! Also very cool you brought up Wondy, she’s my fave!! Not super crazy about her reboot but I’ve followed her since I was six, either through comics, Super Friends, or Lynda Carter on TV.

    Now for the guys in comics, I totally agree with so many points you made. Guys are defnitely getting more of a fair shake with how they are portrayed. I too hope that the guys in charge are realizing that a lot of their Superhero supporters are of the gay kind. Now if that would only spill over into the Comic book fan base at large. ;) I still get “silent flack” from the guys at my local comic shop a lot of the time. This past week before I knew of the delay for Wondy til next week, I stopped my fave shop and the owner is a dork, and always acts different to me than other customers, it’s annoying, but life I guess.

    Talking about comics as well, I want to do a NJ pic. If I do is it okay to post to my site and the Y! Gallery? I’d of course love to send it to you and hear what you think.

    Later

  2. To not depict super heroines as hyperfantasies of the female form in comics would be madness, and so I think that by accentuating the male aestetic more you might also quite complaints of the sexism of comics as well by doing an equal treatment to the other gender.
    I’m more fond of comics like Conan, and Lobo for the anti-hero aspect as opposed to traditional superheroes, but making them look good is just as fine with me as a scantly clad slave girl, scantly clad hunks along side scantly clad women is gender equality.

  3. Hey Patrick!

    When I was young, I often wondered why G.I. Joe didn’t have a willy, and that I thought it was unfair for Barbie(the Slut!)& Smurfette (The crackwhore prostitute!)had boobs!

    Watching MOTU as a kid I was always hoping He-Mans lap lap would fly up in a gush of wind and show us what he had underneath!!

    But I remember a great bru ha haa in the mid eighties in Australia with parent groups complaining that comic book Superheroes were too buldgie in certain parts – then low and behold the MOTU movie comes out and those same bitches that were complaining about too much flesh & bubble butts, were complaining to their husbands about not looking like He-Man!!

    Though I have seen an increasing trend of females reading Superhero comic books these days, so maybe it’s only fair that they get to see the kind of flesh that these doofus straight guy’s get when they dripple over a Wonder Woman comic.

    Either way, I can’t see what people are so uptight about regarding flesh in comics, afterall you see more flesh when you are at the beach, and not to mention some really horrible saggy titties on some women, you know the kind that look like a shriveled bannana and hang down further than their waist!!

    It’s great to see that people are moving with the times, also taking into account that comic book artists these days are younger and aren’t afraid to express their point of view. And also like a men’s health magazine showing gym buffed men, television adverts with pretty girls and big boobies goes to show that a bit of sexiness sells, so why not apply it to comics? If it sells comics to a more broader public and a more younger public, maybe it will intisce younger genrations to admire the work for the beauty that it is, put pencil to paper and inspire a new generation of comic book artists, keeping comics alive!

    Big Hugz!

    Manny

  4. I can’t believe you left out Marty Egeland. His Aquaman run was AWESOME! And holy bulge, Batman, whatever happened to him? I thought he was awesome.

  5. Hi everybody,

    the human body – as depicted by today’s best artists – is such a beautiful thing to look at. I never ever considered myself as “gay” or “bigsexual”. I am a human being and I enjoy my sexuality just the way I feel.

    Does anybody remember GEN13? In the 2nd book of the regular series, Rainmaker, one of the beautifully depicted girls turns out to be a lesbian (or – at least – bisexual). The uproar could be heard throughout the nerdy fandom.
    I wrote a letter to Jim Lee and Scott Campbell, which even got answered (I received some autographs, postcards and a free book! Thanks for that, Jim, Jeff and Sarah, You still rock!).
    Making one of their heroines homosexual was a very brave step and it was done liberately and without any marketing-guys behind it. I loved the idea because to native americans, homosexuality is just as “normal” and/or “natural” as heterosexuality.

    So, all in all, I never look at art because it’s aimed at a certain readership. I always look at art because it touches my heart, because it’s beautiful and because I love to get to know new things.

    I seem to remember that Marvel had a gay couple in one of their series as well, and I think that’s a very good thing. As long as it is either a) funny or b) serious. Don’t ever make it a stereotype and I will pick up said book.

    Am I ranting and blahing? Yes, sure, but I just cannot put together a coherent thought when it comes to terms as comics (I love them!), sexuality (I love it!) and marketing/fads/stereotypes (I h**e them!).

    All the best to Y’all!
    Love, peace & the universe.

  6. I know this article was about the male esthetic, but I feel compelled to mention Wiccan and Hulkling of the recent Young Avengers run on marvel.

    I think as gay teens theyre are very sensitively and accurately portrayed, the scene where one of them tries to come out as a superhero and is outed as gay by his parents instead is rather sweet. :)

  7. There’s no doubt in my mind that the mainstream comics are really showing off some of their hot guys. I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing some bigger bulges now and then, but I’m sure as hell not gonna complain about all the super-powered studs running around in tight spandex.

    I’ve always been an X-Men junkie, so having Salvador Larroca drawing Havok, Gambit and Iceman on the one team until recently was a dream come true (despite the writing – I’m not gonna bother going there).

    Even when I’m just looking through the cover images for the new solicits, some of the guys I see just blow me away. I don’t think anybody could look at the recent Illuminati cover and say that Marvel wasn’t aware just how hot they had Namor looking (http://img241.imageshack.us/img241/6527/newavengersilluminativq1.jpg – here’s the pic for anyone interested).

    I totally agree with Gavin too – Wiccan and Hulkling rock. Period. And Obsidian and his boyfriend in Manhunter are pretty cool too.

  8. Charlie MJR says

    Oh My God I’m so glad you talked about this Patrick!
    This is exacly what I’ve thought all this time, comics are the ultimate expression of the male and female form, but only depending on the artist if he’s able to convey that in what he draws.
    Your male characterists are always super sexualised because its what we all love seeing, great butts, massive members, large nipples and big pecs.

    But you do get mainstream artists who take regard to what we want to see too. I saw a copy of an x-men magazine which showed Wolverine in jeans, and his butt was so perfectly formed, well, I used it as a wallpaper for a while.

    It also always made me wonder, a mistake you corrected in your work, why is it that some of these comic artists can draw these heroes with there perfect bodies in skin tight suits that show off every musculer aspect of their bodies, but doesn’t show there nipples or the shape of there members through their tight cloths.
    Didn’t make sense.

    I’m so glad you mentioned Midnighter, He’s my hero, he’s so bad ass, one of the hardest heroes in the comic book world, right up there with Wolverine and Punisher, but he’s openly gay, married to Apollo and has a daughter.

    When I refer to a gay hero, I always think of him first, when I refer to the ultimate bad ass, I think of him… we’re talking about a man who got revenge on someone who raped his husband buy using a jack hammer on the guys ass!! LOL.

    I love the Auhtority series, can’t wait for Midnighter to be released.

    Like Manny said, why do they need to be so uptight about a bit of man flesh, I mean, its advertised all around us, gay life style is on t.v and in films, so why not in comic too?

    These comic book artists need to lighten up a bit, release some adult versions of there comics. How come that with things like cloths ripping or burning, you have a comic character like Wolverine or Hulk have almost all there cloths ripped off or burnt off, but the pants remain??? Whats up with that???

  9. Hiya Gang… Great to read from you all, and even better to have the opportunity to chat with you all about one of my favorite things… COMICS!!!! LOL!!!

    Gene Gray… glad you liked how I snuck a mention of wonder woman into the article. My close friend Don MacLean is also a huge fan of Lynda Carter and the Wonder Woman character in general. Ms. Carter is gorgeous and portrayed Wonder Woman as though she were really her in real life. She made you believe she WAS a super heroine! I dare say she nailed the role better than any other actor who’s ever played a superhero… with the possible exception of the beautiful Christopher Reeves.

    Glad you enjoyed the posting. Kinda sucky about your local comicshop owner… but good for you for being yourself and going about your business! ? Fraser and I have come out to our local shop owner here and we have been very lucky that he thinks its totally cool. He has yet to recommend anything with “gay” overtones, but it is a start I suppose!

    Charvolth… I agree with a lot of points you made. I should clarify however that I did not mean to suggest that heroines should not be depicted with a sexy edge… simply that the same standard should apply to heroes. Certainly, it is wonderful to see that this is beginning to happen on more of a regular basis. I do agree however that comics are fantasy, and that sexual fantasy should be a part of them. I think this is perfectly natural.

    Manny, you and I seem to have had many a similar fantasy growing up…especially when watching the MOTU cartoons! HA! HA! HA! You are also correct in pointing out that there is a growing number of female readers buying comics nowadays. They are no longer a “boys only” club and it is nice that women should also get a little bit of eye candy when reading about their favorite heroes!

    Yes indeed, it is a great thing to see that the major players are moving along with the times. I hope it continues and maybe someday we will actually see a little definition beneath the spandex cod pieces! LOL!!!

    Gymtwin… LOL!!! You’re right! That omission was unforgivable! HA! HA! HA! In my humble defense however, this article was but a very brief observation, and there truly were a TON of other characters and artists that deserved to be mentioned. I am very pleased you have brought this up, as that particular point in Aquaman’s life was ESPECIALLY yummy! ;)

    Phrog, I am so happy to hear that the creators of the then Gen13 answered your letter! They have just gone up in my esteem! LOL!!! And I agree, Rainmaker is a beautiful character who was brilliantly well and naturally written as a lesbian! I think it is very important that gay characters be made a part of comics and not singled out or portrayed as “the token gay addition” to a team. It’s wonderful to see that we are treated as equal in some comics and that gay characters can be so very compelling… and that even if not all the readers are gay, that they can still relate to the characters and identify with them in their own personal ways. I only wish it happened more often, and with such simple perfection as the Rainmaker instance.

    Gavin, you make a terrific point by bringing up Wiccan and Hulkling. I recently read a few Young Avengers, and I think these two characters are especially important because of the message they are sending out to the young readers who follow their adventures. It’s really vital that kids understand that being gay is a natural thing, and the way characters are portrayed can help insure that, or work against it. In this case, it is brilliantly well done and again, with a lot of class and humanity! It’s great to see!

    TJ, thanks for the wonderful comment and the great link to that SUPER SEXY Image of Namor! I couldn’t agree more with you on that point! :o)

    I think that the emphasis on the male physique in comics and its depiction as equally sensual can only continue. Or at least I certainly hope it continues. I have no problem with either female characters or male characters being “sensualized” (within reason, mind you! I still think certain Icons should be somewhat about being sexualized, but that is another story altogether!). It is a nice thought that it should be even for both sexes.

    As a gay male, I can obviously appreciate the male form in all its glory, but I still LOVE women and find them to be completely beautiful. When drawn by Terry Dodson, Art Adams or Alan Davis, to name just a few, I can honestly say that the female form is an exquisite work of art. I like seeing female skin as well, and I think it is always fun when a heroine is permitted to be powerful, smart and still be sensual. It defies some of society’s most infuriating stereo-types in fact, and I am always up for that! ;)

    Charlie…great comment, my friend! Yes indeed, the “fire-proof” pants are certainly a mystery! LOL!!! And it’s one that I have never understood myself! I think that your comment about everything depending greatly on the artist behind the illustrations makes a lot of sense. I have often though the artists who shy away from depicting the male form on equal footing as the female form might have their own issues or insecurities. The industry is largely composed of men, and it is feasible that they may fear backlash and ridicule from their peers! LOL!! I mean who knows? But it is certainly can be infuriating to see.

    Meanwhile, I have always believed that men’s nips and other “muscles” should be evident beneath spandex. I think it goes beyond sexuality or sensuality at this point, and simply lends to “reality”. I can honestly say that I would not shy away from drawing the hints of such things on male characters even if I were working on mainstream comics. Call it personal preference, but think it is all about striving to make ones art appeal to as many people as possible.

    That’s kinda why I enjoy Stephen Sadowski’s work so much. He makes his mainstream guys sexy without being lude. I think this is something that he accomplishes rather well, and it always makes reading books he works on such a pleasure.

    Meanwhile, Midnighter is truly AWESOME!!! I think he is truly a gay equivalent to characters like Wolverine or Batman. He is a “don’t fuck with me” kind of character who has such a strong humanity about him! He is brilliant!

    Thanks again for taking the time to come out and play!
    Much love to you all, my fellow fan-boys!
    Hugz + Kisses
    Patrick XOXOXO

  10. Hiya Gene Gray…

    I wanted to mention that I would LOVE to see your rendition of NJ! And by all means, feel free to post him in your Gallery at the Y! I can’t wait to see what you will do, my friend! Please do send me a copy! You know how much I adore renditions of my characters by other artists!!! :)

    Much love,
    Patrick XOXOX

  11. wdianaw

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