Wednesday, January 24, 2007

letters page

from the diary: “Thursday 3/13/86

“I just … read the letters page of Ms. Tree and … [ellipsis in original] Anyway there was a letter that really made me angry – this asshole moralist who claimed that homosexuality was immoral and that homosexuals are created by older men. He was also down on pornography. He then proceeded to express his indignation at a perceived case of prejudice in the characterizations of the anti-abortionists in a recent story.”

When I started reading comics I didn’t read their letters pages. Tell the truth, there were times I barely read the writing in the word balloons and just liked flipping the pages. By 1986, however, I was reading everything printed in the darn things. They weren’t 25c a pop anymore. And some had lively and entertaining letters pages. I recall Ms. Tree (a hardboiled female detective) and Jon Sable (a freelance secret agent) hosted arguments about gay rights in their letters pages because both dared to introduce gay characters. There were the usual haters and, naturally, I got exercised about their cruel and nonsensical screeds; but there were also compatriots – thank yous and personal testimony. No gay kisses allowed in the actual art, not for awhile. I’d say comics were still aggressively het. No superhero, certainly, was allowed to be out. John Byrne introduced a closeted gay superhero in his Alpha Flight (a Canadian version of the X-Men). But that character was so closeted not even the readers knew. (Though I remember a friend vehemently laying out the clues for me.)

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