Homoerotic Superheroes

Alan by JC 1

What is it about homos and superheroes? Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve had an affinity to them. Granted, at first it was Wonder Woman, but I was also enchanted by Spiderman and Batman. It’s not just me – many gay guys and gals are enamored of those with special powers. Like the mutants of the X-Men, we have long been outsiders. Those who are different, even in ways not always outwardly seen, often have a bigger cross to bear, and perhaps we recognize in others who struggle with such difference a resonant thread of loneliness.

It wasn’t just about their bulging biceps, bulging thighs, or bulging, well, bulges, but their double identities: Batman was Bruce Wayne, Superman was Clark Kent, Spiderman was Peter Parker, and Wonder Woman was Diana Prince. They were normal working-class people except for when the situation called for something more.

In many ways, being gay is both boon and albatross. It hinders in some aspects, in its isolating way of separating us from heterosexuals – while helping in others, in the way it makes us stronger. We’re good at going to battle, and winning, because we’ve had no other choice. When you’re consistently attacked or others have tried to repeatedly make you feel less than equal, you buck up and develop whatever special powers you can, or you die. Straight people simply don’t have the same kind of struggles. (They have different ones, of course, but they don’t usually know what it’s like to walk into a room and feel like the odd man, or woman, out.)

Some of the unlikely art that managed to disguise its homoerotic undertones while putting it right in the hands of teenage boys, was to be found in superhero comic books. One such illustrator of said work is J.C. Etheredge, an artist whose virtues I extolled in this essay, and who continues to produce artwork that straddles the line between art and commerce, popularity and pornography. His focus on Superheroes has resulted in superb work, and some might say a healthy dose of magic (based on how he can make even a scrawny guy like me look big and buff and built). Etheredge understands what it’s like to be an outsider, and what it means to be different, but rather than run from it or hide, he’s put it all out there. That’s a special kind of superpower: the ability to so completely be yourself – and it’s something that eludes most of us, gay or straight or choose-your-own-adventure.

PS – I’ve achieved Cheesecake Boy status before, but I’ve never been a Superhero… until now. Thanks J.C.!

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