Among the celebrations this weekend at Comic-Con International in San Diego, one of the most noteworthy is Saturday’s Gays in Comics panel 25th year celebration.
It won’t be as flashy as the celebrity-thronged bow by the “Twilight” franchise, or retro in feeling as Schwarzenegger and Stallone’s appearance to plug “The Expendables 2.” But in terms of social and industry change, it’s as important and valued as a mint-condition, Mylar-sealed first edition.
“When you realize that the comic book industry started in the 1940s – it’s not even 80 years old – and we’ve been doing the panel a third of that period, it says a lot about our time,” says Andy Mangels, the author behind the panel since its inception. “About when comics were created and when gay comics became a force.”
The roots of the comic world’s longest running panel can be traced to an article Mangels wrote that was published in “Amazing Heroes” in the summer of 1988. “Out of the Closet and Into the Comics” addressed Mangels’ personal experiences of coming out as a gay man, and working in an industry he loved, but was one that offered no support or reflection of his own life.
Word of mouth grew over Mangels’ article (this was the pre-Internet 1980s), spurring the then 20-year-old to approach the organizers of Comic-Con with a view to staging a panel that addressed queer comics and the people who create them. They agreed.
“They didn’t know what would happen,” says Mangels. “None of us did.”
Between 600 and 700 people attended that first year, mainly out of curiosity according to Mangels. Today, the annual event draws roughly 3,000 people. “We get more people at our panel these days than they do at the ‘X-Men’ panel,” says Mangels proudly. “It’s kind of cool.”
Twenty-five years ago gay characters and storylines existed only in underground comic publications. In 2012 hundreds of characters and titles now exist and sit proudly among mainstream franchises on bookstore shelves. DC’s Batwoman is a lesbian and Marvel superhero Northstar recently wed his long term same-sex partner Kyle in “Astonishing X-Men.”
Even more astonishing is that Northstar was beaten to the gay-marriage altar by none other than “Archie.” “Life with Archie” #16, published in February, showcased the marriage of Kevin Keller (a military veteran) to his male partner whom he met while serving in Iraq. Despite protests by conservative group One Million Moms the issue was a sell-out. Riverdale will never be the same.
In response to the popularity of the issue, Archie Comics co-CEO Jon Goldwater released a statement saying, “Our fans have come out in full support of Kevin. He is, without a doubt, the most important new character in Archie history. He’s here to stay.”
Viewed against the current backdrop of gay-marriage debates, hip-hop performers coming out of the closet and LGBT characters and shows staking a claim in pop culture, such advances may seem less than significant. But current social acceptance is a relatively new occurrence that only came about in the last decade. All thanks to the activism of people like Mangels and his supporters who demanded to see themselves represented alongside and within the mainstream.
“I don’t know if you would have seen a mainstream character like Batwoman that out ten years ago,” says “Jane’s World” creator Paige Braddock, whose titular character is a lesbian.
“It was a ghetto art form basically,” adds San Francisco-based cartoonist Justin Hall, referring to queer comics of the not-so distant past. “They traditionally lived in a parallel universe to the rest of the comic book world. Now that ghetto is dissolving – in part because of the publishing climate and part because of mainstream acceptance of queer stories. Every Barnes & Noble has a gay section these days.”
Hall, who edited the new gay anthology “No Straight Lines: 40 Years of Queer Comics” (which also is celebrated with a panel at Comic-Con), believes that queer comics and the people who create them made their biggest advances over the last decade.
“Andy Mangels was like the lone voice in the wilderness for a long time,” says Hall, who goes on to say that the creation of Prism Comics – a not-for-profit advocacy group that supports LGBT comics – in 2003 by Mangels and other cartoonists who had previously worked together on the publication “Out in Comics,” was a turning point in advancing awareness of the genre and the people who create it.
The long-standing attraction of the LGBT community to comic books is not hard to fathom. “More often than not, they have characters that have secret identities,” explains Mangels. “They have something special about them that they can’t reveal to the world. They’re hiding something from the people they love. That’s a very seductive type of material for young LGBT readers.”
The 25th-year panel will mark Mangel’s retirement from moderating the panel, though he will still be involved in organizing the event into the future. To ensure it would be more a celebration than the regular question and answer panel, Mangels reached out to every panelist who has participated in Gays in Comics over the 25 years and asked them to attend. Some cartoonists are sending video messages, others like Braddock and Hall will appear in person.
One issue likley to come up is the worry that the current celebration by the media of all things gay coild lead to queer characters and storylines being added simply for political correctness or to jump on the zeitgeist. “You want to believe that it is authentic,” Braddock says. “You have these mainstream books doing it and you think, ‘Hmm, was it just for publicity?’”
“In [mainstream] comics right now gay storylines are only just beginning to be shown,” says Mangels.
So can we expect to see a gay superhero comic book/blockbuster movie cross-over anytime soon? “That would be fantastic,” said Hall. “That would be a huge jump.”
Archive for July 17th, 2012
Among the celebrations this weekend at Comic-Con International in San Diego, one of the most noteworthy is Saturday’s Gays in Comics panel 25th year celebration.
For nearly seven years, Dale Liuzza raised his son as the caregiving parent in a gay relationship. The boy was conceived through a surrogate, a donor egg and a mixture of sperm from both his dads.
“We didn’t know or care about the biology,” said Liuzza, 31, and a behavioral therapist who works with autistic children in New Orleans. “I pretty much raised him. As far as I was concerned, I carried him.”
But when the men’s relationship fell apart, his partner determined he was the biological father and took the boy out of state to Texas and eventually to Washington State.
Louisiana does not recognize same-sex marriage or second-parent adoption, so Liuzza was left with no legal parental rights.
“I never imagined he would move out of state and I would have no say in the matter at all,” he said. “I don’t sleep at night thinking about [the child].”
Now, a report released today, Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families,” finds that current state laws put many children at risk and undermine family stability.
In more than 30 states, children in LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] families are legal strangers to at least one of their parents.
In Louisiana, for example, Liuzza would have to be the biological parent or legally married to his partner to secure parenting rights. Same-sex marriage is illegal in that state and two men’s names cannot appear on the birth certificate.
Between 2 million and 2.8 million children are being raised by LGBT parents, and because of a patchwork of state laws and no federal protections, many of these children are at risk, according to the report by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and the Equality Foundation.
The findings are based on a 2011 report, “Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequities Hurt LGBT Families.” This third companion report recommends policies and laws that the groups say address the changing American family and protect children.
In the United States, 69 percent of children live with married, heterosexual parents, down from 83 percent in 1970, according to the report. Today, an estimated 24 percent of female same-sex couples, 11 percent of male couples and 38 percent of transgender Americans are raising children.
The states with the highest number of children being raised by LGBT families — many of them in the conservative South — are those with the most restrictive laws.
While states like California and New York have high numbers of same-sex couples, those most likely to be raising children live in Mississippi, Wyoming, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, Montana, South Dakota and South Carolina, in that order.
A second legal parent may be unable to pick up a child from day care without authorization or advocate for a child in school. In these states, nonbiological same-sex parents cannot include a child on their health insurance and can be denied access to a hospital in an emergency or be left out of health care decisions.
Inconsistent laws make it difficult even for families from states where same-sex marriage and second-parent adoption is legal when they cross state lines, according to the report.
“If a couple in Washington, a state with full parental recognition, goes on vacation jet skiing in Idaho and the kid gets hurt, one parent might not be recognized,” said Calla Rongerude, spokesman for the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBT think tank, and one of the co-authors of the report.
“If you are a New York family visiting Philadelphia, you better take everything you have and hope there is a sympathetic nurse when you have to go to the hospital,” she said.
Children are also unable to access death or disability benefits or government safety net programs from a non-legal parent. They can lose inheritance and other protections designed to keep them safe during times of crisis, according to the report.
Shooter Russell Mark has let rip at Australian Olympic chiefs after being told he cannot share a room with his wife Lauryn at the Games.
Mark is fuming that gay couples will be allowed to room together while he will be split up from fellow shooter Lauryn.
The decision, Mark believes, has been made because Olympic officials have been angered by his pro-sleeping pill stance and a photoshoot Lauryn has done with lads’ magazine Zoo.
Mark said: ‘The stupid part of this, which I have argued to them, is that there are tons of gay couples on the Olympic team who will be rooming together so we are being discriminated against because we are heterosexual.
‘Every couple, whether they are married or de facto should have the AOC trying to bend over backwards to accommodate their needs.
‘They are pissed with my stance on sleeping tablets and what pissed them more than anything else is the photo shoot.
‘It’s just too hard for them. What I am asking them isn’t too hard but its obvious the AOC have a problem with it.’
Lauryn’s photoshoot comes out today (Monday) with the proceeds going to the Royal Children’s Hospital.
She said: ‘Basically they said if we want to room together we need to check out of the village and go into a hotel at our own expense. It’s not feasible.
‘I am very frustrated because in sport there are a lot of same sex couples and its OK to be partners with someone of the same sex but if you are heterosexual you are penalised.
‘I guess we need to come to terms with it and try to figure out how to deal with it.
‘It is disappointing when you get an email from Nick Green (Aussie chef de mission) and there is no avenue of appeal or way to get it changed.’
Russell dismissed reports he would be pulling out of the Games.
He said: ‘If anything this will motivate me to shoot better than I ever have. It has been a huge distraction, the last couple of days have not been an ideal way to prepare for getting on a plane.
‘I knew the Zoo shoot might be a problem but now I know what a big problem it was.’
from The Daily Mail
An ailing 83-year-old lesbian asked the Supreme Court on Monday to hear her legal challenge against a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and woman, attempting to place her case on a fast-track to the top court.
The suit, filed by Edith Schlain Windsor in 2010, targets the Defense of Marriage Act, a law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996 that denies federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples.
Windsor’s petition attempts to bypass the U.S. Court of Appeals, which is slated to hear the case in September.
With Windsor’s filing, there are three petitions pending before the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, an issue the high court could take up in oral arguments as early as next spring, said Windsor’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan, of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
“This case presents a question of exceptional national importance: the constitutionality of a statute, the Defense of Marriage Act (‘DOMA’), that daily affects the lives of thousands of Americans,” the petition said.
In June, a New York district court ruled in Windsor’s favor, finding that a central provision of the law discriminates against married same-sex couples. The case is now on expedited appeal before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But Windsor’s lawyers argue that premature review of her case by the Supreme Court is warranted since the issue is already before the court. Also, Windsor suffers from a heart condition that could end her life before the case is resolved.
The American Civil Liberties Union originally filed the suit in New York on behalf of Windsor, a former computer programmer who married Thea Clara Spyer in Toronto, Canada, in 2007. The two were engaged in 1967.
Spyer died in 2009 after a long battle with multiple sclerosis, leaving her property to Windsor. Because the marriage was not recognized under federal law, Windsor had to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes, according to the suit.
Six states have legalized same-sex marriage since DOMA went into effect, including New York in 2011. But federal law and programs do not recognize those marriages because of DOMA.
Windsor’s attorneys argue that the federal law violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits states from denying people equal protection under the laws.
Federal courts in New York, California and Massachusetts all found the law unconstitutional for different reasons, applying varying standards of legal analysis.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, through its Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), is defending the law, which the Obama administration has largely abandoned. President Barack Obama in 2011 instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the law in courts, finding it unconstitutional.
Paul Clement, a lawyer for BLAG, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Windsor’s petition.
Same-sex marriages aren’t recognized in most states, but Target stores nationwide are now selling greeting cards to celebrate them.
Placed on card racks under the headings of “For two special men” and “For two special women,” the cards are adorned with phrases such as “Mr. & Mr.” and “Two very special women, one very special love.”
The cards hit shelves in mid-June, a month after the retailer began selling T-shirts with gay pride themes, and two years after Target drew a backlash for a $150,000 donation it made to a group backing Tom Emmer, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who opposed gay marriage.
Target offers a range of greeting cards that appeal to a variety of audiences, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, spokeswoman Molly Snyder said.
“Target is focused on diversity and inclusivity,” she said.
The cards are made by Carlton Cards, a unit of American Greetings, whose spokeswoman Patrice Sadd said the company and Target jointly decided to offer “wedding cards relevant for everyone.”
More businesses are courting the gay community, even at the risk of alienating some customers. Other companies, including Minnesota-based food giant General Mills, have publicly backed same-sex marriage — a step Target hasn’t taken.
Hallmark has been offering cards for same-sex couples to retailers since 2008, though Target doesn’t carry that brand.
In November, Minnesotans will take to the polls to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Minnesotans for Marriage, a group opposing same-sex marriage, denounced Target for its gay pride support. When asked about the greeting cards, spokesman Chuck Darrell said in an e-mail that “people can love whoever they want, however they don’t have a right to force same-sex marriage on all of society.”
Historically, companies have worried that marketing openly to gay people would drive away other customers, said Witeck Communications CEO Bob Witeck, who studies the gay community.
“What Target and other marketers have figured out is it’s not a zero-sum game,” he said. “The rewards of marketing to gay households are greater than the perceived risks.”
In 2010, Target wasn’t the only company that donated to MN Forward, which supported Emmer. The company has said it contributed because of the group’s tax and jobs platform. But Target ended up drawing more ire than Best Buy and other companies that supported the group.
That’s because the donation contrasted with the gay-friendly reputation the company held for so long, said Akshay Rao, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota.
“All the actions Target has taken since the MN Forward kerfuffle have been friendly to the gay community,” Rao said, “and this is one more in those long line of steps.”
From a purely business standpoint, adding the cards is “a perfectly logical thing to do,” Rao said.
Witeck’s research indicates that the purchasing power of the country’s LGBT population this year is $790 billion, or roughly $49,000 per adult.
Surveys shows that the groups most coveted by many retailers — particularly the young and the educated — tend to be accepting of gay people, Rao said, making some companies less averse to marketing to gay consumers.
In May, Target began featuring T-shirts with gay pride themes on its website, and donated proceeds from sales to the Family Equality Council, which supports LGBT families. Target has for years partnered with the council and sponsored the Twin Cities Pride festival. The T-shirts sold out last month.
Dot Belstler, executive director of Twin Cities Pride, said she was pleased to see a major corporation reach out to a market ignored by other companies. She didn’t view the cards as an attempt by Target to make up for its donation to MN Forward.
“I think it’s great marketing,” she said. “It’s a natural evolution as people realize the GLBT community exists and isn’t going away.”
from The Star Tribune