The setting for Don McGregor’s Sabre is a future world in which the United States has been devastated by nuclear holocaust. Unsavory characters led by the Overseer have seized control of vast parts of the world. Sabre is one of a few people who fight to against the powers in this New World order, He enlists others to join the small guerilla band he leads. Two of those individuals are men who go by the colorful names Deuces Wild and Summer Ice.
At the point they’re first introduced, McGregor matter-of-factly tells us “the two men have known each other for five years…been lovers for three… been cellmates in [a] fatuous version of death row for two months.” Deuces Wild had been a geneticist working on a government subsidized research project. Summer Ice was a historian who refused to “correct” history for the official education network. The stress of the dire straits they’re in is taking its toll and the two argue about past decisions that led them to being imprisoned and awaiting execution. Summer is distraught, wishing he’d simply re-written as he’d been instructed. The tension is palpable as Deuces yells that he hates Summer being defeatist. Summer either reels away or is pushed or hit by Deuces. The art leaves it unclear which action happened. Deuces consoles Summer. (Issue #3)
Execution Day arrives in issue #4. Summer is understandably fearful as he watches a crowd gather inside a high tech Coliseum. The transparent sealed structure rings a geyser that will be used to execute the two lovers and Sabre. Deuces is still angry and, according to Summer, spouting ideology when guards come for them. Sabre is the first victim, but the resourceful hero escapes and causes chaos, allowing Deuces and Summer the opportunity to escape with him. The trio steals a jet, providing the ability to put a good distance between them and their former captors. Later that night Deuces admits he’s starting to wonder what brought them together. Sabre joins them and a couple pages are spent detailing Sabre’s love for Melissa. Deuces tells Sabre they’d like some time alone. Sabre smiles and says, “Have yourself a good time…but I wouldn’t wander too far…Remember there’s a good chance the boogeyman is not far behind us, looking for our asses. And he doesn’t give a damn about love or sex and he sure as hell has no sense of humor.”
The three men continue their trek across a scarred land, recalling various disastrous events that culminated in the current apocalyptic world. While they do reach an encampment that provides some peace, it doesn’t last long as forces of the Overseer arrive to spread panic and recapture the rebels (issue #5).
Sabre as leader is their primary target. Summer spies Deuces running toward the “Lounge Lizard” (a sophisticated robot crafter to look like a cross between a human and a lizard) who has an experimental “matter dissolver” rifle trained on Sabre. Fearful for Deuces’ life, all Summer can do is shout “Come back here you dumb bastard! You’re going to get yourself killed!” Deuces spontaneous plan doesn’t get him killed, but it does earn him the Lounge Lizard’s wrath and full attention, albeit briefly as a new player, a woman named Midnight Storm, arrives on her futuristic motorcycle and provides enough distraction to help get Sabre to another safe haven. Unfortunately, it leaves the Lizard angrier and poised to kill Deuces. Interesting to note that as progressive as McGregor was in handling gay and lesbian characters, he still felt it necessary to write his villains using slurs like “daffodil perverts” and “lavender” like the Lizard does with Deuces. (Issue #6)
Continuing to issue #7, the sight of Deuces on the verge of being killed by a matter dissolver snaps Summer out of his extreme denial. Adrenaline fills his body, and Summer rushes the Lizard. He’s hit several times by the weapon’s rays and still manages to bash the Lizard with a fence post, wrestle it to the ground, and disable it with a blast from the rifle.
With what appears to be his last dying breath, he crawls over to his lover, cradles and kisses him, and telling Dueces he now understands Deuces’ fight back attitude. They’re rescued by Midnight Storm and another of Sabre’s compatriots (issue #9) and taken to a second, secure encampment where Summer begins to heal in a makeshift hospital ward resembling a MASH unit (issue #10). Deuces seems to have made a miraculous recovery and reveals to his lover that he was once married “What I remember most vividly,” Deuces confides, “is trying to explain my homosexuality to her. She kept insisting that she had made me gay. I kept telling her that was silly. That she hadn’t. That wasn’t the way it worked. To punish me, she took our son…I haven’t seen him in six years.”
The following issue (#11) McGregor has Summer divulge his painful coming out story to Deuces. Like so many others, Summer first suspected his homosexuality as a teenager and thanks to homophobic messages, strongly considered suicide. Summer: “I had a gift for morbidity. You helped me temper that, Deuces.” Deuces: “Don’t flirt with it again. You fight this…you’re going to win…you’re not going to die.” There is only a brief scene with the lovers in #12 and they don’t appear in the next two issues. Sabre ended publication with #14.
The indicia in Sabre #3 indicates it was published in December 1982, making it possibly the earliest portrayal of a gay male couple in comics.
Deuces Wild and Summer Ice created by Don McGregor. Art by Billy Graham from Sabre #7.
All rights reserved Don McGregor.