Another week (and nearly a week later in getting this done) and a trio of comics for me with some queer characters or LGBT if you prefer. The most anticipated development for many lately concerned the news that Buffy writers would introduce a gay male character. For some reason that I can’t attribute to anything more than scrambled neurons, I thought Billy the zompire slayer would debut in December. Just as well that Jane Espenson and Karl Moline brought Billy to the Buffy-verse this week. This issue is part one of Billy’s introduction. Billy seems to be a normal 16 year old gay teen who hangs out a lot with his best friend Katie and dream of better places and boys. Billy has a serious crush on Devon, or Cute Devon and a loving and accepting New Age-y and grandmother named Sky who helps salve the pain of parents who kicked him out after learning Billy isn’t straight like them. And like far too many LGBT teens, Billy has bullies intent on making his life hellish.
Is it just me or does bullying seem like a required theme for stories dealing with gay teens like including a character(s) with HIV, either dying or living depending on what year it was in relation to the AIDS crisis, in books and movies once was? Not that those stories were not important. They were, as are stories of teens (and adults) who come through experiences of being bullied. Condemning Espenson and Drew Greenberg, who wrote the second part, along with anyone else who had a creative hand in crafting Billy is not my intent. Criticism about being unrealistic may have been lobbed had Billy been made bully free, and even Kevin Keller had to deal with a bully, albeit a non-violent one, in Riverdale. I yearn for the day when kids aren’t bullied for any reason even while my cynicism says this will likely not be something I see in my lifetime. Even so, aren’t writing and reading stories of how we can be ways of inspiring these fictions to become reality?
Billy’s grandmother Sky may advocate non violence but that doesn’t stop Billy from training in the school gym or fighting back the pair of biggest bullies, one of whom is conveniently transformed off panel into a zompire. And Billy turns all Sacred Band of Thebes-y when said zompire bully turns on Cute Devon. Non violence goes out the window when the object of your 16 year old heart’s desire is about to turned into a not terribly sexy, shambling dead thing. The setting for the chapter’s closing is the same as its beginning, a grassy field near the small airport, but with a couple of differences. An airplane is landing at the beginning of the story as Billy and Katie are talking about boys. At the end an airplane has just taken off from the runway and this time it’s Billy and Devon on the hood of his car making plans for the future.
If one thing is constant in Buffy, whether as the series or either volume of the comic, characters tend to get chewed up and spat out. Will Billy and Devon stick around for the writers to grind up, and hopefully not die, at least right away. Or will they slink off together to comics limbo and join Satsu? You remember Satsu, don’t you?
Writer/ artist Dan Parent turns in another subtle, pro gay Kevin Keller story in which Kevin deals with being a teenager without a car to call his own and schleppping the family around. It wouldn’t be so terrible but it quickly cuts into spending quality time with spoiled but loveable pal Veronica. Mr Keller has been secretly saving a special vehicle for Kevin’s rite of passage. Cue the typical hijinks when Kevin’s friends decide to customize his new ride with all kinds of whiz bang Dilton-created gadgets and a “high” profile style that complicates the boys’ drive in movie date.
The “Style With Kevin & Veronica” feature seems to be a requiste feature of Kevin comics, not including the “Life With Archie” series that features the entire Riverdale cast as adults along with Kevin who’s married to Clay Walker. What would it take to have a double paged feature with Kevin solo or Kevin and Todd, who seems to be Kevin’s high school love interest?
The variant cover is an homage to the cover of Action #1 and Superman’s first appearance. If I weren’t so rusty from my art school days of writing papers I’d venture an essay about the symbolism, real or perceived, of substituting Kevin for Superman (an alien who assimilates into Earth, and particularly American culture), and Archie, Veronica, and Jughead for the trio of anonymous men, and Kevin’s holding and banging up an army jeep. No, Kevin is not rebelling against the military or even parental authority by smashing the jeep.The basic message that I read is that Archie and Dan Parent consider Kevin symbolic of a new time when LGBT people (and characters) are on par with our straight counterparts. This image would have been a strong choice for the first issue in my opinion, proclaiming that it was a new time just as the Joe Schuster original did.
Over in the second issue of Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s Stumptown (vol 2), private detective Dex Parios seems to share a moment with David Mayes, AKA Click, a member of the Tailhook band whose lead singer Mim Braccia hired Parios to find her stolen, prized guitar. And I get a feeling that Rucka is implying that Parios is crushing on Mim too. Parios is a hard luck character and I imagine Rucka would like to have romance and sex remain elusive for her or have some dire consequences happen as a result.