Bunker recently debuted in Teen Titans #3. You heard about him already — the gay teen who’ll join the ranks of this incarnation of DC’s post relaunch super powered teens. If you want to be technical there was a two panel, non-speaking cameo and cover appearance in issue #1. That is if you want to be technical or a completist, but you shouldn’t be. I had hoped there might be a little teaser about Miguel Jose Barragan, our new little, flamboyant mijo who comes from a supportive family and an equally supportive town. There wasn’t. But wait, you say! Doesn’t that fly in the face of Latin machismo? That’s what I thought until remembering that I read an article in the Advocate about a place in Mexico where men expressing non-heterosexual gender roles are accepted and even celebrated. The article is lost to me now, but it may have focused on the muxe of Zapoteca culture in Oaxaca state. The Wikipedia article defines a muxe as “a physically male individual who dresses and behaves in a feminine manner; they may be seen as a third gender”. A vestida is a muxe who wears female clothing and a pintada is one who wears male clothing and make up, but I’m starting to digress. Muxe are interesting in their own right though muxe is not an across the board equivalent of gay though as we think of it. I mention them simply to note that there is at least one contemporary exception (it wasn’t unheard of for pre-Conquest Native cultures to have third and fourth genders) to what can often be the typical reaction Mexican gays likely experience. Not to be forgotten is a movement toward government recognition of same sex unions. So it isn’t completely improbable for a fictional gay teen to come from a supportive though equally fictional Mexican village. I doubt muxe were a source of inspiration for Lobdell when creating Bunker and it’s just as well because the complexity of their cultural role in Zapoteca society would be, to put it nicely, badly mistranslated in mainstream, superhero comics.
The creative decision to make Miguel happy, proud, and grounded by love and acceptance is a welcome one. LGBT teens especially need positive images, but Miguel is not Kevin Keller which is good, because despite his squeaky clean life Keller’s character shouldn’t be seen as the epitome of gay teens. So far Lobdell and artist Brett Booth have shown us a happy, eager Miguel, if not a little naive or downright unaware of Red Robin coming under the influence of the villain du jour. Being 53 I readily admit that I’ve little idea what makes for a flamboyant gay teen either from the US or Mexico or anywhere for that matter. That said, I think it may involve more than Miguel’s choice in clothes so far. A blue shirt, thin tie, purple sweatervest, John Lennon style sunglasses, in my humble opinion, a pair of shoes that seem to me more ugly than flamboyant, and gray – are they grey or purple? – pants? But then we get a wide stance butt shot of Miguel in those tight pants so I feel a bit like a dirty old man thinking it’s about time we get more gratuitous crotch and butt shots. Of course, language is another way to convey flamboyance. The way Miguel talks seems pretty average to me. The flashiest comment he makes is: “Look at me! You think something this exquisite – this perfect – happened by chance? A Miguel Jose Barragan is anything but an accident.” But then I shouldn’t overlook his costume, a purple and red number with shoulder pads, and a mask that covers half his face. Brett Booth needs to redesign girlfriend’s costume because ugly is the word that comes to mind. And if it isn’t changed soon, then I suggest removing the mask or replacing it with one that’s domino style. Having an out and proud teen superhero sporting a half face mask seems questionable to me. Just a thought.
Those are all my thoughts for now though. As far as first appearances go, Miguel is a bit jejune after all the build up. Jejune sounds so much nicer than saying flat or bland. Thankfully a long overdue gay teen is part of this team concept though I hope and expect Lobdell and Booth to build on what little they’ve given in this initial appearance.
And please, Mr Lobdell, don’t have the other members start calling him “Miggs” like you have in some interviews. It just sounds wrong!
The first of three video pieces about the muxe, Mexico’s third gender, can be watched on CNN here.