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Tim Wilkes

Tim Wilkes is a minor but important character in a four part arc of American Century titled “The Protector”, set in 1950s  in which Senator Ted McRand, an analog for Joseph McCarthy, and his assistant Ray Kline, likely a stand in for Roy Cohn, are bringing an “anti-American/ communists” witch hunt to Hollywood.

Harry Kraft, American Century’s central character, is renting a room from Tina Wilkes, recently widowed and mother to her only child Tim. Tina mentions her concern to Harry that her teenaged son has acted strangely for the past few weeks and Harry offers to intervene. The two males have a man to man talk and Tim successfully leads Harry to believe he’s shy with girls with some ambiguous comments.

The truth is far different as later that same night Tim is seen standing near two male hookers positioned outside a popular night club. A sedan pulls up and a man in profile is shown asking directions from none other than Tim who’s been standing learns from a work acquaintance is a “homo nearby. Tim gets into the car and they drive off, the implication is to have sex.

Tina expresses some concern that Tim didn’t come home to Harry, who promises her he’ll look into things. What he’s unprepared to find while searching Tim’s room is a small packet with several pills and a matchbook from Moulin Rouge, which he learns is a “homo bar”. Later that night Kraft arrives at the bar and finds Tim wearing makeup and having drinks with an older man at a table. Tim is horrified to be found out, and calls his mother as Harry instructs, leaving the two men alone to talk. Kline threatens to have Tim arrested and thrown in jail on a morals charge unless Harry gives him info about the politics of Hollywood actors. Harry appears to give in to keep Tim from being arrested and his life potentially ruined as often happened when names and addresses of arrested homosexuals were printed in newspapers.

On the drive home, Tim is understandably distraught at the prospect of Harry revealing he’s a “fairy” to his mother. Harry informs the boy he doesn’t “give a shit” and to “stop apologizing for who you are” and “be a man about it.” Tim says he overheard Kline threaten Harry, to which Harry reassures him not to worry about it. He doesn’t, but Tim quickly takes Harry’s advice to heart and devises a plan to turn the tables on Kline and McRand. Tim puts his gambit in play later that day by lying his way into McRand’s office. Instead, Tim shocks the senator with various accounts that incriminate McRand for his abuses of power and Kline for taking liberties with him, a minor. Tim backs up his play by threatening to tell everything he knows to Hollywood reporter Eloise (think Hedda Hopper). A worried Kline passes Tim leaving the office.

Tim is last seen as Harry is packing up to leave the Wilkes home and Hollywood for other parts. Kraft tells Tim he’s a hero  and proud of what he did earlier (apparently Kraft told him about McRand’s indiscretions on the drive home) and Tim appears genuinely happy.

Wilkes first appeared in American Century #5 and was confirmed gay in #6. To my knowledge Tim didn’t appear after the story’s conclusion in #8.

This story arc which touches on homosexuality in 1950s America and social and sexual politics of Hollywood is collected in the second and last trade of American Century, currently available for a couple bucks on Amazon.

Wilkes first appeared in American Century #6 and was confirmed gay in #7. Tim’s story arc ended in the following issue.

Created by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman. Art by Marc Laming, John Stokes, and Pam Rambo from American Century #8. Originally published by Vertigo.

All rights reserved Howard Chaykin, Inc

September 27, 2021
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