They Made Me a Homosexual: Comic Books

Images that glorified the male form. Stories that encouraged violence and vigilantism. Outsiders living double lives behind masks and other clever disguises. The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency was right to alert the public to the dangers of comic books in 1954.

Maybe comic books didn’t actually make me a homo. But since I already was a homo, they certainly helped to shape my erotic aesthetic.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time by myself. And I remember — fondly — the hours I passed in our basement beside a bin my brother had filled with his old, cast-off comics. I would pull out three or four at a time and read them over and over again.

They were mostly DC comics from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. And anyone familiar with these Silver Age relics knows that meant a very specific style in their imagery and their stories.

Bland as the plots may have been, the images told a very different story to the hormones just starting to drip into my pre-adolescent brain. I would stare in quiet silence at the rippling muscles of their heroes’ torsos and wonder what was hidden inside their skin-tight briefs.

Every now and then, an image would strike an especially resonant chord. Time and space would evaporate as I lost myself in the illustration, straining to see more even as it dissolved into an abstraction of Ben-Day dots the closer I got to the page.

That tension between what the images suggested and what I could never actually see would fire my imagination for hours at a time.

Since then, I’ve spent a good deal of time (and money) on eBay, strip-mining the refuse from other people’s attics and basements, just to re-connect with those early rumblings of the erotic impulse I first heard next to that bin of comic books.

They conjure up a weird mix of nostalgia and arousal. But I’m still not sure what I’m able to see in those images. Maybe I’m just trying to remember a time before my erotic thoughts felt so regimented and codified; before I even knew to call them “sexual” and, in naming them, to disconnect them from the rest of my world.

Whatever. They’re still good to look at. So, I’ve posted below some choice examples from the collection. Just click on a thumbnail to view them.

Read more about the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and Fredric Wertham, the man behind the comic book scare, at Wikipedia.

And after you consider how many times a day you visit their site, consider making a donation to Wikipedia, too.

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4 Responses to “They Made Me a Homosexual: Comic Books”

  1. Another interesting post and great images. For me, growing up, comics were not central until Wonder Woman appeared on TV. I became fixated on her and her spinning explosive transformation which still gives me goose bumps till this day. As with other superheroes, I think the notion of the secret identity (as you stated too) resonated with me at the time. Just like Diana Prince, I had a secret identity too and it was also characterized by fabulousness, but not a fabulous outfit.

    K.

    http://www.thegreatwithin.org/2010/03/growing-up-queer-captain-kirk-chuck.html

    http://www.thegreatwithin.org/2009/07/wonder-woman-adorno-and-me.html

  2. admin says:

    Thank you for your comments; they’re always a pleasure to read.

    Thank you, too, for the links. I hadn’t read your post on Wonder Woman.

    So thank you especially for writing a piece that:

    1. manages to fit Wonder Woman and Theodor Adorno into the same title;
    2. pans that horrible movie, Philadelphia: Jonathan Demm’s apology for the vile homophobia of his earlier The Silence of the Lambs; and
    3. points out that whatever the intentions of the collective dominant media might be in its pop-cultural creation, it’s no guarantee that those who consume it will do so as intended.

    Besides, there are examples from the mass-produced popular media that are, all in their own right, subversive; as well as those which seem to be towing that mainstream line while, at the same time, they introduce aspects that seem to go weirdly and wonderfully against the current of mainstream sentiments.

  3. Michael says:

    there is this lack of Homosexual Role models for teens. growing up one looks for stories to relate to or chase in a pursuit for something better. growing up i didnt have that…till this day I don’t have that.

    but thanks for posting this, for once I don’t feel like the only one. I enjoyed your article.

  4. admin says:

    And thank you for your comment.

    While I certainly felt that I was without any homosexual role models as a kid, it was difficult for me even to conceive of such a thing. Such a different world we live in now: small progress by some measures and remarkable changes by others.

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