CCI 2007 "Gays in Comics Panel" — Part III|
On Saturday, July 28th, Andy Mangels moderated the 20th "Gays in Comics" panel at the Comic-Con International in San Diego, with Alison Bechdel, Chuck Kim, Charles "Zan" Christensen, Alonso Duralde, and Megan Gedris,with DC Comics President Paul Levitz as the secret sixth panelist.
The entire panel and Q&A session have been transcribed by Charles "Zan" Christensen. Click here to start at Part I. This is Part III of that transcript, which is the first half of the question and answer session.
AM: So traditionally, I mean, they changed it this year, the panels are supposed to get out fifteen minutes early so they can set up for the next panel, but the next panel is our gays in comics mixer, sponsored by Prism Comics, so we're going to be going right up to 7 pm, which means we have 20 minutes for your questions and for final comments from the audience. There's a mike over here if you'd like to line up. And if you have any questions for our panelists, we'll go through that.
And in the meantime, while I'm waiting for someone to step up to the microphone, I'm going to introduce… I'm not seeing very well into the audience so, I'm only seeing a couple of people… if you're a gay comics professional and I miss you, please don't take offense at that…
Phil Jimenez is right back here over on this side…
I'm not seeing anybody other than Phil right this second… there's a lot of people out here. This is a thousand-seater room, and we're about two-thirds capacity at least. I want to acknowledge, Zan mentioned my pink triangle colors on the first Out in Comics, I want to mention there's an aspiring inker here in the room, and he's the one who actually colored all the pink triangles, it was Richard Scott over here…
What other gay comic creators are out there… here we go…
Oh yes, wow, how did I… I haven't seen you for so long. This is Jeffrey Krell who has… How long have you been doing your strip?
Since 1982 he's been doing the Jayson strip in newspapers, in Gay Comics, and in book publications, Jeffrey Krell.
We've got to get you up here one of these years, don't we. All right, next year.
Okay, so we have our first question. Please try to keep your questions brief and succinct as possible so we can get to as many as possible.
QUESTION: This is for Alison. Now that you know everyone is kind of watching your next book, is it going to be hard? Are you going to hold back?
AB: I'm totally paralyzed about this next book, I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm working on another memoir, and it's all very different now. I had the luxury with Fun Home of, for many years not having anyone, no-one had bought it and it was just purely a personal project. This next book that I'm doing, I've already sold it, I have an advance, I have a deadline of two-and-a-half years—it took me seven years to do Fun Home so I don't know what the hell I'm going to do—but I'm paralyzed for many reasons. One of which is the expectations, like… how am I going to top Fun Home. I've pretty much resigned myself to expecting the next book to be a total failure. That's the only way I can proceed at all.
But it also makes it more difficult to… it's another memoir, it's going to be about my real life, it's going to be about my relationships. So it's going to be exploring some new interpersonal material, and then how do you write about real people who are still alive? Of course it was very easy to write about my dad, since he's dead, and I could say whatever I wanted. But I think I'm going to write about all my ex-lovers.
So I think I'm going to have to actually talk to them first.
AM: That could paralyze you, too.
AD: You've done strips about your exes, though… or you've done shorter pieces about…
AB: Yeah. Yeah. That's true. But I disguise them.
AM: Next question.
QUESTION: I just had a kind of comment about—and just want to hear some opinions on it, different couple of dimensions—one thing I thought that has kinda changed in the past 20 years that I certainly identified with in an episode of Smallville where Clark kind "comes out" to Chloe about his super-powers.
That, the secret identity seemed to be a little more fluid and like in the last Ultimate Spider-Man they're talking about… his Aunt May really doesn't care about, you know, all this other stuff, she just wants to be sure he's happy, and he's safe and that she loves him for what he does and the person he is and I remember growing up all the stories were about hiding and avoiding and not telling your loved ones and everything, and I saw that… Smallville sort of reminded me of when I came out, and so…
I know that Chuck had mentioned that in Heroes, that coming out helps the Heroes. but also with the secret identities more and more people around the characters are knowing their secret identity. And that, it's not that they're putting themselves in danger or anything, that we love you for who you are and the person that you are. So I was kind of curious what your thoughts were.
CK: I don't know, I kind of think it might be a reflection of the times that now you can go on the internet, you can blog, you can put yourself on YouTube, and it just seems like you can really sort of put yourself out there much more easily than you could have in the 80s or even before AOL or something. I just wonder if that might be part of the reflection of that.
ZAN: I think it's definitely something to do with living in a much—well, despite the efforts of our government—a less fear-based environment. People don't necessarily feel terrified all the time about being different than other people. And so when you have an environment like that, it becomes less and less sensible for people to hide themselves so much from people they care about. So, it's bound to happen in… Spider-Man.
AM: There's an element, too, that I think it's reflected in the creators, because darn near everyone on X2, the production team, was gay. The director, the producer, every screenwriter, all, like 8 of them, you know, it was… Superman Returns, same way, X1, same way, some of the people who worked on Spider-Man, same way, some of the people who worked on Heroes, same way…
When you have gay and lesbian creators in the office, and who are working on producing these projects, I think that understanding of what a secret identity and its comparisons to a closet are really comes forward.
AD: yeah, I did a piece for the Advocate last summer, the reviled-in-some-quarters "how gay is Superman" cover— I didn't write the cover line, I just wrote the story…
But yeah, I talked about the notion of superheroes having secret identity, for people my age and older, I think, was definitely something we could relate to and kind of shared that burden.
But now we are getting a more open society, we don't sort of hide away the aunt with the mental illness, we're not embarrassed to talk about cancer, we're not embarrassed to talk about a lot of different things, and I think a lot of that stems from, it's an AA-ism, right, that you're only as sick as your secrets. and so I think that just society in general is feeling less the need to be secret about stuff and sexual identity is certainly on that list.
AM: All right, next question.
QUESTION: This question is for anyone on the panel. Today I got a glimpse of the evolution of the gay and lesbian characters in comics, and I was wondering what is the evolution of both queer people of color characters, as well as transgender characters.
ZAN: Well, there's a creator in the audience, I believe, Tommy Roddy… where are you Tommy, are you here?
…who is doing a book called Pride High, which he talked about at the "up and coming" panel on Thursday, and he's to bring a real, honest, diverse racial makeup to this book in addition to having very significant queer characters, and I think it's happening in bigger publishers as well, but I think it's so refreshing and so honest and so unapologetic in independent books and his book is a really good example.
AM: Next question.
QUESTION: Back to the question for Chuck about Heroes—I know, I'm going to have to bring this up again, but—do you see yourself being more aggressive, pushing more for a gay hero instead a gay side hero or a friend, or… we're always seeing us all in the line of… I work in television as well and these characters are always the friend or always tend to be the sidekick person or side character and they always tend to be overly gay or, the Will and Grace style, the comedy relief style and it's always the same kind of character. It's always, "let's laugh at [inaudible]"
CK: Um, I think a gay hero, you know, one of the main characters, it would be great. And I don't think it's a matter of anybody holding up any resistance to it, I think it's just a matter of it… when the idea comes to us, we're going to… we'll put it in there.
QUESTION: Well why, if I can repeat the question, why hasn't there been one written into it already.
CK: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Why wasn't the gay character written into it already, or how come… how is it than an actor can push away… I don't know, I'm just a little pissed because it was like… watching a show wanting to see, you get tired of it. In Lost, it's the same thing, Battlestar Galactica, the same thing. You've got all these great shows and we're not really ever any characters, or we're not any real characters in it. And with the writing style, it's like, I wish… I don't know if it's the writing or where it comes through because I'm not in that process, but it's like… I wish it would be more aggressive or it would be pushed further then we could get real, real characters, and not these like…
CK: Right. I understand what you're saying. It's not a conscious…
It's not a conscious, like… "we're not ready yet", or… it just hasn't happened yet. We just have so many different storylines going. And like I said, we don't want to short shrift it when it happens. You know, we could have some sidekick character do it, you know, but we don't want to do that. We want it to be a really good… and I want it to be a really good gay story. And it's just a matter of, like, we have a… there's just a lot of characters to payoff right now, and there's a lot of storylines that we have. So rather than shoehorn it in, we want it to be something like, "oh, shit, everyone's going to love that." But it's just a matter of waiting until it's ready.
I mean, in Buffy, it didn't really happen until the third season, and when it did happen, it was awesome and it was great. There's a lot of shows like Six Feet Under and Ugly Betty, and stuff like that where I'm so happy that they have these gay characters out there, and they're the top-tier characters. And eventually I think it's just a matter of time with it happening in Heroes. Like I said, we were furious when we couldn't have that payoff… we, you know, we loved that idea and for that to happen, not because of any sort of… it's like, I don't know, a bunch of bad circumstances, that's really frustrating. It's as frustrating to us as it is to the viewers.
So, I mean, you know… it will happen. It will happen eventually, it just hasn't happened yet.
AM: I suspect you'll see it on Heroes before you see it on any other genre show, other than perhaps Pushing Daisies, which is coming out this fall by ex-Heroes, and ex-Heroes producer…
CK: Bryan Fuller, yeah.
AM: …openly gay Bryan Fuller and there's actually… I watched the pilot this morning and thought, "I bet you that character is going to turn out to be gay."
CK: I just want to say that we did actually have, I mean, we were constantly throwing around, like, "could this character be gay?", "could this character be gay?", "could this character be lesbian?" And it's just like, we have so much going on, it's like… That's not going to pay off. That's not going to be anything that anyone's going to really care about and it's going to fizzle out and it's just going to be disappointing, so you know, we want it to be good. And you know, I'm not trying to smooth it over and make us look good, it's just…
I mean, that's what we want, I think we really try and have really good stories out there and I want the gay story to be freakin' fabulous when it comes out, you know. Not one of those little, like, "oh that's my friend who's gay" kind of… [inaudible]
AM: Okay, thank you. Next question.
Concludes with Part IV.
Prism Comics promotes the works of the LGBT community in comics. It does not implicitly endorse any other material or products associated with those works. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s).