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The Wednesday Waffle Issue 23: "Nowt so queer as folk"

Welcome to this week's Waffle! It's New Comic Book Day and for yet another week we have to regret that you can't come into the shop and browse all the great new titles that would be gracing the rack. Fortunately we live in an internet enabled world, so you can:



We're sure that some news happened this week, but if anything interesting happened we missed it. So, given that this is called The Wednesday Waffle I'll use this period of quiet to waffle on a bit in response to a question from a customer that led to an email conversation that was the kind of discussion that I miss having in the shop. So:


"WHY IS EVERYBODY IN COMICS GAY ALL OF A SUDDEN?"


The cover to Abbott 1973 #1
The cover to Abbott 1973 #1

I mean, the obvious answer is "they're not", and in any case does the world really need yet another straight guy pontificating about this? But that would be ignoring the spirit of the question - which was in response to the comic Abbott 1973, which was a pick of the week last week.


The central character of this excellent hard boiled supernatural thriller is Elena Abbott - an investigative journalist for the biggest black-owned newspaper in Detroit. She also happens to possess the power to vanquish evil, but reporting is her day job...


She's also bi-sexual, which was no small thing in 1973. And it was the fact that she lives with her female partner - an Asian American crime boss, no less - that instigated the question.


It is unquestionably true that there has been a change in the way comics portray sexuality. Until relatively recently there were two default positions for characters in mainstream Anglophone comics. They were White, and they were heterosexual. From the late sixties onwards there were some characters of colour, but they were pretty unusual - and sexuality wasn't ever a question. In so far as characters had romantic involvement at all those involvements were with characters of the opposite sex - Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (or Silver Saint-Cloud), Reed and Sue Richards, Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey, Mary-Jane Watson and Felicia Hardy (y'know for a character who is supposed to be the ultimate nerd, that Parker boy had some seriously hot girlfriends - don't ever tell me that Spider-Man isn't geeky wish-fulfilment...) and so on.


Those defaults have most definitely been re-set in recent years, and Abbot 1973 is as good an example of this as anything else. The characters are ethnically diverse and the central character is, as previously stated, bi. Not that long ago that would have been unusual. Now? Utterly unremarkable.


While it's true that it was the smaller independent publishers that led the way, there are now LGBTQIA+ characters in both the Marvel and DC universes - not just token C-listers either. It's now acknowledged in canon that Wonder Woman - one of the "big three" DC characters - is a bi-sexual woman (something which - whether he had it in mind or not - I feel sure that her co-creator William Moulton Marston would have heartily approved of), and over at Marvel, Bobby "Iceman" Drake is also now recognised as a gay man who has struggled with his sexuality. And so on, and so on, and so on.