Tony Guadagnino is a marketing consultant. Located in New Jersey, his clients are based across the country, focusing on social media to build their presence on the internet. He studied creative writing in college and is currently working his first novel on the subject of bullying. He lives with his partner Mark.
Being gay has become very mainstream in America, and as a gay American, I am happy to see it happen. We still have a long way to go (look at our current Administration), but at least we’re not back where we used to be. Go back a few decades, single men over 30 were “confirmed bachelors.” Today, if you turn on your television set, you’ll see gay-themed television programs, gay talk show hosts, gay newscasters, weathermen. In the past few years, even respected sports figures have been coming out of the closet and living their true self.
Gay people have become part of another mainstream area too – comic books. Gay-themed comic books used to be on the down-low, located in special gay bookstores. But not anymore!
Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury, was the first mainstream cartoonist to introduce a gay character in his popular strip. The character of Andy Lippincott was introduced in 1976, when popular character Joanie Caucus met him in a law library. After the rejection, Andy was on-and-off the strip, returning for his final time in 1989, when he is diagnosed with AIDS. The strip traced Andy’s battle with the disease, eventually succumbing the following year. The storyline lead to a Pulitzer Prize nomination for Garry Trudeau.
Note: Andy Lippincott is the only fictional character with a panel on the infamous AIDS quilt.
Two years later, Mark Slackmeyer, a long-standing character in the Doonesbury comic, came out of the closet and became the second gay character. Mark has been a feature of the strip, and through him, Trudeau has been able to educate people of the LGBT community. Mark eventually married his longtime partner Chase Talbot in 1999, then separating in 2007.
Lynn Johnston’s comic creation For Better or For Worse took a brave step in 1993 by having teenager Lawrence Poirier come out to his friends. Many supportive letters came to her from social workers, politicians, and fans. Lawrence’s coming out was portrayed as realistic and raw — showing the difficulties faced in coming out (esp as a teenager), with both his friends and family, as well as his inner self. However, there were lots of letters expressing the negative side as well, feeling that a gay character was “inappropriate” for a family-oriented script. Hundreds of newspapers across the country ended up running replacement strips or canceled the comic strip from their pages.
Things were a lot different 17 years later, when Kevin Keller entered Riverdale, the fictitious setting of the Archie Comics. As Veronica’s bestie, Kevin was introduced in September 2010 as the first openly gay character of the series. Archie Comics co-CEO Jon Goldwater wanted a gay character in the series to keep Riverdale High fresh and current. Dan Parent, who created Kevin, won a GLAAD Media Award in 2013 for Outstanding Comic Book. Kevin Keller has become so popular that he is included on the CW television show “Riverdale,” which is based on the Archie comics.
Because of the brave work of these artists, there are many gay-themed comic books in print and on the web. One series is “Kyle’s Bed & Breakfast” from creator Greg Fox (http://kylesbnb.blogspot.com/). Launched in 1998, Kyle’s B&B deals with a group of gay friends who live together and face realistic problems associated with their sexuality.
Beginning in 2015, New York City has been the host of a yearly Gay Comic-Con called FLAME CON. You can go to their website http://www.flamecon.org for more information.