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GCPride: Larry Trainor

By Gabrielle Cazeaux 

Larry Trainor was a pilot for the US air force during the 50s. He had a wife, two children, and a reputation that would proceed him for decades. He was the type of person that could appear in a commercial for a real estate company and wouldn’t even need a script. Except, he always had a script of his own making, right under his sleeve. When he went to sleep with his wife, at a bar with his colleagues, or even when he looked in the mirror. And if anyone ever knew that, it would be the end of the world for him. And that’s because Larry Trainor was never that person. As much as he loved his wife and his children, he didn’t love her the same way he loved John Bowers, his mechanic in the Air Force. And even when the two of them were together, hiding in the back of a truck at the side of a railroad, a part of him was somewhere else, never where he really wanted to be. 

But both the life he manufactured and the life he hid were taken away from him. Beyond the stratosphere, where his problems almost couldn’t reach him, he made contact with a being of pure energy that was permanently fused with his body. The airplane stopped working, and Larry fell unconscious. He woke up already on the ground, completely burned, but somewhat alive. He never aged a day thanks to the radiation from the negative spirit that lived inside him, but the world around him kept spinning. His wife knew he didn’t love her and couldn’t be with him anymore, his children grew up and Larry realized that he couldn’t give John the life he wanted, no matter how much he also wanted it. Eventually, he found a new home, and people that went through similar things as him. He was given shelter by Niles Caulder, and he lived in his mansion with Rita, Cliff, and Jane. But he never let himself get close to them enough, in fear of what might happen to them if he did. 

So, what more to life than pain is there? When you’re constantly hurting because of past mistakes and things you had no control over? When you think your mere existence is wrong, and living is so hard that you don’t know what to do anymore?

In the case of Larry, he blamed himself for everything that happened to the people close to him even before the accident. John, his wife and children, always got the short end of the stick when being with him, and since he never got any kind of closure, he remained stuck. The position he was in was obviously understandable, after all, he was a gay man in the 50s who was exposed to homophobia since he was a kid. That’s all real and valid, but the pain of those he hurt was also real, and he could barely live with that baggage. And it was only worse after the accident. He couldn’t go to sleep without being afraid, because he dreamed of his loved ones burning in flames because of him. He couldn’t even be near other persons without the bandages that Niles made for him because of the radiation in his body. He was cut off from the world in every sense of it. 

But slowly, he was able to heal at least some parts of him. He bonded with the rest of the people that lived with him. With Rita, he found another person that understood, at least partially, what he went through after the accident, and consequently, before it. With time, he didn’t feel so abnormal anymore. Contrary to what he believed before, there was a place to exist for the people that didn’t fit. 

That only became more obvious when he met Danny the Street. A sentient, genderqueer, teleporting street, that serves as a refuge for the people that society rejected, and are kept alive by their happiness. At a cabaret on Danny, Larry is asked to sing, but he obviously declines. It would be easy to think he did it just because he tends to be negative and pessimistic, but knowing Larry, when he says that he doesn’t sing, there’s fear in his voice. Fear of exposing himself, fear of getting better because in his own mind, he doesn’t deserve it. But because it was needed to help Danny, he goes up to the stage. The spotlight is on him, blinding him for a second. The song starts, with him a little disoriented still. After a brief intro where he adjusts his brain into what he’s doing, he starts singing, and the music moves loudly to the forefront, slowly wrapping everyone around in the same feeling Larry starts feeling; freedom. He calls Maura Lee Karupt, the lead drag queen, to the stage, and the solo becomes a duet, expanding the happiness and pride even more. As the camera turns and this time we are blinded by the spotlight, Larry is no longer in bandages, or burned, but as he was before the accident. Maybe it’s something Danny can do, maybe it’s just a representation of how Larry sees himself at the moment. Now, that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that moment. The people start leaving their seats and dancing all around them until the cabaret is full of the most colourful and cheerful crowd you could imagine. Confetti starts falling, and Larry is immersed in his own freedom, and in happiness for the freedom of others, probably for the first time in his life. 

That is, until everything cuts like the world suddenly stopped. And we’re again with Larry saying he doesn’t sing, but instead of going up to the stage, he leaves the cabaret. While this is a painfully sad scene, it shows us that inside of him there is an urgency for breaking free, getting out of the cage he fell in more than 80 years ago. And he keeps trying to get better.

Thanks to the negative spirit and their developing relationship, he discovers his lover, John, is in his last days of life. So he goes to him, and they meet for the first time since Larry’s accident. John can’t even walk by himself now, and he’s under the care of a nurse that’s also the only relevant person in his life. But he’s not sad, he had a good life, and he’s just glad Larry could go. So they reminisce together, and talk about what happened to them. John says that even though it was hard, he moved on from Larry, and is shocked that after so much time he couldn’t. So Larry, after some thinking, tells him about the negative spirit. How for so much time he didn’t understand them, but he thinks he finally does, and it might be a good thing. As he says that, he finally can really clear his mind of everything, and see the sunset with John, the way they wanted to so many years before. Sadly, when he turned his head, John had already passed away while they were talking. So he gives him a hug, and can finally say a proper goodbye to the love of his life.

While most of what happens to Larry during the show wouldn’t be particularly classified as ‘’Happy’’, we do see him make progress, and I think it’s evidenced more than ever during two conversations with Rita. During the first one, not long after they first met in the 60s, they realize that they may not be so alone anymore, and promise to ‘’Be lost causes together’’. But in the present day, after so much tragedy, when he seems to have finally given up on trying, Rita tells him that same as he did back then with her, she believes in him, and that no cause is totally lost if there’s someone willing to fight for them. Larry just delivers a quiet and weak ‘’Thanks’’ that sounds almost out of courtesy and nothing else, so he leaves while Rita enters her room. But in the midst of walking away, he abruptly turns around and approaches his friend rapidly, wrapping her with a hug that without any words said, gets the message across: After all the pain, there is hope. 

Categories
Comics

GCPride: Midnighter

By Rook

The first time I read a book with Midnighter in it, he wasn’t even the star. It didn’t matter. He stole the show (repeatedly) in the DC superspy series Grayson, a tough feat considering Dick Grayson is flat-out one of my favorite characters.

At a glance, he looks and sounds exactly like Batman without the ears or the “no killing” code. The resemblance was intentional; originally part of the separate WildStorm comics universe, Midnighter and his husband Apollo were created to parallel Batman and Superman as part of their world’s premier superteam, the Authority. 

Despite being created in the late 1990s, their relationship and identities are never trivialized, and the fact that Midnighter and Apollo are openly gay and the most unstoppable superheroes in the world still feels incredibly refreshing. While superhero comics at large were heavily influenced by The Authority’s visual style, tone, and approach to storytelling, direct descendants of its approach like Ultimate Marvel and the MCU largely failed to carry the torch of groundbreaking queer characters.

A while after DC acquired WildStorm and folded its characters into the mainline universe, Midnighter resurfaced in Grayson as the ex-superhero’s rival / foil / frenemy / ”nemesister.” His manic joy in combat, his relentless swagger, and his unique moral compass all come together to make him one of the best characters in a book full of all-timer characterizations. 

Also, it would be a crime not to mention that Midnighter and Apollo begins with the couple fighting an evil god of subway trains. 

Midnighter is fantastic for a dozen other reasons, but the one that still really gets me is that he gets to be the unstoppable badass in a way that’s almost always reserved for cis dudes, and he’s living for it. It doesn’t hurt that he’s better written and more nuanced than most hyper-violent action icons, easily earning his place among the best of the best.

 “Gay Batman” is a hell of an elevator pitch, but that’s selling him short, because Batman isn’t having half as much fun. Midnighter never feels constrained by the limits of what straight people think gay characters should or could be. He just revels in being violence incarnate, and goddamn, it feels good to be along for the ride.

RECOMMENDED READING

  • Midnighter (2015-2016) – By Steve Orlando and ACO
  • Midnighter and Apollo (2016-2017) – By Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco
  • The Authority (1999-2002) – By Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary
  • Grayson (2014-2016) – By Tim Seeley and Mikel Janin
  • The Wild Storm (2017-2019) – By Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt

Categories
Comics

GateCrashing The Comrade Himbo Anthology With POMEmag

By Bree King (@agreeablepossum)

The Kickstarter for the anthology may be over, but keep your chin up fellow himbo enthusiast- GCers is here to provide you with some additional insight from the lovely Editors of Comrade Himbo! Whether you missed the campaign or are waiting for your pledge rewards, Ashley Gallagher and Jenny Mott have very interesting things to say about comics as a medium, the makeup of a Himbo, and the power of community organizing;

1) The mission statement for POMEpress highlights the importance of “comics and feelings,” can you touch on why the connection between the two is important to the type of stories POME sets out to tell?

Jenny: I mean, besides my personally having a lot of Feelings about Comics as media, comics and feelings go together pretty well beyond that. In most circumstances, visual media is going to be more accessible than written media, because there is no universal written language, because literacy isn’t a given; but, I think there’s something about the way comics sit between the visual and the written that lends itself well both to leading the reader through the emotions of a story with its images and to allowing for a deeper experience of those emotions by engaging the reader’s imagination. Like filmmaking, comics have a way of guiding the reader’s feelings through directorial choices—decisions made around perspectives, points of view, framing; but, for me at least, the process of reading a comic feels more inviting—more collaborative and more personal—than watching a movie because of the way comics rely on the reader to bring something of themselves to the experience. Comics ask you to look at a still frame of a person with a speech bubble and to imagine the lips moving, the body shifting, the eyes darting. Comics invite you to bring yourself and your experiences and your feelings to the process of reading, but in a way that is still visual and accessible, in a way that feels intuitive. So, when we’re sitting down to think about the kinds of stories we want to tell, just by starting from the point of “comics” we’re already thinking about accessibility and inclusivity, and about tapping into people’s feelings and the shared human experience. It’s not too much of a leap, then, to the projects we’ve done in the past—Group Chat, which is all about found family and the power of friendship; or Going Steady, which is about loving and supportive partnerships—or to something like Comrade Himbo, which is all about being earnest and well intentioned on behalf of your community. Having Big Feelings in Comics, for us, means celebrating the things that connect us to other people.

2) Comrade Himbo was an incredibly wholesome and uplifting read. Was capturing those feelings an intentional curation choice from the beginning, or something that emerged piece by piece?

Jenny: When we opened the call for submissions to Comrade Himbo back in September 2020, we were explicitly looking for uplifting and inspiring content that celebrated earnest and sincere hunks fighting for the good of their communities. Historically, POMEpress has always sought to celebrate the earnest and sincere. But especially coming out of Summer 2020, that was the kind of content we were craving—a reason to keep fighting or just to keep going, a hope or a vision for what a future could look like if all of us were earnest and sincere hunks who care about our communities—and I think it’s content we’re all collectively still craving! So, I’d say the wholesome and uplifting vibes were very much an intentional choice.

3) Did the process for creating Comrade Himbo differ greatly from POME’s past projects?

Jenny: Ah—yes and no. This is our fourth large-ish anthology project. And we’ve always worked on these remotely because a good chunk of our contributors are international or otherwise just don’t live in the same town as us. So, we’ve got a pretty solid system in place, production-wise. But, this was our first time trying to work on a project in the midst of a global pandemic. So, besides the inclusion of color illustrations, the main difference was a significantly more relaxed timeline. Usually, production runs October/November-February (with a chunk of time off for the holidays), and then we do the Kickstarters in March, get the books printed in April, and sell them at cons in May and June. But with so many cons still virtual this year, we didn’t have our usual hard deadline. The past year and a half has obviously been rough all around, so we were really happy to be able to build in more flexibility for our artists’ schedules in these Unprecedented Times.

4) As a fellow subscriber to leftist ideas, I’ve often felt that the material can forget how to have fun. The success of the Kickstarter also indicates that a more lighthearted approach to leftist ideas was an untapped market. Was that something the editorial team had predicted as well?

Jenny: I’m not sure if I’d say we predicted anything in a market-analysis kind of way, but we’re very much a team of goofball nerds with Big Feelings, who think that being kind and helping each other is just common sense. I think we’re always craving content that reflects this view, so it didn’t feel unreasonable to think that other people might be craving it too. That said, while we maintain that himbos can absolutely be smart, I think that part of the appeal of juxtaposing the Comrade with the Himbo is that leftist politics—despite the sometimes unfun/inaccessible literature—are generally pretty natural and intuitive once you accept empathy as a guiding principle. They don’t take a rocket scientist or a doctor of philosophy to figure out. So, this framing of Comrade-rie as something that is accessible to a Himbo kind of everyman felt like the perfect way to present that “empathy as a guiding principle” to other people. But also, the idea itself very much just started out as a joke in one of our recurring bits on the POMEmag site, Romance Roundtable, where the four of us read a Harlequin Romance Manga and goof about it for an hour. Tapping into the current respective Comrade and Himbo zeitgeists was mostly luck, honestly—I think we were just in the right place at the right time.

5) To me, the intersection of queerness in stories about direct action and labor organizing felt like bringing Pride back to its roots as a protest. Can you touch on what queerness means to you, as an organizing power?

Ashley: slides in wearing my big-ass “Ask Me About the Lavender Scare” button That’s a great question! I feel like there are a few complementary angles from which to consider queer organizing power. On the one hand, you have the historical and still ongoing struggles for human rights and for an improvement in material conditions for specifically queer and trans people: struggles against policing, for medical care, and for the right to simply exist without the fear of being killed simply for who you are or how you look. Then you also have examples of queer people organizing together with cis/hetero workers, like the ever-inspiring Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners movement. I think both of these organizing strategies are vitally important and necessarily intertwined. Queer and trans people exist in every culture, in every race, and our own struggles to survive and thrive can help us to connect with other struggles for justice that are not thought of as inherently LGBTQIA+ issues. When we flex the power of having each other’s backs, whether that’s marching together under all the Pride banners as an ever-evolving coalition of queer and trans communities, or organizing in solidarity with people who aren’t yet engaged in the queer and trans struggle, we learn the skills we need to build a better world together, strengthened—instead of divided—by our differences. Ultimately, I think the history and future of queer and trans power should be envisioned as a movement that knows how to make and win demands not because they are popular or respectable, but because they will make even the most marginalized among us more free.

6) Who is THE Himbo blueprint for you?

Jenny: LOL I think we each have a different Peak Himbo, but generally we can agree on Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove, Brendan Fraser’s George of the Jungle, and the cast of Magic Mike: XXL. Keanu, of course—King Himbo. The main thing, for me at least, is just having no capacity or desire for guile.

Find more of POMEmag’s past projects (Going Steady, Eternal Witchcraft, Group Chat) on their Gumroad. You can also support them on Patreon for; exclusive sneak peaks at upcoming projects, sketches, horoscopes and more!

Categories
Comics

GCPride: Harley Quinn

By Violet (@violetvexed)

Harley Quinn, created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, debuted in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. She has been a favourite of mine since around 2010. What attracted me to her is how strong and resilient she is, despite everything she’s been through. While following her through the years, I found myself resonating with her as a Bisexual woman who struggled with boundaries in relationships and found comfort in how she didn’t know all the answers but remained true to herself regardless. She’s messy and unsure but she’ll figure out the answers with you along the way.

Her bisexuality could arguably be dated back to her days on BTAS and early comics. How her sexuality was handled in earlier iterations has often been criticized, due to a lack of development or “back tracking”. However, later years (and leading up to 2020 in particular) took her character development in more consistent directions and her Bisexuality was represented more explicitly. 

RECOMMENDED READING:

  • ‌Gotham City Sirens (2009-2011) – by Paul Dini, Gulliem March, Tony Bedard and Andres Guinaldo.
  • ‌ Injustice: Year Zero (2020-2021) – by Tom Taylor, Cian Tormey, Rain Beredo, and Wes Abbott. 
  • ‌Harleen (2019) – Stjepan Sejic.
  • Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey (2020-2021) – by Jimmy Palmoitti, Amanda Conner and Alex Sinclair 
  • ‌Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy (2019-2020) – by Jody Houser and Adriana Melo.

RECOMMENDED WATCHING:

  • ‌Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
  • ‌Harley Quinn: The Animated Series (2019)
  • ‌Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)
Categories
Comics

GCPride: Jess Chambers

by Rodrigo Arellano

Jess Chamber, a.k.a. The Flash of earth 11, is by all means a pretty new character. I still remember the announcement made by different comic book outlets that reported that DC was going to introduce a new non-binary character, who had their first appearance in DC’s Very Merry Multiverse, as Kid Quick. Around the same time Jess was introduced into the DC Multiverse, I myself was going through the process of figuring out my gender identity, and I was starting to realize I might be non-binary. This announcement finally gave me someone to relate to. 

Before Jess, I didn’t know of any non-binary character who wasn’t a shapeshifter, an alien, or a sort of celestial being. That combined with the fact that I didn’t know any non-binary in real life made it hard to understand my own identity, but then Flash came to save the day. The best part is that Jess’ personality isn’t based around them being non-binary, they are funny, quippy, relaxed, and a bit cocky. Their relationship with princess Andy reflects the sweet side of Jess, and shows how non-binary people can have healthy and happy relationships, an idea that I personally have struggled with. 

Even though they have been in the public consciousness for just a short time, Jess Chambers has quickly (pun intended) become a beloved character. They are a great symbol of how non-binary people really do exist and that we are human too. For non-binary folks like myself, Jess gives us an opportunity to see ourselves in the world of heroes. If you are non-binary and haven’t read any of Jess’ stories, I promise you will find a great character to relate to- and even if you’re not enby, you should check them out, I promise they won’t disappoint you.

Recommended reading: 

  • DC’s Very Merry Multiverse, “To Stop the Star-Conqueress” (2020) – By Ivan Cohen and Eleanora Carlini
  • Future State: Justice League (2021) – By Ram V, Joshua Williamson, Robson Rocha and Marcio Takara
  • DC Pride, “Clothes Makeup Gift” (2021) – By Danny Lore and Lisa Sterle
Categories
Comics

GCPride: Renee Montoya

By Bree King (@Agreeablepossum)

My introduction to the hardened Gotham Police Detective, Renee Montoya, was through Batman: The Animated Series. Although she did debut briefly in Batman #475 (1992) before making an appearance in the animated series, Renee was created by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and Mitch Brian. What has kept me coming back to the character since watching the Animated series as a child, is Renee’s dedication to uncovering the great mysteries of Gotham while adhering to her own values. Although Renee has faltered and struggled in very human and believable ways, she’s never “sold out”. When she realized she could no longer stay true to herself and be a member of the Gotham City Police Department, she resigns and take on the mantle of The Question (DC’s equivalent of a super Private Eye)

Renee has also been an out Lesbian since Gotham Central (2002-2006), a series by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker. Her “outing” was a difficult, but rewarding story to read. As a Bisexual woman that also didn’t have a particularly warm and fuzzy “coming out”- I found a sense of comradery in seeing Renee grapple with the outcasting and male violence that may be all too familair for many Queer women. Regardless, she never stops fighting. In a world of super-humans, aliens, and chemical-bath-murder-clowns, Renee Montoya is going to figure out what’s REALLY going on. 

Although Renee’s personal relationships often take a backseat for her job(s), all of them have been spared from being written in a fetishized or hypersexualized way. Vic Sage’s (the original Question) faith in her competence is quite refreshing, there is no implication that who she is or who she loves disqualifies her from maintaining such an important role in the DC Universe.

RECOMMENDED READING;

  • Gotham Central (2002-2006) – By Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
  • Batwoman: Elegy (2009-2010) – By Greg Rucka and J.H Williams III
  • 52 (2006-2007) – By Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Keith Giffen
  • The Question: The Five Books of Blood (2009) – By Greg Rucka
  • The Question: Pipeline (2011) – By Greg Rucka

RECOMMENDED WATCHING 

  • Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
  • Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)