December 10, 2012

Silver Demon: On Creating a Queer Superhero

To look at the mainstream media's depictions of LGBTQ characters is an exercise in watching a never ending stream of victims, villains, with a few sidekicks here and there and the occasional nod to the fact that some of us are "normal" folks with day jobs, families, etc.

As far as I can tell, there are almost no queer superheroes in existence. Well actually technically there are a few. Recently, the X-Men recently got to have a big gay wedding and one of the Green Lantern incarnations got to come out. I also came across a YA novel Hero by Perry Moore

To be frank, it can be exhausting evaluating queer orientated media. In the past two decades there has been an uptick in depictions of LGBTQ individuals. Some of these have been quite good, while others have a slew of problematic elements associated with them. But the queer superhero is, for all intents and purposes, practically an endangered species. Which is why I wanted to create one.

Initially I waffled on whether or not to include homophobia in my story and/or having the character deal with their sexuality. One of the earliest versions of the main character had them repressing their attraction to other men and this in turn causing them to lose their super powers. The character would then have only regained their powers when they had come out and acknowledged their true identity. This idea eventually went off and died where all bad ideas should go to die.

Then I had the character existing in a world where homophobia did not exist (or at least was not referenced and had little impact on the story itself). This idea was eventually abandoned after I decided that my two main characters should meet at a bar called The Stonewall Tavern, a reference to the real life Stonewall Inn.

I forget exactly why, but this eventually led to a whole lot of other changes, namely the decision to incorporate homophobia and transphobia directly into the story itself. This in turn resulted in setting the main part of the story in 1969. Given that the main characters still get to meet at a place the Stonewall Inn, most people can probably accurately guess one of the major elements of the climax.

Since Batman got Gotham and Superman got Metropolis, I thought it only fair that my characters got their own city to run around in. Thus the City of Noche was born. At this point things might have gotten a bit out of control. By creating a fictional city, I was able to create a world that would allow me to metaphorically build the concept of the Isophyls directly into the story itself. This also meant I could have the Stonewall Inn overshadow the Compton Cafe, while sitting across the street from an institution I called the White Knight Tavern. Rioting in my story? Never! Ignore my shifty eyes least they deceive you! *cough*

This was probably the one part of the story I went overboard with. As I talked about earlier, I used historical figures as the basis for several characters. But I didn't stop there. Streets, business, various locations, pretty much everywhere I could reasonably do so became a reference to some element of LGBTQ history. Whether it be in reference to a significant protest, a tragedy, or our communities contributions to society, be it scientific advancement, governmental, economic, the military, technology, the arts, religion, or civil rights, if I could find a place in the story to acknowledge LGBTQ history, I did. My partners copy of Queers in History by Keith Stern became so dog eared and worn that he ended up bequeathing it to me.

Of course there is the question of what kind of personality or job would be most appropriate for my characters. I had something of a debate with myself about how masculine or feminine to make my characters. I did not wish to perpetuate the stereotype that all gay men are feminine sissies, but the problem is that in rejecting this stereotype, means enforcing the unfortunate notion of the "feminine = bad". I got around this issue by making the main cast of characters as diverse as possible.

Some people might ask the question of whether or not the world is ready for a LGBTQ superhero story, particularly one of such a nature as one I have created. Personally, I think this is the wrong question to even be asking. The never ending tide of queer victims and villains I mentioned at the beginning, requires a counterpoint in order to be turned. Ready or not, the world needs queer heroes.

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