So, think back to Cry For Justice, if you can bear to. Amongst the many things that, frankly, were extremely lousy about that comic, was the rather distasteful death of B-Lister Tasmanian Devil. Now, as one of the very; few gay characters in comics, I do have a soft spot for Tasmanian Devil. But, he’s a B-Lister, and a Global Guardian to boot, which means he primarily exists to be mind-controlled by villains and be in the first wave of heroes to be taken out by whatever big new threat we’re supposed to be impressed by.
But, still…even in a comic industry where graphic violence and death has become passe, killing off one of the very few; gay characters, and in a cavalier, sick-joke sort of way…pretty damn lame. It’s the sort of tone-deafness about depicting and characterizing gay characters I’ve come to expect from most writers at Marvel and DC in really blatant form. And then this month, DC published the Starman/Congorilla one-shot, by Jame “Cry For Justice” Robinson and Brett Booth, and this happened:
The Tasmanian Devil is brought back to life in an extremely silly and comic-booky way, which, actually, is totally in keeping with his prior characterization. Overall I’m pleased, but one bit sticks in my craw, from this interview with Robinson about the comic:
I always intended for that to be the case, that Starman would eventually have Tasmanian Devil as his boyfriend. Congorilla finding his friend was going to be sub-plot that I was going to use, and tie it in with the apparent murder of Tasmanian Devil. I had to put it off for a while, but I found a way to fold it into the Omega storyline.
And I had always planed that it would lead toward Starman finding love with Tasmanian Devil. They’re two of the main gay characters of DC Universe. So I wanted to bring them together.
I’ve no reason not to take Robinson at his word. But killing a character off, off-panel, and having a villain make a joke of it, then waiting a year to bring the character back and get him together with another character…this doesn’t sound to me like a well-conceived plan for a comic-book romance. Especially when Starman’s involvement in Cry For Justice was motivated entirely by the death of his previous boyfriend. The implication that gay relationships are built on tragedy and death is an uncomfortable one.
Still, Robinson does do a very good job of having a gay man talk about his sexuality in a realistic way (by comic book standards) and banter and joke about it in a way that doesn’t fall completely flat:
That’s a promising sign at least.