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Monday, March 25, 2013
Living in the Past
In 1997, my first job as a college graduate was to manage a brand, spanking new comic book store. Moving from academia to Wolverine was an interesting experience. I loved my new job, I dove into comics and manga and pop culture with complete abandon.
While I was at the store, I encountered two very different, yet personally significant genres. One was the older cult martial arts films...specifically the Venoms. They were a gifted group of young men who worked for Hong Kong's Shaw studios. Their director was Chang Cheh, who changed the face of the martial arts flick forever, giving us the hero in black, red blood on white clothing and homoerotica so thick it was impossible to ignore. Chang's movies featuring the Venoms and the team of Ti Lung and David Chiang spawned hundreds of m/m slash fiction stories that were written largely by women...we shared them in secret forums and eventually on blogs and websites.
The other important event of that time was the slow peeking from the closet of superheros of alternate sexuality. During that time, Supergirl/Linda Danvers had a brief (and very weird) romantic entanglement with a super named Comet. (yes, in the past Comet was her superhorse. This guy was horsey too.) Like Supergirl and Linda Danvers, Comet was fused to a human...a woman. And as much as Supergirl and Comet had the hots for each other, Linda just wasn't into girls. That storyline vanished into the mist with nary a whinney. (I thought it odd that the horse/woman pairing was okay, but the woman/woman pairing was a no-go.)
Northstar was fairly high profile over at Marvel, but not in a good way. He was kind of an asshole, and his unpleasant personality was attributed to the fact that he was "different." Even when he was outed, it was because he was "different." Not gay. While DC and Marvel were tripping over their feet on this topic, the Wildstorm (of DC) imprint jumped in with both feet over in their Stormwatch/The Authority comics. They introduced Midnighter and Apollo, two operatives who'd been operating out on their own for years. They were big, scary, badass and in Love. I will never forget reading issue 8 and being floored over that revelation. In between crushing ribs and tearing the arms off their enemies, these two had the most simple, heartfelt romance imaginable.
These old passions of mine came back to visit this past week. In May, Lynn Lorenz, Treva Harte, ZA Maxfield and I will be at Houston Comicpalooza doing a LGBTQ track in their literature/writing program, and so I started going back in time a bit, gathering up some of the old stories. Once again, I was blown away by the creativity and genius of Warren Ellis and other writers and artists on the characters of Midnighter and Apollo. It's been a delight returning to comics.
And I got an email.
Back when I was watching those Venoms movies, I got pulled into that world, helping to organize an event to bring them to the US for a convention. The event got scrapped because of SARS but I met most of the survivors of that team and to my surprise, became friends with a couple of them. The letter I received was from another fan and she started asking questions about the actors. Specifically, she was digging for gossip. I found myself in an interesting position...I knew the answers to her more lurid questions and found that I simply couldn't share, because their private lives are private. I did check in on a couple of the guys to see if they were okay, but the whole thing pulled me back to the past and the magic of those lithe, skilled martial arts actors and their films.
The relevance here is that the Chinese movies introduced me to homoerotic writing, and while I didn't know it at the time, Midnighter and Apollo became a loose template for the heroes in my m/m romances, even though I never really intended to venture into the genre. Looking back, I see it all so clearly, Blacque and Bleu, Helios and Griffin, Jasper and Brutal...all men with certain levels of badassery that were rooted in my love of the Venoms films and my infatuation with a pair of gay superheroes.
While it doesn't serve to exist in the past, it certainly doesn't hurt to take a walk back and revisit our old loves. After all, that's where we come from...the past. :)
Which sounds like a plot bunny...