First off, I hope the term “gay joke” didn’t bug anybody, but, well, that’s exactly what I found when I checked out JSA from a few weeks ago. I’d read around that he’d made a rather unfunny joke at the sake of Obsidian’s open homosexuality, and I had to see it to believe it.
I’m not a fan of voicing personal politics in my writing for the sake of not pushing away those who might not share the same stance as me, but in this case I have to say something. I’m liberal, not A liberal, not a democrat, just liberal. I’m pro-legalization of marijuana, I’m pro-same sex marriage, I’m in favor of gun control, and I’m a fan of getting cigarettes out of public places. That isn’t to say that I lack any conservative view points, as I do label myself as a moderate who socially leans to the liberal side of things and financially to the conservative side. That isn’t important, let me make that exceptionally clear. It’s out there, you’re reading it, you know it, and aside from the fact that I will guarunteed in the future talk about why weed should be legal, and I’m completely accepting of gays and lesbians. A guy who worked for my dad for the better part of ten years, while I was in middle school, high school, and some of college, is gay, and I to this day think of him like my brother. Homo-phobia in all of its forms bothers me the same way racism does. We’re all people, it doesn’t matter what color we are, who we pray to, or who we’re attracted to. People are people.
I’m not the kind of guy who clamors for more characters to be gay, just like I don’t enjoy reading the “Who’s gay?” gossip on Hollywood blogs. It doesn’t matter to me. I mean, sure, I’m not offended by it, and when Obsidian came out of the closet in Manhunter I actually enjoyed it, not because it was a same sex relationship, but because it was a well characterized one. Obsidian could have gotten with the blondest blond with the biggest rack in the world, and had it been well characterized, I would have been fine with it. That said, once you take a character down the same sex relationship path, it’s not something that can just be brushed away. Nor is it something that should be treated as a source of humor.
When Bill Willingham took over JSA, he didn’t hide that he was an Obsidian fan, but he also didn’t hide his conservative view points. I remember rumblings from several sources about what he would do with Todd; would he make him magically become straight? Would he do something horrible to him? Would he use him like a token? There was legitimate fear there because this was a writer who had never made any attempt to hide their viewpoints, and who readers could tell was not the kind of guy to willingly throw a gay character into a book and treat them like anybody else.
So on the first page of his first issue of JSA, Obsidian is….an egg. And he remained an egg until just before he popped up to make the joke that can be seen back at the top of the page.
Literally, he's an egg.
So these were Todd’s first real speaking lines while not in some sort of a fight, not counting narration, and he chooses to tell everyone that he was cured of being gay? Wait, no, that being cured of being gay is a joke, and he’s still gay. You know what would have been funny? If he’d said something like “Oh, by the way, I’m evil again and about to kill all of you. Just kidding!”, and even that wouldn’t have been hilarious, but it would have been better then what we got. I think the most offensive part is in just how unfunny this already wildly inappropriate joke is, had he managed to make a clever and witty gag out of it, then there would be reason to shrug and go “Well that wasn’t too bad”, but no. Instead we get “Relax, folks. Only kidding. Still gay.”
I don’t see the punchline. Anywhere. And that’s the offensive part. The entire page brings nothing to the issue save for a bad taste left in the mouths of many fans. Though I guess it can’t be too many fans, I mean, how many people still read this book? I read the first arc of him and Sturges, and then his Dr. Fate/Mordru solo stuff, and I was done. There was nothing there I wanted, not even familiar characters. Reading this book was like reading JSA fan fiction by someone who knew the names and the powers but not the characters. While JSA: All Stars hasn’t been great, at least Sturges is keeping the characters familiar with past characterization, Willingham can’t even do that.
Maybe this is me telling people to drop a bad book, or maybe it’s just me ranting that yet another book I enjoyed has been washed down the crapper by this guy. Robin being the previous book a few years ago when he went from being Robin, to being Robin who fought magic with a para-military group. It’s like, these stories would be just fine if you used characters that actually made sense in them, but you don’t, so they’re just bad stories.
I read Fables for a bit too, eventually dropping it upon realizing that I hadn’t enjoyed it for a moment since I started buying it in single issue form instead of trade, and then realizing that I didn’t even care in that form. It’s not for everybody, but, well, whatever, I’ve got nothing really to say about Fables.
Just that Bill Willingham’s horrible attempt at humor in JSA has reaffirmed me in my decision to no longer buy books with his name on the title. Well, the humor and the fact that the book was so bad that I had no choice but to drop it unless I wanted to drop myself into a horrible funk every time I attempted to read it.
But that’s my rant, and with any luck my early mentions of politics haven’t scared you off. If there’s anything in this you should take offense to, it’s my distaste for Willingham’s writing style if you’re a fan of his, or the fact that I’m arrogant enough to not expect anyone fitting that mold to be reading this.
Thanks, and have a great rest of your day.
Tags: Bill Willingham, Commentary, JSA, Obsidian