Gravitation was one of my early queer “firsts” and it falls into the same vein as many of the pieces of media I worshiped as a baby queer. Like Queer as Folk and Interview with the Vampire, Gravitation was an incredibly problematic piece of media that, on some level, shaped how I viewed queerness. (Which kind of explains a lot of my earlier understanding of what it meant to be queer…)
Watching Gravitation now is… a little bit painful.
Content warning: I talk about two canonical ships that involve adults and teenagers (one in relative detail and the other not in specifics) and a reference to the writer’s transmisogyny in another series.
Earth-37, the alternate earth that serves as the setting for Batman: Thrillkiller, was one of my favorite worlds in the DC Universe despite the fact that the actual story and art are… problems.
Back when I first read the miniseries, I think it hooked me with narration boxes that see our masked heroes juxtaposed against the transitional period that this Elseworlds tale exists in:
We tend to define our lives by the decades – the gay nineties, the roaring twenties, the depression thirties. The calendar reads 1961 – but it’s a time of transition. It’s not the fifties anymore – the decade of Ike, of McCarthyism, of Jack Kerouac – and it’s certainly not the nineteen sixties of the sexual revolution, of the war in Vietnam, of turning on, tuning in, and dropping out. Like the rest of the USA, Gotham was jumping with a giddy optimism – no one could guess at the dark days that lay ahead.
This first set of narration boxes is set against a backdrop of Gotham City, Batgirl and Robin at the top in shadow and the city they’re attempting to protect at the bottom. There’s something about watching comics try to establish a sense of realism and historical context in their works that just… entertains me. The next few pages establish the historical context of this Elseworlds — JFK is president, Elvis was discharged from the army, and the Beatles weren’t yet a thing. It’s a set of pages that immediately and successfully establish realism and a connection to the time period and it works.
Thrillkiller is a genre mishmash with elements of noir fiction, your sort of typical superhero story, and some air of the 1950s morality movie in the style of Reefer Madness. Which could be awesome except…
This is the first post of what’s going to be a regular feature on the blog. “Problematic Fave” is going to look at what else – my problematic faves from all over the place. From comics to the romance novels I have loved to things I’ve watched that were just plain weird, I’m giving a critical look at stuff that I genuinely love, even when I probably could dial things back a notch.
To be absolutely honest, the Authority, Stormwatch, and their characters make up approximately 60% of my ultimate problematic favorites.
Sometimes, some issues or characters stand out more to me because they’re messed up or because they messed me up and then despite that, I continued to overflow with love for them. So it makes sense to start with one of the books from Wildstorm’s best series for this new article series I’m doing.
The Authority: Human on the Inside is one of those books. Written in September of 2004 by novelist John Ridley (Spoils of War) and artist Ben Oliver (that first amazing run on Batwing), the standalone comic centers on our favorite aggressive superpowered misanthropes going up against a villain that comes at them from an angle that they least expect, trying to take them out from the inside.Read More »
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