Monday, June 28, 2010

Snakes & Gay Sailors

Bizarro is brought to you
today by The Dog Throw.

Instead of discussing my "snake eyes" cartoon today, let's talk about a comic book story that a friend of mine sent me recently. This is a small story within a larger volume of (presumably tough-guy) war comics called "The Losers," circa early seventies. You'll want to click on each image to see the details and read the copy.

As you can see by the cover, even though we were up to our eyeballs in the Vietman War, this comic is about WWII.

On the title page of our story, Toro is a lovely young man with remarkably feminine characteristics. He has a Florence Henderson haircut, ties his fatigues to expose his abs, wears a belt from the Diana Ross Collection and what's that over his shoulder reaching for his pearl necklace? Oh, it's a fairy.

On page two, we find that not only is his walk "peculiar" but he talks like a 17th century dandy. He's also always "neat and clean" and I think we all know what that means. We can tell by the looks on the other sailors' faces that this makes them angry.

In case the reader has missed the subtle clues, on this next page they actually identify him as a "fairy." One sailor, whose arm movement is more than a little melodramatic, is curious to find out more about him and who can blame him? He's been at sea for a long time. But before he can so much as buy him a glass of Chardonnay, the unarmed group is confronted by hostiles bearing weapons and even one of the tough guys turns into a sniveling little girl.

The "manly" sailors run away, but Toro runs toward the enemy. This doesn't surprise us because we already know he is crazy. What we didn't know was that he has the ability to change a flower into a funny knife.

On the final page, one Japanese soldier jumps off a cliff rather than fight the fairy. If you're not familiar with WWII history, the Japanese were well known for this kind of cowardice, which is why they surrendered so easily and never flew manned planes into U.S. Navy ships. Further demonstrating his insanity (an appreciation of flowers and jewelry) Toro jumps to his death, too.

In the final frame we find out that the name "Toro" comes from a handmade knife which he carries "strapped to his thigh, under his pants" (which made me a little hot.) It is further explained to us that although he loved beautiful things, he loved freedom even more, in spite of the fact that he was not free to be a fairy in the Navy. All of this killing, shirt-tying and beautiful hair had driven him crazy. Or perhaps he just loved his country so much that he wished to relieve them of the unpleasant task of dealing with a homosexual among their ranks. Whatever the reason, he clearly did "not wish to remain".

I'm not going to say that the artist was gay but I do find the flower over Toro's anus somewhat provocative. Regardless, this was a daring story line for a '70s war comic. I'd love to know if the editors were making a case for gays in the military or if they were truly clueless. Remember, in those days gay characters were not on TV anywhere, were only rarely depicted in films (and usually with derision and/or pathos) and outside of progressive neighborhoods in San Francisco and New York, were not discussed in polite society. As a kid growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I didn't even know what homosexuality was until I was midway through high school and some rednecks called me a fag, presumably because I was not dressed like a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd. A story like this would have confused me completely.

What have we learned from this?
Gays can be just as ruthless as straights.
Gays have weapons hidden in their pants.
Be wary of people with flowers sticking out of their butts.


Pies said...

Strange indeed. Someone high-ranking in charge of the propaganda must have been very brave and forward thinking.

I find it difficult to comprehend, though I'm sure it's true, that there were exactly as many gay people at any point in modern human history as there are now.

dannybuntu said...

They were in Manila.......

Catherine said...

"Remember, in those days gay characters were not on TV anywhere..."

I beg to differ:

1) All In The Family: Season 1, Episode 5: Judging Books by Covers -- Original Air Date­9 February 1971

2) The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Season 3, Episode 17: My Brother's Keeper -- Original Air Date­13 January 1973

3) Alice: Season 1, Episode 2: Alice Gets a Pass -- Original Air Date­29 September 1976

4) Phyllis: Season 2, Episode 7: Out of the Closet -- Original Air Date­1 November 1976

Do you think "free love" and the whole sexual revolution right around the time this was published had anything to do with the storyline? Just a thought...

June said...

This 70's take on homosexuality in the military is nearly as bizarre as today's don't ask don't tell. It's been repealed--but not quite yet while the army does a study to see if it should be repealed. Someone is in the twilight zone, right?

ojeano said...

Yes and we were up to our eyeballs in the Vietnam war when MASH was produced to show the Korean, ahem, "police action".

Sometimes telling a story a step away from the point helps the resistant find perpective, depth of vision...

...Snake eyes! I love this one.

Anonymous said...

...and also yes but the gay guy went insane from all the killing. I do wonder what the author was trying to say. I think the strongest literary clue is in the butterfly butt.

Kyle said...

According to Wikipedia, the writer/artist is still alive. Ask him.