Comics and Cosplay
Good Riddance, Fred Phelps: 5 Pivotal Moments For LGBTs In Comics

Ross Lincoln | 21 Mar 2014 17:00
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The Battle Over Batman and Robin's Living Arrangement

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Like Wonder Woman, Batman isn't gay, and also like Wonder Woman, he enjoys the distinction of being one of the first fictional characters to be attacked on the basis of anti-gay slurs. In 1954, a psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham penned a positively awful book called Seduction of the Innocent that held comics were a pernicious influence on America's children. He claimed they contributed to juvenile delinquency and myriad other depravities, but the book's most famous assertion, and the one which caused the most concern, is that there was a clear homosexual relationship between Batman and Robin.

It's hard not to snicker at the hokey way Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were portrayed, but it's equally hard to take seriously the suggestion we're looking at anything other than a clueless attempt at wholesome, Boy Scout-style stuff. But, this was in the bad old days when homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. And the accusation also played into cold war paranoia about the nation's ability to compete against the Soviet Union, the fitness of America's boys, and so on. Thus, as ridiculous as it sounds, a full-blown moral panic ensued, and things went so far that congressional hearings were held to get to the bottom of the matter.

As it turns out (shocker), Wertham was a fraud. He committed numerous ethical violations, including manipulation, invention and in some cases falsification of evidence, misrepresentation of sample sizes, and the passing off anecdotal data as rigorously scientific. All so he could grind his axe about effete men, homosexuals, and juvenile delinquents. But that wouldn't be known until decades after his death, when other scientists finally examined his research. Instead, his book had a lasting, negative influence.

The controversy his book caused led the comics industry to create the Comics Code Authority self-censorship organization, which severely clamped down on anything remotely controversial. This was especially true for content in any way related to GLBT subject matter. DC, for instance, made sudden, sharp changes to remove any possible gay tone from Batman, including the introduction of a girlfriend for Batman named Batwoman. Yes, they created what might be the first beard in comic book history, in order to stop people from calling Batman gay.

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