Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Can't Tim Drake Be Gay?; or, In Defense of Late Bloomers

As a lead-up to the upcoming DC Universe reboot/non-reboot/sales ploy, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan Didio did an interview with the LGBT news site The Advocate with plenty of positive things to say about LGBT characters in some of the upcoming books. One comment, though, has whipped up a bit of a fuss in the more progressive parts of comics fandom:
DC has several popular teenage heroes such as Robin, Wonder Girl, Superboy and the other Teen Titans. With gay teens becoming more visible in the media, can readers expect to see a teenaged gay superhero in the future?
One of the things we’re very focused on doing for these types of stories is rather than [change an existing] character, we want to make sure that this is the basis of who that character is right from the start. So if we’re going to introduce a gay character in Teen Titans, we want to make it a new character and make sure that is an iatrical part of who he is, or who she is, right from the start so we can really lean and grow with her or him.
 There have been plenty of people pointing out the contradiction of making massive changes to characters all the time but declaring their sexual orientation to be off the board. That is absolutely a valid point. But here's another one: Are gay people really so inherently different that it has to be established at the moment the character is created, that a character who has up to now had romantic relationships with one gender can't start having them with another?

Full disclosure for anyone reading this who doesn't already know me well: I'm a late bloomer myself. I didn't figure out until I was 31, when I finally gave being single a try after a few failed relationships, that just because I liked to hang out with guys didn't mean I actually wanted to sleep with them. I love how Peter David has handled Rictor in X-Factor because he took an existing character and acknowledged that sometimes it takes you a while to accept that you're different - even when you've already accepted other ways in which you are! I love Rictor because his coming out has been most like my own.

That's the problem with Didio's view here: It assumes everybody has everything figured out about themselves the second they hit puberty, that they don't have any societal expectations/familial expectations/opposite-sex friends wanting to date them confusing the issue until they're a little older, and that this makes them significantly, inherently, inextricably different from straight people. Teenagers are increasingly declaring themselves gay or lesbian or bisexual in high school, but those are the lucky ones. Most people don't figure it out that quickly. So why can't Tim Drake realize that's why he was so despondent over losing Connor? Why can't he grow as a character? And how would realizing he's gay make him any different from who he already is?

Everyone is Gay recently posted about writing gay characters. Maybe Dan needs to read it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Play Dark Eldar

Eat your heart out, Professor Membrane
Warhammer 40K, as a hobby, is pretty new to me. I've always been aware of it, and my general Anglophilia has made me mildly curious, but it wasn't until my roommate Zack fell in love with it that I had an excuse to pick it up myself. My first inclination was to play Necrons, because c'mon, robot zombies, but they don't have a lot of units yet and they're a bit lacking in individual character. (Some of that may change soon, as they're rumored to be getting a new Codex.) My true fate was next to them on the shelf of my favorite Local Game Shop: the Dark Eldar.

I used to gravitate toward goody-goodies. I'm still a vehement supporter of the Autobots. My first World of Warcraft character was a (female!) dwarf paladin.  Five years in tech support has rotted my soul. I'm only a little more irritable and misanthropic in my day-to-day life, but these days I like my fictional cultures as evil (or at the very least amoral) as possible. The Dark Eldar are the most over-the-top evil culture I have seen pretty much anywhere. As a race they literally feed off pain. They're drugged-up body mod junkies. They were the flayed skin of those who opposed them as loincloths over their armor.  Their leader dropped a starship on a guy who dared to question his command. In a setting already full of over-the-top concepts and characters, where there are no real Good Guys, they are Villainy Incarnate. Reading through their Codex reveals details so ridiculously evil as to be comical. Their alignment is Chaotic WTF.

Though the Dark Eldar are really just Evil Space Elves, one of the more interesting unit types is the haemonculi and their fleshcrafted minions. My own personal body modifications may consist of two rarely-used pairs of ear piercings and an eyebrow barbell, but I love it in fiction.With cyberpunk a dying subgenre, I often have to get my posthumanism (posteldarism?) from fantasy. As part of a race that embodies all the worst things about traditional elves, the haemonculi exist to fulfill whatever ridiculous vain whim the others entertain. You want wings? Here you go. We'll even hollow out your bones for you. Got killed in battle? No problem, we'll pop your remaining finger in a tube and regenerate you, feeding you on a steady diet of pain from our experimental subjects. Horrible disfigurement is the latest fashion? Lovely!
Equal opportunity silly armor

They also have women, which a lot of the other races are lacking. The Codex specifically says "Little distinction is drawn between the sexes, for an individual's skill and cunning is far more important than physical traits such as height or gender." (Yes, I know, "gender" is not physical; I'm gonna chalk it up to not wanting to use "sex" twice in the same sentence.)  Vanilla Eldar have a lot of female characters in their fiction, but not so many as actual minis. To be fair, being elves, the Dark Eldar have little sexual dimorphism anyway, and when assembling minis it really doesn't matter whether most of the heads are put on male or female bodies. Yes, there are female torsos with cleavage windows, but only in units that don't wear full armor, and those have male companions with exposed midriffs. The women from the "warrior" unit have full body armor. Everything but the torsos are unisex. I get a kick out of that androgyny.

So to any of my like four readers: Do you currently play or have you previously played Warhammer? What was your favorite army, and why?