Monday, February 14, 2005

Comically Gay

This is more the pervue of Pen-Elayne, but I thought it was interesting to see that comic books are taking up topics that could be considered more mundane than your average superhero stopping the destruction of the world by an evil genius.

The mayor of New York City comes out in support of gay marriage and political fallout ensues. This may sound like the dilemma now faced by Michael R. Bloomberg, but the mayor in this case is Mitchell Hundred, the fictional protagonist of Ex Machina, a monthly comic book from WildStorm/DC Comics, a division of Warner Brothers.

The series, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Tony Harris, follows Mayor Hundred as he retires from crime-fighting to pursue public office. While Ex Machina retains some superhero elements, the stories draw heavily on politics. Unlike Green Lantern, this hero has to worry about budgets, controversial art in public museums and debates over school vouchers. “I’ve always been interested in politics, especially local politics, which I think are a lot sexier” than national politics, said Mr. Vaughan. “Mayors are the equivalent of beat cops – you never know what to expect that day on the street.”

The gay marriage storyline, which began in November, was developed early last year, shortly before dozens of gay couples started marrying in San Francisco last February but long before Mayor Bloomberg entered the fray last week. New York, Mr. Vaughan said, has brought the issue back into focus on the municipal level. “I just lucked out or I was eerily prescient,” he added. (DC Comics has not yet released sales figures for the series.)

While the New York City in Ex Machina closely mirrors the real one, Sept. 11 plays out a bit differently. Mr. Vaughan, who was living in Brooklyn at the time, watched from the roof of his apartment as the towers fell. In Ex Machina, the hero stops the second plane from hitting the World Trade Center. “I wanted to write about 9/11, but it is uncomfortable territory,” Mr. Vaughan said. “I knew I had something to say. I figured if I told it well and respectfully, I would be O.K.”

Very cool.