Lexical gap filled!

Question: Given that an event that is depicted in a movie (or television show) is said to have happened on-screen, how do you refer to an event that is depicted in a comic strip?

More specifically, consider kisses. “The first on-screen interracial kiss” in the movies is a researchable question of interest to many people — similarly, the first such kiss on television — though the question might be restricted to mainstream movies, or American movies, or in other ways. (For American television, the conventional answer is Uhura and Kirk on theĀ Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” in 1968.)

Then there are on-screen gay kisses (that is, kisses between two people of the same sex).

And you can ask about these things in comic books rather than movies or television. But how do you word the question?

Ok, there’s a long-winded version, along the lines of “What was the first time two characters of the same sex kissed each other in a comic book?” But is there a way to compact this, parallel to “What was the first on-screen gay kiss?”?

It seems that there is now — at least since 2009 (though such kisses were referred to in comics before that, indeed depicted before that). I came across the locution in an article in the June/July issue of the gay male lifestyle magazine Instinct: “Flame On! The rainbowing of the comic industry” by Ryan Jent (note the verbing of rainbow), p. 55:

[The book Astonishing X-Men] features openly gay X-Man Northstar and his longtime boyfriend [who are to be married]. The book also features lesbian X-Man Karma, who will surely RSVP for the wedding alongside X-Factor couple Rictor and Shatterstar, who were “best friends” for 20 years before sharing the first mainstream, on-panel gay kiss in 2009.

That’s on-panel, parallel to on-screen, attested since at least 2009.

Meanwhile, breaking news, from a March 8th blog:

At Last: Hulkling & Wiccan Share First Kiss in ‘Young Avengers: The Children’s Crusade’ #9

Teddy Altman and Billy Kaplan – the Young Avengers’ Hulkling and Wiccan – shared their first on-panel kiss in Young Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #9 this week. It’s a big moment for fans of the characters; an awwwww-inducing, infinitely rebloggable image seven years in the making.

Outside of the context of these characters and this relationship, this kiss is not a major milestone. It’s not Marvel’s first kiss between two men, nor even its first kiss between two male superheroes. Marvel showed a kiss between minor character Bloke and his unnamed boyfriend in X-Force #118 way back in 2001 (though Bloke was killed in the same issue). Rictor and Shatterstar had their first kiss in 2009 in X-Factor #45. Daken kissed Bullseye (in Hawkeye drag) in 2010, though that kiss was not exactly reciprocated. Northstar kissed his boyfriend Kyle Jinadu in Alpha Flight #0.1 last year. In the context of that short history of kisses, Teddy kissing Billy is only a ‘first’ for Teddy and Billy. (link)


6 Responses to “Lexical gap filled!”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    The model for on-screen and then on-panel was the theatrical term on-stage. Corresponding to these are off-stage, off-screen, and, yes, off-panel, as here:

    Killed Off-Panel
    Characters killed off-panel of comics books, who were either shown dead later, or ressurected later. (link)

  2. Nathan Sanders Says:

    This attributive use of “on-panel” goes back quite a while; I remember seeing and using it in comics newsgroups on Usenet. The earliest citation I can find through Google Groups is from 1995:

    “there was no on panel conflict between the reaper and the JSA in SO #50”

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Thanks. I was careful to say “at least”, because my first searches for expressions almost never unearth the actually earliest uses.

      The OED hasn’t picked up on-panel yet. though it has on-screen as an adverbial from 1929 and as an adjectival modifier from 1963 (and on-stage from a bit before that).

  3. Greg Morrow Says:

    Nathan beat me to it — comics fans like me were using “on-panel”, “off-panel”, and the like as long back as I was participating in discussions.

    I would expect that it really goes back as far as anybody started talking about newspaper comic strips analytically.

    • Greg Morrow Says:

      If on/off-screen/stage are really attested that late, I wouldn’t expect on/off-panel to predate them.

  4. The Ridger Says:

    Interesting. My first thought was “in-panel” but I immediately corrected myself to “on”. Now I wonder if I’ve heard the term before and simply not noticed it.

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