Vintage Gay Comics

From Don Steiny, a link to Samuel Warde’s “Vintage Politically Incorrect Comic Book Covers” site. I’ll post some gems from this collection, but here I’m interested in the one item that struck me as suspicious:

What made me suspicious was the title, Gay Comics; the lexical item swish; the spray of white icing onto the man’s face, like an ejaculation; the blowing and the lexical item blow; even the phallic candles (see “the birthday phallus” image in this posting). But it could all be innocent, and only unintentionally suggestive. And so it probably is.

Start with the title. On the series:

Gay Comics was an anthology in the 1940’s by Marvel’s publishing predecessor Timely featuring such characters as Millie the Model, Tessie the Typist and Nellie the Nurse. (link)

The comics seem to have been resolutely heterosexual. The one above is #22, from Dec. 1, 1945, before gay ‘homosexual’ had spread from in-group use to general use — the predominant sense at the time was the OED‘s

Of persons, their attributes, actions, etc.: light-hearted, carefree; manifesting, characterized by, or disposed to joy and mirth; exuberantly cheerful, merry; sportive

(see “Jell-O is the gay dessert”, here) — and long before homosexuality could be mentioned or depicted in mainstream comics (though effeminacy could be alluded to and derided, as here). Apparently the cover shows a practical joke.

Swish as a reference to effeminacy seems to be a decade or so more recent than the comic (though the evidence is hard to evaluate, and it’s not in the OED), but blow ‘fellate’ has OED cites from 1933 and 1941. So their combination with the spray of white icing and the candles could just be an accident, or could have been an in-joke.

I was originally thrown off the track by a later Gay Comics series:

Gay Comix (also spelled Gay Comics) was an underground comics series published from 1980–1998. Created by Howard Cruse, Gay Comix featured the work of gay, lesbian, and transsexual artists. Much of the early content was autobiographical, but more diverse themes were explored in later editions. Autobiographical themes include falling in love, coming out, repression and sex. Gay Comix also served as a source for information about non-mainstream LGBT-themed comics and events.

The first four issues were edited by Cruse; issues #5 through #13 were edited by [Robert] Triptow. Andy Mangels edited issues #14 to #25 and a special issue featuring [Tim] Barela; Mangels changed the title to Gay Comics starting with issue #15, in part to divest it of the “underground” implications of “comix”. (link)

The cover of Gay Comix #1 (a crudely phallic drawing) is on AZBlogX, here. And here are two covers for the Winter 1993 issue, #21, together enclosing the issue: a stylish one by P. Craig Russell, an in-your-face one by Roberta Gregory:

We’re a long way from Millie, Tessie, and Nellie.

6 Responses to “Vintage Gay Comics”

  1. Roger Klorese Says:

    The cover of GAY COMIX #1 was by Rand (HAROLD HEDD) Holmes; Howard Cruse edited the book. The two covers for #21 are from when Andy Mangels edited the book; the male/female flip cover approach was innovative at the time, but today, well, we’d need an infinite number of covers for every spot on (and off) the gender continuum…

  2. W Says:

    The biggest collections of these I’ve found have been on superdickery and TVTropes’ Have a Gay Old Time page. That said, it’s user contributed, so there are probably some misfires.

  3. John Baker Says:

    It would be interesting to look at other Gay Comics covers from this period and see if any of them are similarly suggestive.

  4. More vintage comics « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] More from Samuel Warde’s “Vintage Politically Incorrect Comic Book Covers” site, divided into two large categories: covers with details of linguistic interest, and those of primarily social interest. (When a comic has features of both types, I’ll discuss it in the first group.) […]

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