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Reading: Mobile Masculinities: Changing Representations of the Gay Male Form in Comics over Time

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Research article

Mobile Masculinities: Changing Representations of the Gay Male Form in Comics over Time

Author:

Garry McLaughlin

University of Dundee, GB
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Abstract

This article explores how representations of the gay male form in comics have changed over time in relation to shifting social and cultural contexts. It compares three works: Miss Thing, by Joe Johnson, Fabrice Neaud’s Émile, and Greek Love, by Dale Lazarov and Adam Graphite. On one hand, the differences between these works reflect shifting attitudes towards the presentation of the male gay body; on the other, each of them corresponds to a different distribution platform: the periodical gag strip, webcomics, and prestige hardbacks, respectively. Miss Thing satirizes work of its time such as that typified by Tom of Finland oeuvre. Johnson parodies this pneumatic, exaggerated hypermasculinity and contrasts it with a more feminine, graceful line. Playing on the butch/swish dynamic, he uses satire and camp to generate punchlines. Émile, on the other hand, is dependent on the juxtaposition of words and imagery, but Neaud highlights the male form by its absence. The figure only appears in renderings of photographs, which are used comparatively to illustrate the characters who are otherwise only present in the narrator’s appeals. Greek Love, finally, stands in contrast to the other two comics by merit of its wordless nature. It recuperates Greek mythology to re-weave the male queer body into history and finds a form of sexual freedom in a proto-post-AIDS climate. The article makes a comparison between these works to illustrate the changing nature of the male gay form in comics and suggests that these changes are reflective of evolving socio-political contexts, especially the HIV/AIDS crisis.

How to Cite: McLaughlin, G. “Mobile Masculinities: Changing Representations of the Gay Male Form in Comics over Time”. New Readings, vol. 18, 2022, pp. 109–133. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/newreadings.123
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Published on 24 Mar 2022.
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