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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #176

This is the one-hundred and seventy-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and seventy-five. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Let’s begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The writers of New Mutants had to re-write a finished comic book at the last moment because Marvel decided not to publish the original story, which involved a gay student killing himself.


In 2003, Nunzio Defilippis and Christina Weir debuted their new Marvel series, New Mutants, which introduced brand new teenage mutant students of Xavier’s, while using the slightly older original members of the New Mutants (primarily Dani Moonstar) as their mentors.

Another of the New Mutants, Xi’an “Shan” Coy Manh, was also an instructor at Xavier’s, and in a plot designed for issue #8, parents of students at Xavier’s would complain when Shan is seen kissing another woman during Parent’s Day.

One of the students, Victor Borkowski (Anole) would protest his parents’ outrage by revealing that he was, in fact, gay himself!


His parents would not react kindly to this, and when he turned to his two best friends (Josh and Julian) for support, they would shun him as well, leading to him killing himself in the next issue.

Josh and Julian, respetively

Besides being a powerful message about what intolerance can do to people, the storyline was designed to redeem a character who was introduced in the first storyline. Josh Foley was a mutant-hater who realized he was a mutant himself. Ostracized by his jerk friends, Josh is taken in at Xavier’s, and slowly began redeeming himself. Still, he clearly did not the best outlook on life (as seen by him being best buds with a jerk like Julian), and when he learns his friend Victor is gay, he shuns him. It is Josh who discovers Victor’s dead body, and it is the major impetus in Josh becoming a good guy. It would also cement Julian’s character as being a true jerk.

In any event, the two issues were written, drawn, colored, etc. – then a snag happened.

I’ll let DeFilippis & Weir describe what happened next:

Everyone at Marvel liked the story, and loved the suicide story.

A key player in the story was Northstar, the first openly gay superhero at Marvel and still Marvel’s highest profile homosexual. As a fellow teacher at the school, he would be the one to comment on Shan’s struggle with the parents’ reaction to her. He would also be the one to bring his own haughty point of view to the notion of a kid killing himself over being rejected when at a school for outcasts.

We finish up Issue 12, and are starting to hear rumblings from Marvel. Issues 8 & 9 are drawn, Issue 8 is colored and lettered and going to the printer. But there’s finally a new guy at Marvel to replace Bill Jemas. And his mandate is to be less controversial. So a gay student killing himself is not a story he wants to see in his young-reader friendly book. Now, we can’t blame them for that – if they want the book young-reader friendly, a suicide story isn’t right for it. It’s simply bad timing – their definition of the book is changing after a story is already all but done.

So ideas are sent to us for ways to soft-pedal this story. Can we eliminate the lesbian kiss that sets off the parents? (The answer there is no, because without it, the story has no starting point) Can we not show the kiss, maybe have it happen off panel? (we tell them that’s a cop-out, so they opt to show it in silhouette only) Can Northstar never mention he’s gay? (This one threw us off, because he’s been out of the closet for a decade). Eventually we seem to defuse the situation (by silhouetting the kiss – the other stuff didn’t happen, thankfully), and go about our business.

So we head home for Thanksgiving, and get the news – the issue has been stopped at the printer’s. It was printed, but they don’t know if they’re going to distribute it. Marvel is deciding what to do.

Story continues below

We put in a call to our editor. Then one to Quesada. Then one to the publisher. No-one can tell us what happens next.

This mystery lasts from Thanksgiving to Christmas. We have a family trip with my family to Italy. Before leaving, we try to get answers. Nothing.

So we go to Italy after Christmas. And we’re there through the New Year. And on New Year’s Eve, we have a conference call with our editor. They’re pulping the issue, and skipping Issue 9 entirely. They’ll publish Issue 10 as Issue 8 and so on. We point out that in Issue 10 Josh has switched cliques and kids are reacting to a suicide. Maybe we can try something else.

So we convince them to let us write a new story, set during the Parents Week backdrop we’d had for the suicide story. We’d write it based on the artwork we had from Issue 8 & 9, and piece together a script to cover Josh’s transition and David and Josh making peace. Then we’d excise the suicide references from previous scripts, and put in new pages there.

So that’s what we do. We spend New Years Eve in Venice not enjoying the city or the night, but instead taking apart two of our scripts and making one Frankenstein-like construct of dead script-parts. The result is what was ultimately published as Issue 8.

While that is unfortunate, in a way, it almost had a happy ending.

First of all, Anole turned out to be a real fan-favorite, and he has been appearing in the books more and more regularly since then, which wouldn’t have happened if he was, you know, dead.

In addition, Julian became a popular character, too. Look! He even got to make time with Wolverine’s clone!

If they had turned him into a homophobic jerk, that likely would not have occurred.

So while it is definitely a pain what they had to go through, it ALMOST worked out for the best.


Thanks to Jonathan Nathan for suggesting this one, and of course, thanks to Nunzio Defilippis and Christina Weir for the information. Check out their website here.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: There was a popular song in the 60s of a guy whistling a song about Batman.

STATUS: False (at least in the way we look at it)

Talk about serendipity!

Okay, so last week I featured the story of a Jan and Dean album about Batman, so a reader named Rudy wrote in to ask the following:

I was just reading your column about the Jan & Dean Batman album, and that reminds me of another mid-1960s Batman-related song. I don’t recall the name of the guy, but it was a guy whistling about Batman. That’s all I recall – can you find out anything about it? Thanks!

Well, Rudy, you remember correctly, just not in the way you’re thinking.

Whistling Jack Smith had a hit song in 1967 with the tune “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman,” an all whistling song which reached the Top Twenty on the Billboard singles charts.

However, the term “Batman” in this instance is not, in fact, referring to the superhero.

According to the Random House Unabriged Dictionary (courtesy of dictionary.com), a batman is:

a soldier assigned to an officer as a servant.

So here, in the song, the singer is referring to being the batman for Kaiser Bill.

The song is a reference to a popular military song in Germany during World War I, where the soldier who is the batman to Kaiser Wilhelm was able to avoid having to serve in combat.

The serendipitous part of this to me is not just that the Jan and Dean legend prompted Rudy’s e-mail. but just yesterday, in the pages of Trinity, the DC Universe is currently dealing with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman vanishing as if they never existed.

So some characters (who still remember Batman vaguely) run into Alfred, who is an archeologist in this universe. And when a character mentions Batman, Alfred gives the “officer’s servant” defintion!

That’s a pretty cool coincidence!!

Here’s a YouTube performance of Whistling Jack Smith (which apparently is a stage name for someone – no one seems to be sure who, as the guy in the video apparently is just lip syncing the whistling)

Story continues below

Thanks to Rudy for the question and thanks to various music sites for the info! And thanks to Kurt Busiek for making it all serendipitous!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Jor-El was not named in the comic books until 1945, and it was not even in the pages of Superman or Action Comics!


Two things should be cleared up first.

1. In the pages of Action Comics #1, a scientist is said to be sending his child to Earth to survive the destruction of his planet.

2. In the Superman comic strip, in 1939, Jor-El is first named. He also popped up in an episode of the Superman radio show.

So Jor-El was named period right after Superman appeared, and it was courtesy of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

However, while Krypton got a mention in Superman #1, Jor-El would not be named in the Superman comic book for a DECADE!! Specifically, with the Tenth Anniversary issue of Superman, the famous Superman #53, which details, as you can see on the cover, the origin of Superman.

Soon afterward, the classic Superman #61 was released, which is where SUPERMAN learns of his heritage for the first time (it’s also the first appearance of green kryptonite in the comic books).

Man, it doesn’t even merit the cover of the issue? Harsh!

In any event, surprisingly, while Jor-El was not named in the Superman comics until 1948, he appeared in More Fun Comics #101, a full three years earlier, in the first appearance of Superboy in 1945!

Note that Superboy not only did not get the cover, he did not even merit a MENTION on the cover!

Here’s the page from the issue…


Thanks to John McDonagh, who, I just noticed, sent me this one EXACTLY two years ago today! Even trippier!!!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

See you next week!


Very good edition this week, Mr. Cronin.

Great column as always, Brian. (But at the top of the third one, you say it’s true that he was named in 1945, yet the dates mentioned in the actual piece are 1939 for other media and 1948 for the comics)

“Kaiser Bill” was Kaiser Wilhelm the Third of Germany, leader of that country during WW1.

Matt, I think the current phrasing says what I want to say – while Jor-El was named in the comic strip, he wasn’t named in the comic book until 1945, and it wasn’t in either of Superman or Action Comics – it was in More Fun Comics.

“Kaiser Bill” was Kaiser Wilhelm the Third of Germany, leader of that country during WW1.

You are correct! How silly of me!

Thank god Anole wasn’t killed off for some stupid “intolerance” storyline. I’ve never read the “New Mutants” book, and I don’t know anything about the characters. I’m just sick of gay characters being introduced only to die in “social issue” stories.

In the 80s, if a gay character was introduced, you knew he was going to get AIDS and die. In the 90s, it was likely to be a gay-bashing story. We’re finally at a place where gay characters can just exist without being burdened by “messages of tolerance.”

Even though Marvel’s reasons for keeping Anole alive were reactionary, I’m glad the character was allowed to continue without having to MEAN so much or teach anyone a lesson about caring. Ugh.

So does, “In the Superman comic strip, in 1939, Jor-El is first named.” refer to the newspaper strip? It really is interesting how much of the Superman mythos didn’t even originate in the comic books.

It should be noted that in those mentions of Superman’s parents prior to More Fun #101, their names were spelled Jor-L and Lora (which is why the later Earth-2 incarnations’ names were spelled that way). The modern spellings first appeared in George W. Lowther’s 1942 novel The Adventures of Superman.

I’m very torn between my hatred of censorship and my love of Anole and Julian. I hate the reasons for why the story was changed, but it saved two of my favorite New X-Men.

This column has been consistantly good here at CSBG.

Lately I’ve felt that some of the other regular columns I like have faded away. Very sad, that.

Yeah, jc, they were first named in the comic strip (and as Kurt mentions, he was Jor-L there).

There is no Wilhelm III. The Wilhelm in World War I was the second.

Yes, I nitpick. It’s what I do!

The Snark Free stuff is still around, Scott, it’s just in different forms!

I just did a big Cover Theme Game post the other day! Did you see it?

Okay, Brian, I see what you’re saying now. I still find it pretty confusing, though, just in the order the information is doled out.

And yeah, Joe Q deserves cheers for killing what sounds like a bad story, even if he deserves jeers for jerking the creators around while he made up his mind. Ever since I saw the montage of gay suicides in the documentary “The Celluloid Closet”, followed by gay interviews saying they got the message loud and clear, I’ve had no tolerance for the hoary gay-suicide cliche.

I really liked Defilippis and Weir’s “New Mutants.” Before House of M, I really thought there was a place for a book about kids at Xavier’s just being…kids. Who happen to have powers, but hey, so does everybody else. And then the book became the poster child for editorial interference, and now, years later, we’ve got “Young X-Men,” featuring just about nobody that I recognize. I am glad they didn’t kill off Anole, though; that would have been the cheap shock value that…well, that the book was all about just a couple of years later.

Here’s what I want to know, although it’s hardly an urban legend: There were 12 issues of that run of New Mutants, before the title changed to New X-Men. Issues #1-6 are collected in trade, and so are all the New X-Men issues, but #7-12 of New Mutants isn’t collected, so if you’re buying trades, there’s a gap in the story. What gives?

I tend to rate the “legends” covered here according to their importance.

The one about the whistling of a “Batman” song? That’s almost not worth covering.

The one about Jor-El’s name? More interesting, though mainly for comic book historians.

The one about Anole? Now THAT was a great piece of comics journalism, not only informing us of a significant behind-the-scenes comic-production event most of us hadn’t even heard of, but it is a complex and interesting tale all by itself. And btw, I’m against killing characters in general, because a dead character cannot be used again (until revived, which is bad for its own reasons) and you never known which character, however obscure now, might be a hit someday.

Just my 2 cents.

Brian Mac, Anole appeared in the latest issue of Young X-Men. That might interest you.

Phew! Now we know how important each of the stories is to a stranger on the internet!

The whole New Mutants fiasco fascinates me because I think it shows all the wrong-headed decisions (for good and bad reasons) current mainstream comics make with gay characters.

You can see the good intentions on the part of the creators of a story where a gay-kid-outs-himself and then commits suicide. But how much better–and how much more original– would it have been for the gay kid to out himself, and just keep on living? The suicide just perpetrates the portrayal of being gay as a victim of society. That’s decent and liberal, but it’s been done. A lot.

And yet…editorial’s suggested fixes to it pretty much say everything about why Marvel never has, nor never will be (under current proprietors) a place where gay characters will contribute much to the landscape. “Can Northstar not mention he’s gay?” “Can you not show two gay characters kissing?” I could understand that they didn’t want a suicide in a book that skews young, but all their efforts seem to be to mask the gay aspect and that really says it all ot me.

And as long as liberal victim and the half-hearted we-don’t-want-to-rock-the-boat are the only ways of portraying being gay in comics, that’s why mainstream comics will never grow.

But there’s finally a new guy at Marvel to replace Bill Jemas. And his mandate is to be less controversial.


Bill Jemas run at Marvel was a great time, great books that weren’t afraid to be different.

How can you let as an editor let the book get to the printer and THEN decide it isn’t the right story????

As a reader of the DeFilippis/Weir New Mutants (and later New X-Men), I do vaguely remember there being some rocky storytelling around that time, but didn’t think too much about it.

The much bigger atrocity committed with that book was handing it to Chris Yost and Craig Kyle. The book became a killing ground for every teenaged mutant not named X-23 (which is a whole ‘nother rant about lameness of “created by” credits, and simply the debate over how much work went into “creating” X-23).

Besides being a powerful message about what intolerance can do to people, the storyline was designed to redeem a character who was introduced in the first storyline.

Sounds a lot like a ‘gay in a refrigerator’ though.

van_line: Around that time, there were plenty of instances of Marvel approving a story, letting the creators work ahead, then pulling the rug out. The most blatant examples I can think of are Princess Di in X-Statix and the kids from Sins Past, who were meant to be Peter’s kids. I’m sure there’s more, I remember citing three examples before.

That’s why I’ve always hated gay characters in comics, they always have a tragic ending. There was a gay superhero in UN Force whom, if the series would have continued, would have discovered they had AIDS. It was also implied that one of the heroes in DC’s New Guardians had an AIDS-like illness that also infected Harbinger. Kolliwog (sp) was able to cure Harbinger but not the other despite his advanced technology.

Sounds a lot like a ‘gay in a refrigerator’ though.

It sorta does, doesn’t it?

I feel silly now for not noticing that everyone wasn’t clear on who “Kaiser Bill” was. I was in a hurry to leave the first comment.

I don’t agree that Kyle and Yost were a tragedy on that title. I bought the collected editions of “Childhood’s End”, the story of their struggle with Rev. Stryker and Nimrod, and think they rocked.

Graeme, I see your point, but I still think the Anole story as it was written does represent at least a little progress. As Thom points out, in the 80’s and 90’s once a gay character was introduced you could pretty much tell exactly what end they were going to come to. I want gay characters where their sexuality or some hokey “message about tolerance” (isn’t that what the X-men are already about? Does there really need to be more?) isn’t their raison d’etre. They can just be regular characters (as regular as comic book characters ever are) who happen to be gay.

I actually quite like the portrayal of Wiccan and Hulkling as a gay couple in Young Avengers, but that might just be me.

…These days, you couldn’t get an artist like Whistlin’ Jack on the air unless he was a drug thug rapper whose drug money and gang ties bought his way into a career, a rapper thug’s pet ho whose “services” bought her a career and a voder box gave her a fake voice, a siliconed ex-mouskabimbo with a drug problem. or a tattooed freak whose drug problems make the ex-mouskabimbo’s look like an addiction to Baby Ruth bars.

I’m glad they saved Anole. I like how Kyle and Yost handled him in New Mutants and I was disappointed when that book ended. I am hoping for big things from our green teen in “Young X-Men.”

You can find a list of LGBT heroes over at http://www.prismcomics.org.

Government statistics confirm that an average of five young people take their lives by suicide each and every day and that GLBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. For every young person who takes his or her own life, there are 20 more who try. As long as the problem exists (and actually escalates) a story like this may be hoary, but has value.

The Trevor Project operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Please check out the Trevor Project at http://www.theTrevorProject.com , and do what you can to help.

Mammalian Verisimilitude

October 10, 2008 at 11:06 am

> Here’s what I want to know, although it’s hardly an urban legend: There were 12 issues of that run of New Mutants, before the title changed to New X-Men. Issues #1-6 are collected in trade, and so are all the New X-Men issues, but #7-12 of New Mutants isn’t collected, so if you’re buying trades, there’s a gap in the story. What gives?

#7-13 aren’t collected, actually.

The Ugly American

October 10, 2008 at 11:12 am

I can’t decide if “Anole” is a horrible or appropriate codename for a male gay super-hero.

I blame the writers for this mental conundrum.

This is an old barely related comment, but the mention of a gay character being only introduced for some “very special episode of” a comic made me think of an old All in the Family show. Ya know, with Archie Bunker. Mike’s black friend Lionel tells him he wishes he wouldn’t always think of him as black:
“Whenever I see you, you wanna talk about ‘the black problem’.”
“What do you want me to talk about? The weather?”
“Why not? Black people have the weather, too, ya know.”

And this concludes obscure reference theater.

Two points:

While the word for a military servant is PRONOUNCED “batman” it is spelled “batsman.”

As for that MORE FUN issue, note that “Dover and Clover” despite being mentioned on the cover don’t appear inside, and that the initial Superboy story is but five pages. The GCD believes that there was an eleventh hour change of plans. The cover, I suggest, had already gone to press, so don’t be too hard on DC there.

I don’t get it, if the New X-men were to be a kid friendly title and Anole was spared, why did they go ahead and kill all of those young mutants later??

‘ While the word for a military servant is PRONOUNCED “batman” it is spelled “batsman.” ‘

Only if he plays cricket. Otherwise, it’s “batman”, no “s”. So sayeth the OED.

I’m reminded of the old New Mutants issue where they introduced a mutant character who could create solid-light sculptures… and of course, he was totally in the closet as far as being a mutant. Unfortunately, this was right around the time X-Factor was doing their big bad mutant-hunter shtick, and the kids at school were teasing said closeted mutant, and he ended up killing himself out of fear of discovery.

THAT was a powerful story in its own way, seeing as how it’s stuck with me for nigh on 20 years or so.

Well, this “New Mutants” story is a nice example of how quickly things changed at Marvel when Buckley took over. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel is truly experiencing a great period of semi-diversity with all of their licensed books and the Soliel deal, but I can only imagine how much better shape they’d be in as far as mainstream bookstores sales and attracting new readers to the medium if Jemas was given the chance to fully revive the creator-owned Epic line (as opposed to the superstar playground that is Icon) and keep publishing quirky books like “The Megalomaniacal Spidey” and well, pretty much anything Axel put his hands on back then. Heck, they might even be biting into the DC umbrella of imprints’ trade numbers by now (MAX has had some good titles, but Vertigo they are not, not by a long shot…) if Jemas would have been left to finish what he started.

Oh, and as a more focused comment on the “New Mutants” story, I have to agree with a lot of the previous posts that gay characters in superhero comics are almost treated as if being gay is some kind of disablity or damper. It seems no superhero can be just gay and that’s it… I guess the counterpoint of The Authority comes to mind, but they’re almost the antithesis of that stuff. The best book I’ve read as far as keeping it tasteful was X-Statix even though that was mostly comedy…

And I’m also glad that there may be some agreement that the Jemas days were truly the best of times for Marvel…

Did you try looking up Whistling Jack Smith at allmusic.com? They identify him as a pseudonym of Noel Walker:


Marvel opting not to publish the New Mutants story was a mistake. It would have generated good PR, and while being “controversial”, it wold have provided as strong message to young gay readers, as well as straight ones who were unaware of the impact intolerance has on people. Life may have went on for everyone involved, but I can’t help but ask myself “What If…Marvel decided to publish this limited series AS IS?”.

The only TRUE batman in comics was Digby. (You remember? Frank Hampson? Greatest comic ever created? Come on guys!)

Correction; IS Digby. Thanks to “Spaceship Away” for keeping the batman legend alive. :)

Characters aren’t supposed to mean anything?

Nobody should ever die?

Messages about intolerance are merely “shock value?”

Do you guys hate literature or something?

So let me see if I have this right.

Marvel’s management says if you are gay, don’t mentioning it.


Correction, in Superman#61, Kryptonite had a red hue. However, on the radio show, it had gotten described as green.

Another legend, Spencer Tracy’s Oscar had Dick Tracy’s name on it.

Interesting how Jor-el and Lara’s outfits evolved, as well. Jor-el’s sun symbol on green shirt was another decade away, by the looks of it.

So I’m confused. Was the original New Mutants #8 ever printed? Or were they ALL destroyed? Surprising none ever leaked… or were included as an “extra” in a trade, or something.

To Desert, yeah it would be fine, if there were many other gay characters that didn’t end up killing themselves. The problem is when you have ALL of your gay characters become victims, then your propagating a message that gays are necessarily victims, which that least I think is a problem.

Of cause they could have always had Anole just attempt suicide, that way they could have had the message and still kept the character, although I guess that would colour reader’s perceptions of him. It’s not necessarily something that he’d would have been able to recover from.

FYI Here in Australia the state of Victoria was founded by a John Batman, a businessman who in his younger days captured a bushranger Matthew Brady. Talk about life imitating art ;)

I HATE when gay characters are killed or kill themselves so a straight character can learn a lesson or become a better hero. Thank GOD that story got canned. I don’t think I ever would have been able to stand the characters of Josh or Julian again.

Hey, I resent what “OM” said about tattooed freaks! Tattoos do not a freak make. And oh, “Anole” IS an awful name for a gay male character, isn’t it?!

Honestly, comics need more living examples of diversity than they do dead examples that teach blunt repetitive lessons about how intolerance drives people to suicide.

Oddly enough, the issue of Trinity that came out this week mentions that a “batman” is an officer’s assisant. I’d never heard that before in my life, and now twice in one week. Ain’t that always the way?

At the risk of sounding dense, why is “Anole” such a bad name for a gay character? Is it a slang thing I’m not aware of, or are people just riffing on pronunciation (in which case it seems like a bit of a stretch to me, unless other people pronounce the word a bit differently than I do)?

It reminds me of an essay I read once in which the author describes playing a role-playing game which the other players found impossible to take seriously because it featured a gay superhero character named “Ironskin.” I found this absolutely impenetrable until the author went on to explain that “iron” is a Cockney slang term a gay man (the players all being British). Apparently they found it inconcievable that it wasn’t intentional on the part of the people who wrote the game, while, as an American, I found it hard to believe it was anything but a coincidence (I have no idea whether the people who wrote the game were British or not, but it was published by an American company).

(the second sentence of the last paragraph in my previous post should say “…slang term FOR a gay man…” I usually just let my typos stand, but in this case the sentence could be hard to parse if you didn’t already have a pretty good idea what I meant.)

I don’t get why Anole is an awful name for a gay character either, but I’m wondering if the name being an anagram for enola as in the ‘enola gay’ is something to do with it.

The name Jor-L first appeared in New Adventure Comics #12 (January 1937) used by a Federal Man of the Future, rather than Superman’s father, in a story by Siegel & Shuster.

Great piece of information, KAM, thanks!

Funny how certain ideas stick with creators! :)

Re; awful name for a gay character—

Oh, it’s just so obvious. ‘Anole’ looks like ‘anal’.

If “iron” is Cockney slang for ‘gay man’, then I guess Raymond Burr was a fitting actor for “Ironsides”.

If readers stretch “Anole” to “anal”, then I guess those readers have nothing better to do with their brain cells. I would surmise those same people snicker every time they hear “Uranus” too.

FYI The name derives from the character’s lizard-like appearance, although the anole family is closer to the iguana than it is to the chameleon. The “e” at the end is of alone is pronounced, so it sounds nothing like “anal”.

Like the recent ‘urban legend’ of “Jedi Master Soon Baytes”, some topics seem to be trending toward the puerile lately.

oops, that should read’ “e” at the end of anole. ‘ Don’t know why my computer decided to change it.

Gotta say, as a gay man and a big fan of those early New Mutants revamp issues, I wouldn’t have minded the Anole suicide story line. Sure it might be cliche, but what in contemporary, mainstream comics dealing with intolerance or minorities isn’t even mildly trite?

Besides, the writers of that series proved themselves prior to the issue in question time and again in dealing with homosexuality-related stories and characters. There was a moment where Dani Moonstar tries to set Karma up with this gal who works at the little local coffee shop, assuming that they’d love to meet each other simply because they’re both lesbians; Karma chastises her and the scenes offer some great commentary. There was a moment where Northstar’s sexuality is mentioned by Hellion, and the other students are basically on the “who cares?” train and a brief discussion about fundamental differences happens. I’m sure they could’ve done this seemingly trite story idea in a well-rounded and well-written fashion.

If you recall the context of this book when it came out–That Marvel was trying to sell it as a kids’ book when in reality the series was actually very mature and had a lot of nods and references to old continuity, then the very idea that they wanted to tell the story makes sense. This was a book about “real” teens dealing with the same ol’ X-Men stuff in new, modern ways. It was never intended to be a “kids” book., and it’s sad that a story that might have been a little cliche but could’ve actually been written very well was killed because Marvel was trying to appeal to that market at the time (they also tried to sell the Emma Frost limited series and the awkward Namor re-imagining as “girly teen romance” type of books–go back and read those solicits).

FYI The name derives from the character’s lizard-like appearance, although the anole family is closer to the iguana than it is to the chameleon.

Both of Anole’s original powers – his climbing ability and his colour changing ability – are based upon the actual abilities of anole lizards.

The fact that anoles are more closely related to iguanas doesn’t really mean anything…he’s about as closely related to any of the three lizard families as he is to any other. (And he doesn’t look much like your standard anole or chameleon…not a bad match for an iguana, actually.)

Gotta (mildly) disagree with Brian Cronin on this: it didn’t almost work out better that Anole survived… it simply did work out better.

Like previous poster, Matt Bird, after seeing the movie Celluloid Closet it’s hard not to shake my head in sad amusement at the well-intentioned cliche of the gay suicide. If Anole had died off he would have been one line in Elixir’s Marvel Universe entry as a catalyst for change into a hero rather than having his own full-fledged hero entry himself… in that what-if universe, the best this gay teen could do with his life was squander it so that the straight, white male, the default American, could feel guilty for a bit but move on, romance Wolfsbane and Wallflower and get kudos for saving the world. Ironic that the teen bloodbath that was Yost&Kyle’s New X-Men had brought Anole to the forefront as he helped save the world, demonstrate a bullheaded fortitude/perseverance that Defilippis&Weir didn’t credit their creation with, and show that he’s got more of a character range than a one-note tragic victim-suicide.

The more modern/useful story about tolerance is how do people keep living in a world where diversity continues to exist rather than one where a representative of the majority culture wrings his hands because his insensitivity caused the death of the victim-minority. I do understand that in the real world a disproportionate number of teen suicides are from those struggling with their sexuality… the thing is, many of us that did struggle with it and the fear of rejection, violence, etc. moved on to grow up, get jobs, and be (mostly) just plain folks trying to do the best we can.

I’ve read too much British fiction that spelled the military servant “batsman.”

I find it amazing that the editors didn’t want gay kisses or even coming out in this comics for the sake of the little children who would read it, but monthes later let half of the student being slaughtered.

And while I despise Marvel for refusing this story, I must admit that at the same time I’m glad they did, because Hellion could never had become the awesome character he is if he was a homophobic bigot (but too bad they didn’t kill Anole, so he wouldn’t take the place of better characters in Young X-Men).

Actually, it’s widely believed that John O’Neill was Whistling Jack Smith – he also did the whistling for Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly theme.


Bernard the Poet

October 12, 2008 at 2:27 am

Anonymous, I promise you that military servants in the British Army are called ‘batmen’ not ‘batsmen’. ‘Batsman’ is a cricketing term to describe the player with the bat.

Batmen were quite controversial during the Second World War. Americans thought they symbolised how class-ridden the British Army was and that it would be demeaning to enlisted men to ask them to be servants. Brits thought batmen allowed their officers to concentrate their full energies on leading their men rather than digging foxholes and preparing their own rations.

Also ‘Iron’ is rhyming slang for a gay person, iron hoof = poof (- I know, I know, it doesn’t rhyme), but it hasn’t been in common usage for about fifty years, so I find it hard to believe that it would put anyone off a role-playing game. An urban myth maybe? Althought the story did remind me of a Bridget Fonda/Phoebe Cates film that came out in the ‘Eighties called ‘Shag’. I was very disappointed to discover that shag was some sort of American dance.

Did anyone read the article? Anole was not written as being ashamed of his sexuality, that wasn’t to be the reason for the suicide. The suicide was as aresult of losing his two best friends, not tha stress of being gay.
This is a completely differrent story than the reactions in the comments suggest. Anole was going to commit suicide for feeling alone, his coming out might be why he felt alone but it’s not the reason for the suicide. This isn’t the same tired old story that we’ve all seen, normally the suicides are a result of shame over their sexuality.

Did I miss a post (there were a lot)? I didn’t notice one that said, specifically, he would have killed himself because he was ashamed of his sexuality. However, it would be too simplistic, IMO, to say that Anole was not written as being ashamed of his sexuality.. The fact that he would have gotten to a hopeless place where he felt alone and saw no way out of it because of people’s reactions to his sexuality doesn’t sound like he had a lot of Gay Pride. That’s not casting a huge negative judgment on what this fictional character might have done in an unpublished story, just as I would not on gay teens in the real world who do commit suicide from feeling abandoned. I’ll grant that these days there’s not as strong a cultural stigma of being gay so people can “come out”. In the tired old stories, sure, the gay individuals killed themselves pre-emptively but you still had the same sort of reactions that Defilippis&Weir were going to write (see The Children’s Hour w/ Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn). I am sure that they would have approached the story with compassion and consideration but, again, I prefer that there’s a living Victor Borkowski with adventures of his own to a footnote in the jerk-turned-good guy story of Elixir.


November 23, 2008 at 1:02 am

Loved the article, as always, but I feel like Brian missed out on the most crucial bit of information of all:

Just how DOES Superman prefer Lois? As a blonde, brunette, or redhead?

Killing off Anole would have been a mistake anyhow… if only because we wouldn’t have seen him beat on Rockslide.

A better way to do it would have been having Josh find him right away and use his powers to revive him (omega level rem,ember) and afterwards always hanging around Anole scared he’ll try it again, which he wouldn’t because as he was dying he realized what a bad idea it was, and how it was better to just be himself no matter what other people think or do, thus making it a story both about how intolerance is bad, and how suicide is never the right answer.

And Julian could have also be shown to feel sorry etc…

What is not mentioned in the article is the reason Kaiser Bill’s Batman did not have to go into combat: the Kaiser’s left arm was useless and had been since birth, making him unfit for combat.

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