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CSBG Archive

I Love Ya But You’re Strange – DC Superheroes Know Surprisingly Little About AIDS

Every week, I will spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories (basically, we’re talking lots and lots of Silver Age comic books). Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have a suggestion for a future installment!

This week, in part as a favor to our own Sonia Harris, who apparently never got to see these over in England, we spotlight the series of Public Service Announcements DC Comics did for AIDS awareness, starring a few of their mid-1990s superheroes (some of whom do not come off looking too good).

Now first off, before beginning, let me note that obviously these were a good idea by DC Comics. AIDS awareness during the early 1990s was very important and DC should be commended for trying to help out. That said, you can do a nice thing and still end up doing it kind of goofily, and that’s what these comics were.

Thanks to Scott for all of the scans. It saved me flipping through a variety of early 1990s DC comic books looking for the ones that had the right PSAs in them. Check out Scott’s PSA spotlight at his awesome blog, Polite Dissent.

First up in showing how little he knows about HIV and AIDS is Robin, one of the smartest teen heroes in the DC Universe….

A couple of points about that classic last panel…

1. He is in the Batcave when he begins the sentence and then finishes it when he is swinging through the city. So, what, he didn’t say anything to Alfred until he’s swinging through the city and then says something even though Alfred is long gone?

2. He’s swinging through Gotham to “get some facts”? What, is going to attack some thugs? “WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HIV?!?! TELL ME, PUNKS! TELL ME!!!”

I believe Tom Lyle did the artwork for that PSA.

Next up on the moron parade are Booster Gold and Blue Beetle.

I don’t know who did the artwork for this one.

Anyhow, Beetle and Booster are hanging around being creepy…

“I only date nice women?” YIKES.

Also, why does Beetle feel better now?

Amusingly enough, soon after that initial PSA went up, Doomsday happened and Booster’s armor was destroyed and Fire lost her powers. So in 1994, they did the same ad, only with some re-touches to update Fire to her “Secret Agent DaCosta” look and Booster to his “Beetle-made armor” look…

They even kept the aura from her flames! Hilarious.

Final superhero on the moron parade is Changeling from the New Titans (art by Tom Grummett)…

“Can’t we get sick or even die just by being here?” Oh, Gar, Gar, Gar…

Now that we’re done with moron superheroes, let’s see Flash yell at some moron kids!

I still love that Travis Charest shot of Flash dunking the basketball.

Next, Green Lantern saves Freddy Mercury from an angry mob…

Joe Staton always drew some over-the-top gay characters. Remember Extrano of the New Guardians? Also, wat, exactly, does John Stewart mean by “AIDS is spreading fastest among people you wouldn’t expect”? Who wouldn’t we expect? TV repairmen? Mailmen? I need to know, GL!

This John Stewart one was also one that was edited to change things up. Now, instead of changing John’s look, he’s removed entirely…

Again, thumbs up to DC for doing these things. Good on them!

58 Comments

Oh, man, I remember all these. Like you say, good intentions, but poor execution.

I actually came across that Flash one in the last week or so in a comic I read. Damn, I can’t remember what, though. But more than just being afraid of AIDS, you should be afraid of other diseases from sharing sodas, Wally!

Man, it’s like JUST on the tip of my brain who might have drawn the Booster/Beetle/Fire one(s). Jeff Johnson, maybe? (And I only thought of him because of that email I just sent you…)

You know Alfred is up on AIDS knowledge because of all the fine tail he gets.

A possibly earlier PSA with John Constantine also appeared on this subject.

As one of the PSA message clearly intimates that one of the protagonists has pre-marital relations; I thought of these threads:

http://monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/topic/34612/Chastity–Adaptations–Comic-Strips–Comic-Books—-joke–ho?page=1

Time notes in a 1988 article:

http://www.time.com/time/…le/0,9171,148856,00.html

“DC officials hint he [Superman] may become involved with AIDS victims…………..

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,148856,00.html#ixzz2Ab4gBnUm

There is in this a deplorable element that might be called adultification, in which a figure created for children is subjected to adult concerns, much as though Tom Sawyer or Alice in Wonderland were updated by being made to confront sexual problems.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,148856,00.html#ixzz1rUiTHFiq

http://www.bigshinyrobot.com/reviews/archives/34498 (Max Allan Collins)

“What a lot of people, the Batman show is despised by a lot of comic fans, particularly Batman fans, the dirty little secret of the Batman TV show is that it was extremely accurate to the comic, it was exactly how the comic was………………….No one would cop to that because they wanted him to be a dark knight, they wanted him to be oh-so serious but now they’ve got Batman screwing Catwoman, which is like the Tin Man doing Dorothy doggy-style.

It’s crazy! It’s just crazy.

These things began as comics for children…….”

Quick question; near as I can tell, the pulp series such as the Shadow, Doc Savage, the Spider, etc. did not have nudity on their covers, right? They generally kept the heroes chaste, right? The early Shadow novels did not feature major female roles. What of John Carter and Zorro? Kind of ironic that these properties that started as more overtly childish versions of these properties have grown far more vulgar than the antecedent properties (Doc Savage stayed chaste in his G rated 1975 film, spurning female companionship; Superman films since 1978 have received PG ratings and PG-13 ratings and featured his illegitimate progeny.)

(Incidentally, regarding Conan, many of the original Margaret Brundage covers featured nudity, so no objection can occur for nudity in Conan.)

That is some bad art in these.

The JLA art looks just like Dan Jurgens, who was on JLA at the time. Is there some reason not to think it was him?

It looks like Klaus Janson inks on the Tom Lyle Robin piece up top.

What bugs me about the Robin one: why is he going to “get some facts”? He seems from his dialogue to be pretty informed; he certainly knows more than the other kids he’s talking about.

Funny thing about the Teen Titans one: while Changeling/Beast Boy’s origin never used the acronym “AIDS” it always struck me that he had contracted exactly that. His origin told of him being bitten by a monkey and thus contracting a disease that destroyed his immune system. His parents used an experimental treatment that cured him, but had the side affect of turning him into a green-skinned shape-shifter.

Immunity-destroying disease contracted from a monkey. That sounds a lot like the initial information we had gotten on AIDS when it first came on the public radar back in the 1980’s. And yet no comic story I have ever read admits that. I can understand why not, but Gar still should have been the more knowledgeable Titan in this PSA.

Forget HIV for the moment — what strange disease spread through the GLC that mangled everyone’s LEGS? Not to mention giving John Stewart green hair and Hal Jordan the worst case of arbitrarily graying temples since Reed Richards?

John almost has his modern costume here. Had he used that before?

Weird. Wouldn’t Booster being from the 25th century know about aids? Hell he’s probably immune to it! All these ads are screwy. But it’s the thought that counts.i

I find this whole column’s entry to be incredibly stupid. For starters, STOP thinking as people living in 2012 and try remembering how a whole crapload of “intelligent” people REALLY believed in the early 1990s. There’s not a single one of these PSAs that shows anything incorrectly.

First, the slam about the Robin ad. For crying out loud–it’s a PSA. Conventional rules of storytelling fly out the window. (And I HAVE read plenty of mainstream stories where a character starts the action in one place, even talking to another character, only to–in the next panel–be some distance away while completing a sentence or a thought.) As for the facts Tim’s seeking, uh, did you ever consider he might be planning to go to a–oh I don’t know–clinic? Perhaps even Leslie Tompkins’ clinic? Why jump to an asinine conclusion about beating up people?

Second, the critique about Beetle’s “feel better?’ Maybe the fact that he’s basically suggesting that “dating is scary because of HIV/AIDS” and Booster reinforced that with his “nice girls” comment. Then Bea comes in and points out that ANYONE (even the “nice girls”) could have HIV/AIDS and you–as a potential dater–need to be a bit more circumspect in what you expect from a date.

Third, the Titans? You honestly don’t remember how people believed you could get AIDS from something as simple as just being near AIDS patients? Do you not remember the news coverage of Princess Di’s visits to AIDS hospices and how the press was *astonished* that she would hold the hands of the patients there? No gloves. No HAZMAT suits. Just skin-to-skin contact. And on this side of the Atlantic, it was no better. Most of these PSAs came out just a couple of years after leading politicians were openly advocating that HIV/AIDS patients be “tattooed” or even rounded up and put in “quarantine camps.”

Fourth, the Flash one? Well, considering the comments that the one kid was making was pretty commonplace among a lot of teens and preteens (as well as their parents), it’s not so incredible. Go back and read up on the case of a young man named Ryan White, and see what kind of life he had in school after he’d been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. There were schools where kids with HIV/AIDS were turned away after being “discovered” because too many parents were afraid their own kids might get infected as if the disease were transmitted as easily as the cold, the flu or even mono. (And, incredibly, we still hear of cases where schools will block HIV+ students from attending, until they’re sued. Of course, the kids then get bullied and harassed.)

Finally, the GL ones? That comment which you treat with such witticism actually referred to the fact that, at the time, STRAIGHT people (like the ones in that mob) were actually witnessing the fastest rates of infection, yet it was still being perceived as a “gay disease.”

Brian, you should be ashamed of yourself for this column. And even more ashamed of your attempts at “witticism.” To take on a PSA for being “strange” is even more insane than complaining about using comic characters for selling Hostess Pies. (Maybe those DC/Hostess ads could be the subject of your next column.)

Oh Christ have a sense of humour. Looking at it now does seem ridiculous. Laughing not just at the comics but people’s perception at the time. Stop being precious

Great job Brian!

I agree. It’s weird to mock these as “hilarious.” They’re pretty straightforward, and to geek out with classic fanboy nitpicking like “why is Robin swinging through the city” and “Booster’s from the future! Why doesn’t he know more?” is kind of pathetic and weird. I almost wonder if this column is a lure to get commenters to say stupid things.

The only thing that was kind of funny was the guy that looked like Freddie Mercury. That was worth a chuckle.

While I did enjoy the trip down memory lane, JosephW is correct that these are tough to classify as ‘goofy’ and should instead by lauded, even by today’s standards. First, it must be incredibly difficult to write a one-page comic of any kind in any sort of meaningful way. The only non-knowledgable heroes are teenagers (Robin & Changeling) and Booster Gold, who is 1. From the future with probably a whole different set of diseases possibly not HIV, and 2. was written at this time as, well, not with the highest IQ. So they are completely in character. How many young teenage boys even get to feeling comfortable enough with girls to think about repercussions of sex – did any of you at 13? Not me, still working on, and then happy about that first kiss.

And Robin’s facts, funny as the comment about beating thugs is, there are plenty of places he could go to learn firsthand. And he is probably more interested in getting facts, not Alfred’s word of mouth, to spread to other teenagers. If you read his dialogue carefully, he is not ignorant, just lamenting how adults keep teenagers ignorant.

Finally, it would be worth it to look at the new Iron Man/Captain America/Komen breast cancer PSA out the last couple of months. No more ‘cheesy’ or ‘dated’ than these and, like these, very worthwhile. In fact, the big two should think about a HPV vaccine one. That would be worthwhile considering that many readers of comic books are teenage boys, or at least that is the target audience.

I think DC needs to do another set of these, only this time it’ll be about rape facts and they’ll hand them out to only congressman.

Oh yeah, I’ve still got comics with all of these PSAs. The only one I remember annoying me is the one with Robin; when I came across that one as a 12 year-old, it kinda pissed me off that they made robin look so stupid. then I decided he was just politely feigning ignorance for Alfred’s benefit. :P Remembering all that annoyance over a silly PSA makes me chuckle when I come across them now.
And YUCK, that early Charest art! By Grodd, did he ever improve.
I remember a Superman PSA with John Bogdanove art from around this time too, but it might not have been about AIDS. I’ll dig around a bit and see if I can find it.

@Joaker I think that’s John’s Green Lantern: Mosaic costume – loved that comic.

Joseph. I’m don’t quite understand why you would be getting so defensive about this article. Of course we’re going to look back on older things and laugh about how uninformed or different things were. Why should this be any different. Brian is clearly making fun of how ignorant people were about AIDS in the early 90’s.

i remember these ads. as dc trying to get the message about how back then people were ignorant about hiv and aides. and the titans one reminded me about all those who had the same views that beast boy was having when they kept ryan white out of his one school. dc at least deserved props for trying to make people learn the facts. about aids though never liked the its spreading among people you would not expect in the green lantern one like the virus is targeting a certain type

These ads made me roll my eyes even when I was reading them as a kid for the first time. Just like Tony Stark getting a mammogram does today; not because breast cancer is funny, but because we’re supposed to believe one of the smartest men in the Marvel U is so ignorant concerning basic real world health issues…

Travis Charest … where is he??

I don’t see anything wrong with having a playful jab. Heck, Justice League at the time was written by two people who themselves would probably find these ads amusing. As long as its playful, I think it’s okay to have a bit of fun with them. Likewise people joke around all the time about the Hostess, Sea Monkey, and Charles Atlas ads. Now granted, this is a more serious topic but I think it’s just how people like to go down memory lane.

Heck, if I was rich, I’d love to try to purchase the AAU Shuperstar. I have a great deal of affection for the character, and it’s precisely because his ads are silly.

These ads are really shitty. Half of them make the DCU look like it’s protected by a bunch of dickheads.

Too bad that John Stewart Green Lantern was arbitrarily replaced with Parallax Lantern. I wonder just why it was so important to replace John for no reason? why wasn’t stewart good enough to tell people about HIV awareness? Very racist.

Re: The Robin ad, he was already in the batcave, he could have contacted Oracle or done his own computer database searches for facts about HIV.

The “update” to the Booster/Beetle ad was just stupid, the costumes were ridiculous.

These ads are really shitty. Half of them make the DCU look like it’s protected by a bunch of dickheads.

Wasn’t that the whole point of Identity Crisis?

nice one, anonymous!

SJNeal brings up that new Iron Man/Cap breast cancer PSA comic in many of the Marvels that are CURRENTLY on the stands, and they’re not much better than this. So I don’t see where there’s anything wrong with laughing at a dumb PSA. You can do something with good intentions like this and still do it in a dumb way.

In fact, I think a more interesting thing would be to point out a GOOD PSA comic. Is there one?

If the art on the Beetle/Booster/Fire ones is by Jurgens, I’ll eat a comic. That doesn’t look his stuff to me.

I politely disagree with our pal John Trumbull. I don’t think that Robin one is Janson inks as they don’t overpower the Lyle art. (And I say that as a BIG Janson fan.)

Zor-El brings up an interesting point about how Changeling’s origin parallels the monkey theories of AIDS transmission, but I’d guess that origin predates when AIDS hit the news, didn’t it?

@Becca — Parallax grayed out Hal’s temples. Or — was it AIDS?!

@Drunken Fist — I think that Superman one you’re thinking of had to do with some big flood that had happened around that time, or something like that. But yeah, it’s Bog art from what I remember. Malibu/Ultraverse also did some Flood Relief comic around that same time.

Man, them Nightwing and Changeling mullets…

And that totally should have been “Flash Facts”, not “Fast Facts” in the Flash one.

Any idea who might have written these?

Interestingly these days Tony Stark, supposedly one of the smartest men in the Marvel Universe, doesn’t know that men can get breast cancer.

I think it IS a little silly that, as something that tells the readers to “get your facts straight”, they don’t really mention HOW you can get Aids. Like, “We’ll tell you how you CAN’T get it, but because we can’t talk about that filthy thing called sex, or that other terrible thing called drugs, be happy to know that, when you DO get HIV, it wasn’t that public restroom’s fault, OK?” Did a decent job preventing prejudice, but did a horrible one preventing the spread of the disease itself.
But a funny thing is the thought process of that stupid angry mob: “Let’s use these baseball bats to beat to a bloody pulp these homosexuals who we are pretty sure have Aids, yeah, that’ll prevent us from getting it!” Also, I don’t think these guys are really safe being left in the middle of the morons, just because John/Hal had told them that “that gay disease you guys fear is spreading to straight people, too. Now it’s a disease that knows no boundaries!” Holy shit, he just confirmed what the guys were thinking in the beginning!
And, as a Brazilian, I’m really curious about what kind of people Fire used to hang up with “back home”. I don’t remember many friends of mine dying from Aids back then. But then again, I’ve never been one of the cool guys.
In other news, is comforting to know that even Travis Charest used to have his flaws.

I look forward to seeing Spider-Man teaching me about Prostate Cancer, or Wolverine telling me to go to a clinic if I get an itchy rash “down there”.

Thinking about it, have we actually had any mainstream Marvel or DCU heroes with HIV? I know the X-Men had the legacy virus thing in the 90s which was a pretty transparent analogy, but I can’t help but think that the best way to educate kids that HIV is nothing to be scared of is to have the guts to have one of their heroes catch it – as long as they don’t shoot themselves in the foot by giving it to one of their stereotypical gay characters, of course.

Strange. These were so awful I figured the were part of the New 52.

Mia Dearden, of the Green Arrow Deardens, is HIV positive.

“Thinking about it, have we actually had any mainstream Marvel or DCU heroes with HIV? I know the X-Men had the legacy virus thing in the 90s which was a pretty transparent analogy, but I can’t help but think that the best way to educate kids that HIV is nothing to be scared of is to have the guts to have one of their heroes catch it – as long as they don’t shoot themselves in the foot by giving it to one of their stereotypical gay characters, of course.”

A number actually: Extraño, Jewt, and Harbinger of the New Guardians were infected by an HIV-vampire called Hemogoblin (thus teaching readers that vampire bites (or in Harbinger’s case having a symbiotic relationship with someone attacked by a vampire) is a way to get HIV.

While it’s not revealed how he got him, the Hulk’s former sidekick Jim Wilson died of AIDS.

More recently Mia Dearden (Speedy), was revealed to have HIV due to a more realistic reason: being a teenager she had been caught in a child prostitution ring (that Green Arrow rescured her from; this is how they met), she presumably caught HIV due to drugs or more likely sex.. Unfortunately she’s apparently not part of the new 52 world, which is a shame because she did demonstrate to readers that as long as the HIV doesn’t develop into full blown AIDS, it’s possible to to enjoy a fairly healthy, active life. In fact it probably spurred to live life to the fullest.

I don’t know which is more disturbing, Changeling’s views on HIV or the fact that he was still wearing a mullet in the 1990’s.

John Stewart was replaced with Hal Jordan probably because at about this time it was determined by DC Editorial that there should be only one Green Lantern: Hal Jordan. It’s important to note that DC ran these ads a year apart and were in-house PSAs that doubled as house ads for their books. Remember that during this period rings were taken away from all the GLs as Jordan transformed into Parallax, allowing Kyle Raynor to be the ONLY Green Lantern. I’d hypothesize that behind the scenes at DC they didn’t want to promote Stewart as a Green Lantern in the ad because of their ongoing continuity, and they didn’t want to portray new hero Raynor as the “voice of authority.” So Hal was drafted into the role to replace John. Yes, it seems a needless change, but frankly, it’s not the strangest decision that DC made at the time.

I’ve always been curious who drew those JLA ads. If anyone finds out, let us know. (It looks like someone copying Jurgens. Could Jurgens have done breakdowns for the ad to be inked by someone else?)

My shot in the dark guess is that it is Rick Burchett, who was doing finishes over Jurgens’ layouts on Justice League America at the time.

OK, so two things about the Booster Gold/Blue Beetle/Fire PSA:

1) On Booster’s desk there is a bottle of “Shinola” which apparently he and Blue Beetle don’t know sh#t from. An inside joke/easter egg perhaps?

2) So Ted Kord took all of these precautions only to have his head blown off a few years down the road?

Zor-El and Travis: My copy of New Teen Titans #10 tells the origin and mentions the disease, but doesn’t say how he contracted it or what he did. It’s cover dated August, 1981 and according to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_HIV/AIDS#1981:_From_GRID_to_AIDS), the AIDS epidemic officially began June 5, 1981. Unlikely that there would have been that kind of turnaround on it even if it “officially” beginning was when it got widespread attention. It also references Doom Patrol 100 and 121 for flashbacks, I’d guess the origin in #100. If the monkey bite thing was added later, it could have been influenced by AIDS. I don’t remember hearing that before, so I’m not sure where that is first mentioned.

Sorry Brian, but I’m with JosephW on this one: it’s very easy to be snarky and hip in retrospect, but at the time these ads were groundbreaking. The Reagan administration patently ignored the disease never once acknowledging that it even existed. Meanwhile, living in Washington DC at the time, I watched best friends get sick and die and those with HIV become marginalized. This is well-documented in Randy Shilts book “And the Band Played On”. It was considered a “gay disease” by the elitist government of the day. DC lost several of its creative staff to AIDS and so took the unprecedented effort to bring facts out into the open and can hardly be faulted for their efforts.
BTW, regarding “AIDS is spreading fastest among people you wouldn’t expect”? — those people were those on the “down low” who precipitated the disease by hiding their true sexual identity. This was especially prevalent in the black community and so it was appropriate that John Stewart present this information. At the time the term “down low” would not have meant a great deal to the general population.
This could have been a great article — under an entirely different heading. As it is, it’s just a fail.

The stuff that was said in these (horribly drawn) PSA’s are what was actually going around back then. We couldn’t just go online and look stuff up, after all. I think you failed to see these things through the correct historical filter, Brian. Gar Logan wasn’t a “moron”, and neither were those kids. They just didn’t have the benefit of your hindsight or your technology.

(P.S. I’m glad someone ELSE finally pointed out how stereotypical those dudes in the Green Lantern one are. Every time I saw that in a comic growing up I would just laugh and laugh. . . .)

@Brian — ooh, Burchett, that’s a good guess, actually.

@Michael — thanks for pointing out the Shinola. Didn’t even notice it! Bwah-ha-ha, indeed.

The best part of these….and a commenter was on point with Changeling’s power origin and its “through the looking glass relation to AIDS…. is that my boy Tim Drake, a computer prodigy just below Oracle is talking to Alfred next to one of the world’s most sophisticated computers in the Batcave yet still GOES OUT to find info…

Looking at these and the recent Marvel one about Breast Cancer, makes me appreciate Peter David’s Famous Hulk issue even more…. heck his Madrox Dupe issue/run with the Legacy Virus during his first run of X-Factor did a great job on the despair side of the disease too…

Still I give the Big Two props for trying…. but I am trying to forget the Green Lantern one…seriously….

Every one knows aids was created in a lab by the CIA to kill africans and gays.

I just went and reread Gar’s origin (DP 112). There’s nothing about being bitten by a green monkey and the disease is specifically identified as a nastier form of malaria.
I’m inclined to agree with the Not That Goofy wing of commenters. Booster’s “I only date nice girls” is one I still hear about STDs today.
Robin doesn’t actually sound misinformed–since he clearly knows the facts, he seems to be making a general statement about teen ignorance, not a personal confession. I agree flying off into the night is an odd way to “get the facts” but it ends it on a more dramatic note than sitting and looking things up on the Bat-computer.

Ah, thanks, Fraser. In thinking about it, I wasn’t sure if the monkey bite was in there actually.

It sounded good, though!

Echoing JosephW, but taking a different tack, I am actually impressed at some of the subtexts in these ads. Not only were they groundbreaking at the time, but I see:

* Robin is aware of adults trying to shield info from kids
* Fire is from Brazil and formerly in the fashion industry (notable for having an abundance of gay men), so yes, *she* of all the JLAers would have had many friends lost to the disease
* The subtext with John Stewart is that minority communities where frank discussions of sexuality don’t usually happen — especially among blacks and minority women — is where even at the time of these ads, HIV infection was growing fastest with least awareness
* The Flash “it was just a joke” evokes the inappropriateness of “That’s so gay” (etc.). If it were a joke, you’d have been laughing.

@Fraser: I never read the Doom Patrol origin for Beast Boy. I don’t remember where I read the version with the monkey, perhaps Teen Titans spotlight? It is possible whoever wrote that intentially tried to infer AIDS and no one else picked up on it. All I know is that it was the first Changeling origin story I read and AIDS was just becoming news at that time.

In regards to Max Allan Collins’ quote (and I am a fan of his comics and movie work), there’s some truth to it but it’s also an oversimplification.

Of a certain period the Batman TV did reflect Batman comics to a greater degree than is perhaps comfortable to many (in fact by not having him travel through time via hypnosis or travel to alien worls it perhaps showed a certain degree of restraint). I think in some ways the bigger issue is that the mocking of the source material was perhaps not as affectionate as, say, the Tick cartoon or other more recent satires. Of course the show also borrows froom serials (the cliffnager endings were more reflective of that than comics of that era, which tended to be self contained at DC).

However, there was a period before the one Collins describes. It’s debatable whether the pre-Robin or early Robin Batman material was aimed as squarely towards children. Neither Batman nor Robin showed much remouse about dispatching villains to the great beyond. Of course the way that children are raised may have changed. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the cartoonists were trying at first to please multiple age ranges, with children later winning out for a time.

BTW, regarding “AIDS is spreading fastest among people you wouldn’t expect”? — those people were those on the “down low” who precipitated the disease by hiding their true sexual identity. This was especially prevalent in the black community and so it was appropriate that John Stewart present this information. At the time the term “down low” would not have meant a great deal to the general population.

As a black man, I find it highly offensive that you present the “down low” black man myth as some fact, then try to retroactively make the John Stewart PSA into some acknowledgement of the down low myth. At the time of the ad, the down low myth hadnt even come into creation yet.

by the way, when I say down low myth, I’m not trying to say that there aren’t black men who act straight but are secretly gay. The myth part of it is the idea that this issue is any more rampant among blacks than among men of any other race. It’s especially insulting when people use the word “epidemic” to describe how bad “down low” behavior supposedly is among black men. There has never been any reliable statistical proof of this ever presented.

Look at all the down low behavior outed in the media among famous people like celebrities and politicians. There has not been a disproportionate representation of black men in those outings. In fact there seem to be relatively few outings of famous black male down low behavior.

. At the time the term “down low” would not have meant a great deal to the general population.

Also, in reference to this statement, where you say at the time the general population would not know what the term down low meant…at the time of these ads even among the black community the term down low didnt mean what the general population uses it to describe now. At the time “on the down low” simply meant “keep it a secret.” Any behavior you didn’t want to come to light was considered “on the down low,” whether sexual or nonsexual, gay or straight. See for example Pharcyde’s song “on the DL” or R Kelly’s song and video “down low” at the time of these ads, the term “down low” didnt even in the black community didnt have its current meaning. That happened years later when Oprah had a guest on her show who described a so-called epidemic of undercover gay black men and described them as being “on the down low.” After the Oprah show, the term became used only for black men who were secretly gay, rather than how it originally was intended to be used, for all secretive behavior by anyone. But that change in the meaning of the term happened long after these ads

As a dumb white guy, I read that “people you wouldn’t expect” bit as merely indicating that AIDS isn’t just a “gay” disease — I believe that straight, non-drug user HIV rates were growing faster than other groups, perhaps because those other groups were hit hardest and therefore started protecting themselves more.

But the vagueness of the “people you wouldn’t expect” comment is why Brian can make a funny about it.

And can I not read, because I don’t see the term “down low” in that John PSA. You’re reading a lot into it if you do.

I agree with you T that DL behavior is not specific to race. I never stated that it was. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a different opinion than yours:
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/aa/resources/qa/downlow.htm
“The term has most often been associated with African American men” Key word is associated — whether correctly or not. They have been researching since the disease first appeared and have a bit more documentation than you are able to offer. So no retro on John Stewart and not really on Oprah — sorrry!

Andy E Nystrom

November 1, 2012 at 5:20 pm

In regards to Max Allan Collins’ quote (and I am a fan of his comics and movie work), there’s some truth to it but it’s also an oversimplification.

Of a certain period the Batman TV did reflect Batman comics to a greater degree than is perhaps comfortable to many (in fact by not having him travel through time via hypnosis or travel to alien worls it perhaps showed a certain degree of restraint). I think in some ways the bigger issue is that the mocking of the source material was perhaps not as affectionate as, say, the Tick cartoon or other more recent satires. Of course the show also borrows froom serials (the cliffnager endings were more reflective of that than comics of that era, which tended to be self contained at DC).

However, there was a period before the one Collins describes. It’s debatable whether the pre-Robin or early Robin Batman material was aimed as squarely towards children. Neither Batman nor Robin showed much remouse about dispatching villains to the great beyond. Of course the way that children are raised may have changed. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the cartoonists were trying at first to please multiple age ranges, with children later winning out for a time.
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Well that ensemble of golden cape, red shirt, green shorts, shaved legs, and Peter Pan shoes seems to suggest children primarily.

Two males sharing sodas is a slippery slope.

@DM As long as it’s not the reverse, with Wolverine giving the prostate exam.

(And while I wouldn’t go to the extent of “stupid” and some of the others, I do think putting the dumb myth point of views people actually had into the characters was kinda the point, not silly.)

“Meanwhile, living in Washington DC at the time, I watched best friends get sick and die and those with HIV become marginalized.”

Did you watch your good friends scream ‘let me out’?

It’s funny how your mind plays tricks on you; I remember these PSAs, but I forgot GL actually says “gay communities”. My recollection was that who “your kind” actually was went unstated, except by Staton’s over-the-top idea of what gay people looked like. So in fact it’s not quite as badly done as I though.

Too bad that John Stewart Green Lantern was arbitrarily replaced with Parallax Lantern. I wonder just why it was so important to replace John for no reason? why wasn’t stewart good enough to tell people about HIV awareness? Very racist.

And you know that they replaced John with Hal specifically because of race… how, exactly? Were you working at DC back then?

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