Sunday, 24 January 2010

371: Art Spiegelman - Real Dream

“Real Dream” by Art Spiegelman
in "Short Order" #2 1974

This was one a series of strips which Spiegelman ran in various magazines recounting his dreams. It’s then up to the reader to decide how much they want to believe that is the case, and how much has been made up to fill in and flesh out. Windsor McKay’s “Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend” are made-up fantasies for comic strips, while Rick Veitch’s “Rabid Eye” strips are supposed to be real dream journals. How much of this strip by Spiegelman is the original dream and how much is opportunity to pass off assorted thematically gay-related silliness under the cover of being a dream?
The clerk in his changing extravagant outfits reminds me of the roles usually played by Frank Nelson (Yeeeeeeeeesssss? in Jack Benny, “The Flintstones” and “The Simpsons” and numerous other shows). Everyone else in the shop is some sort of lurid gay variant on hustler or dandy – although the colouring is a big contributor. That a gay apartment would be a toilet cubical for cruising could be taken as a joke in relatively poor taste, although it’s made obvious the character is only there for a brief assignation himself. So when the police turn up, he has existing feelings of guilt. The piece therefore does recognise that homosexuals do suffer unjust oppression and brutality. Although with one proof of his heterosexuality, as in so many other cartoons, he is free. This piece was later reprinted in Alan Moore’s 1988 anthology “AARGH!” (Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia), to aid the fight against Clause 28. Since Spiegelman was then being critically acclaimed for "Maus", a contribution from him was a good thing in itself.

Less laudable is this throwaway gag from his parody crimefighter serial “The Viper” (“Real Pulp” #2 1973). Before even reading the text I was horribly certain it was going to be a gay joke – the hair, the shirt, the shit-eating grin. And then it’s a lisping, sissy actor. Oh, dear. Honestly, it’s no better than “Mad Magazine”, and that’s a very low bar in the ‘70s

But then even before that he had his positive gays in the military cartoon in “The Realist” which has also been repeatedly reprinted

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