Tuesday, 3 July 2012

431: Jules Feiffer 2: Hostileman 2

“Playboy”, June 1969

The point of interest in this two page excerpt from this late instalment of “Hostileman” is Jules Feiffer’s take on the gay folk myth that has historically accumulated around Batman.

In Feiffer’s case this piece doesn’t just grow out the obvious dig about a grown man and his close relationship with his younger ward. Only a couple of years earlier Feiffer had written his study, “The Great Comic Book Heroes” (Dial Press, 1965).

In his book, Feiffer quoted Frederic Wertham's 1954 condemnation of comic books “Seduction of the Innocent”, in which the homosexual appeal of Batman and Robin is revealed:

"At home they live an idyllic life…They live in sumptuous quarters with beautiful flowers in large vases…It is like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together. . . The atmosphere is homosexual and anti-feminine. If the girl is good-looking she is undoubtedly the villainess. If she is after Bruce Wayne, she will have no chance against Dick. For instance, Bruce and Dick go out one evening in dinner clothes, dressed exactly alike. The attractive girl makes up to Bruce while in successive pictures young Dick looks on smiling, sure of Bruce".

You’ll note this is a fairly good description of what Feiffer himself does in the relevant panels of “Hostileman”.

Feiffer however doesn't agree about any putative homosexulity, despite the fact that the young Feiffer had no real love for Robin (“I couldn’t stand boy companions….God, how I hated (Robin). You can imagine how pleased I was when, years later, I heard he was a fag…”). Wrote Feiffer: “Batman and Robin were no more or less queer than were their youngish readers, many of whom palled around together, didn’t trust girls, played games that had lots of bodily contact, and from similar surface evidence were more or less queer. But this sort of case-building is much too restrictive. In our society it is not only homosexuals who don’t like women. Almost no one does. "

Bruce Maim is an obvious ref to Bruce Wayne as Batman, however within the context of a cartoon with gay content in “Playboy”, there’s also the fact of Bruce as the stereotypically gay name.

Tangier, meanwhile, was long a famed bolthole for gay tourists.

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