What better topic for a Valentine's Weekend than a feature devoted to some of the perviest (is that a word?) stuff to appear in mainstream comics? Feel free to click on any of the pics to pull them up larger and easier to read as you join me on my stream of consciousness trip down memory lane and awkward comic book love.
Although largely ignored, sexuality and sexual imagery of some type have been an aspect of the “super-hero” comics since they started back in the late 1930s. If not in the subject matter outright, there has always been the imagery associated with romanticized male figures draped in skin-tight costumes or idealized women in their wafer-thin blouses or bustiers, shorts, or skirts. Even those who have just a passing familiarity with comic books recognize that the earliest comics were produced for children, primarily boys, on the cusp of puberty and they were quite simplistic and naive in content. The most recurring outright sexual aspect of early comics were the scantily clad adult women in various bondage positions – most of the time on the covers to attract a buyer of course.
By the 60s, however, little awkward slips made it into the comics like X-MEN #1 where the obviously much older Prof. X harbored thoughts of inappropriate "love" for his teen-aged student Jean Grey/Marvel Girl. But even then it was still a chaste and pure love, even though inappropriate, and it was wisely dropped as a subplot almost immediately. I have no idea if it was just Stan Lee realizing it was creepy or his bosses.
But over the years, the chaste love between hero and damsel gave way to sex and very quickly to...well...pervy stuff. If I was thinking back to the first time something happened in terms of love and sex in a comic book that made me recoil, it was the love affair between the human female Abby Arcane and the walking plant monster, the Swamp Thing. The writer, Alan Moore, was not content to leave their love a platonic one and the next thing you know they are kissing, she's getting naked and eating dadgum hallucinogenic aphrodesiac tubers off the walking plant and tripping out in some sort of orgasmic delirium.
And remember, Swamp Thing is a character who is a friend to Batman, Superman and had his own Saturday morning animated kids show!
But you know what? As weird and gross as it might be to imagine love and sex between a human and a vegetable, at least that's just the realm of fantasy. No harm, no foul.
What about when these super-hero writers and artists start taking these characters and hurling them headlong into the realms of real-world depravity? I guess just telling stories about Superman beating up robots while being chased by a lovesick Lois are not good enough anymore.
Yeah, another thing we get to thank the 80s for: Creepy stuff like plants in love with humans and 16 year-old villainesses smoking cigs and having a sexual relationship with a guy who looks to be around 50 and has two grown children (and later a 3rd he didn't know about at this time).
How about this classic misadventure. Surely one to share with the kids around the fireplace on a cold, wintry, Valentine's Day. This is the story of Superman and a married super-heroine named Big Barda getting mind-controlled by a villain into doing porno together. Fun for the whole family. This was a special two-part story that ran in ACTION COMICS #592-593. Check out these samples:
First we get some good shots of them in bed and Barda in her panties and bra. Then to add to the creep factor, in the next issue we get to watch her husband's reaction when he comes across the videotape of his wife with Superman.
And finally, just in case there was any doubt what was on that video...
Yeah. That's all pretty creepy. I could go off on all kinds of kinky stuff in Underground Comics or things like Alan Moore's LOST GIRLS which breaks every possible sex taboo that I'm even aware of. But surely nobody has creeped me out with his comics on a consistent basis quite like the man who delivered the Superman Porno comic.
That man would be John Lindley Byrne.
Apparently that pic on the left is the one you find if you search for him on Twitter. Byrne is a legendary comic book artist (and writer) who was at one time arguably considered the best in the business. At this point in his career, he's probably more famous for his incredibly obnoxious conduct on the Internet, for the last few years limited solely to his own infamous forum. In fact, there is also an invaluable Wiki page devoted to the stupid statements made by him online so you don't even have to visit his forum to partake of the fun. On topic and for example, on July 15 last year in his official online forum under a thread titled “Gay Couples Adopting", he posted
"Pedophiles are almost certainly 'born that way'. Again, we go to evolutionary conditioning. Seek the youngest, strongest, most healthy, for breeding purposes. A sure (or as sure as it gets) way to guarantee the survival of your genes.
Pedophilia also brings along a big heaping helping of learned responses, however. In a society like ours, where 'normal' sex is considered by many to be filthy and disgusting, 'abnormal' sex is of course even moreso. 'Abnormal" in this case meaning anything -- even simple physical attraction -- that is not "age-appropriate", heterosexual, and strictly for procreation. Preferably missionary position.
Thus, any confused individual who finds himself attracted to young girls is likely to find himself attracted to increasingly younger girls, as part of his pattern of self-loathing. So much emotional torment -- in victims and victimizers – would surely be set aside if our society was sexually liberated enough to even be able to say
'Sure, it's okay to be attracted to eleven year olds. Just don't DO anything about it!'"
Okay. Now that makes me feel like taking a pervy trip down memory lane with Mr. Byrne who has demonstrated something of a pattern not only of subjects like Superman doing porno but of depicting underaged girls in compromising visuals with adult men. Makes comments like that quoted above even creepier within that context.
With Byrne, my first memory of noticing the older man/younger woman tendency was in an issue of the FANTASTIC FOUR. Well, really, there was his creation of the 13 year-old Kitty Pryde in THE X-MEN who was immediately crushing on the 19 year-old Colossus. But since that comic was actually written by Chris Claremont, I'll give him a pass on that one. In the early 1980s in FF #239, Byrne introduced the Thing's great “Aunt Petunia”; a character everyone had always envisioned as a doddering old lady. Byrne goes for the shock though and has her show up as a vibrant young lady, probably in her mid-20s or so.
As the explanation goes, Thing's much much older, gray, and near crippled old uncle married Petunia who had been his student. At the time, I didn't think much of it other than bemusement. After all, it's maybe a bit unusual but not illegal or particularly creepy, right? She was a student, but at least she's an adult. It is just odd that he made Thing's uncle soooooo much older. And had that been a one-off story, I wouldn't think too much about it.
However, not long after the Aunt Petunia story is this bit from his series, ALPHA FLIGHT; also in the early 1980s. In this series, the married couple of Jamie and Heather Hudson are shown in a flashback to have gotten together when she was still only 17 and he was an adult.
A few years later, as Byrne is coming to the end of his run on FF, he shows Sue Richards' flashback to when she was 12 and first met her future husband Reed, who was already an adult student at the University.
When a 12 year-old girl (drawn like a 10 year-old at best) looks up at you with a crush, a young man like that should not be feeling a reciprocal attraction to such a degree that he starts getting hot under the collar.
Later on, in a mini-series called THE WORLD OF METROPOLIS, Byrne tells a story set in the past of a young under-aged Lois Lane sneaking into the adult Lex Luthor's building to try and prove she can be an investigative reporter. Luthor catches her and puts his hands all on her and leers at her and calls her “a...pretty little girl.” Then Luthor apparently has a very “butch” female employee of his “shred” Lois's clothes “looking for hidden pockets.”
So, Lois reappears in completely different clothes and is restrained while Luthor once again puts his hands on her. Then after he has her kicked out of his building, when someone says “Guess she won't be bothering us any more, huh, Mr. L? Luthor replies “I would not be so sure of that, Tracy. There was...something there. A fire...I would be interested to meet up with her again in, say, ten years or so...for now, however....I think I can content myself with another look at the videotape of Miss Parker's search.” And the panel shows Luthor watching the video of the butch “Miss Parker” starting to take the under-aged Lois's clothes off.
OMAC features a scene with the OMAC character bedding down a hooker who he guesses is "no more than eighteen."
In THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the underaged Mattie Franklin/Spider-Woman shown pursuing and aggressively planting a huge kiss on the very adult Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
In GENERATIONS 3, Byrne features a female descendant of Superman who, although adult in mind, has been physically stunted at a pre-teen age and is pursuing the obviously adult alien Green Lantern for a romantic relationship.
In issue 11 of the same series, Byrne arranges the story so that an adult Superman plants a romantic kiss on the very underaged Lana Lang whom he has encountered in an adventure back through time.
In DOOM PATROL, Byrne wrote a story where the characters of Cliff Steele/Robotman and Rita Farr/Elasti-Girl do a “Quantum Leap”-type of time-travel where they wind up inhabiting the bodies of their younger selves. So, the reader is seeing them looking like they should look in the present, but to people around them they look like their younger selves. Cliff is an adult at that time, while Rita was just a little child. They profess their love for one another and begin kissing in an adult way when someone walks in and freaks because as she puts it “It looks like you getting way too cozy with a little girl in polka dot P.J.s” and then the two look at themselves in the mirror and we see the adult Cliff with his arm around the child Rita in her pajamas.
That was really the best way for this plot to advance...by planting the image of the two of them kissing like that?
And the truth is, there's actually more if I wanted to go beyond the underage girl stuff like, oh, the story where SHE-HULK found herself an unwanted pin-up in a porno magazine or when the Scarlet Witch disappeared down and off-panel to do something nasty and bloody to Wonder Man.
Or I could touch on his NEXT MEN comics where teenaged sex, rape, sadism, abortion and more are integral parts of the series in all its incarnations.
However, let's wrap it up for Valentine's Day on a positive note with a pretty pink bow. Remember how I started out mentioning Prof. X's inappropriate desire for his student? Well, that ALSO became a topic on Byrne's official online forum a couple of years ago.
A forum member (also named "Keith", but it wasn't me, I've never bothered to join his official forum) posted
"Who didn't have a crush on Jean? I think there's even a very early X-men with Prof X thinking to himself that he had a thing for Jean."
Byrne responded by stating quite proudly
"There is indeed. And it's just fine, at that moment, since he's but a handful of years older than her. Unfortunately, she stuck around seventeen, and Charles just kept getting older . . . And I say this with the complete hypocrisy of a man who has dated women as much as 40 years his junior."
At the time Byrne said this, in June of 2009, he was 58 years old...........
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!