Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the part of the book that talks about Batman and Robin being gay. Now I know some of you are excited to read about 1950s attitudes on homosexuals being ripped a new one while others of you are worried that this is all this will be. Well, you’re both wrong.

Homosexuality is still a “hot button” in the culture war. However, BW Media Spotlight isn’t here to discuss any culture except geek and media creation culture. I don’t want to see the comments section turned into a debate on homosexuality or to have anti-gays screaming against the gays or LGBT trying to insist you’re the Antichrist for not agreeing with them. You have your opinions, I have my opinions, let’s just leave it at that. This gets in the way of what I’m trying to do while going over this book.

Yes, the 1950s had their problems with homosexuality and plenty of people today hate that. But the way I’m approaching this book is to see if Wertham’s comments stand up to 1950s perspectives and what if any solution there was without censoring the comic industry, thus driving certain publishers out of business even though there was a market for their product in the name of “protecting the children”, a tactic for restricting or destroying things you don’t like as far back as possible. So if you’re expecting to comment on Wertham’s opinions on LGBT you’ll be disappointed. If you think one section on Batman makes up for all the ignored strikes against Superman, you’ll be disappointed. I instead want to judge Dr. Wertham’s comments based on his own views and 1950s standards to see if any of this has any basis even on that level. So far that’s been brought into question on other issues, so why not here?

Read what he actually said first, and then come here for my commentary on his commentary.

So how did he transition from child prostitution rings run by other children to homosexuality? Homosexual child prostitution. It’s probably one of his cleaner transitions. I bring it up because it’s rare to see some decent author writing in this book. Wertham may be a good psychiatrist (when comics weren’t involved) but he’s a terrible author. Once we get over that we get to how comics turn you gay. I don’t know of any depictions of gay characters by 1955 so how does this happen?

Many pre-adolescent boys pass through a phase of disdain for girls. Some comic books tend to fix that attitude and instill the idea that girls are good only for being banged around or used as decoys. A homoerotic attitude is also suggested by the presentation of masculine, bad, witchlike or violent women. In such comics women are depicted in a definitely anti-erotic light, while the young male heroes have pronounced erotic overtones. The muscular male supertype, whose primary sex characteristics are usually well emphasized, is in the setting of certain stories the object of homoerotic sexual curiosity and stimulation. This, incidentally, is increased by the male “art nudes” featured in advertisements in millions of children’s comics, which correspond to the athletic male art nudes appearing in certain magazines for adults so often collected by homosexuals.

Let’s pretend we all know why nude art doesn’t make you gay. It’s interesting not in light of modern attitudes on gays but modern attitudes on comic art. The large muscles and “package” are usually thought of as a male fantasy of their own bodies, how they wish they had big muscles and a large present in their pants as a way of attracting women or feeling more masculine. But according to Dr. Wertham this actually attracts boys to being gay. So what is it, world? Male fantasy or homoerotic?

Bert (right) and Ernie (left) with his rubber ...

PIctured: Not a gay couple, internet, so get over it! . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And before you answer remember all of the gay jokes about professional and even amateur/Olympic wrestling or He-Man. Also remember that slashfic often involves straight characters hooking up with each other rather than the opposite gender (to the point where some fans get upset when their gay slashfic is supplanted by the official writers in favor of the straight romances they already planned or came naturally because the characters weren’t gay). Heck, Bert and Ernie can’t even share a bed room despite sleeping in separate beds on the opposite sides of the room in a small New York apartment without some of you out there insisting their gay despite Sesame Workshop clearing stating they aren’t, and it’s not like Sesame Street haven’t had couples living at 321 Sesame Street. Not so simple now, is it?

I mean, it’s still stupid to think seeing muscular men alone will turn these boys gay, especially in light of what we’ve seen in this chapter in earlier that women are being treated as sex objects  in comics according to Dr. Wertham, which led to the prostitution talk last night. Didn’t he also say that women enslaving men was a sexual fantasy comics were at least partly responsible for, thus de-masculining men? (I know that’s not a word, but I have a word count that keeps getting maxed out.) Or for men to abuse women (or rather boys to abuse women and girls) It’s like he’s trying to blame comics for every form of sexual depravity he can possibly link it to. “Comics will turn your sons into gay woman-abusing BDSM sex addicts.”

In an issue of a popular comic there is on the back cover a full-page colored picture. It shows a stalwart youth, nude except for a well-filled loin cloth. No young man or adolescent in the upper-age groups whom I asked to describe this picture in one word used any expression except “fairy.” The boy has long blonde hair falling over his shoulders and bound with a red ribbon over his forehead. On both wrists are green bracelets, and graceful ribands twist around his ankles above his bare feet. He wears a bare dagger coquettishly fixed in front of one hip. He has big blue eyes and a beautiful suntan. His expression, to quote one of the boys who commented on it, is “sissy and sappy.”

So basically your patients are calling Tarzan a sissy because that’s how Tarzan dresses. It’s like how we connect pink with girls so boys wearing pink are thought to be gay. Try calling Bret “Hit Man” Hart gay. He wears a lot of pink and a pro wrest…oh, right we already mentioned that. I’m assuming this back cover art was a boy dressed like Tarzan or one of the many other jungle protectors in comics at the time. (Except for the Phantom. He wears a purple costume unless you’re Alex Ross, in which case he covers himself in berry juice and no I’m STILL NOT OVER THAT!) Of course he has a suntan, he lives in the jungle. And if he has a “well-filled loin cloth” and I’m just going to take his word for it, maybe the boys are just jealous that he could get more girls than they could. Boys can be as catty as girls. They just prefer Freddy Kruger’s claws to an actual cat.

The term pederasty does not mean – as is often erroneously believed – a crude physical relationship between men. It comes from the Greek word pais meaning a youth or boy, which is also the root of such words as pedagogy. Pederasty means the erotic relationship between a mature man and a young boy.

And if anyone would come up with that term, it would be ancient Greece, although one documentary I’ve seen says that’s less about being gay and more about the older man dominating the younger. And now I’m flashing back to the dog scene in Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen! Thanks ever so much for that reminder, doc! THAT’S what’s making me feel dirty in this chapter, and not in the sexual way. Anyway, Wertham tries to connect Batman and Robin to Ganymede and Zeus, which I had to look up and I don’t see the connection.

“Gay, Dr. Wertham? My tight green pants right now say otherwise!”

Thus do we reach the Batman and Robin part. I’ve heard quite often that this is why they killed off Alfred (until the TV show wanted him back) and introduced Batwoman and Bat-Girl. So what does Dr. Wertham have to say about the original ambiguously gay duo? And will I be making a Robinson Crusoe and Friday reference beyond this?

Several years ago a California psychiatrist pointed out that the Batman stories are psychologically homosexual. Our researches confirm this entirely. Only someone ignorant of the fundamentals of psychiatry and of the psychopathology of sex can fail to realize a subtle atmosphere of homoerotism which pervades the adventures of the mature “Batman” and his young friend “Robin.” Male and female homoerotic overtones are present also in some science-fiction, jungle and other comic books.

Oh I don’t care what your modern view on homosexuality is, we’re all going to find this section laughable. Especially after that whole wrestling, slashfic, and Sesame Street bit above. Alright, doctor, explain.

In the Batman type of comic book such a relationship is depicted to children before they can even read. Batman and Robin, the “dynamic duo,” also known as the “daring duo,” go into action in their special uniforms. They constantly rescue each other from violent attacks by an unending number of enemies. The feeling is conveyed that we men must stick together because there are so many villainous creatures who have to be exterminated. They lurk not only under every bed but also behind every star in the sky. Either Batman or his young boy friend or both are captured, threatened with every imaginable weapon, almost blown to bits, almost crushed to death, almost annihilated.

I had to take a minute to facepalm after reading that. Batman and Robin are a duo of crimefighters, like two policeman who ride in the same squad car and have each other’s backs. Even if Batman’s rogues gallery wasn’t as messed up as they are today, you’re telling me having someone to watch his back is not smart crimefighting but is only the result of them being gay? I’m also surprised he didn’t put quotation marks around “special uniforms” like he was doing an air quote thing. Batman’s costume is designed for stealth and fighting (no body armor back then), while Robin’s was based on Dick’s time as a trapeze artist with his parents. They’re designed to not rip during combat and flipping around (unless someone has a knife) and to not be super sweaty afterwards. Bob Kane designed Batman’s wings (which Bill Finger refined into a cape) based on an invention by Leonardo da Vinci. These are designed to be practical in combat, not matching your male ballet star stereotype!

Sometimes Batman ends up in bed injured and young Robin is shown sitting next to him. At home they lead an idyllic life

Yeah, explain that one. Perhaps the artist needed a quick way to have them both there when the Bat-Signal went off, but Wayne Manor has more bedrooms than the Connecticut Convention Center has actual rooms–including the hotel space (but not the hotel itself; let’s not get crazy here)–and Dick is sleeping in the same bed? Is he making sure Bruce is okay?

They are Bruce Wayne and “Dick” Gray- son.

{leaves the room} I expect this in a jokey comic blog, not from a respected psychiatrist! Then again, he did claim Sigmund Freud as one of his influences earlier in this chapter.

Bruce Wayne is described as a “socialite” and the official relationship is that Dick is Bruce’s ward. They live in sumptuous quarters, with beautiful flowers in large vases, and have a butler, Alfred. Batman is sometimes shown in a dressing gown. As they sit by the fireplace the young boy sometimes worries about his partner: “Something’s wrong with Bruce. He hasn’t been himself these past few days.” It is like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together. Sometimes they are shown on a couch, Bruce reclining and Dick sitting next to him, jacket off, collar open, and his hand on his friend’s arm. Like the girls in other stories, Robin is sometimes held captive by the villains and Batman has to give in or “Robin gets killed.”

Robin is the sidekick, training to become as good a detective and fighter as Batman. He’s young and inexperienced. And he has rescued Batman on numerous occasions even by the time this book was published. Does the rest even have to be commented on, or can you all recognize the stupidity without me. You’re a smart bunch.

Robin is a handsome ephebic boy, usually shown in his uniform with bare legs. He is buoyant with energy and devoted to nothing on earth or in interplanetary space as much as to Bruce Wayne. He often stands with his legs spread, the genital region discreetly evident.

I had to look up “ephebic”. From Merriam-Webster:

An ephebus was a youth in ancient Greece who had reached the age of puberty. The name is from the Greek word ephēbos, from “epi-” (“upon”) and “hēbē” (“youth” or “puberty”). Ephebi (the plural of “ephebus”) aged 18 or 19 were at one time required to undergo two years of stringent military training, but the requirement became less compulsory and the training less rigorous and militaristic over time.

I don’t know. Military training sounds about right for modern Batman. And yeah, he was bare-legged. Again…trapeze costume. But we already know how much research Wertham puts into comics. Remember, he thinks Superman is a Nazi and Blue Beetle turns into an actual beetle. (Well, maybe Jamie, but not Dan Garrett.) I’m not surprised he doesn’t know about the Flying Graysons. Although he probably thought they were all gay too.

In these stories there are practically no decent, attractive, successful women. A typical female character is the Catwoman, who is vicious and uses a whip.

Vicki Vale

Not pretty enough for you, Wertham? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vicki Vale (introduced in the 1940s and appeared in the second serial) wants to have a word with you. Or the tons of women Bruce is seen dating but won’t commit to…no, doctor, not because he’s gay but because he doesn’t want the distraction of a wife who will worry about him and miss him if he’s dead in some alley. That’s why he took in a ward/padawan/sidekick/apprentice/whatever you’d call Robin.

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.

Sure Bruce is going to see some action tonight. Dick is…what, thirteen, maybe fourteen during the 1950s? What would you be saying if he was getting all the chicks? Granted, he isn’t the one with all the money and only some of the looks.

Violence is not lacking in these stories. You are shown Batman and Robin standing in a room with a whole row of corpses on the floor.

Do you mean the guys they knocked out and are not actually dead or the people they’re supposed to avenge. You know, because they fight crime! What do you think a crimefighter does all day? Sit around and eat donuts? Well, that is another cop stereotype and Batman and Robin are cops…except nowadays when the Bat-Family are supposed to be soldiers in a war instead of crime busters.

In many adolescents the homoerotic, anti-feminist trend unconsciously aroused or fostered by these stories is demonstrable. We have inquired about Batman from overt homosexuals treated at the Readjustment Center, to find out what they thought the influence of these Batman stories was on children and adolescents. A number of them knew these stories very well and spoke of them as their favorite reading. The reply of one intelligent, educated young homosexual was typical: “I don’t think that they would do any harm sexually. But they probably would ruin their morals.”

And once again Wertham is trying to get you to make a “so obvious” connection. I’ve seen plenty of Batman & Robin stories and I never turned gay. Actually, just the opposite, but it was the girls who were nice to me while the boys picked on me so I have trouble connecting to my own gender on any level outside of family and the few friends I have. You’d think that would help me win dates. You underestimate my unattractiveness and low self-esteem.

One young homosexual during psychotherapy brought us a copy of Detective Comics, with a Batman story. He pointed out a picture of “The Home of Bruce and Dick” a house beautifully landscaped, warmly lighted and showing the devoted pair side by side, looking out a picture window. When he was eight this boy had realized from fantasies about comic book pictures that he was aroused by men. At the age of ten or eleven, “I found my liking, my sexual desires, in comic books. I think I put myself in the position of Robin. I did want to have relations with Batman. The only suggestion of homosexuality may be that they seem to be so close to each other. I remember the first time I came across the page mentioning the ‘secret bat cave.’ The thought of Batman and Robin living together and possibly having sex relations came to my mind. You can almost connect yourself with the people. I was put in the position of the rescued rather than the rescuer. I felt I’d like to be loved by someone like Batman or Superman.”

I said I wasn’t getting into opinions on homosexuality itself and I’m sticking by it. Which I’m sure is hard on any of you upset by the therapy mentioned here. But tell me what about living in a well-kept mansion, which would cause most people to fantasize about being stinking rich now, never mind just barely shaking off the Great Depression and a world-wide war, or having a secret cave with crimefighting gear, would cause someone to turn gay?

A boy of thirteen was treated by me in the Clinic while he was on several years’ probation. He and a companion had forced a boy of eight, threatening him with a knife, to undress and carry out sexual practices with them. Like many other homo-erotically inclined children, he was a special devotee of Batman: “Sometimes I read them over and over again. They show off a lot. I don’t remember Batman’s name, but the boy’s name is Robin. They live together. It could be that Batman did something with Robin like I did with the younger boy. . . . Batman could have saved this boy’s life. Robin looks something like a girl. He has only trunks on.”

I bet Wertham really likes this kid. He doesn’t research either. Robin is his superhero identity. Like the bird. And by bird I mean the winged animal that flies through the air like a trapeze artist. (Heh, that analogy usually works the other way around.) Having former circus stars in my family I know what they wear and if this kid doesn’t get it he’s never seen a circus or know where Robin comes from.

Oh, and don’t think Wertham forgot to take at least one shot at Wonder Woman.

The Lesbian counterpart of Batman may be found in the stories of Wonder Woman and Black Cat. The homosexual connotation of the Wonder Woman type of story is psychologically unmistakable. The Psychiatric Quarterly deplored in an editorial the “appearance of an eminent child therapist as the implied endorser of a series . . . which portrays extremely sadistic hatred of all males in a framework which is plainly Lesbian.”

That sounds like a more modern take on Wonder Woman, pre-DC Rebirth, or possibly Frank Miller’s take on Wonder Woman. One of the reasons Diana came to America was that she had a crush on Steve Trevor. A MAN! Yes, Marston was in a relationship with his wife and THEIR lady lover, but that doesn’t mean Diana was bisexual. At least not until this year, but that leads to a rant about modern writers not understanding Wonder Woman or the Amazons…although I grant you that isn’t impossible.

For boys, Wonder Woman is a frightening image. For girls she is a morbid ideal. Where Batman is anti-feminine, the attractive Wonder Woman and her counterparts are definitely anti-masculine.

Now THAT sounds like Marston’s take.

Wonder Woman has her own female following. They are all continuously being threatened, captured, almost put to death. There is a great deal of mutual rescuing, the same type of rescue fantasies as in Batman. Her followers are the “Holliday girls,” i.e. the holiday girls, the gay party girls, the gay girls.

RESEARCH! TRY IT SOMETIME!

Meet the original Etta Candy. {image source: Wikipedia}

The “Holliday Girls” were a group of college girls who served as Wonder Woman’s cheerleaders. The stand-out was Etta Candy, who is far different from the one you may have seen in the new movie. She was one of the few overweight characters in comics of the time, who (as her name implied) ate a lot of candy, rushed to Wonder Woman’s aide, and her battlecry was “woo woo”! She was the comic relief, although I’m sure you guessed that from her “battlecry”.

Their attitude about death and murder is a mixture of the callousness of crime comics with the coyness of sweet little girls. When one of the Holliday girls is thought to have drowned through the machinations of male enemies, one of them says: “Honest, I’d give the last piece of candy in the world to bring her back!”

Yes, why would you want you’re friend to not be dead? Like I said, early Etta was comic relief. Comic relief characters say stupid things but their point, which has gone over his head, is that they’re supposed to soften the blow of the violence going on, so readers aren’t hit with overwhelming darkness. Unlike today’s writers, who love their overwhelming darkness.

In a typical story, Wonder Woman is involved in adventures with another girl, a princess, who talks repeatedly about “those wicked men.”

SHE FIGHTS VILLAINS, YOU IDIOT! VILLAINS ARE, BY USUAL DEFINITION, WICKED!

You want she should fight only female villains? Yes, probably you do. And by the way, she does. We’re over count, but we’ve been undercount this week so it balances out. I think we’re done this week, so let’s talk about a different comic-related topic. Just a mini one.

Next Time: Bumps And Bulges

Odd title to discuss comic advertising. I may need some help on this one. Hey Brian Snell of Slay Monstrobot, you reading this?

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About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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