With all the recent talk about the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays and lesbians, I suppose it's only right that I spend this weeks article on the growing number of gays and lesbians in webcomics.
I say growing number because it seems I'm always stumbling across one or several when I find a comic. I'm not sure why, maybe I just happen to read them, but there does seem to be more appearing every year. Not that I have anything against it, I don't, but I wonder if it's simply being done for the same reason "minorities" are included in 80's cartoons. Well, let's take a look.
At it's most simple, the concept of homosexuality is really an excuse to tell jokes. This is particularly true of Sinfest and Menage a 3. The former uses it as a simple form of humorous temptation for Slick to get all bothered by. Of course, in a comic that features porn as part of the joke, this should be no surprise. As to the latter, the entire concept for Menage a 3 is to be about different sex preferences and fetishes, and all played up for raunchy laughter.
A step up is when the relationships are taken a bit more seriously. Girly features the many "side kicks" of the comic, that while not straight up claiming these relationships are much more than that, really drives home the point that the definitions of others don't strictly apply. The feelings each couple has for each other vary, but they are close and they watch out for each other, which is all most relationships really need to have. Footloose started playing in the more serious (only just though) role thanks to a bit of cross dressing, some ancestry and questioning of one's personal wants or needs. Though I think it throws a bit of a wrench in things with the ancestry angle, which ends up reducing it all down a bit.
Angels 2200 presents a much different situation, one in which nearly every man is dead, and thus we're left almost only one gender relationships. While there is several sexual relationships, often it boils down to more emotional relationships, and given the situation, it seems at least relatively real (aside from the fact that all the women are drawn exceptionally hot). Bruno is all about the relationships, though it sometimes seems Bruno will sleep with anything with two legs. Perhaps this is more a bit about liberation from traditional sexual moors than anything else. BTW, if you haven't read that comic, Bruno is a girl.
Which brings up an interesting point here, most of the comics I've talked about feature lesbians of one sort or another. The only other comic with characters that are homosexual include Queen of Wands and it's sequel, Punch n' Pie, both having lesbian/bisexual characters. Male homosexuals are strangely rare. Blip has one male character who is gay, but he isn't a major character (and recently got stabbed. . .), as does Emergency Exit (though he plays a more major role). Menage a 3 has at least 2, and they were going at it in the first strip, but even then it narrowed down to one after that. Templar, Arizona mentions this, but strictly in terms of prostitution rather than an actual relationship.
The only comic that has any serious male homosexual relationships that I recall seeing is Return to Eden, and that only takes place in the first chapter or so (and they both promptly die). So what is going on here?
It could just be that I don't read comics with homosexual male relationships (I don't go seeking it out either, sorry, not my thing). Perhaps, but I think it might be more likely a play on the fact most webcomic artists are male, and there's a fairly large segment of the male population that likes girl on girl action. I even use it as a joke in several of my reviews of the above mentioned comics. I think also lesbianism is more acceptable for some reason (actually, for the same reason) and people are more willing to read and write about it.
So where does this leave us? Gay and lesbian characters exist, yes, but there seems to be far more focus on lesbians for the titillation factor. While many of these relationships are meaningful to the characters and story, they really seem to be more about getting people to read the comic, while male relationships are rare and do little. Well, at least including the "one gay friend" gag isn't epidemic, so perhaps things aren't too bad, but still. . .
Anyway, enough yakking about that, maybe I'll do one about race next time. Or maybe not. Until then kiddies.