I always find it surprising whenever l encounter gay-positive material from before the 1990's. The 1980's gay male was your typical comic relief character like Michach Taylor's role in Mannequin or Bronson Pinchot in Beverly Hills Cop. It was a step forward from the gay villain but not quite as advanced as the 90's gay best friend. That melodramatic/ ambivalent queen stereotype was pretty much the major representation of the gay community at the time, which undermined the rather serious AIDS epidemic that was spreading. It's almost like the mainstream didn't want the public to take them seriously. But I'm really no conspiracy theorist. The gay community was misunderstood in some regard, hated and/or feared in others, and was still awaiting the critical mass of support from within to show the world without that, hey, they're just people.
It's so rare though to see a story from the 80's that treats a gay character as just another person, even more unusual to see it in a mainstream comic, never mind one of DC's flagship titles.
As if I haven't written it enough already, but the Secret Six serial in Action Comics Weekly is hands down my favourite and the chapter this issue is easily its best. The past few issues Tony (the deaf one) has been on the run, having carjacked model Shelley and effectively held her captive as he tries to find his way back to the team. This issue Shelley, holed up with Tony in a hotel, puts the moves on him. He rebuffs her, surprisingly, but explains himself logically. Tony takes Shelley on a late night stroll on the beach and tells her a little of his history, which plays out in flashback, including how he lost his hearing (in an explosion while on a reporting assignment, his photographer saving his life at his own expense).
When Tony finishes his story he gives Shelley the moral, which is basically that sex between them given the situation is a bad idea because it isn't love. Tony seems like a good and moral dude, not taking advantage of this girl. The flashback carries on beyond Tony's retelling to reveal that Tony is heartbroken, his photographer was his lover and he would visit his grave once a month to talk to him, and give fresh flowers. It's a surprise reveal, sure, but not meant to shock. Its just a quiet and beautiful, if tragic, epilogue. It also speaks to the 80's attitude towards such things that Tony couldn't just tell Shelley he was gay... but much credit to Marty Pasko for this delicate and deftly executed sidebar.
I've snuck a peek at the 636 letter column and reaction to the issue was positive there. I'll have to do a something search to see if there was any media on this at all or, like pretty much all of ACW,it just went under the radar.
The Great ACW Readers Poll:
1. Secret Six-- duhdoy
2. Black Canary -- a thoroughly disjointed structure has left me intrigued... plus more Randy Du Burke art.
3. Green Lantern -- Priest the writer uses Priest the character to explore GL's true power. Hal Jordan is an ass.
4. Deadman -- im beginning to recall why l liked Baron/ Jones' Deadman mini series so much in the early 90's
5. Shazam -- Billy Batson infiltrates a hate camp. It's actually not terrible but l see it's whole purpose was for Roy Thomas to reintroduce Captain Nazi. Sigh.
6. Superman --back to being silly /boring