GLAAD nags

January 26, 2006

GLAAD has announced its nominations for “fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community” in comics. I saw them first at The Beat, and Dorian and Johanna have commented on the list. (GLAAD has since posted the full list of nominees, so you can skip the Variety site, if you’d rather.)

I have such a mixed reaction to this whole enterprise. While I can kind of understand the rationale for concentrating on mainstream comics for the nominees (i.e. comics by Marvel and DC), the “beggars at the feast” quality of it all unnerves me. It’s depressing to feel like the organization is purposely lowering its standards to raise its profile. (I’m glad that Young Avengers got a nomination, though.)

There have been really good comics published in the last year that have rich, varied portrayals of LGBT characters. There’s Capote in Kansas from Oni, Off*Beat from Tokyopop, Only the Ring Finger Knows and Antique Bakery from Digital Manga, and Rica ‘tte Kanji!? from ALC. And if all it takes is a gay or lesbian supporting character to make a book eligible, I’d much rather see nominations go to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Oni) or even Tricked (Top Shelf), though the latter wasn’t one of my favorite books of the year. It certainly meets the “fair, accurate, and inclusive” standard, though.

Seriously, can any genre of comic books really be considered all that mainstream? With Marvel and DC seeming to become more and more focused on an insular, Direct Market audience, “mainstream” seems like a painfully relative term. I can find Off*Beat and the DMP books in more places than I can Strangers in Paradise or Gotham Central. Same with Tricked and Scott Pilgrim.

Has anyone ever walked into a comic shop because GLAAD recognized a title? And if someone is going to walk into a comic shop for the first time because of GLAAD’s nominations, is that really the list of comics you’d recommend? Why not promote lesser-known titles with superior portrayals rather than try and ride on some shaky definition of what “mainstream” is?