from Social Issues
by Roy Waller
Marvel Comics Group has announced plans to revamp the sexual orientation of its "Rawhide Kid" character, with the first installment of the six-part cowboy story scheduled to appear in February 2003.
Although "The Rawhide Kid" actually made his debut in 1955 in the wake of the success of the "Rawhide" television series, his forty-seven year state of sexual ambiguity is coming to an end.
Marvel, the creator of such well-known titles as "the Incredible Hulk," "Spider Man," and "The Fantastic Four," has introduced overt sexuality into its story lines before, including scenes depicting nude heterosexual couples engaged in sexual acts.
And, the new-look Rawhide Kid is not the first openly gay character in a Marvel publication, that distinction going to Northstar, a French-Canadian mutant member of the X-Men related comic book, "Alpha Flight."
What one Marvel executive proudly announced as "the first gay Western" will highlight Rawhide Kid's stylish leather outfit and a distinct sexual preference for men, although Marvel's editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada, insists that the Rawhide Kid never actually says he is gay.
However, writer Ron Zimmerman, who is scripting the story, makes the point through various comments on the part of the Rawhide Kid such as, "I think that mask and powder blue outfit are fantastic! I can certainly see why the Indian follows him [The Lone Ranger] around."
Marvel will gauge the public response to the six-month story arc before deciding whether to continue production. If the response is favorable, they have expressed interest in adding a homosexual theme to other plot lines.
The obvious impact that such an avowedly homosexual character appearing in a traditional masculine, heterosexual role--in a comic book format aimed at children in their formative years--cannot be overstated.
Marvel Comics has, in decades past, promoted characters who, despite their unusual circumstances, have been able to maintain strong, traditional marital and other familial relationships. However, the Kid Rawhide experiment could signal the beginning of a whole new trend in comic books towards the promotion of "alternative" lifestyles. With busy parents able to spend less and less time supervising their children's recreational activities, the introduction of a positively-presented homosexual character into a comic book aimed specifically at young boys is very likely to fall below the radar screen of parental concern.