Comic books are gay. Now I don't really mean that, but when I was a kid, I used to ride my bike across town to the Comic Grapevine, which was the only dedicated comic book store in Lodi (I know, I know, as if a community of 55,000 people needs more than one). And this made my mom nervous, in part because I had to cross a busy street called Kettleman Lane, but also because she swore up and down that the Comic Grapevine was full of pedophiles, who would love nothing more than to grab a couple eleven-year olds when they went to pick up the latest issue of Aquaman.* As far as I was concerned, I was perfectly safe as long as I didn't go past the manga racks and into the back of the shop, because that was where twenty-something men with glasses and patchy goatees sat reeking of Mountain Dew and armpits while playing Dungeons and Dragons. And as everyone knows, these people are not to be bothered or engaged lest you wish to be pulled into a windowless van and later cut up into bite-sized pieces.
My mom might have been hysterically imaginative about the patrons of the Comic Grapevine, but I do concede that comic books unfortunately get this homoerotic rap, because of a number of inherent conventions. Primarily, it's because of the overwhelming dude factor. When a medium is largely comprised of dudes reading illustrated stories about dudes, it's hard not to think certain things. This was a big deal in the mid-1950s, when some concerned citizens got their noses out of joint over homoerotic overtones (homovertones?) in comics because of a book called The Seduction of the Innocent, that alleged, among other things, that superhero comics made kids gay. And really, if you have ever looked at an old Batman comic, you can kind of see where they were coming from.
Anyway, on Sunday, I went to the Borders down the street to pick up the May issues of Uncanny X-Men and Astonishing X-Men. Like a lot of bookstores, the Borders' comics selection is in a revolving rack near the periodicals. After I had found the two books I was looking for, my browsing shifted to the adjacent magazine shelves. I absently gazed at these magazine for almost a whole minute before realizing that I stood in front of titles such as Out, Shout, Pink, Curves, DIVA and probably the official publication of the Bravo! network. In other words, Borders puts their gay and lesbian lifestyle magazines right next to their comic books.
Oddly, Men's Health was way on the other side next to FHM and Maxim.
I don't know what the point of putting magazines geared for topman and bottom next to the comics is, but I made a beeline for the Playboys nevertheless, just in case anyone had been looking. It's bad enough to be 27 and caught with two X-Men comics; I can't accurately describe the embarrassment of being caught holding said comics in front a magazine with Augusten Burroughs or Rosie O'Donnell on the cover.
*Over the past couple years, I've noticed that Aquaman seems to be the most maligned superhero in the entire pantheon. I don't know why this is, but apparently Aquaman hs a reputation for (so sorry for the pun) fishy behavior. This is why I'm glad I stuck to Marvel titles. Cyclops and Wolverine fought over Jean Grey, not Gene Grey.