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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Where They Went Wrong: Superman and Batman Spend the Night Together

You are about to experience the single gayest comic ever printed.

Before we go any further, a little explanation: I imagine it's like this at a lot of jobs, but when I started working at a comic book store three years ago, my good friends Chad--my boss at the time--and Scott were constantly dropping little bits of knowledge on me that aren't that widely known to the general public. Stories about creators and how certain comics came to be, hidden treasures of the back issues, stuff like that.

World's Finest #289 is one of those gems. Chad told me about it a long while back, and every now and then we'll find one down at the shop, and that's pretty much it for the rest of the day. None of us can resist going through it whenever it pops up, for one simple reason: Superman and Batman spent almost the entire issue about three seconds away from just making out in the Fortress of Solitude. Seriously, if you've ever wondered where the people who write slash fiction get the idea that it's something they should be doing, it all starts right here.

Chad found another one at the store today, and it was like old times as he held court in the middle of the back issues, flanked by customers as he read aloud from the panels. And although it puts my journalistic integrity at serious risk, I'm willing to steal his jokes to bring you another installment of my hard-hitting exposés on where exactly bad comics crossed the line. It's a risk I'm willing to take so that you stay informed, so this one's dedicated to my main man Radical C, along with my respect and thanks.

Homometer: 1/10For some reason, editor Marv Wolfman signed off on this one, which I can only guess means he didn't get past the first couple of pages of Doug Moench's script and only glanced at Adrian Gonzales' pencils. Either that, or it was the result of a drunken night of a little game I like to call How Far Can We Go And Still Get Comics Code Approval.

The story doesn't start off too bad. In fact, it opens with Batman jump-kicking some hoods and then punching another one so hard his head cracks a brick wall, which is usually a pretty good sign. By Page 3, however, Batman witnesses a murder that he fails to stop, and immediately falls to his knee with a big "NOOOOOOOOOO!"

Meanwhile, Superman saves a bunch of rock climbers from being crushed by an avalanche, and then feels bad about being an alien while basking in their praise and adulation. Oh woe is you, Superman. Gee, I sure am glad I'm not universally beloved. What a burden that must be. Anyway, he decides to alleviate his feelings of being a misfit by hanging out with his pal Batman, who has deep psychological scars and routinely punches homicidal clowns in the face. That's when they decide to... help each other out.



And go they do, soaring past a giant phallic glacier to the Fortress of Solitude, presumably to braid each other's hair and watch scary movies. Batman sees some of Superman's crazy dioramas that he likes to build, and the sight of Superman's loving parents depresses him, so he starts talking about the guy who got killed in the alley, which only depresses him more. Superman, however, feels his pain.



At this point, we're still in the realm of melodrama, and you might think that I'm just reading way too much into two pals who are helping each other through some hard times. I'd be inclined to agree with you, too, if not for this:



There really aren't a lot of ways to misinterpret a giant space-phallus plunging towards a circle. The only thing that panel's missing is one of those "For modesty's sake, let's turn our attention elsewhere" captions that used to accompany Peter Parker putting the moves on Mary Jane.

Anyway, back at the Fortress, where we find out that Superman has his own symbol mounted on a brick wall above a fireplace (?), Superman goes into an intense whine-spree, going on for a while about how his childhood was totally awesome, but he still feels bad about his birth parents dying and he's so alone even though everyone in the world loves and respects him. That attitude right there? That would be why Lex Luthor wants you dead so badly, Clark.

Quoth Superman: "And I... I treasure the closeness of someone who has suffered a similar loss ... We're like night and day, you and I, and yet we're closer than we realize, closer than twins because we compliment each other..."

...Get ready for it...



One of the things that Chad always points out is that every time something like this happens in this comic, you think that it cannot possibly get any more gay. But brother, we've got thirteen pages left on this trolley ride, and it just gets better from here.

Before Superman can cram his tongue down Batman's throat, an alarm system goes off and Superman has to go fight some meteors while Batman watches on the monitor, nervously asking if Superman's okay every other panel. As it turns out, the meteors are actually being used as transport for some bizarre wormlike creatures who use their telekinesis to turn the Fortress's weapons against Superman and Batman, who momentarily huddle together before dishing out uppercuts. At one point, Batman gets tagged by a stun ray, and "emotional panic siezes the man of steel" as he gives our second "NOOOOO!" of the story.

Having dealt with the problem, Batman uses a telepathy device to communicate with the worm-aliens, finding out what they want to do. And what, you may ask, do they want to do?



I'll just let that speak for itself.

Having finished whatever it was that was supposed to be, the aliens die, which is so moving for Superman and Batman that they stand there weeping while they watch it. Then the book closes with this, which I swear to you is the actual caption from the story:

"Glowing with the returned auras of emotion, the two men weep... then turn and embrace over the ashes of feeling, the dust of sacrifice. Here, it is warm... outside it is bitterly cold. Perhaps no one else, on any world, would understand."

Holy crap.

So, where exactly did this one go wrong? It's hard to point to a single element, since pretty much everything from Page Three on is hard to write off as anything but sketchy innuendo. If pressed, though, I'd have to go with the line about fitting like a hand in a glove. At that point, the metaphor's not doing a whole lot to disguise what's going on, and the aliens inserting themselves into each other just seems like a logical conclusion to the whole thing.

Still, though... That these two guys could come together out of such horrible adversity and find strength and comfort with each other... It sort of makes you a little misty, doesn't it?






BONUS FEATURE: The Moon Knight Connection!


Shortly after I originally posted this piece, a contributor who preferred to remain anonymous--Heaven knows why--wrote me an email regarding Doug Moench, who wrote World's Finest #289, but is probably much better known for two-fisted action stories like his long, early-90s run on the Batman titles with Kelley Jones:

"But then, Moench also wrote a crazy homophobic Moon Knight story for Marvel Spotlight in the 70s, where Moon Knight takes sadistic pleasure in beating the shit out of a, to use Moon Knight's own terms, a 'tinkerbell,' 'pansy,' and 'twinkle-toes.'"

For those of you keeping score at home, that's 1976's Marvel Spotlight #29.

110 Comments:

Blogger Mr How said...

Man, what an analysis!

I've never read that comic book before, and that worm-alien bit was truly disturbing and lame. Heck, a telepathy with wonder woman or lois lane would have been better.

12/01/2005 6:44 AM

 
Blogger Kevin Church said...

That's it. Chris, come to Boston so we can spend the night...alone.

12/01/2005 1:12 PM

 
Blogger Alice said...

I knew it! Thanks for dragging these two out of the closet finally!

12/01/2005 1:16 PM

 
Anonymous Felecia said...

Drat! I missed Chad reading it last night? I absolutely love this comic & it's even better when Chad reads it.

I always there was a special bond between Bats & Supes, but to share it with the world. They're so awesome!

12/01/2005 7:50 PM

 
Blogger Ian said...

I liked "hand and glove." Perhaps a young Stephen Morrisey read this comic?

12/01/2005 10:46 PM

 
Anonymous goody said...

Batman's such a drama queen. Superman never even got to meet his parents, but 'oh no my parents got shot in an alley wah wah Batman needs a Kleenex.' Batman's a dick.

12/02/2005 1:33 PM

 
Anonymous Tug said...

"And although it puts my journalistic integrity at serious risk, I'm willing to steal his jokes to bring you another installment of my hard-hitting exposés on where exactly bad comics crossed the line."
Wow. That's probably the funniest line you've ever posted in your blog, Chris. Way to go.

12/02/2005 3:28 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the second pic of the comic book frames posted, where exactly is Superman's left hand?

12/02/2005 4:32 PM

 
Blogger gwalla said...

Note the subtle rainbow motif in the handshake panel!

12/02/2005 4:53 PM

 
Blogger blog Portland said...

Even with his gentlest touch, Superman would tear Batman a new one.

On the flip side, there is no way the dark knight could penetrate a sphincter that is bulletproof.

It is a love that could never be. *sigh*

12/02/2005 6:29 PM

 
Anonymous Paxwolf said...

Your article here was Laugh-Out-Loud Hilarious! I remember this issue well, (and laughed about it years later at my own ComicShop where I worked) but I was a young innocent in those days, and just didn't see the so very UNsubtle (It's so apparent now - how could I have been that blind? I thought they were just 'close') 'subtext'. (though a letter in the comic about 4 issues later certainly did, and THAT shocked me, I recall.) Thanks so much for the much-needed laughs! - - Paxwolf :-)

12/02/2005 11:29 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet Superman keeps the bottled city around for some bizarre kind of tiny Kryptonian gerbling.

12/03/2005 3:03 AM

 
Blogger SwanShadow said...

That went from JLA to YMCA... fast.

12/03/2005 4:30 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plus, the language they use is straight out of romance novels. The couple is always making eyes at one another, going through difficult and pulse-pounding scenarios, and comforting/feeling one another up.

12/03/2005 3:56 PM

 
Blogger Chris Sims said...

Surprisingly enough, I'm almost certain that's the first appearance of the word "Gerbling" here on the ISB.

12/03/2005 5:15 PM

 
Blogger El Snoozo said...

If that issue was ANY MORE gay..It would come with an asshole on the back cover.

12/03/2005 10:58 PM

 
Anonymous Andrew Wickliffe said...

So?

Have you read an issue of Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman. No different. Except when Superman talks about how pretty Batman's eyes are.

12/04/2005 12:03 AM

 
Blogger renee said...

wow, i LOVE that worm scene.

12/04/2005 2:14 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just great! But wait, we should not be making fun of two heroes, who are, in a time of emotional crisis [which means for Batman, the whiner: EVERYDAY], only comforted by each others strong and firm [and solely platonic *snort*] relationship.
You could also look out for more hints at the 'Superman/Batman' issues, like, constantly.

Lila
www.livejournal.com/users/shampoo_leska

12/04/2005 3:52 AM

 
Blogger gwalla said...

Also check the Single Emo Tear in Stereo action in that last panel.

12/07/2005 1:42 AM

 
Anonymous roni said...

I had the worst day of my life yesterday.

But this made me feel so much better.

It shows that comics can make a difference in people's lives.

12/07/2005 12:17 PM

 
Anonymous Emily said...

That whole post cracked me up.

Thanks for giving me a little brightness during finals-study.

12/08/2005 12:39 AM

 
Blogger Cloe said...

That was aweful, i am a huge superman freak, i will have a hard time ever looking at my beloved superhero the same again. I cant, and wont force myself to believe that superman is gay. Batman , or spiderman I could believe that they are gay though... maybe they ment to have spiderman in there, but he is such a lame-o, they forgot his name, and remembered Supermans name because he is very unforgetable!!!! Thats the way that I am going to look at that whole story.

12/12/2005 8:13 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear God! How did that get published? You'd think that someone, somewhere in the publication process would have taken a look at the apparently "deeply moving" alien worm porn and gone, "WTF? No. Just... no."

Then again, if the editors could miss the blindingly homoerotic handclasp of manly love, maybe they didn't notice the alien worm porn.

--Elspeth

5/17/2006 6:59 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad, but I jump on this part:

That attitude right there? That would be why Lex Luthor wants you dead so badly, Clark.

Because YES! GO LEX!

*waves flag of evil*

5/17/2006 11:39 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was really sort of *touching*. I mean, it's hard to be Batman and Superman, but at least they have each other.

Actually, now I'm wondering where the hell ROBIN was during this whole scene!

5/18/2006 1:21 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that was hilarious.

I, personally, am actually a long-time fan of the mentioned "slash" fanfiction, and particularly of Batman/Superman, which I justify with, well, stuff like this.

It gets better over the years, but you can still pick up any book or watch any animated series episode where they work together and the only reason everyone else doesn't know they're totally married is because they're in denial.

Watch Justice League the animated series sometime. Season two, there's an epidosde called "Hereafter" in which everyone thinks Superman dies and Batman won't believe it, and spends half the episode - I shit you not - absently rubbing a piece of Superman's cape between his fingers while brooding in the cave. There's more in that ep. I won't bother getting into.

There's another episode at the end of that season called "The Savage Time" and at the end of a drawn-out time-travelling adventure, they get back to where they should be and the first thing Superman does...is hug Batman. For nearly 10 solid seconds.

It's fantastic.

Wow this was a long comment...sorry!

6/16/2006 10:50 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS

if you rearrange the word "subtext", you get "buttsex".

;)

-sarah

http://batfan-sarah.livejournal.com/profile

6/16/2006 10:53 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh. RE: Alien worm porn -- I think we've just discovered the first known example of hentai tentacle porn.

7/03/2006 5:26 PM

 
Blogger NYCPulpWriter said...

God, talk about reading too much into it. Why does everyone see fit to see sex in everything?

I know of that World's Finest issue and have it. Bought 2 years ago in fact at a local comic-con here in NYC along with a shitload of Suicide Squad.

I didn't see anything sexual about it. I guess a friend comforting a friend is considered sexual.

I even showed it to my best friend and he's gay (FLAMING queen). He simply said to much such an assumption, even for satire is "fucking retarded.

8/04/2006 5:55 PM

 
Anonymous Kari Anna said...

Oh. My. God.

That's so blatantly gay.

*grins* Okay. Now I need to buy that issue.

Mmm. Too bad it wasn't Batman and Nightwing instead.

8/05/2006 5:51 PM

 
Anonymous Sparkina said...

Brokeback Superheroes!

8/13/2006 6:29 PM

 
Anonymous HurriKain said...

The Original Ambiguosly Gay Duo.

Batman and Superman: "What are you all staring at?

Rest of the Justice League/Friends: "NOTHING!"

9/26/2006 9:03 PM

 
Blogger Drew said...

this is great. seriously, this made my day. it actualizes so many things that i'd just been assuming all these years.

9/27/2006 8:21 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're reading a bit more between the lines than was intended, but I agree it must be a stitch when Chad reads it aloud! I'm going to hunt up a copy and start a new tradition at my Local Comic Book Shop. Every February 14th at noon, we will have a reading of this very moving, touching story about two adult men taking comfort in/er, with each other!

1/31/2007 3:01 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is totally gay man, nuff said.

3/16/2007 6:42 AM

 
Blogger tighelander said...

I think I know I comic book that is even more gay! It's an issue of Captain America in which Cap spends most of the story obsessing about his male sidekick spending time with a chick! It's total romance comic stuff here, and to make it more gay, the artist isn't a regular, but one with a newspaper drama strip feel! It's the only time this artist (a professional illustrator) ever worked on the character, let alone a superhero! The story was only half of the issue; the first half of the book was more standard fare.

3/22/2007 4:50 AM

 
Blogger Vexxxy said...

HAHAHAHA!
That was so effin gay I think I've become a fag just from reading that. Thanks alot for turning me queer.
I always had my suspicions about those two. That entire post just made my night.

4/25/2007 12:53 AM

 
Blogger abhirup said...

ha ha ha ha ... that was awesome man!those two are definitely gay.the best part was the two of them crying because the slimy alien worm things are dead.. ha ha ha ... love it

6/01/2007 3:16 PM

 
Anonymous bradygirl said...

So nice to see that the boys were out of the closet as far back as the '70s! ;)

Oh, man, when I need a good laugh I click on this page. Great commentary!

Slash fiction writers do use stuff like this to point, "See! See! We knew it!" :)

It's nice to see Superman/Batman as canon. ;)

6/03/2007 11:44 PM

 
Anonymous theclexfactor said...

I see my friend bradygirl, and I completely agree that this is just fodder for those (hell...me! and apparently many other female slashers that have commented on your page) that believe that Clark/Bruce is canon. Don't fret, at least the comic had the modesty to not show you the porn because they know that the homophobic predominantly male demographic of comic readers would balk and rant at the idea...and because they legally can't, but that's neither here nor there.

7/05/2007 10:14 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lex Luthor doesn't really want Clark dead, neither Clark's longing and sadness would justify Luthor's hate. On the contrary, I'm sure Lex Luthor would love to hug and comfort Clark. He's just jealous because Bruce is the one allowed to do so. Clark and Bruce love and care for each other and that's canon!

7/06/2007 4:47 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superman & Batman...pole smokers...?


NNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

9/11/2007 2:25 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

reminded me of "Broke-bat Mountain" ... I mean "Brokeback Mountain"

11/15/2007 10:35 AM

 
Blogger Craig said...

I can't believe nobody responded with a link to this: http://supermanemo.ytmnd.com/

11/25/2007 8:38 PM

 
Anonymous Jude is Obscure said...

Hmmm...guess that would explain why most of Supe's and Bat's comix these days cost (within a few pennies to stick in one's loafers) a $3 bill.

A coincidence? I think not.

1/23/2008 8:30 PM

 
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Anonymous Markus said...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what if Superman and Batman
were really gay?

What's the problem here?

If it were a black man and white
woman in love and attracted to each other, would you dare to make fun of that?

But no, let's keep making fun of the gay community, because we know how young breeder males can't handle their attraction to other males. It's easier just to make fun of those gays.

Grow up and GO SUPE and BATS!

7/02/2008 5:44 PM

 
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I'm usually not a fan of Gehry's work, but this is an exception. Using wood as a wrapper imitating structure is not only novel, but ties the space down through the use of a consistent, inviting, and non-distracting material palette. Perhaps Gehry is more suited to small-scale projects Laptop battery.

7/30/2008 5:38 AM

 
Anonymous Erik Smith said...

Oh my God.

Think about it, guys. Maybe this is the proof we needed that at least when it comes to Batman, Frederic Wertham was right.

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Anonymous Shiva said...

~ First of all: some of these comments are homophobic. Watch yourselves because you can find gender-ambiguity and queerness in a lot of superheroes and they will BREAK YOU.

~ Next: Batman is not a whiner. How about we rewind time to when you were 7, give you great parents who care about you, then have you watch them be shot to death in a dark alley by yourself. Who's whining now, bitches?

~ Next: For anyone who has ever felt like an outsider, you understand Superman. All he ever wanted was to be normal but he's kind of an awkward nerd WITH SUPERPOWERS so he's a bit socially inept. Most people wouldn't handle it nearly as well.

~ Finally: Thank the gods for the Batman/Superman relationship, however you'd like to see it because most people don't have anything even remotely close. I commend them and say 'Rock on with your bad self!' If anyone deserves that kind of deep, close companionship, it's the loneliest and the greatest superheroes ever. So, just shut up and applaud.

~ PS: HELL YES I'm buying that issue! Those men are smexy!

1/31/2009 2:06 PM

 
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3/26/2009 8:49 AM

 
OpenID lizuka8002 said...

Must say, I'm bi myself and I still find this hilarious.

6/11/2009 4:09 AM

 
Blogger Jon Hex said...

The 70's DC bullpen must have been loaded from clock in to clock out.

8/06/2009 6:29 PM

 
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oh man, get me the lube and some kleenex. It's pound the bishop time.

9/09/2009 6:43 PM

 
Blogger Colin said...

Having endured most of his 90s runs of Batman, Moench always struck me as one of the worst writers in the industry (if not the worst)... But I don't think I realised exactly how bad he was until I saw this. Thanks for posting this one Chris.

11/25/2009 8:24 AM

 
Blogger chimisaurusaur said...

I was born in '89, so I don't know a lot about comics at this point, other than that there are some I like and some I don't. This particular comic, however, seems too hilarious for me to dislike. Now I know I'm gonna be looking for this every time I walk into a comic shop, and its all thanks to you!

And you are a magnificent writer, which just adds to the effect. Stupendously done, good sir.

3/21/2010 11:04 PM

 
Anonymous bmj2k said...

I own that comic. The only thing gay about is the spin the obviously closeted homsexual reviewer gave it. Out of context panels and snarky writing can make anything seem odd. Too bad the reviewer hasn't the talwent to make it entertaining.

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Anonymous Kaoro said...

I'm a slasher myself, in particular of this pairing, and yet I can't help but find this issue absolutely hilarious. And disconcerting.

I don't think they ARE canonically gay - even though *cough*Apollo and Midnighter*cough* - but hell, this sort of issue is gold for us slashers. I can only thank blind editors for allowing such gay subtext to be printed, as it makes my day.

And offers material for extremely amusing reviews.

8/15/2010 9:14 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harmless, fun, different. Out of the thousands upon thousands of renditions of these two characters, it is refreshing to see a unique take on what it means to be male. Regardless of whether they are gay or not, they are willing to embrace their feelings. Too bad it had to be in the Fortress of Solitude. But it shows the writer how absolutely AFRAID the world at large is of two men showing each other affection. I can't believe how upset some of the posters here have gotten. What is their ideal? emotionless he-men? They should take a time travel trip back to the fifties, those days of shame and blame would suit them fine.

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Blogger Lampers said...

See this is why I liked it when Robin was a girl, y'know? It made his inability to resist buddying up with youths slightly (worth repeating, slightly) less creepy.

I'm in no way homophobic, but I like my Batman straight. I just do. Green Lantern on the other hand can gay it up all he likes!

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