Perry Moore: Looking at the Gay Hero Landscape

Looking at the Gay Hero Landscape

On Monday , we started our conversation with Perry Moore, author of Hero and Producer of the Narnia films for Walden Media. In that installment, we spoke of Hero and its protagonist, Thom Creed, a gay teenage hero. This time, Moore shares some of the superhero series that inspired him, as well as his favorite and least favorite gay characters in comics.

Newsarama: So Perry, with your different novel and Hollywood projects, it might be a while before you get to do the next Hero novel?

Perry Moore: Yeah, it might be that you’ll get to see Hero on-screen before the next book comes out. That would be pretty cool.

NRAMA: Even with your schedule, would you want to write any comics yourself? A lot of novelists and screenwriters seem to be doing that these days…

PM: You know, I have been approached – I’ve met with most of the big folks. There’s a guy I’ve met at DC named Bob Schreck, who is just fantastic, and if he could find something we could work on, that would be great.

But, you know, some of the homophobia comes out when you meet with some of these people – obviously, not with Schreck, but with some people. And these meetings are a two-way street – do you really want to devote so much time to their characters and writing things for them, only to have another writer come in six or 12 issues later and undo it all?

I think continuity is really one of the major enemies in writing good fiction. I always liked how Alan Moore seemed to ignore it early in his career when he wrote for DC…there’s so much of it now that I can’t follow it! I’m at Midtown Comics every Wednesday, but there are some things I just can’t follow.

There are times when I forget what happened to certain characters. I always remember thinking Rictor and Shatterstar were going to hook up in X-Force in the mid-90s. It was largely insinuated, and then they went off together, and then nothing happened…they got taken over by new writers, and that’s how it goes.

NRAMA: It’s funny you mention that, because before talking to you I wanted to research the current status of some gay characters, and I realized I had no idea what happened to Terry Berg from Green Lantern after he was gay-bashed…

PM: That came up on our panel (at SDCC)! We all agreed that that story had to happen to get it out there. But they turned me for a negative example (laughs) and I’m like, “Well, wouldn’t it be nice if it happened to an actual hero who was able to use his powers to prevent himself from being gay-bashed?” But I guess we just have to wait for things to change one increment at a time. I didn’t want to wait, so I envisioned the world of Hero and wrote it down.

NRAMA: I found out that Terry came out of his coma and got a Green Lantern power ring, but they never followed up on it. I was disappointed – I wanted a gay Green Lantern!

PM: Yeah, well, Freedom Ring [from Marvel Team-Up] – take a look at him. That was terrific. (laughs) I talk to Robert Kirkman a lot – I used to talk to him more, because he was optioning out The Walking Dead, and I wanted to do something with it as a producer and then that [Freedom Ring’s death] happened.

And I called him up, and I went, “What are you doing?! Don’t you understand?!” He was cool about it! He blamed his editors, and he said it was the worst mistake he ever made, and it was horrific, it was unbelievable. I can’t believe Marvel never came out and said, “We’re sorry” or anything like that. That’s really awful.

I remember when Northstar was killed, a friend of mine who writes for TV but used to write for comics, Alan Heinberg – I begged him to make two of those Young Avengers gay. Begged him. Begged him.

NRAMA: Well, it obviously worked, because they did make two of them gay –

PM: They did! They did. But originally, one of them wasn’t going to be a guy – the Hulkling. He wound up doing the couple and did a great job with it, but now he’s writing Gray’s Anatomy and other things. He’s a great writer and I’d like to see him do more comics, but he’s making more money doing writing in Hollywood.

NRAMA: I remember seeing the first pictures of the Young Avengers and thinking Hulkling was just a really butch female…

PM: He was, originally! He was going to be female – you’ll have to talk to Alan about how he decided to change it.

I have to also credit him for this – the only reason I’ve been meeting with all these editors is because Alan called them up and said, “You should meet with this guy.” And then Hero started getting all this press – The New York Times, all these places…I was People’s Sexiest Man of the Week for six days! (laughs)

NRAMA: Any plans for a paperback edition of Hero?

PM: I don’t know! I think they’re going to wait. They usually do it so a paperback comes out right before your next book comes out…which is my fault, because I’ve been focused on adapting the book with Stan Lee. So I’ll have to sit down with them and coordinate the release of the paperback. I should probably do a better job of keeping up with that. (laughs)

It does very well – I go into bookstores and do signings and things all the time, and I’m told that it sells well, especially given the subject matter. What sucks is that as a young adult book, it can only be sold in the young adult section. So it’s never on the front tables, it’s never up front, it’s always in the back, so people have to go looking in order to find it.

NRAMA: So you’d like to see the book marketed to more of an adult audience?

PM: I’d like to see it marketed to both audiences! I think it’s a book for everyone.

NRAMA: And now here is an exceedingly geeky question…did you name Thom Creed after Thom Kallor (Starboy/Starman) from the Legion of Super-Heroes?

PM: [big laugh] Oh my god! That was real transparent. You caught me on that one! I always loved Starboy – I thought he had a cool look. Was never a fan of the beard, though.

I always loved that group of Legionnaires – they were so young, but they were adults. And their world seemed so advanced…I guess I just dreamt that somewhere in that world, it was okay to be gay, maybe.

And Starboy was just sexy. (laughs) A lot of the male Legionnaires were sexy! The book’s a mess these days, though. When I got back into comics after colleges, they’d rebooted so many times that now I have no idea what’s going on.

NRAMA: Now, there have been some right-wing members of the comics industry – incidentally, I like how you have a character in Hero who used to be called “Right Wing” –

PM: Yeah, that’s a little on the nose, but I liked it. (laughs)

NRAMA: Anyway, some people have said that they aren’t into the idea of gay superheroes, as it either conflicts with their personal beliefs or they believe superhero comics are for kids, and don’t consider them an appropriate venue for discussing such ideas. I’m curious as to whether you have a rebuttal to that.

PM: Oh, you know, look at the price tag on ‘em – they’re not for kids. (laughs) And look at manga – that stuff sells like crazy, and there’s a whole subset that’s nothing but boy-love [yaoi].

But that’s a ridiculous assertion. That’s like saying you can’t deal with straight characters. That’s like saying gay characters are defined by being gay. I got so many nice comments about my book that were like, “I’m so glad there’s a book about a gay character that doesn’t revolve around whether he has an issue with being gay, this afterschool special treatment.” It’s not one issue in Thom’s life – it’s one of many issues in his life, just as we all have many issues in our lives.

NRAMA: That’s one of the things I liked about the book – Thom is uncomfortable in his life in many ways, and he has issues that stem from how others react to being gay, but he is absolutely positive that he is gay – it’s not even an issue for him.

PM: Oh, he knows. I knew. I definitely knew – there was no question in my mind when I was that age. It was hard – I played basketball in high school when I was that age, and it was not fun! It was not the friendliest environment.

NRAMA: That’s something else I wanted to ask – how many incidents in Hero came from your own life?

PM: Some of them were painful to write. There’s a scene where Thom’s father sits him down and tells him about how gays are evil and what’s wrong with the world, because Martina Navratilova has moved to town – she did move to town when I was younger, and my dad did sit me down when I was like nine or 10…some crazy things came out of his mouth about gay people!

But then, there are some aspects of it that are universal. I had a crush on a guy who was two years older than me on the basketball team…he had a great pair of legs and an incredible jump shot, and a smile that could light up the room, and I think he smiled at me a few times, but I don’t know if he knew I existed. I don’t know if he knows I exist today! (laughs) But I think everyone has had a crush on someone, an unrequited crush or love in high school or growing up in their lives, and everyone can relate to that whether you’re gay or straight or otherwise.

NRAMA: But I do get the sense that you had a better reaction in real life when you came out to your father – and that you had both parents around.

PM: Yeah, my parents are still together, and they’re very loving about it now. But it was a different time for them. It’s ironic, because they grew up in the South in the Civil Rights era, so they were very careful with me and my sisters to make sure that we didn’t grow up to become racists, that the prejudices of the previous generations weren’t passed down to us. But the gay thing was totally different, you know? (laughs)

There are still a lot of people who are very prejudiced about that. I think my mom still worries when she hears about what’s happened to people like Matthew Shepard, about hate crimes. And that’s why when I read things like Freedom Ring or Wolverine killing Northstar, and when you still read about hate crimes committed towards gays…you wonder if those comic books don’t add to that tapestry of hate.

You pray that they don’t, but if they do, you pray that what you write adds to the tapestry that’s the antidote. And what Stan Lee always likes to say is that it mitigates the circumstances and adds a little more tolerance to the world. I like it when he says that; he’s more articulate than I am.

And when he says that, there’s so much more gravitas that comes with it. Who am I? I’m someone who’s a fanboy who’s very lucky to get some work done in the film and book world, but Stan’s someone who’s really made his mark in the world.

So when he said that, it was really a moment, and that forum we had at San Diego…that was electrifying! Some people cried! It was such a validation. We all felt like we were part of something special, and that things were getting better.

NRAMA: What was it like chatting with Gail Simone, as your list of gay superheroes was inspired by her Women in Refrigerators work…

PM: It was cool being up there with Gail, it was wonderful. I got to tell her how much I respected her work. In her book Birds of Prey, she wrote a character named Creote, who is one of the better gay characters in comics. The book was great, but I read it primarily for him. (laughs). I got to tell her how her list inspired me, and that was pretty cool.

NRAMA: What are some of your favorite current comics?

PM: Hmmm…what do I love? Fables is always really good. This is such a hard question to answer! I liked Ultimate X-Men, but it’s been so terrible recently, and the thing with Northstar – horrific! Anything Alan Moore writes is good.

As far as things that I absolutely must have every week, nothing comes to mind. Which probably means that I do need to write a comic book, because that’s when I need to write something – when it doesn’t exist! (laughs)

NRAMA: Any gay characters in comics right now that you approve of?

PM: This needs to remain private for now, but I have talked about maybe creating some gay characters for one of the major companies. It remains to be seen. If the fans want it, I’d be happy to write it.

NRAMA: There haven’t been many new gay superheroes lately…well, Batwoman, but they didn’t do much with her…

PM: Nope! They introduced her, made a big splash, and then they kind of quickly recanted her. The problem is, if you create something new, it’s hard to get a following, and if you do something with someone who’s already there, it’s also hard, because of the continuity. You know what? I’m very open to someone coming to me. There’s lots of team books I’d love to do. I love the Titans, I love the Legion, and there are all kinds of books that have fallen on hard times that I’d love to bring back.

There are characters they reveal to be gay, and people complain that they’ve made them retroactively gay, and I don’t like it when fans do that, because I think people are closeted for a long portion of their lives a lot of the time, and then come out of the closet. (sighs)

NRAMA: Growing up, what were some of the comic books that meant the most to you, and why?

PM: The ones everyone loves. The Legion I mentioned, the X-Men because it has the same message (as Hero) – what if the one trait you were reviled for actually empowered you, and you had a home and a family that understood you for it. That, and Colossus was really, really hot. (Laughs) He couldn’t express himself. He was just such a sweet, wonderful guy.

NRAMA: Before the Northstar thing, I bet you were happy about Ultimate Colossus…

PM: I was very happy. (laughs) Though I didn’t like it in Bendis’ run where he barely had anything to say.

NRAMA: Anything else you’d like to talk about that we haven’t discussed yet?

PM: Well, I’d like everyone to check out our movie, Lake City, which comes out in limited release in November. Rebecca Romijn, who played Mystique in the X-Men movies, is in it, and we would joke about how she had all this makeup in those films, and almost no makeup in this one. She’s a friend, and it’ll be a blast to work with her again someday. And we’re working on the new Narnia film, that’s going to be great, it’s going to be The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

But please tell everyone about Hero – let them know it’s out there. Books are a very tough business, and books that have a message have an audience they need to find. And I hope this book makes a difference because it’s like what you said – they killed him again! (laughs) They killed Northstar again! I can’t believe it! For every little step forward, there’s these giant steps backwards.

I’d like everyone to check out Hero to see a real superhero who just happens to be gay. If you want to see how it’s done, check out Hero and tell your friends. Because it can be done, and it can be done well.

Hero is in stores now.

Twitter activity