Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top 10 Queer Comic Book Friendships

The trope of the gay/queer best friend is a time-honored tradition in practically all forms of media, and comics are no exception.  In fact, comic books tend to do a better job with their GBFs than most movies or TV shows, which often go for the cheap laughs of stereotypes and tokenism.

I still love you, Jack.
With that in mind, here is my list of the top ten queer besties in comics.

10. Arnie Roth 

Captain America #270
Arnie was Steve Rogers' best friend growing up.  Roth would stand up for his smaller friend when other kids bullied him, and his family helped raise Steve after his father died.  After Steve received the super-soldier serum and became Captain America, the two friends drifted apart.  As a teenager, Arnie dated girls (his nickname was "Swinging Arnie"), but when he came out to Steve while also asking for help rescuing his partner Michael, Steve immediately supported him.

Of course, it turned out Arnie was setting Captain America up to pay off some debts and got Michael kidnapped in the process.  After rescuing the couple, Steve forgives Arnie, who went on to help Captain America out a few times and working as an operator for his hotline.  He may not have been a great friend later in life, but his importance in Cap's childhood cements his position on the best besties list.

9. Grey Adler

Sable #31
Grey is the GBF and roommate of Myke Blackmon, the love-interest of mercenary protagonist Jon Sable.  Sable initially thought that the two were dating and was a little upset to learn the truth.  After spending time together, though, Grey and Jon became friends, even going to see ballet together.

Grey could be a little catty at times, but he was a loyal friend and once saved Sable from a gang by using his incredible dance powers.  Or something.

Sable #15

 8.  Ray Monde

Hellblazer #3
Oh Ray Monde, one of my favorite queer characters in all of comics.  He runs a clippings agency that provides John Constantine with up-to-date news on London's weird goings-on.  He's also one of Constantine's few friends.  Unfortunately for Ray, it's never a good idea to be one of Constantine's friends, and he doesn't get a whole lot of page time before meeting an untimely end.  Before that, though, he got in enough quips and displays of kindness and bravery to make him an indispensable BFF.

7.  Extrano (Gregorio De La Vega)

The New Guardians #1
Confession: I am a bit of an Extrano apologist.  I know he's chock-full of stereotypical mannerisms and phrases, The New Guardians was never a very good series, and it spread potentially damaging miss-information about HIV/AIDS.  On the other hand...DC was at least trying?  

I'll stay off of my Extrano soapbox for now, and just say that he was the quintessential gay best friend.  He was the calm, compassionate voice of the Guardians--always ready to provide a bit of wisdom or a shoulder to cry on.  This was especially true after the Hemo-Goblin's attack left some of the team HIV+.  He goes with Jet and Harbinger to support groups, and the three vow to support each other no matter what was to come.  Who could ask for a better friend than that?

6.  Pied Piper (Hartley Robert Rathaway)

Flash #53
Piper is another favorite of mine.  From his Link-like costume to his trademark flute, he is just a really fun character and one of the first to actually identify as gay rather than just being coded as such.  He flips back and forth a few times in the DC continuity between being a hero and a "villain" without ever becoming a cliched anti-hero.  Through it all, his friendship with Wally West, the third Flash, remains constant.  It took the Flash a few issues to get used to having a gay friend, but once he did, the duo became steadfastly loyal to one another, even everyone else was against them.

5.  Wanda

Sandman #32
Fun fact I recently discovered: Sandman is a little terrible to its queer characters.  I love the series so much and was happy enough just to see queer people in it that I kind of glossed over the fact that Neil Gaiman hadn't really gotten the hang of writing them yet.  

Still, Sandman has a number of characters it's hard to not love, including Wanda.  She's a transwoman who's friends with Barbie, a former co-resident of Rose Walker and the star of the "A Game of You" story arc.  Her standout characteristic is that, standing next to Rose, she feels like a real person; she's a New Yorker, likes shopping beyond her means, and is incapable of making a decent cup of coffee.  When everyone else gets caught up in magic and dream-walking, Wanda is left alone (through the power of transphobia?) with a dead guy's face nailed to the wall to defend Barbie's body, which she does, despite having every reason to freak out and run away.  She's tough and loyal, remaining with her friend till the bitter end.

4. Alysia Yeow

Batgirl #19
Okay, so I don't really know a whole lot about Alysia.  As much as I love Gail Simone for bringing more visibility to women and queer folk in comics, I kind of don't like anything she has done so far (sorry!).  Still, I would be remiss if I failed to include a spot on this list for Batgirl Barbara's bestie.  The two met when Barbara was looking on "Greg's list" for an apartment and eventually grew to be close friends.  They got even closer after Barbara's psychotic brother James started hitting on Alysia and pulled her into Barbara's caped-crusader life.  It's a good thing for Batgirl that Alysia knows a thing or two about keeping secrets.  After Babs confessed all, Alysia came out to her as trans and sealed their friendship.

3. Agent 355

Y: The Last Man #11
I have tried to keep main characters out of this list, as I feel like being in the spotlight makes them less of a typical queer best friend.  I couldn't help but include the most bad ass friend to ever grace a comic book or be saddled to a bumbling breeder:  Agent 355. Quite likely the most deadly person left on the planet after the death of man-kind, 355 gets the unenviable task of shepherding Yorrick around the globe.  She saves his life countless times, often in spite of him, and stays his friend even when he's an insensitive, childish dick (which he is...a lot). 

After a while, their relationship grows from its formal agent/mission beginnings to real love, even if 355 will never get any of Yorrick's pop culture references.  

2.  Wallace Wells

Scott Pilgrim #1
Wallace is the cleaner, smarter, wealthier, and better-dressed roommate of titular hero, Scott Pilgrim.  He's also a member of that rare breed: a queer comic book character with a sex life. Scott is (mostly) totally fine hearing and seeing Wallace's romantic side, so we the readers get to hear about Wallace's boyfriends and see him making out with strange men.  These dudes are close as close can be, from sharing a futon every night to Wallace helping train Scott to fight out his girlfriend's evil ex-boyfriends.  Yeah, that kind of close.

He may get a little flaky at times, which keeps him from the top spot, but Wallace Wells is still the coolest friend a hetero could hope for.

1.  Hopey

Okay, this is cheating again, I know.  Hopey is undoubtedly Maggie's best friend in the entire universe of Love & Rockets, but she is also often in love with her.  It gets complicated and ugly and snotty, but through the craziness and all of Maggie's ex- and ex-ex-boyfriends, Hopey remains.  She's tough, in a band, and a total punk.  Best of all, she is always willing to stand up for the somewhat hapless Maggie.

And that's why Hopey is at the top of this pile:  she's earned the spot a hundred times over and would probably kick the shit of anyone above her.



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