Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: Quantum Leap #9

I was a little too young growing up to catch any episodes of Quantum Leap while it was still on the air. I watched a few reruns here and there but never really got into the show.

Because of this, I apparently missed the episode when Sam leaped into the body of a coroner and figured out that a young woman was murdered by her jilted, lesbian lover Stephanie (Edgar award-winning Good Night, Dear Heart). According to gay comics guru Andy Mangels, the episode was rightfully panned by gay and lesbian audiences.

Mangels had the chance to redeem both Sam and Stephanie with an issue of the Innovation Publishing Quantum Leap series. Let's see if he succeeded.

This time, Sam leaps into Stephanie's body, just as she is being released from a 12 year prison sentence. During her imprisonment, she became a minor celebrity in the art world by taking photographs of the other women and their guards.

Shortly after her release, she is quickly whisked off to her gallery debut by a wealthy patron. There she meets other prominent artists of the time, including Andy Warhol, as well as members of the early lesbian-rights group, the Daughters of Bilitis.

Sam/Stephanie begins working soon afterward with "Drag Queen Super-Model" Clarice (Clement), who shares the story of his rough childhood--he was kicked out of his home at 13 when his father caught him cross-dressing. Clement's story takes another downturn when he is beaten by police during a raid on a gay bar.

By that point, Sam is fed up with the injustice he is witnessing, and asks Clement to be part of a new exhibit on discrimination and police brutality against gays. Here, artist Mike Deodato, Sr. treats us to some strong images of a bruised and battered Clement juxtaposed with symbols of patriotism and justice. As Al says, "This is some pretty heavy stuff."

This is followed by a few more pages detailing Sam/Stephanie's journey to becoming more politically involved, a developing romance with one of the Daughters of Bilitis (which sounds like a euphemism), and a completely out of the blue fight scene.

This scene belongs in every gay rights story
The issue closes with a visit to the Stonewall Inn on a very auspicious night: June 28, 1969.

Al warns Sam not to go in because the bar is going to be raided by police, but he decides to remain nearby in order to photograph the coming violence. It is apparently the right choice, as Al reveals that this was the night of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of the modern gay rights movement. Stephanie's photographs of the riots result in several policemen going to jail and her enduring fame.

I'd say that all of this makes Quantum Leap #9 a very tidy way of clearing up the franchise's good name, but if that's not enough for you, check out Mangels' essay lining the front and back covers. It explains the importance of the riots and the current state of the gay rights movement in the US, in a very real, no-holds-barred manner.

Very well done, Mr. Mangels.


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