Superheroes and Political Art

August 10, 2011

I love my EW magazine, and here’s one more reason: the July 29 issue features an article called “So One Comic-Book Legend Said to the Other…” that got me thinking about the connection between superheroes and political art.

The article is a conversation between authors Neil Gaiman, who is, incidentally, a favorite of my old roommate Matt, and Grant Morrison. Not being a science fiction or comics fan, I’m mostly unaware of their work, and truth be told, I’ve been superheroed-out over the past couple of years. Fan-boy, I’m not. Definitely not.

But I’ve been aware, at least from the periphery, of the special place that superheroes have held in the gay community. Superheroes all seem to be in the closet about their true identity for some reason, and deliver justice to evil bullies. I get that. But the accompanying blast of testosterone was offputting to me, although I have a special place in my heart for Wonder Woman (of course!), the Wonder Twins, and now Super Dyke (who does not dispense Justice, but Hugs).

Out of respect for the gay community, I decided to give the article a go.

At one point, Gaiman says:

I think the great thing about superheroes is they posit that one person can make a difference, and that’s the ultimate moral glory of any story. It’s like the action of saying, “Yes, I can make a difference. I can be smart. I can get out there and do the right thing.

Morrison replies:

…I think the message of all those stories was yes, one person can make a difference, and by the way, that person is you.

This exchange got me thinking about one of the reasons I make political art, by way of anti-gay bullying paintings. Sure, on a personal level, I’m articulating feelings and making connections among latent ideas. But with this body of work, I am also making a difference in the world by drawing attention to a problem, and sometimes suggesting a solution. In fact, that is the driving force behind a work like Love One Another.

Love One Another, Acrylic on magnetized puzzle pieces, approx 2" x 2" each piece, $15 per piece


As I wrote in an earlier post,

…President Obama and Ellen DeGeneres, among others, have said that everyone shares a responsibility for taking a stand against bullying.

This idea of everyone doing their part is the inspiration behind Love One Another.

This artwork is made of 100 painted, magnetized puzzle pieces. Unlike other artwork in this show, the individual components here are designed to be removed from the whole, with each piece taking on life of its own as a small abstract painting. This shows that we all…have a stake in this problem, and can each do something to help solve it.

…Removing pieces and taking them home is a commitment to taking a stand against gay bullying. Posting them on the fridge or a filing cabinet is a daily reminder of the responsibility that we all share.

So Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their colleagues have also felt the personal calling to make a difference. Super Dyke too–although she doesn’t chase villains in a tricked-out vehicle (I don’t think), she makes the difference she can, by giving hugs to anyone who needs one. I guess we all do what we can: I paint, Super Dyke gives out hugs, Bruce Wayne builds sophisticated crimefighting tools.

The words that are written around the outside edge of Love One Another sum up the inspiration behind it, and also Gaiman and Morrison’s thoughts on the morality behind the superhero mythology:

You are only one.
 One is enough.
 Take one.
 Help one.
 Love one another.

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