Friday, January 17, 2014

This is Immature (but so are the Young All-Stars)

My latest "1987 And All That" column went up today over at The Chemical Box, this time looking at the dreadfully disappointing first seven issues of DC's Young All-Stars. In the 1987 posts, I always make an effort to pick a particular angle (ideally the most important or resonant point I want to make) and focus on just that one thing, leaving out any stray thoughts I might've had on the series in question that don't naturally fit into the case I'm arguing. This is for focus, purpose, and clarity, plus it tends to help me write the things more quickly if I have a destination in mind before I start.

Often, if there's something especially interesting or relevant that I forgot to include—or chose not to include for thematic reasons—in the actual column, I will save it for one of my Elsewhere posts here on the blog, because that's the space I've set aside for such things. However, in the case of Young All-Stars, there's nothing that significant that I feel like I left out of the Chemical Box piece, because 2,000+ words on my problems with the book's concept and with each individual member of the titular team is (probably more than) enough to cover all the necessary ground. However, there's a single panel in issue #4 that struck me as vaguely sexually suggestive in a really weird, distracting, amusing, and probably unintentional way, and so I wanted to very quickly call the Internet's attention to it now so I can walk away from this comicbook forever without feeling like anything was left unsaid.

As a quick bit of set-up/context, what we're looking at in this panel are three members of the series' primary villain team, Axis Amerika, as they monitor the Young All-Stars through a giant retro sci-fi screen in their secret headquarters. They've just finished watching the heroes make a big mess of their first public appearance, and now the question the villains have to ask themselves is whether or not it's worthwhile to kill these kids when nobody else is watching. Here's how that conversation goes, but pay more attention to the faces, body language, and positioning of the three baddies seen below:

Since I don't name the creators in the body of the post, Script: Roy & Dann Thomas, Pencils: Howard Simpson, Inks: Malcolm Jones III and/or Dan Bulanadi, Colors: Gene D'angelo, Letters: Jean Simek

From left to right, these three men are (as they conveniently mention in the dialogue): Kamikaze, the newest member of Axis Amerika; Übermensch, their leader; and Sea Wolf, the nastiest and most vicious member of the group. Now, I'm sure this isn't on purpose, and probably has more to do with trying to fit these three guys into a single close-up shot than anything else, but the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this was, "Whoa...are they jacking Übermensch off?"

Because they seem pretty snuggled up in that image, don't they? And both Kamikaze and Sea Wolf have their bodies angled toward Übermensch, who is facing straight ahead. And Kamikaze, at least, seems to have his eyes trained on Übermensch's groin, and is wearing what I would describe as a coy, playful grin. And I'd argue Sea Wolf's eyes are pointed in the same direction, though it's admittedly debatable. And I can't see anybody's hands. What really ties it together is the way Übermensch has his head slightly raised, with a look of pleasant calm on his face. It just feels like an intimate, tender moment between the three of them, and I can't shake the notion that if the panel went a few inches lower, this scene would be downright pornographic.

Make no mistake, I am not the least bit bothered or offended by this idea. If these guys want to quickly service each other, or if this is foreplay for a wild all-night three-way, or even if they're in a committed three-man relationship, that's fine by me. More power to them. But since they're supposed to be, you know, freakin' Nazis, and there's nothing else that's questionably sexual in this comicbook anywhere that I can find, it's probably a safe bet that the romantic atmosphere of this panel is an accident. And seen in that light, it makes me chuckle, because it just looks so much to me like there's a handjob taking place. In costume, no less! That's an awkward, uncomfortable, bizarre way to perform such a simple sex act, but leave it to the supervillains to overcomplicate everything, amiright?

Also, "It cannot come too soon for Sea Wolf!"? Maybe it is on purpose.

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