Entertainment :: Books

Heroes With Hardons

by Steve Weinstein
Contributor
Tuesday Feb 21, 2012
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Patrick Fillion, like millions of gay men, has always been inspired by comic books. OK, turned on. Unlike the rest of us, however, he did something about it. He founded Class Comics, which gives expression to the hidden meaning behind the "straight" (ironic quotes) comics.

In his introduction to "Heroes With Hardons" he oddly doesn’t discuss what I thought would be the obvious point of reference for most gay men. Let’s face it: We all began by fantasizing about those phenomenally ripped and muscular DC stars like Superman.

If anything, the DC Comics writers have been riffing on the homoeroticism of their work for decades, with the live-in situation of Batman and his young, cute sidekick Robin. Intentional? Or not? That’s been a question that scholars, right-wing Christians and gay activists have been debating nearly as long.

Whatever. What Fillion and his stable of extremely gifted artists, so well shown off in this handsome collection, have done is to take our unfilled fantasies and filled them, with some extremely well-filled-out men of various stripes. Generally, the characters look like Superman without his leotard, and, as the title implies, with his super-huge flag usually flying at full staff.

There’s a nice riff on frat-boy initiations that gives us a world in which super-muscular college students are all concentrating on each other instead of their schoolwork. This has fed some great porn, including HotHouse’s "Pledgemaster," but it’s still fun to see the spin that artist Joseph Hawk and writer Robert Fraser give it.

It also, like nearly all the comics here, is multi-ethnic, a real improvement on most DVD porn, which remains all-too monochromatic; Even the most outrageous fantasies, such as Johny Murdoc’s story, illustrated by T.J. Wood and Liz Ventura (nice to see a woman in there!).

Like many (if not most) of the stories in this anthology, the plot of "Crash Course" involves a "Flash Gordon"-type futuristic space or mythological world. Inevitably, the hero is captured and subjected to some "torture" that always involves a lot of hot sex with multiple partners.


Turned on by ... a Cartoon?

One of the disconnects that I love about this book is what a turn-on the pictures are. Part of this is because the men here can be so idealized, so absolutely perfect (not that some of the physique models in other books from publisher Bruno Gmünder aren’t as muscular and defined, but that’s another review).

Part of it is the situation in which they find themselves. And a lot of it is the way the artists riff on those ultra-tight super-hero costumes, like Eric Mars here. By the way, like Marvel and DC heroes, these guys are almost uniformly smooth, although there are a few manscaped bodies.


Different Styles

Having various artists work on their individual projects allows Fillion also to vary the styles. In "Angelface," Benoit Prevot uses shades of a single color, red, to give the feeling of a mezzotint lithograph or print, that fits the time and place, which I took to be Edwardian London.

in ’Brothers to Dragons," seen here, Carlos Garcia also uses brown shades to give a feel for the outdoors. Where there’s green, it’s used sparingly to convey freshness after the hot indoor sex just shown between a young white guy and an older black man.

In his cartoon series "Sworn," Silvano appropriates the well-known homoerotic Japanese anime. It perfectly fits his two young lovers.


Ongoing Stories

As befits an anthology, the stories here are ongoing in their comic-book form. As with mainstream comics, the stories are self-contained. But in most cases, I wanted to know the backstory, as well as what happens next.


It’s difficult in one review to encompass the breadth and scope of the artists in Fillion’s stable (which include Fillion himself). The situations make use of everything from Greek mythology to low-rent pro wrestling.

Anyone who recalls first realizing his sexuality from looking at comics will have a lot of fun with this book. And that, of course, includes all of us.

Heroes With Hardons:
The Big Book of Class Comics
Edited by Patrick Fillion
144 pages, full color, thick paper stock, excellent color reproduction
$44 hardcover
Published by Bruno Gmünder

by Edited by Patrick Fillion

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early ’80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).

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