Joseph D. Carriker, Jr.: Five Things You Didn’t Know About Life as a Queer Superhero
”In this thoughtful take on comic book tropes, queerness and superpowers intersect…. Everything comes together to create a real page-turning adventure in a setting that begs for further exploration.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
”Before you know it, Sacred Band builds a new reality around you – rich, detailed, with a seductive, immersive vernacular, it crosses the globe with confident, queer themes in a world of new media, new magic, and new metahumans.” — Steve Orlando, author of Midnighter, Justice League America
The golden age of heroes is decades past. The government could not condone vigilantism and now metahumans are just citizens, albeit citizens with incredible talent, who are assisted in achieving normal lives (including finding good fits for their talents employment-wise) by a federal agency. Rusty may have been a kid during that glorious age but he remembers his idol, Sentinel, saving lives and righting wrongs until he was outed in an incredible scandal that forced him into isolation. When a gay friend of Rusty living in the Ukraine goes missing, Rusty is forced to acknowledge that while the world’s governments claim that super teams are outdated and replaced by legal law enforcement, there are simply some places where the law doesn t protect everyone–so he manages to find and recruit Sentinel to help him find his friend. But the disappearance of the friend is merely one move in a terrible plot against queer youth. A team of supers may be old-fashioned, but this may be a battle requiring some incredible reinforcements.
Your Queerness is Magnified in the Public Eye
A super powered individual who happens to be queer will seemingly always have that queerness integrated into public opinion about who they are. When Sentinel — the flying, super strong leader of the Champions during the age of superheroes a couple of decades ago — was outed against his will, every narrative the media focused on from that point included the fact that he was gay. From very conservative talk pieces asking if he was truly a fit role model for American youth to liberal political groups who simply assumed that he was now a default part of their political activism, Sentinel was given no choice in his narrative from that point on.
Your Queerness Works Against You Sometimes
Though this particular point is something that nearly all queer people understand and have experienced to one degree or another, its effects are very pronounced with super powered individuals. In the wake of the international scandal involving Sentinel, Llorona feared that her queerness would only alienate her in her work. As such, she subsumed her personal identity into her efforts, becoming one of the best-known and most active members of the Golden Cross, an international relief organization that mobilizes super powered volunteers to deal with natural and wartime disaster mitigation and engages in missions of mercy, some of which take place where it is illegal or even dangerous to be openly queer. Of course, the grief attached to that past and to her super powered origins make that all the easier — there are some things that she wants to forget, and if philanthropic work helps her do that, then that’s what she’s thrown herself into.
Others Take Your Queerness as Permission to Intrude
The details of a queer super powered person’s private life become inexorably attached to their deeds. It doesn’t matter that Deosil is a very respected pagan blogger and public speaker, with a unique view about how her elemental powers fit into her spirituality and esoteric practices. An interview with her is all too often taken as carte blanche to ask about her private medical history as a trans woman and even the name she was assigned at birth, even by very well-meaning interviewers. The fact that none of these have anything to do with her calling — or with her later super heroics — is moot. Her personal queerness seems to always be taken for granted as an open topic because of her presence in the public sphere.
Your Queerness Can “Sully” Your Superheroics
Just as with celebrities, public super powered individuals’ youthful indiscretions are fodder for consumption and gossip. As a new adult, Gauss may have made some decisions he now regrets, but unlike so many others who’ve dabbled in adult entertainment, there is no way anyone is going to let him forget about that particular blue movie he made. After all, he was the first super powered individual to star in one! As a result, he knows that as far as the public is concerned, he’ll always have that one performance lurking in his background, despite what feats of heroism he may also perform.
Your Queer Activism Overwhelms Your Identity Sometimes
A super powered individual who does choose to engage in political discourse of some kind may find that work overwhelms who they are. When the action film star Optic was drummed out of the military’s Project: Seraph at the revelation of his queerness, he took up the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the American military as his cause célèbre. And though he got to see success while acting as the poster boy for that effort — and even managed to leverage that public regard into a career in film — that activism has led to a lot of assumptions about the realities of his sexuality and identity, ones that he’s not even entirely sure how to manage.
At the end of the day, Sacred Band is totally about a group of costumed superheroes righting wrongs and beating up bad guys. But I also hope it’s about putting into context the lived experiences that some queer folk have, in a way that makes them accessible and maybe even enjoyable to read about. In a lot of ways, Sacred Band is one author giving himself over to that old “write what you know” wisdom-nugget, and seeing what comes out the other side of doing so. Hopefully the end result is enjoyable and memorable, and also true, in its own fashion.
(I am also willing to admit that though I did not set out to write a book that would allow me to use the hashtag #superqueeroes from the start, I take no shame in admitting a great deal of pleasure doing so ever since.)
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Joseph Carriker is the developer for Green Ronin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, as well as the adjunct Chronicle System line of game supplements.
He has been writing in the gaming industry for sixteen years now, and has worked on a variety of game lines over those years, including most of White Wolf/Onyx Path’s World of Darkness, Exalted and Scion lines, Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition line, and Green Ronin’s Blue Rose and Mutants & Masterminds in addition to his work on A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying.
He is an outspoken queer gamer, having helped organize and take part in the annual Queer as a Three-Sided Die panels at GenCon. He has also just published his first novel, Sacred Band. Joseph lives in Portland, Oregon with his two partners A.J. and Chillos, and likes to believe he does his part in Keeping Portland Weird.
Joseph D. Carriker, Jr.: Website