My earlier post on historical representations of gays in the comics garnered many interesting comments and responses. I wanted to take an opportunity to point out a few of them and also make some further notes on the topic.
1. Robert Boyd has a very interesting post pointing out that in his earliest comic strip incarnation in the 1930s, Popeye was shown to be an active and enthusiastic cross-dresser. As Boyd writes, “as I was reading the most recent Popeye volume (reprinting strips from December 1933 to July 1935), I came across something weird. Cartoonist E.C. Segar repeatedly has Popeye wearing women’s clothes–and liking it.” I would highly recommend a look at Boyd’s post which is heavily illustrated. I would only add to Boyd’s comments that Krazy Kat, who can easily change genders at will, is another example of a sympathetic early comic strip character who cheerfully defied heteronormative gender roles.
3. Another possible example of an early gay character is a bit player in the May 20 1906 episode of George McManus’s Nisby the Newsboy, a strip that parodied Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo. In the McManus strip, a rough looking character dressed up in a ballet outfit describes himself as “a real fairy.”
4. Yet another early comics gender bender: a fey bohemian from A.D. Condo’s Everett True strip of September 14, 1915, who receives a ribbing for his effeminate ways.