The Deniability of Chuck Dixon

Oh man. The levels of issue I have with this interview is long. Very long. I know what Dixon is thinking he’s saying, and what he’s actually saying aren’t meshing up. I know there are Chuck Dixon fans, and Chuck Dixon himself on the Internet. That said, I don’t have any problem going to the dance with anyone who wants to to reply to me here and discuss my reading of the interview and my interpretation of the chasm between wanting deniability and stating support for the sexual orientation or existence of relationship between two characters. If you want to write for the deniablity, then in my view, you’re not writing for the support of the existence of ANY aspect of the character.
Onto some quote by quote work after the jump

‘Maggie Sawyer, in Superman, was obviously being portrayed as a lesbian. But there was a level of deniability because she wasn’t always being shown in romantic clinches with her girlfriend.’
Because deniability is important. Mustn’t forget that denialability of sexuality is more important than any other aspect of sexuality. In fact, so important…
‘When I was writing Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon’s romance I stayed away from stating that they were in any kind of sexual relationship. You could absolutely imply it. But you could just as easily tell yourself they were saving it for marriage.’
Yup. One of the most important things Chuckles has given us was the deniability of Dick Grayson’s heterosexual liaisons with Barbara Gordon. That way, we can deny Dick to Barbara, and it’s only implied they were an item. Thus sating Dan DiDio. Double points!
‘Astute readers picked up on it.’
Anyone who’s ever picked up on Dick Grayson’s deniable heterosexuality is an astute reader.
‘Others either didn’t notice or chose not to’
Thanks to Chuckles Dixon, you can now chose not to notice the heterosexual orientation of any character he writes. Thanks Chuck!
‘Maggie even appeared on the cartoons with her girlfriend.’
They were just good friends who enjoyed hot tea together. In a deniable way.
‘I much prefer this kind of characterization over Northstar’s ‘I’M GAY!’’
That’s because Marvel doesn’t have any truck with deniability as a core to character sexuality in this instance?
‘The important thing, for story purposes, was that Maggie was a good, three-dimensional character first and a lesbian second.’
This statement bothers me to the point I won’t mock it. What Chuck Dixon says here is that the sexual orientation of a person is an add-on pack to their character. That who we are as people is something that consists of everyone but the way we would love people, form relationships and bonds with others, and who we would choose as our partners, lovers, soulmaters, and marriage partners. It’s saying that the deniability is more important than the reality. It’s detaching Maggie’s capacity to love another woman as a partner from who Maggie is, and making it not part of her being.
Chuck Dixon didn’t say ’ The important thing, for story purposes, was that Clark was a good, three-dimensional character first and a heterosexual second.’ when talking about Lois and Clark.
I know Chuck Dixon was asked a set of questions about issues of sexuality being raised in comics, and I know the context behind it. The problem is, Chuck Dixon says some bloody stupid things here, and that’s when as far as I can see, he’s trying to be supportive.
As far as issue comics and real life issues being raised in comics… look, it’s okay to have a dissenting opinion on whether that’s the best place for it but the reality is, it’s the place it is happening. The heterosexualised normative values of the comic book is a reality that is used by artists and writers to convey messages that are sufficiently grounded in today’s reality to make sense to today’s readership.
Try going back and reading the comics of the 1950s and you’ll see an alien world. If the contemporary comic books characters have mobile phones, iPods and Myspace equivalents, then they make a connection at a base level. Characters interacting in social stratas that make sense to the contemporary reader.
‘But why can’t that be outside the pages of a superhero comic? Why do comic writers have to take on the mantle of social engineer?’
They don’t, but they do have to then accept that comic books are for kids, and that the stories they tell will have an upper age limit. Comic books would be just for kids, and that market has talking ducks.
‘I haven’t met a comic book writer yet I’d let talk to my kids about sex. Why would I want them doing it as part of a story about super-powered men and women in tights?’
Because they have been since the creation of the medium? This is an art form, a communications medium, a mechanism for broadcasting ideas, stories and characters. In short Chuck, the reason this is happening is that you’re working in a popular culture medium that addresses the contemporary culture, shapes and frames stories against the current world and filters these events through the lens of Batman, Wolverine and every other franchise character.
What we become as people is informed in part by the media we consume. Comic books aren’t given a get-out-of-influence free card (nor are they solely responsible). They’re part of the package deal of content and informational influence that shapes us.
‘It’s of paramount practical concern that the comic companies guard and shepherd their franchises even more carefully than before.’
By ensuring that all sexual and/or relationship elements are deniable?
‘They’re being seen more and more by audiences of casual readers who have an expectation of who these characters are. This is no longer the sub-culture hobby that it was even ten years ago.’
Some of those more and more readers might actually want to see characters that speak to their lives, their desires, their hopes and their dreams. When I was in high school, having Oliver Queen and Dick Grayson was to have characters who I could identify with, and to use to pin my fantasied reality of an ideal world to my reality. I wanted to be Oliver Queen, muckraking journalist by day, costumed crime fighter by night. I had that character, and the white male middle class entitled and privileged costumed hero to call my own.
For me, Ollie Queen wasn’t about being deniably ambiguous. He was about being identifiable and unambiguous.What’s wrong with wanting the rest of the place to have characters they can call their own without having to permanently wear a shadow of deniability?