2 min

Rob Spittall talks gay comic-book characters for Free Comic Book Day

On Saturday, May 4, comic-book stores across North America will hand out complimentary comics as part of Free Comic Book Day.

Bank Street’s The Comic Book Shoppe will participate, with the stipulation of one comic per customer. Owner Rob Spittall, who famously removed works by homophobic author Orson Scott Card from his shelves, has recently seen an upswing of gay characters in comics.

There are more openly gay, bisexual and trans people in the world, and this is, and should be, reflected in comics, he says. Spittall particularly enjoyed storylines featuring the first gay character in the Archie universe, Kevin Keller.

“They’ve done some fantastic stories with him. [In one storyline] Kevin got a note slipped into his locker from another student in the school, saying, ‘I’m really proud of you for coming out. I’m not there yet, but I think I will be. I’d like to be your date for prom.’ At the end the guy didn’t have the courage to stand up for fear of the backlash. They are dealing with realistic topics that people are encountering on a daily basis,” Spittall says. “They are not glorifying it in any way. They are putting a realistic tone on it. They’re not showing everybody making out and having sex on the pages just because they are of a different sexual orientation.”

On the topic of race and comics, Spittall says he has noticed a pattern amongst comic-book buyers.

“If I’m selling the Green Lantern comic and Hal Jordan is not in the story, but John Stewart, who is the black Green Lantern, is in the story, my sales are down by about 15 to 20 percent. Do I think my customers are racist? No. But the numbers show it that way. I don’t think they realize that their buying habits are different. The same thing happened with an issue of Avengers vs X-Men. One of the issues was focusing on Black Panther and Storm, who are a married couple in the comic books,” Spittall says. “Issue 1 sold 65 copies; Issue 2 I sold 55. For Issue 3, Storm and Black Panther are on the cover; I sold 35.”

Spittall says sales went back up for Issue 4, which didn’t feature characters of colour on the cover.

“So my sales dropped because it was Black Panther and Storm. Normally, you’ll see a progressive decrease as the issues go on. In this case, here is a downright drop that is two black characters on the cover and my sales dropped because of that.”

For a list of free comics offered on May 4 by participating stores, including issues of Batman and The Walking Dead, visit the official Free Comic Book Day website.

The Comic Book Shoppe

228 Bank St