Drawn That Way
by Jim Provenzano

Gay artist/writer Phil Jimenez's pen
has embellished the pages of many a
comic book.
 

One of the creators of
The Invisibles, which includes
transgender witches and other queer
folk, Jimenez also wrote the upcoming
Wonder Woman series (November
2000), which features a love story
between two Amazons.

"The second story is narrated by two
women," Jimenez said. "Two Amazons
from two different tribes are warring
over a holy land. What was amazing
while working on it was realizing it was
about two women in love. It was a
neat revelation. That was not the
point of it, but the result of it."

Jimenez sees a lot of gay characters
in the industry, particularly through
DC's Vertigo series. "That's where the
issues are handled the most
respectfully and realistically." (Of
course, "realistic" is a relative term when you're talking about traveling to
other dimensions and tussling in outer space.)

Jimenez is respected in the industry for his growth as an artist, but after
all those years drawing (mostly) human bodies, he's a bit immune to the
eroticism of it all. "I'm one of the few gay people who doesn't remember
reacting sexually to comics. I know a lot of people who do." He recalls a
discussion about the Green Arrow, whose orientation remains uncertain. "I
guess as an adult he's a very sexy character. His action figure is hot, but
I don't react the way my friends do. I guess I was oblivious. For me it's all
about getting the anatomy right."

When drawing characters like the Authority's gay superheroes, Jimenez is
careful and detailed. "There's a shot of Apollo where you can see quite
frankly that, well, he's a guy. Whenever there's a skintight costume, I just
draw a penis. You can see the shape in the underwear. I do consider,
'Okay, Nightwing's is smaller than Superman's.' I'd be lying if I didn't say
that! But hopefully the sum of the work is more important than Apollo's
penis."

A Public Coming-Out
Born in Southern California in 1970,
now living in Manhattan, Jimenez
came out at the age of 22. Shortly
after his start in the comics business,
he became lovers with Neil Pozner,
then creative director of DC Comics.
Pozner was HIV-positive and Jimenez
turned into a care partner until he
died in 1994.

"It was an amazing relationship for
me," recalls Jimenez. Jimenez came
out in the editorial column of
Tempest, writing about Pozner. On
the final page, he dedicated the
series to his lover, with a discreet red
ribbon. "It got over 150 letters,
including the classic letter from the kid in Iowa: 'I didn't know there was
anyone else like me.' That's what counts. It meant a lot to people."

And while Tempest isn't gay, a sensuality fills the underwater series. What
may be homoerotic is not necessarily homosexual. Jimenez holds comic
art and story ideas to a higher standard than identity politics. "If it's just
gay or just Hispanic, I can't support it. The work has to be good."

Jimenez is well known for his artwork on female characters as well. And in
some cases his characters transcend easy classification, as with the
gender-bending transvestite witch Lord Fanny of The Invisibles, which was
nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.

"During my run I glammed him up a bit, did RuPaul hair in a Patricia
Fields dress. His mother was from a long matriarchal line of witches, so
the boy was raised as a woman. That provided an interesting
perspective."

"If we can do mainstream work and touch people that way, I want to take
advantage of that. DC is a very gay-friendly company. They always have
been." When developing GLBT characters, he says, "editors are resistant,
not out of homophobia, but because they're terrified of doing a disservice
to the gay community."

Jimenez agrees there is a gay subtext to X-Men. "Any gay person can
see it. The Senator Kelly character is out to destroy these people, simply
because they're different. 'Your children could be like this! We want a
normal America!' I think a lot of gay people really respond to that. I hope
[director] Bryan Singer pulls it off."