Arts writer George Gene Gustines profiles gay novelist Perry Moore, a fervent supporter of gay rights - for fictional comic book characters.
"Perry Moore has the sinewy physique and golden looks of a California surfer, but get him talking about comics, and he can out-geek the biggest fanatic. He also has the fervor of an activist when discussing the dearth - and occasional shoddy treatment - of gay superheroes in mainstream comic books.
Now there's a vital cause we can all rally behind, right?
"It is an issue close to the heart of Mr. Moore, who is gay, and he has funneled his passion into a young-adult novel. 'Hero,' published in hardback last week by Hyperion Teen, tells the story of Thom Creed, coping not only with high school, sexual orientation and a strained home life, but also with his own budding superpowers. In telling Thom's story, Mr. Moore, like some of the costumed champions he admires, hopes to right some wrongs.
"'My publisher did not shy away from my mission,' he said during a recent interview near his home in Greenwich Village. That mission is a multipart endeavor to show gay superheroes in a positive light, to learn from his experiences with his father and to give younger readers a potential role model in Thom."
Because liberal moralizing is what comic book readers are looking for.
"But things work out relatively well for him, which makes sense given Mr. Moore's distaste for how some gay comic-book characters have been treated. His hackles still rise at the death of Northstar, a mutant hero who made headlines in 1992 when he uttered the words 'I am gay' in the pages of a Marvel comic.
"In 2005 Northstar was killed by a brainwashed Wolverine, which enraged Mr. Moore. He thought the murder of Marvel's biggest gay hero by one of its most popular characters (in comics, films and merchandising) sent the wrong message.
"'I thought I was going to have to stop buying comics,' he said, but instead, 'I waged my own little jihad.' He visited a comic store armed with Post-it notes, which he affixed to copies of the 'Wolverine' series (first on the covers, then, more slyly, on interior pages). They asked questions like 'Can there be a gay superhero?' 'Homophobic?' and 'Ask yourself: equal rights?'
"Death is rarely final in comics, so it's no surprise that Northstar came back to life. 'They couldn't bother to mention he was gay,' Mr. Moore said of Northstar's most recent appearance in 'X-Men.'"