Monday, September 15, 2008

The Outing of Maggie Sawyer, Part I

Before Batwoman. Before Renee Montoya. Before Obsidian.

The was Metropolis police chief Maggie Sawyer. She wasn't a superhero, but she was a cast regular (and she still is, although she moved to Gotham at some point.) She was added to the cast right after the Crisis reboot with Superman #7 in 1987. Less than a year later, we got a good look at her personal life in Superman #15.

As the story opens, Maggie's pre-teen daughter Jaime has been missing for several days since she ran away from her father in Star City. The theory is that she has run off to find her mother, but no one is sure.

The above is the last panel on page 3. We don't know who is saying, "You don't know that, babe."

And the above is the top of Page 4. I guess these panels are the "outing" of Maggie Sawyer. Although, if you will notice, no where in the issue does anyone actually mention the word "gay" or "lesbian."

While reading this page, I suppose we are supposed to come to the shocking realization that Maggie and Toby are a "couple," but actually all that I got from it was the shocking realization that Maggie is an absolutely horrible mother. Her young daughter is missing, she is on a first name basis with Superman, and she doesn't call him until days later, after Toby convinces him? I don't think my daughter is missing ten minutes before I'm on the phone to Superman.

Anyway, Maggie eventually calls Superman -- although she still does not do it through official channels, instead going to Jimmy Olsen to use his signal watch. When Superman expresses surprise that Maggie has a kid, he blurts out the extremely tacky "I didn't even know you were married!"

Bad form, Superman. Maggie ignores the faux pas, however, and answers.

James Buchanan Sawyer. Her ex-husband is named after the President under whose watch the country fell apart before the Civil War? Are we comparing gay rights to civil rights? Or is that way to much of a stretch?

This is a very disturbing panel. It is possible that this is a picture of Maggie being proposed to on the beach, with a big phallic symbol in the far distance. Except that James Buchanan is not exactly in "I'm proposing" position. I think it is more likely that the couple is supposed to be a generic "happy couple," while Maggie is the small figure in the mid-distance staring at the phallic lighthouse. I am assuming that "things a proper Catholic girl doesn't even want to consider" doesn't relate to her doubts concerning transubstantiation.

Despite the theme that Maggie is a lesbian, this is the only panel in which anything sexual is going on.

Now, I may be completely off here, but the only thing I can figure is that Maggie is visiting a co-ed gay bar. The tip off, of course, is Mr. Mustache in the middle. Except that, generally, gay bars aren't co-ed. And both Mr. Mustache and Ms. Short 80's Hair are looking at Maggie. And not with 'come hither' looks in their eyes. I don't know, maybe I'm missing something.

Anyway, one trip to the gay bar is the straw that broke the camel's back, because now we are in divorce court and the female judge declares Maggie not a "fit mother." The fifteenth president wins sole custody.

And that is how Maggie Sawyer ended up in Metropolis without Jaime. Altogether a relatively positive portrayal of the gay mother. There is a real sense that she has been wronged by the system forced her into a marriage she knew was wrong, and then held her orientation against her when she realized the truth.

Tune in next time for the second half of the issue, in which we see further verbal contortions to avoid actually saying the word "lesbian."

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Blogger Alexa D said...

Actually, (President) James Buchanan was probably gay, funnily enough. He lived with Martin Van Buren's Vice President, and Andrew Jackson was constantly making snide, homophobic remarks about them. If Andrew Jackson says it, it must be true!

4:56 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

I had no idea there were James Buchanan gay rumors. Adds a whole new layer if that was part of the point with the name.

7:26 AM  
Blogger philippos42 said...

I, of course, immediately thought of James Buchanan Barnes.

Yeah, I got nothin'.

12:54 AM  

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