Marvel Comics unveils gay gunslinger
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Marvel Comics is breaking ground by introducing its first openly gay title character of a mainstream comic book, "The Rawhide Kid." Why are some critics crying foul over gay characters making their way into the comics?
Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and chairman emeritus of Marvel Comics and Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, join "Crossfire" hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala to square off on the issue.
CARLSON: Mr. Lee, thanks for joining us. You created the original "The Rawhide Kid," so I'm particularly interested to know what you make of the following panel from the new, gayer, Rawhide Kid. This is the Rawhide Kid responding to a question about the Lone Ranger.
Here's what he says, "I just want to meet him. I think that mask and powder blue outfit are fantastic. I can certainly see why that Indian follows him around."
So he's hitting on the Lone Ranger. What do you think about that?
LEE: It's really clever. And I think the readers are going to love it.
CARLSON: OK, well let me hit you with another panel. And this panel, when I read it, I thought of my own son, and what he would make of this.
This is the Rawhide Kid being asked about Wild Bill Hickok. And the Rawhide Kid said, quote, "He's a very nice man. Big, I mean bigger than life."
You get the joke and maybe 8-year-olds would get the joke. But that's vulgar. Should that be in a comic book?
LEE: You want to know something? I saw that yesterday and I called the editor. I think that ought to be expunged and he agreed with me. I don't think it will appear in the finished book.
BEGALA: Well, there you go. In fact, Miss Shelton of Marvel Comics tells us that "The Rawhide Kid" will be published under their adult imprint Max, which clearly features a parental advisory label on the front of every book cover. This is for adults. What's wrong with that?
LAFFERTY: There is a warning on this but they're pitching this as a comic book for kids. You have to remember who's behind this.
BEGALA: They tell CNN that this is an adult comic book.
LAFFERTY: OK, but kids are going to get their hands on this. Kids have been reading these comics for a long time. But the point I want to make is that who's writing this stuff? The same guy who's bringing us Howard Stern. And parents need to be aware of that.
BEGALA: Well I'm a Don Imus man, not a Stern guy. So I can't defend Howard Stern.
LAFFERTY: I'm glad to hear that Mr. Lee says he doesn't support this. There's sexual innuendo after sexual innuendo in here. The point I want to make here, we are sexualizing our kids too soon.
LEE: Can I just mention that the writer of "The Rawhide Kid," may be doing things with Howard Stern, but he was also one of the early producers and writers of "Seventh Heaven," a show that's highly regarded by Christians and conservatives. At present he's working on developing something with Tim Allen.
I mean, we are not dealing with people who aren't really good writers and ethical people. The lady just said that it's aimed at kids. It's not. It's a comic book. Today comic books are read by everybody. Not just little kids.
CARLSON: But Mr. Lee, I know for years in comic books, Carl Barks wrote about this before he died, the people who wrote comic books made some attempt to keep politics out of them and heavy-handed social statements out of them with the idea that children read them and you ought not to impose those views on kids.
LEE: This isn't political. Years ago, I did a book called "Sergeant Fury and His Howling Commandos." His platoon consisted of a Jewish fellow named Izzy Cohen, an Italian named Deno Minelli, a black named Gabriel Jones, and so forth.
Now, we weren't making a political statement, and nobody ran out after buying the book and decided "I'm going to become Jewish" or "I'm going to become Italian." People read it. They enjoyed it. That was it.
LAFFERTY: But you know what? Kids are going to read these comics. And now we've got...
LEE: We hope so.
LAFFERTY: You see, you hope so. There are a lot of parents that are concerned about their kids being sexualized at an early age. And the fact that this guy had been shy and now we know why he was shy, because he was gay.
There are a lot of men who are shy and aren't homosexual. We're sending real confusing and mixed messages to our kids. Again, homosexuality has invaded the childhood of so many kids. They've invaded Hollywood. They've invaded Disney. They've invaded Nickelodeon.
BEGALA: Invaded? Alexander the Great was an invader and he was gay. Actually, let me raise a more relevant hero, a real-life hero, Mark Bingham. I don't know if you know who Mark Bingham was but he was one of the heroes of Flight 93. He was one of the heroes who saved lives, maybe even our lives, particularly those who live in Washington, by helping to bring that plane down. He lost his own life to save others.
Isn't that the Christian ideal, greater love hath no man than to give up his life for his friends?
LAFFERTY: We're talking about -- let's bring it back to...
BEGALA: I want to honor a hero and this is a real one.
LEE: Even more than that...
LAFFERTY: Kids pass these comic books around. There's this rating on them. Kids pass them around like trading cards. It's a constant and continual pushing of the envelope. And to take this comic book, and to homosexualize it, I think parents are going to be upset about it.
LEE: Let me just mention that Marvel Comics, we are entertainers. And we do books for everybody. And the characters in our books represent everybody. In the "X Men," we have characters from all nationalities. We have both sexes. I didn't write this book. I only learned about it yesterday. But I think it's fine. Among us today, there are gay people. We have one gay hero. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm sure there are gay heroes who exist.
LAFFERTY: You're going to push the envelope with this to the point where there's a lot of...
LEE: We're not pushing anything.
LAFFERTY: There's a lot of sexual innuendo in here.
LEE: No there isn't.
LAFFERTY: Why can't kids be kids? Why do we have to push this on them? Why?
LEE: There is no sexual innuendo. I read the book.
LAFFERTY: Oh, there is. Talking about his big, ahem, whatever. Come on!
LEE: That will not be in the book. That will not be there.
LAFFERTY: But it's in there. And it shows the intention, the heart of the writers.
CARLSON: Mr. Lee, tell us now, you've obviously been in comics longer than almost anybody in America, are there any other super heroes we ought to wonder about? And can you tell us about Robin?
LEE: Well, I'm not going to get into that. But the book I mentioned years ago that I did, "Sergeant Fury," ... had a gay character. One member of the platoon was called, I think, Percy Pinkerton. He was gay. We didn't make a big issue of it. In this comic book that I read, the word gay wasn't even used. He's just a colorful character who follows his own different drummer. He follows a different beat. But we're not proselytizing for gayness.