Just in time for Dallas Comic Con, local gay comedian — and out-and-proud superhero comic book junkie — Steven Jay Crabtree talks about going up, up and away with nerd culture
Comic books are all grown up now — just like their fan base. The heroes are more complex, the plot lines rival any daytime soap, and — let’s face it — everyone is kind of hot. Muscles, cleavage, tights, drama: It’s like an LGBT dream that, for once, doesn’t take place on Bravo.
But is that the only appeal? The link between gay readers and the comic book world is a strong one, but is there a gay contingent that heads to events like this weekend’s Dallas Comic Con 13?
That’s a big ol’ yes for Steven Jay Crabtree — and it’s not just because of all the beef and beauty.
"Comic books parallel the gay world by their sense of community and their own language. They even have their own words for themselves: metahuman," Crabtree says.
Popular for his comedy drag show "Dysfunctional Divas" at the Pocket Sandwich Theater, Crabtree is an avid comic book reader. And while Crabtree is naturally a funny man, when it comes to comics, he turns dead serious.
"I’ve been reading comics since I was about 2. They really are our modern day mythology," he says.
Now approaching his 40s, Crabtree still reads comics with ardent fervor. Growing up with Wonder Woman (his favorite), Batman and Superman, he not only sees these as iconic pop culture figures, but almost as friends.
"I love seeing what they’ll say and do. It’s interesting to see them joking in a cafÃ©. I’ll laugh out loud. Or I’ll read a comic and burst into tears," he says.
He recalls one issue where Superman proudly displays his heroic pet, Krypto. "OK, it’s a dog in a cape from Krypton that has heat vision but I couldn’t help being weepy and thinking ‘That dog is so sweet and Superman loves him so much!’"
The parallel between comics and gay readers is a given. Hot muscle guys in tights and long-legged Amazons in bikinis is the first indication. But when heroes suffer through identity crises, prejudices and even discrimination, something sounds a little too familiar. So how do these Spandex-clad heroes speak to Crabtree as a gay man?
"I’m not sure. I appreciate when comics are gay-friendly and supportive. Even though I’m not much a Marvel reader, which is one thing they’ve touched on with mutants and the X-Men. How much more parallel can you get with homosexuality and mutants? It definitely translates," he says.
He knows his love of Wonder Woman doesn’t come as a surprise: She inspires him both onstage and off. One of his characters in "Divas" twirls into the heroine and hilariously displays feats of strength by lifting a chair. At the same time, the Amazon princess touches Crabtree on a deeper personal level.
"Wonder Woman really speaks to me. For one thing, she has magic jewelry, which is awesome. She wants peace so bad even if she has to bust ass to get it. Her basic themes of good apply to my life still after all these years," he says.
But enough about the girls.
"Spider-Man is one of my superhero crushes. He’s so funny. Dick Grayson, the original Robin, is grown now. It’s great to see a character grow and be so hot. Dick is now wearing the Batman costume and it’s soooo sexy. Another hot one is Red Arrow. He’s kind of a rogue and a womanizer but you gotta love that. Those are my big crushes," he says.
But even with his crushes and rabid enthusiasm, Crabtree won’t be at Comic Con — he’ll be working.
"I’ve never been to one. Do you think it would be weird to ask your new boyfriend to take you on a date to Comic Con?" he asks.
It would make the date a lot more interesting, that’s for sure.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 14, 2009.