Many of you may recall the television series Static Shock, the hit WB Kids cartoon that was based on the Milestone comic. Static (Virgil Hawkins) had a best friend named Richie Foley who in later seasons discovered he had latent ablities as a technopath and became Static’s crimefighting partner known as Gear. What makes this 10 kinds of awesome is that for those of us who knew the history of Static in the comics, something very special was happening. In the comics, Richie Foley was in fact Richard Stone, one of Virgil’s best friends in high school and a gay teen. With FCC regulations the way they are, gay characters are not allowed on a kid’s cartoon show.
But for us LGBTQ comic book fans and others in the know, we knew what Dwayne McDuffie and others were trying to accomplish. They could’ve just as easily have easily have adapted another of Static’s friends or created a brand new character for the show. It should also be noted that Dwayne McDuffie, Bruce Timm and co. have consistently been inclusive and brought the win on POC, feminist and other issues with their other series, Batman, Batman Beyond, Superman and Justice League. McDuffie even confirmed on his website that the cartoon version of Richie Foley WAS indeed a gay character and a gay superhero at that.
Unfortunately there’s been some dissenting views on this score despite the evidence presented. Because Richie Foley wasn’t visibly gay on the series, they’ve deemed that he’s not an authentic gay character.
The following is a summary of my responses to such comments. While this summary is a bit more polished, the same points were made:
The reason why they didn’t out Richie in the series is because they couldn’t less they lose their Y7 rating (which is the most adult rating a children’s cartoon can get here in the states). That’s right here in the states, YOU CAN’T BE GAY ON A KIDS SHOW. They would’ve lost that rating and there would’ve been no Static Shock.
Furthermore that’s like arguing Renee Montoya doesn’t count as a lesbian because she wasn’t out on Batman. Or Maggie Sawyer. And THAT’S the reality we live in. The only way to exist in a children’s cartoon or for that matter society is by being AN INVISIBLE GAY.
It’s a fallacious argument because the FFC WLL NOT allow gay characters to be included in cartoons or children’s programming. So it’s not like the creators had a choice in the matter. That’s like arguing there are no gays in the U.S. military because none are visible. You either be invisible or you get canceled.
This wasn’t a retcon seeing as the character predates the cartoon. Most of us knew about Richie when the cartoon premiered. McDuffie only confirmed what we already knew to those who didn’t know the comic. But for comic fans, we knew the score.
Richie IS the authentic gay because for those of us who live in the real world, we understand that the only way for him to exist in a cartoon is by being invisible.
Because being visible, gets you fired from your job. Being visible means you get met with violence. Being visible gets you killed. Don’t believe me then go ask Duanna Johnson, Emille Griffith or Matthew Shepard what being visible gets you. Being visible gets you kicked out of your house. Being visible led to my friend’s ex boyfriend committing suicide because his parents couldn’t accept that he was gay. Being visible means you get rebuked and attacked or denigrated because in large part to avatars of straight privilege, queer minstrels like Northstar and Rawhide Kid. Being visible in this society catches you unholy hell especially if you aspire to be more than society’s punchline.
And for those of us who knew then and know now, we understand because it’s a struggle too many of us have faced. But we salute Richie just the same because we know if he ever came out on that show, his father, who flipped his shit for his son being best friends with a black kid, would damn sure lose it for having a gay son. So we support Richie because we know the struggle. And we applaud Richie because he became an ass-kicking superhero and didn’t allow himself to be boxed in. He did what he had to do and became a hero to many of us.