Monday, December 4, 2017

(201) Murphy's Manor - Philosophy

Never let it be said that the Sparkle Spinsters are totally devoid of philosophical depth. 

It would be true, but never let it be said.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

(200) Murphy's Manor - LGBTQ Engineering

As a gay person, civil engineer, and cartoonist, I make an odd combination of interests and skills. Okay, it's esoteric, but I couldn't resist playing on gay double entendres of Hydraulic Engineering.

Monday, November 27, 2017

(199) Murphy's Manor - I'm Glad I'm Not a Sexy Young Hunk

Total sour grapes. I think this was inspired by conversations at a series of PRO Coffees in the 1980s.

So if you talk with me at a kaffeeklatsch, how can you tell if I'm squirrelling away your words for a future comic strip? Answer: it's easy. I never stop.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

(198) Murphy's Manor - Gay Football

There's definitely a gay way to watch football. Beats six guys with pizza and a keg in a man cave. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

(197) Murphy's Manor - Jerry Who?

Are we going to need historical context on this one?

HTLV-III was an early name for the AIDS virus.

Early in the AIDS crisis there was a push to track sex partners in an effort to control the virus' spread (is this still done?) Naturally gay men were reluctant to disclose this information, especially to a governmental agency -- so they gave fake names.

If there's any justice in the world,  I hope nobody remembers who the hell Jerry Falwell was.

Friday, November 24, 2017

(196) Murphy's Manor - Vernon Learns Safe Sex

In the pre-AIDS era gay men didn't have much use for condoms. Okay, it's an exaggeration that Vernon doesn't know what one is. 

Obviously gay men didn't need them for birth control. Occasionally gay men would use them as protection against VD. AIDS changed that, with Duchess as a safe sex educator,  applying his usual charm.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

(194) Murphy's Manor - Literary Appreciation

All of a sudden Jeff is interested in books! What gives?

(193) Murphy's Manor - Super Stud Cover Boy

Jeff's attention span to be a superhero turns out to be short lived. And he also turns out to have more self awareness that I might have given him credit for.

I could have done a great deal more with this story line and probably should have. In fact, I did in Gay Comics. 

Plus I do still know how to draw...

Monday, November 20, 2017

(192) Murphy's Manor - Super Stud's Battle for Virtue

Jeff has become a superhero. He corners the bad guy on the Disco floor of a crowded gay bar. The fight scene is nothing like you ever saw in Batman.

(191) Murphy's Manor - Fashionable Fetish

Toledo's gay men's community of the 80s struck me as having several types -- role-playing to a degree. Some were into culture or fashion; others were more overtly sexual,  parading the paraphernalia of their special interests.

So -- what happens when we combine them? 

I suppose this is ancient history. I don't know many gay guys in their 20s or 30s. I'd like to say the next generation is more at ease being itself without the histrionics.

Show of hands. Any gay men under 35 reading this -- have you ever seen "The Boys in the Band"?

(190) Murphy's Manor - Queen for a Day

Does anybody remember Queen for a Day?

(189) Murphy's Manor - Super Stud and the Nefarious Bouncer

A gay man, by his very nature is of course endowed with many extraordinary super powers ... in the interest of not getting banned on FB I'll leave them to your imagination. Super Stud has great super powers even for a gay man. But who can defeat the Nefarious Bouncer?

(188) Murphy's Manor - Super Stud's Arch Villain

Jeff's righteous sojourn as an avenging superhero resumes. In this episode,  Jeff ponders the meaning of evil. Is that philosophical, or what?

(187) Murphy's Manor - Introducing Safe Sex

Murphy's Manor started in 1981-- before the advent of AIDS -- or at least before anybody in Toledo had heard of it. 

I was in a quandary as a cartoonist of what to do with it. Couldn't ignore it -- it was killing people -- but it wasn't easy subject matter for joking. Death by AIDS -- what a barrel of laughs!

But what kind of a cartoonist would I be if I couldn't find irony in unlikely places?

This strip earned me one of the very few fan letters I ever received.

(186) Murphy's Manor - It's Halloween!

Publishers of gay newspapers liked seasonal cartoons. For monthly or semi weekly papers it meant remembering to do a Halloween strip in August and Christmas in September. I didn't always remember. In strip 186 I remembered and called the attention of the editor  to it in the margin!

(185) Murphy's Manor, Super Stud - it's my secret identity

The Saga of Jeff becoming a superhero continues.

Every superhero needs a secret identity, right? Even if it is not clear what they're trying to hide. Long time comic fans will recognize panel 3 as a direct swipe from Steve Ditko. Some things de rigeur for a Hero.

(184) Murphy's Manor - Super Stud's Gay Tools

I wonder why Jack Kirby and Stan Lee never thought of this.

(183) Murphy's Manor - Being Gay is Kind of Like Bird-Watching

Except that you're watching a different kind of Birdie. Well, everybody needs a hobby.

(182) Murphy's Manor - Duchess and Duty

Duchess tries to remake Jeff in his own image,  but Jeff can't distinguish atonal music from a comic book. Keep trying,  Duchess!

(181) Murphy's Manor - Super Stud's Powers

If you're going to pass yourself off as a superhero, you'd better have super powers (oh, yeah? What are Batman's super powers? The way Boy Wonder tags along after him, they must be pretty spectacular). Anyway, at a minimum, a superhero should be able to walk on water,  and that takes more than a colorful Lycra costume.

Who knows what magic potion came with his superhero kit? From its effect and the shape of the jar, perhaps a mixture of poppers and lavender Krytonite. It doesn't empower Jeff to walk on water,  but it makes him think he can. That may be good enough.

(180) Murphy's Manor - Super Stud

I was neither the first nor the last cartoonist, by a long shot, to draw a story about a gay superhero. In fact there was a gay superhero comic strip syndicated to local newspapers - - the same that carried Murphy's Manor in some cases - - that predated this storyline. And Rupert Kinnard came along with Brown Bomber.

While I am not aware of another Super Stud character, it would not surprise me if some other cartoonist came up with the same idea independently. Maybe I should have stuck with calling him Captain Slut.

That hardly scratches the surface. So many gay cartoonists came up with ideas for gay superheroes that Robert Triptow set aside an entire issue of Gay Comix for them.

I was part of that issue. My contribution was an expansion of this Murphy's Manor storyline. More on that as we go along.

(179) Murphy's Manor - Love at First Pinch

Jeff was my caricature of a sexually successful gay man. And even he had trouble figuring out this relationship stuff.

But he sure doesn't give up, does he?

(178) Murphy's Manor - A Disturbing Compliment

I'm still waiting for this to happen to me.

On Facebook, a straight  commenter asked what this was. 

For anybody else who doesn't understand sex -- Jeff is cruising a gay bar, where he takes for granted that he is the youngest and cutest piece of meat, and therefore the star of the show. Being addressed as "an older man" takes the wind out of his sails.

Really, do I need explain these things to straights?

(177) Murphy's Manor - PC Is a Fleeting Thing

In the AIDS crisis I drew quite a few safe sex cartoons. This one demonstrates just how quickly safe sex practices and terminology became obsolete.

(176) Murphy's Manor - Some Things Are More Important Than Sex

In the 1980s our critics claimed that we were obsessed with sex. But it's simply not true. Even Duchess has standards.

(175) Murphy's Manor - Mayor Meg the Great Communicator

More Adventures of Meg as Mayor. She learns that a successful politician is all about staying on message. Here's how the LGBT Community looked through the lens of a PR firm in 1985.

It's either that or tweet at 3 AM, when all of your staff is asleep.

(I note now that Lesbians are totally absent from the public profile. Well,  this was 1985, and it's not how I'd write this cartoon today. I think it had to do with the straight public feeling more threatened by two guys having sex than two women. Okay, that and ordinary sexism.)

(174) Murphy's Manor - An Insulting Four Letter Word

Mayor Meg has become a politician. Try as she may to make everything queer, sometimes she needs Republican allies. When the council woman insults her with the most offensive four-letter epithet possible -- girl --  Meg pretends not to notice.

Come to think of it "gay gal" would've been worse.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

(173) Murphy's Manor - Sex with a Fruit

Yes, but can you invite a zucchini home to meet your mother?

(172) Murphy's Manor - Humor in the Age of AIDS

I took the job of writing gay comix pretty seriously--like I was some kind of crusader who should gild the philosophic pill.  AIDS hit Toledo hard.  My friends were dying.  Is there truly humor in all things,  Mr Gilbert?

It seemed at the time that I was slow to respond. Even so, my early AIDS cartoons refer to "HTLV". 

Eventually I found ideas. First premise: Jeff would not be Jeff if he gave up sex.

(171) Murphy's Manor - Prime Time TV Goes Gay

Cartoonists, especially newspaper strip artists, develop shorthand techniques that save us the bother of thinking of new ways to present ideas.

One of my often-used devices was to make fun of something on TV. Leaving what's on the screen to the imagination of the reader, the characters comment while being couch potatoes — in itself something pretty easy to draw. Later on I think we'll find me breaking out of this mold to degree, changing scenes in the middle panels.

Anyhow I always thought little Timmy was queer as a coot

(170) Murphy's Manor - Jeff Blows His Nose

It seemed pretty original at the time, but now I realize there must be hundreds of YouTube videos doing exactly the same thing. This calls to mind another WS Gilbert quote from Utopia Limited:

"Why, the fact is that, in the cartoons of a comic paper, the size of your nose always varies inversely as the square of your popularity. It's the rule."

Gilbert knew about big noses, but he didn't know what to do with them.

(169) Murphy's Manor - 1985 Gay Wit

The Sparkle Spinsters (Gay Comix) join the neighborhood. This strip is a caricature of PRO Toledo Tuesday night coffee "Miss Thing" humor. With that kind of banter I guess it's no surprise the Lesbian community didn't find them too enticing.

(168) Murphy's Manor - Everyone's a Critic

This strip not only needs no explanation -- it demands it.

(167) Murphy's Manor - "Die Fledermaus" means "The Bat"

Opera seemed like a gay art form art form at that time. I was hanging out with the people from PRO Toledo, about half of whom were opera buffs. Jan Suter used to say that his favorite weekend was a Wagner orgy. By which he meant that he would spend all weekend in bed listening to the Ring Cycle from start to end.

In this episode Murf tries to convince his relatively new partner that opera is pretty cool. It gives them one more thing to do together, and strengthens the relationship.

And, it gave me an opportunity to draw Batman.

(166) Murphy's Manor - Is Opera a Gay Thing?

Hey, I'm talking to you. 

I've known you nearly 40 years. You always go to the Opera with a group of straight ladies but I've never heard you talk about music, or gush enthusiastically about a coloratura. Clearly you enjoy the social aspect of going to the Opera, but I've never seen any evidence that you enjoy the music. And while we are off the subject, your toupee had me totally fooled.

(165) Murphy's Manor - A Note to Follow 'So'

When I had a strong idea I did Murphy's Manor strips in pairs. Number 164 came out of a conversation I had with an old time member of the community. So memorable that I can't remember who it was. I was nonplussed in 1985 why so many older gay men (like over 40) were so hung up about carrying their closets around with them all the time, and having a female code name.

Usually the "A" strip was the better of the two. Not so this time. Number 165 was one of my favorite strips.

(164) Murphy's Manor - Name Games

By 1985 even I was catching on that referring to gay men by female names and playful cries of "girlfriend! girlfriend!" were out of date and not as chic as intended.

But does duchess change? Not a chance. He, pardon me, she knows what's what about the universe and a few shifting tides don't really alter her views. In any case, the first two panels of this strip are a near quote of a conversation I had at a Tuesday night Pro coffee with an old-timer who remembered the sixties and seventies.

the Tidbit about Marie Antoinette is actually true, at least if you take Murphy's Manor as a form of alternate history. You will recall that the duchess's name is Duval capet. I never worked out his lineage exactly, but I always gathered he truly was a duchess.

(163) Murphy's Manor - Stiff Competition

Can you believe that Jeff can't get anybody's attention by shaking his gluteus maximus? Could you resist him?

(162) Murphy's Manor - A new flavor of toothpaste

What, did somebody say that my characters are sometimes a little sexually weird? Well isn't that what being queer is all about?

You will be relieved to know that my characters do not always share with me what they do off stage. Nor do I ask.

(161) Murphy's Manor - Young Gay Professionals

Pre-Stonewall, meet gay lib post Stonewall. The new gay generation of which I was a part was growing more public about being gay. Gay men with technical or professional training were starting to enter the workforce. I was one. We were noted as young gay professionals- - a term which could have more than one meaning.

(160) Murphy's Manor - The Dregs Show

Okay,  so I spoiled the punch line.

I think I have posted before my astonishment for the continuing popularity of drag, with all its political incorrectness. But even I would like a drag show starring Judy Garland and Groucho Marx.  Murphy doesn't seem to appreciate them.

The Marx Brothers must have done drag some time. Come on - - anybody?

(159) Murphy's Manor - Mad About the Boy

In '84-5 Duchess from "Gay Comix" increasingly paid neighborly visits to Murphy's Manor, where he saw himself as a critic of social aesthetics -- no doubt evoking a self image of Oscar Wilde. Yes, his job was to criticise your taste.

Duchess gives a frank appreciation Teen Idols - - as culturally important as Pavarotti. If some of them are less than appreciative of their gay fans, all the more reason to reduce them to so much meat.

Do teen idols still exist? Who is today's Menudo? I've really lost track -- I'll have to Google it sometime.

(158) Murphy's Manor, Effective Cruising - Advice for the Lovelorn and Authors

Sid's promotion of his book on Effective Cruising turns into classes and selling cassette tapes. Happily, the examples of rejection are not ones I received personally. Sid's advice, curiously, is the same given to would-be authors. If an editor says no, try another editor. Prior to this I had never thought of the publication business as a sexual experience.

Welcome to 1985!

(157) Murphy's Manor - Where's the Rimshot When You Need It?

True story!

Punch lines rarely work as well in real life as they do in comic strips. That's why they're considered Art.

(156) Murphy's Manor - History is Written by the Headline Writers

Whether it's homophobia or raunchy sex is all in the phraseology.

(155) Murphy's Manor - Be Lucky at Love by not Needing it

I knew perfectly well why I never managed to meet anybody at bars,  but I gained little satisfaction from the self knowledge.

(154) Murphy's Manor - Guaranteed results -- even if you have to do it yourself

The Saga of Sid's book on cruising continues. Every character in The strip seems to have something to say about it.

Do we still need specialised advice books like this? WikiHow doesn't seem to cover this topic very effectively. And where

(153) Murphy's Manor - Ms. Harvey

Another episode in Mayoral Lesbian Love. Meg doesn't do things by the book. Anybody's book.

(152) Murphy's Manor - Redemption

Superman has Lex Luthor. The Fantastic Four have Dr. Doom. Spider-Man has Dr. Octopus. Murphy Robinson has the Reverend Ezekiel Hasenpflug.

From Falwell to Swaggart to Bryant a certain stripe of Organized Religion has equated Christianity with homophobia. Murf needed a foil to represent this view.

We see a lot of Hasenpflug over the next thousand strips. He comes to embody every scheme the Religious Right has to throw at us. And when Swaggart gets caught in a scandal, Hasenpflug gets caught in a worse one. 

Don't mistake this for anti-Christian. Hasenpflug the Cartoon Character  never mentions Jesus; he has lost track of agape,  caritas, Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi and all the rest.