Entertainment :: Culture

’Funky Winkerbean’ Comic Addresses Gay Rights

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Saturday Apr 21, 2012
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The creator, writer and illustrator of the popular comic strip "Funky Winkerbean" will make a storyline that tackles gay rights, the Ohio newspaper the Chronicle-Telegram reported.

The comic strip has addressed controversial subjects in the past, including teen pregnancy, capital punishment, suicide, alcoholism, drunk driving, gun violence and more. But in an upcoming strip, "Funky Winkerbean" will focus on a gay couple that wants to attend the prom at the comic’s Westview High School.

Tom Batiuk, the strip’s mastermind, said he got the idea for the gay storyline from a newspaper. The comic strip appears in more than 400 newspapers worldwide

"I was reading a story over breakfast about a protest by a parent group at a school in Hilliard, Ohio, that seemed to be about tolerance toward gays," Batiuk told the newspaper last week.

"It struck me that whenever I sit in classes at Midview High, which I still do, my overall impression is that the younger generation’s attitudes toward gays is more open and accepting than their predecessors," Batiuk said. "It’s not perfect, but it shows promise for an emerging generation that will bring this issue (intolerance) to an end."

"I wanted to take those two opposing viewpoints to reach across that divide of intolerance," he added. "Most of my ideas have to rise to the top on their own," Batiuk said. "In the past, I tried to force some things from time to time, and they didn’t work out as well. Stories rise up when they’re ready."

"Funky Winkerbean" isn’t the only comic to cover gay issues. Earlier this year, the "Life with Archie" comic series celebrated marriage equality when its openly gay couple tied the knot. In the issue, Kevin Keller marries his partner Clay Walker, an African-American physical therapist. Although gay activists and comic fans celebrated the comic, not everyone supported the milestone.

The anti-gay Christian group, One Million Moms, which is affiliated with the American Family Association, targeted Toys ’R’ Us for displaying the comic in its stores.

"Children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in your toy store," the group said in an open letter to the toy company. "A trip to the toy store turns into a premature discussion on sexual orientation and is completely uncalled for. Toys ’R’ Us should be more responsible in the products they carry."

Archie Comic’s co-CEO John Goldwater fired back at One Million Moms in a statement, however.

"We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone," he said. "It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday. We’re sorry the American Family Association/OneMillionMoms.com feels so negatively about our product, but they have every right to their opinion, just like we have the right to stand by ours. Kevin Keller will forever be a part of Riverdale, and he will live a happy, long life free of prejudice, hate and narrow-minded people."

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