A Queer Art Canon: Greg Wong and The X-Men

Let’s make a canon! And let’s fill it with queer art, or queer-ish art, or art that has no idea how queer it is. Queer art is often secret art: black-market, whispered-about, read-between-the-lines art. And since secret art can be hard to find, let’s shine a light on a few of our favourite things so all our friends can see them.

We’ll call it a canon, because it sounds Weighty and Important and Serious, but we also won’t be too serious about it. We won’t make The Canon, just a canon. Each month, we’ll chat with a different queer-about-town and ask them to submit something to the canon. And they’ll tell us what that book or play or movie or TV episode or sculpture or poem or dance piece or opera or photograph or painting or performance art piece or anything else means to them and why they think it deserves a spot in our illustrious canon. 

This month, we talked to photographer and burlesque performer Greg Wong about The Uncanny X-Men!

So, what are you bringing to the table?

I just saw on your Facebook a discussion about X-Men, and that’s something that I can talk about, I think. That’s queer canon, right?

Oh my god, so into that topic! What’s your relationship to The X-Men? How did it all begin?

I heard about X-Men through their Saturday morning cartoon, in the 90s?

That cartoon was epic!

And I just fell in love. That was pre-knowing-I-was-gay, but something about it resonatedI think it’s intended to. There’s so many different queer things happening in that show. And lately I’m into embracing my queer superpowers, so…

What was the first character or the first storyline you really connected to?

Jubilee. She’s Asian; her powers are kinda useless but a little bit fabulous, right?

They’re powers that would maybe be more useful as an event coordinator than a superhero? She’d be awesome at a party.

And then there’s Gambit being super sexy. Constantly saying “mon chèr.” And he sparked my love of French men and Francophones.

Have you ever hooked up with a Cajun?

No, I don’t think I have.

Goals! So, did you get into reading the comics too?

I did a little bit. I would just go and grab different ones, I didn’t really read a lot of them in sequence. And that also got me more into art as well; there was awesome art.

I remember doing that. You’d see the wall of comics, and I remember not necessarily following storylines, but just whatever cover looked exciting and grabbed me, and then being in the middle of this action you didn’t really understand.

There was something wonderful about tapping into a small slice of a really, really huge world. Something that wasn’t specifically made for the mainstream; it was your own special thing where you had to learn all the mythologies and learn all the backstories. I also always enjoyed that that universe became very, very diverse. Like, how amazing it is that Storm has always been in every single one of the incarnations.

So, who’s your favourite X-Man? Storm? Jubilee?

I think it’s probably Gambit. That accent… I’ve always thought Rogue was pretty amazing too. One thing about X-Men that I really liked is it featured a lot of really awesome women characters.

And the women really drive the story.

One thing that I noticed when I rewatched the animated series is how much Rogue takes a beating. She’s kinda there as the tank. So, any time there’s really crazy superpowers, she’s there to get slammed up into a truck or smashed into something.

She’s the strongest.

It’s kinda weird that they do that to her, but I also love that she can handle it.

Matching Southern gentility with throwing cars at The Juggernaut.

Taking a beating and getting right back up. This expression always sticks out for me, but I remember there was this one time she said something about “being more nervous than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” (laughs)

Do you remember the episodes about The Dark Phoenix Saga? That’s when the show went next-level for me. And as a ginger, I was interested in what was going on with Jean Grey; it seemed like her hair colour was very relevant to this firebird imagery. But I also liked that up to that point, I found her to be the most boring character on the team.

Really?

Yeah, I feel like she was very goody-goody. She had a lot of (moaning) “Scott! I can’t hold it much longer!” Compared to someone like Rogue, she seemed so vulnerable and meek. And I loved that all of a sudden, she was having these dark fantasies where she’d be wearing black fetish gear and running off with The Hellfire Club. “I’m sick of living this goody-goody life with Cyclops and maybe I just wanna hook up with this guy with muttonchops and a purple velvet waistcoat…”

“And destroy the entire galaxy just because I can!”

That feels pretty queer.

Holding yourself back for the protection of others because what you’re actually capable of is so amazing, but also potentially so destructive. But maybe not even destructive; maybe just the idea that other people think it’s destructive.

They can’t handle it.

Yeah. A gift and a curse!

That brings you into this secret club of weirdoes from all over the world. It’s very queer!

When I think more about Rogue, there’s something about how everyone she touches, she keeps a part of them with her… And it’s painful, but there’s something about that that I can relate to. I just remember people so well.

And it can be dangerous for her. And dangerous for them!

Even, I dunno, some one-night standsyou’ll never forget them. You always remember things about them, even if you never see them again. They take up that space in your memory.

Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker is a writer of many plays, a hoster of many burlesques, and a maker of many jokes. Follow him on twitter @handsomejohnnie

Read all posts by Johnnie Walker

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