Noah Berlatsky wrote an excellent article on Massive for Ravishly last month titled “Yowie, ‘Yaoi’! Male Fetishization In American Comics And Manga.” Unfortunately, it seems Kumada Poohsuke’s sense of humor is lost on Berlatsky– but the writer draws insightful comparisons between the exaggerated muscularity of gay manga beefcakes and the ostensibly heterosexual representations of hypermasculinity in superhero comics.
The hotties in Takeshi Matsu’s high school sex goof “Kannai’s Dilemma” share—not so surprisingly when the smoke clears—improbable six packs with Green Lantern.
Jiraiya’s bulky cavemen look not a little like the Incredible Hulk.
Citing Eve Sedgwick’s exploration of homosocial desire in Between Men, Berlatsky notes how Jiraiya illuminates the homoerotic undercurrents of the familiar “damsel in distress” trope in Caveman Guu by eschewing the damsel for a romp with his adversaries. “The damsel in distress in adventure fiction really is generally an afterthought; the relationship between hero and villain really is the central point of emotional investment. Jiraiya’s story isn’t so much subverting tropes, as revealing them.”
It makes me happy to see gay manga considered in a critical light. There are hidden depths beneath the sexy surfaces of these comics, ideological critiques embedded within each artist’s gaze. I believe these images have the power to transform the way people see constructs like gender and sexuality, as Berlatsky posits in his conclusion:
[..] Massive does suggest that male erotics, or the fetishization of the male body, is more common than we tend to think. In our culture, it’s women’s bodies that by default are seen as sexualized—tendencies which can lead to a view of women as nothing but fetish objects. Massive serves as a reminder that guys are objects, too, and that the way we see and the stories we tell figure male bodies as sexual, even in a mainstream culture that is reluctant to admit as much.
To read Massive isn’t to discover a hidden truth, but to see a massive, obvious fact—bulging out for all the world to see.’
Read the whole piece at Ravishly!