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dude-on-dude lust and love
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Gutterfags is sponsored by Sticky Graphic Novels, an imprint of gay character-based, sex-positive graphic novels published in hardcover by Bruno Gmünder GmbH and in digital format by Class Comics.
Finn and Charlie are Hitched
by Tony Breed
reviewed by Meredith Nudo for Gutterfags
Tony Breed’s webcomic Finn and Charlie are Hitched never delves into the darker elements of long-term relationships, opting instead for a gentle, warm depiction of queer domesticity. Prior to marriage between same-sex partners becoming legal across the entire United States, the series illustrated how homosexual couples share the exact same mundane moments and minor anxieties as their heterosexual peers. It found chuckles in the quiet quirks of the times when romance transitions to the background static of lovers’ lives to make room for the day-to-day necessities.
However, the passion between the eponymous pair clearly remains intact. Throughout the series, they lounge around the house in the nude, share snuggles, spoon, and engage in affectionate, familiar banter. Christmas is spent alone in each other’s arms, kissing and nuzzling. They forget Valentine’s Day and celebrate by casually reaffirming their love the next day and promptly moving on with the rest of their day. The shift away from “two smelly boys in [their] ‘20s, clutching [one] another all night long, sweating into the sheets” and into midlife responsibilities represents neither an evolution nor a devolution in their relationship; it’s a shift in execution of expressions.
When Finn chastises Charlie for wanting stick figure bumper stickers, complete with cat, he doesn’t snark from a place of frustration. They aren’t the gay counterparts to Andy Capp and Flo, where the bickering and insults signify simmering resentment. Rather, they enjoy the ultimate comfort of coupledom – familiarity to the point where insults can be delivered with great affection.
“It’s part of the deal. You get to hear the stories that are too stultifying for public consumption,” teases Charlie in an early strip. Finn responds with an eye-roll and a pithy quip about taking it to his mother instead, but with no modicum of malice. Much of the private time Breed depicts involves this setup. Charlie says or does something endearingly silly and Finn reacts to it with grumpiness to an equally endearing degree.
While generally sociable and belonging to a small circle of close friends and family, the duo, particularly Finn, tend toward a more homebound lifestyle. Setting a significant percent of the strips inside their house, usually in the living room or bedroom, further reinforces the overall cozy repartee.
Many of Finn and Charlie’s exchanges take place while one or both wear little in the way of clothing – a not insignificant detail. In one strip, they even wear identical pairs of pink briefs. The snugness of their bodies both embodies and reflects the snugness of their home. Light explorations of body insecurity regarding Finn’s thinning hair and smooth chest and Charlie’s weight do occur from time to time, though for the most part they possess enough self-assurance and security (as well as faith in the other) to appear literally naked (or close to naked) and vulnerable in day-to-day moments.
That’s not to say their relationship lacks a sexual component. While most instances of nudity as a visual signifier of intimacy in Finn and Charlie are Hitched are not, Breed still makes it clear that the central couple still enjoys a satisfying, healthy sex life. Stricken with unemployment-related cabin fever and anxiety, a grinning, boxer-clad Finn pounces on an unexpected Charlie as he enters the house, gleefully demanding, “I’M BORED – DO ME!”
This sweet-natured scene also reinforces the comfortable romance of their marriage that drives the comic. It’s overtly sexual, but Finn’s enthusiasm directly originates from the sense of safety and love Charlie provides. Getting laid off from his project management position and grappling with the resulting stress of searching for a new job in an uncertain economy emotionally overwhelms him. Charlie’s return home at the end of the day promises more than just the possibility of sex. It provides him with some much-needed emotional solace – the profound closeness at the heart of the comic itself.
Breed contrasts the ease and breeze of his titular characters with the hypersexual habits of Kevin, an old high school peer of the latter, and Corey, a young gay high school (later college) student who looks up to the reluctant couple as mentors. Their comparatively libertine approaches embody more stereotypical viewpoints of gay male sexual habits. Finn and Charlie’s monogamous domesticity leaves them baffled by their peers’ predilections; at times they do cast unfair judgment on how the other men conduct their private lives, though when it comes to Kevin they aren’t at all wrong in their discomfort over his constant neglect of their boundaries.
Kevin, a high school friend of Charlie’s, openly lusts after the husky, hirsute Finn, who finds his explicit solicitations deeply uncomfortable. Despite protestations and firm denials, Kevin continues to exert pressure. Breed’s depiction of polyamory is unfortunate. Although meaning to compare and contrast his protagonists’ relationship with a different style of marriage, he falls back on establishing Kevin’s open and trusting relationship as actively recruiting and entirely dismissive of the comfort levels of monogamous individuals. He refuses to accept no, deciding to treat Finn as if his refusals stem from repression and closed-mindedness as opposed to simply who he is as a husband.
Such behavior unsettles and disquiets, and not in a way that challenges prevailing attitudes about romance. Rather, Kevin merely embodies tired misconceptions about how people in open marriages behave.
Corey’s characterization contains much more nuance. His aunt Candy introduces him to Finn and Charlie with the hope that they’ll serve as “gay yenta[s]” to find him a boyfriend and serve as mentors. Eventually, he does begin a relationship with Ken Fong. But he finds the situation confining, breaking it off and exploring his sexuality through orgies. He also experiments with varying identities in an attempt to figure out who he is as a man, and how much of himself is performative for the sake of pleasing his partners.
While their talks about Corey’s promiscuity sometimes cross over into slut-shaming rhetoric, the reluctant Finn and Charlie do care greatly for the young man they watched grow up during a pivotal point in his development. They may cringe and balk at his extravagant sex parties and excited recounts of his escapades, but they also fully understand their importance in Corey’s life. Neither grew up with a gay role model they could talk to about how to inhabit a world where their sexuality is treated as a punchline at best and a threat deserving of physical harm – if not outright murder – at worst.
Such a major degree of commitment marks the one major difference between how Breed shows them navigating situations involving Kevin and those involving Corey, although both men prefer notches on their bedposts to settling down with only one significant other. Kevin, a man in their age bracket, has the experience and time needed to comfortably figure his needs out. He’s non-monogamous, a quality neither inherently positive nor inherently negative on a macro scale, but he’s also rude and pushy toward monogamous men he sexually desires. Finn and Charlie are justified in their desire to minimize contact with him, and their unease with his come-ons toward Finn – however unfortunate Breed’s portrayal of polyamory may be.
Corey comes out as a teenager, then moves on to college. His extreme transition from dedicated boyfriend to insatiable sexual hellcat comes as a shock to the other characters, but they also place this shift into its proper context. As Corey points out, sex confuses him. He experiments to find out what meets his needs and what doesn’t. And, most tellingly, he never attempts to sway others who don’t want to join him. Finn and Charlie may not identify with the methods or degree to which Corey throws himself into better understanding his sexual identity, but they do empathize with being young, baffled and scared. They know the kid is going to be alright, even if he may not necessarily see it himself for the time being.
After all, he does have two loving, dependable guides looking out for him along the way.
- About the reviewer -
Meredith Nudo edits and writes for the comics section of Dork Shelf. She has previously published interviews and commentary with Staple! Independent Media Expo, Comics Experience, and in the print and online editions of Space City Nerd. In addition, Meredith edits Speak No Evil from Gray Bear Comics, and has edited comics for writer Hansel Moreno. Her short comic with Musings artist Jessi Jordan, "Psycho Girlfriend," was named one of the top 5 local comics at Comicpalooza by the Houston Press. She holds a bachelor's degree in advertising and graphic design from Sam Houston State University and a master's degree in English from University of St. Thomas. You can find her online at @meredithnudo or hardcorenudoty.com.