Celine Dion, Volare, Nana Mouskori, Katrina & the Waves, and, most of all, ABBA. And this year: the hard-rock band Lordi, whose lead singer, Mr. Lordi, creates his own monster-inspired costumes with plastic skulls, reindeer fur, etc.
For those of you who haven't guessed, today's topic is the Eurovision Grand Prix (or Eurovision Song Contest). For 50 years, the other side of the world has gotten together and tried to find a really good song that they can play on their radios until blood comes out of their ears. As of May 20, dateline Athens, that song will be "Hard Rock Hallelujah" by the Finnish band Lordi. Yes, they had European Idol a long, long time before Kelly Clarkson. And it's a broadcast hit from Egypt to Ireland. For crying out loud, the Ukrainians hosted it last year and opened their borders so that fans from participating countries could come and go as they pleased. Try that with Simon Cowell's dressing room some time.
This is not an amateur contest. Participating countries are allowed to submit one song (selected by any means available; Serbia & Montenegro were banished for an inability to select a song), which is then performed by a musician or group who do not have to be from the originating country (i.e., Canadian Celine Dion). Each country ranks everybody else's songs through two or so rounds and a winner is selected. Fame and fortune follow. Nowadays, you can visit www.eurovision.tv and follow the results from anywhere on the planet. You can also hear snippets of the songs or buy the complete set of entries, should you need to know what happens when good songs get writ large.
--- Craig Brownlie
Of capes and closets
Last week news media from the New York Times to the Associated Press got all excited over the fact that DC's soon-to-appear Batwoman is going to be *gasp!* a lesbian. Not for nothing, national media, but comics have been featuring gay superheroes for years. Here are a few members of the super set that have tipped the Kinsey scale for years.
Northstar was the first semi-major character to have an official coming-out issue. It happened in the early '90s' Alpha Flight No. 106, as the hyper-fast member of the titular Canadian super-team finally confirmed what had been hinted at for years. Since then, Northstar has gone on to join the ever-popular X-Men, and then die and come back to life as a bad guy (these kinds of things happen all the time to X-Men), but he is rumored to be making a comeback soon.
Apollo and Midnighter
In the late '90s comics, were a fairly dark place, so creator Warren Ellis created this duo as very thinly veiled, dark versions of Superman and Batman. They are ruthless in their fight against crime, over-the-top in their violence, and a very out and proud gay couple. Later this year Midnighter will get his own series, making him possibly the first out gay male superhero to do so.
Anyone who saw the recently released X-Men: The Last Stand probably noticed the huge metal dude hanging around Wolverine and Co. That's Colossus. The movie version is probably straight, and the traditional version is, too. But in the Ultimate Universe --- a line of comics that streamlined Marvel's complicated history --- Colossus is most definitely that way. He harbored a not-so-secret crush on Wolvie, but recently took Ultimate Northstar (yep, him again) to the prom. Awwww.
A few years back Marvel pulled sharp-shooting Western hero Rawhide back in the spotlight with the tongue-in-cheek mini-series Slap Leather, which revealed that Raw was more than a little gay. The story was frankly awful, reducing any possibility for legitimate commentary on what it was like to be a gay gunslinger in the Wild West to lame jokes about limp wrists. But he broke the cowboy mold long before Brokeback Mountain.
--- Eric Rezsnyak