Monday, February 21, 2011

Obituary: Perry Moore

Perry Moore, with
partner Hunter Hill
It is with great sadness that we note the passing this week of Perry Moore, 39, author of the groundbreaking 2007 book Hero, which featured a gay superhero as its lead character.

On Feb. 17, he was discovered unconscious by his partner, Hunter Hill, in the bathroom of their home in New York City. While the official cause of death is yet to be determined by the medical examiner's office, there has been some speculation in the press that it was caused by an overdose of OxyContin which he had been taking for pain resulting from severe problems with his back and knee. Despite this speculation, those who knew him best have denied that Moore was given to the misuse of drugs. 

Moore was also the executive producer of the very successful Chronicles of Narnia series of movies. He was instrumental in obtaining the rights to the novels from the estate of C.S. Lewis (despite Lewis' stated desire that the novels never be filmed) and was in the process of putting together the financing for the fourth film in the series, The Magician's Nephew, at the time of his death. The three movies completed so far, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader have combined combined ticket sales of over $1.5 billion worldwide.

Police are not at this time considering foul play in his death.

The Birth of a Hero

In 1992, Northstar, one of the lead characters in Marvel comics' Alpha Flight came out of the closet, prompting The New York Times to editorialize, "Mainstream culture will one day make its peace with gay Americans. When that time comes, Northstar's revelation will be seen for what it is: a welcome indicator of social change." But in 2005, Marvel killed off Northstar, murdered by the X-Men's Wolverine.

Moore was incensed by the murder of Marvel’s biggest gay hero by one of its most popular characters. "I thought I was going to have to stop buying comics," he said. Instead, inspired by Gail Simone's Web site, Women in Refrigerators, he compiled his own list, detailing more than 60 gay and lesbian comic book characters who have been tortured, raped, disemboweled, decapitated, had their genitalia disfigured or removed, or retroactively "converted" to heterosexuality. "Bad things do happen to all people," he asked. "But are there positive representations of gay characters to counterbalance these negative ones?"

The answer, he felt was no. He set out to create his own positive gay character, Thom Creed, a high school basketball star, whose father is a former masked crimefighter. Thom must keep his powers a secret, for fear of further disgracing his father and risking his community's homophobia.

"I have always been enthralled with comic books and superheroes, and I've always believed there should be a gay superhero. Not as a joke, not as a supporting character, not as a victim, not as a token, but as a real front-and-center hero," Moore wrote. "Like most young people, I grew up feeling alienated and different--for very specific reasons in my case--in a place that didn't value differences. I also have this borderline-crazy belief in the power of literature to change the universe. So I'd always wanted to tell this story."

Critical reception to Hero was mixed. Publishers Weekly wrote, "The novel misses its mark, with an abundance of two-dimensional characters and contrived situations... While some may be glad to see a gay hero come out of the closet just in time to save the world, others may wish the situations felt less clich├ęd." The Advocate wrote, "Hero is a quick, at times shallow, but satisfying novel, the kind we all wanted while growing up and hopefully   the first in a new genre of young adult literature." Hero went on to win the Lambda Literary Award as as the best LGBT Children's/Young Adult novel of 2007.

At the time of the Lambda Award, Moore announced, "It looks like we’re going to do a TV series. There were two networks that we pitched, and we got two offers." Late in 2008, Variety confirmed that Moore was developing Hero as a television production for the Showtime cable network in partnership with Marvel legend Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four. As Lee said, "This is gonna be a winner. I want in!"

Showtime later pulled out of the project. Lee wrote to his fans, "Showtime finally didn’t commit and we’re now exploring our options... Stayed turned for further developments. Excelsior!"

Moore wrote, "Hero will see its day onscreen... I’m not sure how or where or who will make it possible, but like all the best heroes, you have to have faith. And when it does, it will be another step forward. And some folks will think, 'Damn, it’s about time someone thought of doing that.'"

Moore's family has said that he was in discussions with the Starz network for a TV film adaptation of Hero. Moore had also told The New York Times that he planned on writing a series of book sequels featuring Thom Creed. "There’s a lot left to tell in the future books." Sadly, while we may still see an adaptation of Hero at some point in the future, there will be no more new installments coming from this gifted young man.


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