Friday, November 13, 2009

Great Moments in Comics: The Jon Sable Dance-Off

Welcome to another Great Moment in Comics, where we examine some of the unique and amazing stories that have made the medium what it is. Last time, you may recall, we presented you with the dramatic and moving story behind The Strange Death of Dr. Synne, which surely ranks up with the Galactus Trilogy as one of the seminal moments in Marvel Comics history. Today, though, we have managed to top even that masterpiece, so read on as The Vault proudly presents The Jon Sable Dance-Off.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, Jon Sable was a creator owned series from acclaimed writer/artist Mike Grell. Launched in the early 80's at First Comics, during the heyday of independent publishing, the series was a critical and commercial success, lasting 56 issues before Grell left, at which time it rebooted and continued for another 27 issues. 83 issues of an independent comic is nothing to sneeze at and it's a tribute not just to Grell but also to the draw of the eponymous main character, a mercenary with a code of ethics that always saw him on the right side of the fight.

Jon Sable was also groundbreaking in another arena, as it featured one of the earliest (and still one of the only) openly gay characters in comics in the form of Broadway performer Grey Adler. While the aggressively heterosexual Sable was at first uneasy around Adler, he quickly overcame his prejudices, leading to a friendship between the two men that was interesting and unique for the time.

Even more unique, however, was the event that sealed their friendship: The Jon Sable Dance-Off.

Taking place at the beginning of Jon Sable #15 (from August, 1984), the story begins with Gray and Job leaving a ballet performance on Broadway, which leads to a brief discussion about Jon's original uneasiness with Gray's orientation, a conversation highlighted when one of Gray's gay friends mistakes them for a couple.

This semi-humorous moment, however, becomes deadly serious just moments later when the two round the corner and walk right into one the middle of one of New York's legendary street gangs, which were especially prevalent and dangerous in the early 80's. Just like Gray's friend, these boom-box toting thugs mistake Gray and Jon for a couple, which can lead to only one thing: bloodshed.

Of course, the readers know that Jon Sable is a world renowned mercenary and no street gang is going to give him issues, even if there are five of them. Sighing that he had just begun healing from his last fight, Sable wearily took a step forward, ready to defend them both. Except, Gray has a better idea, and pushing Sable aside he takes charge, even finding the time to indulge in a little Superman-esque tie removal first:

That's right, suckers! It's time to settle this like real men do: with a dance-off! Is it on? Oh, it's beyond on, son: it's already been broughten.

No words are necessary for the grandeur that takes place next, something even Grell himself realized at the time, because he chose the perfect style to show the action: a silent montage.

Take it away, Gray!

The result of this showdown? Well, when men dance with passion there can be no losers -- only winners. And so, the former adversaries instead shake hands, having found common ground. Because when the groove moves you, there can be no gay or straight, no black or white, no rich or poor. There can only be the universal language: the power... of dance.

Truly, one of the Greatest Moments in Comics history.

Bookmark and Share


Not as great a moment as the advent of the 20¢ font - but right up there.