A selected list of people I consider actual real additional parents of mine: Captain Picard, Amanda Grayson, Professor X, Harriet Cooper, and Tim Gunn. “That’s all well and good,” you may say, “but Tim Gunn is NOT a comic book character.” But as of Marvel’s 2009 Models, Inc. miniseries, he totally is. Booyah! (And I know, this is the second — but final — time I’m cheating, and at least as with Turpentine, the vowel is an important part of his name!)
If you know Tim Gunn, it’s probably from the fashion competition show Project Runway. (I feel no guilt over this pleasure). He’s the mentor — he advises the contestants on their fashion designs and helps them get through the challenge in general. He’s encouraging and everything, but he also knows his stuff… Among other things, he chaired the fashion design school at Parsons for years and totally updated their program. He’s no stranger to fictional appearances as himself, and he voices Baileywick on Sofia the First. He’s gay, and he also publicly identifies as celibate. He’s had previous relationships, but that’s not incompatible with asexuality at all, and he’s quite clear that he’s happy and fulfilled. So, I’m really glad I can include that aspect of sexuality’s spectrum here! I’d argue for other asexual comic characters, but none of them actually identify as such.
Models, Inc. features various fashion-model characters Marvel had created over the years, including Millie the Model, Chili Storm, Patsy Walker (Hellcat, you may know her from She-Hulk), and Mary Jane Watson. And let me tell you, I love the old “girls'” comics. They’re sadly undervalued in comparison to superhero comics of the same quality, so I LOVE that Marvel did this miniseries, taking those characters and telling a serious story with them. It’s got that aggressively shallow magazine tone at times, but that’s purposeful. It doesn’t talk down to the models or give them a silly problem to solve — it gives them a murder mystery with superheroic appearances! Not the greatest comic ever, maybe, but fun!
Tim Gunn’s part is toward the beginning of the story, a bit more than a cameo. It involves an attack on the New York Fashion Museum and an entirely different kind of “suit.” With the cover to guide you, I’ll let you make your own inferences. And as if that’s not enough, don’t forget Chili Storm is openly lesbian and very cool.
- Models, Inc. by Paul Tobin & Vicenc Villagrasa (pub. 2010, ISBN 978-0785139201). This collection has the whole story, plus republishes some old Millie the Model issues!