Telling Tales
with Words and Pictures

By J. Stephen Bolhafner
Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Sunday, April 3, 1994

WHILE NOT EXACTLY a graphic novel, "Domesticity Isn't Pretty" (144 pages, Palliard, $9.95 paper), a collection of "Leonard & Larry" cartoons, does tell a story, of a sort.

The introduction compares the strip to a sitcom, but it is also like a soap opera. While the two main characters have remained happily "married" through the 10 years of the strip's existence, the relationships between the other people in the lives have changed and developed over time, so that reading this collection of strips is, in fact, much like reading a novel. There is even an ending of sorts, though the strip still continues.

Barela's genius is to present Leonard and Larry simultaneously as stereotypes and as real people that go far beyond the stereotypes. There are strips where Leonard and Larry could be any couple in a long-term relationship, except that they both happen to be male.

There are other strips that examine the specific problems of homosexuals - such as Leonard's mother, who still tries to fix him up with female dates.

"Leonard & Larry" presents homosexuals much more sensitively and realistically than almost anything else in the popular media, perhaps because the cartoonist himself is gay.

But Barela hasn't portrayed his own life - the capsule bio says he's never been in a long-term relationship himself - and that is the main subject here. So heterosexual artists ought to be able to create characters like these for comics, TV and popular literature. But they very seldom do.