Source: Netflix

You're Not Imagining It: Queer Vibes Abound in 'Dead Boy Detectives'

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 4 MIN.

If you picked up on a queer vibe in the new Netflix series "Dead Boy Detectives," it's more than wishful thinking. The characters, co-created by Neil Gaiman, have LGBTQ+ origins, and that comes across from the very first episode of the series.

In various comic book incarnations, the story of Edwin Payne (brought to life on Netflix by George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri) have been revealed as gay and bisexual, respectively, according to The Direct. However, the two – who share adventures and solve mysteries in the afterlife, having lived and died decades apart – have remained best friends and are not been depicted as having a sexual relationship.

The Netflix series seems to be shaping up as a faithful retelling of those comic book adventures, and that charged (but platonic) relationship. But, The Direct noted, that's just based on Season 1.

Just because the boys aren't pursing any amorous (if amorphous) supernatural hookups with each other doesn't mean there's no potential for same-sex romance, though. A character called the Cat King – played by out actor Lukas Gage – is purring for Edwin and, true to his feline nature, he's given to toying with the object of his desire.

"Because Edwin has his walls up so much, it's suddenly a game to him," Gage told the LA Times.

"Edwin is very guarded and well put together," Gage continued, "so that entices the Cat King. He wants to rough him up a little bit and see him get angry and get kind of messy."

But there's a little more to this dynamic than a handsome English lad proving to be catnip to an admirer. As Season 1 progresses, Edwin begins to come out of the closet.

"When you first are starting to come out, you always find a more experienced gay man who's happy to hold your hand and walk you into that world and not always with the best intentions," showrunner Steve Yockey told the LA Times.

Meanwhile, Edwin is also being romanced by a more age-appropriate character called Monty (Joshua Colley) – "who you think has nefarious intentions," Yocket noted, but who "really just tries to honestly be affectionate with Edwin."

"We're just giving him all of these different eye-opener experiences and context as he slowly realizes, 'Oh, wait, this is something that I am and it's OK,'" Yockey explained.

Added co-showrunner Beth Schwartz, "All of our characters are trying to figure out who they are. They're teenagers and they're having a coming-of-age story, just in a nontraditional way because two of our main characters are dead," while a third – a young woman named Crystal (Kassius Nelson) – is literally unsure of her identity, having lost her memories to a demonic boyfriend.

Their aim was "capturing that in a supernatural way."

"Dead Boy Detectives" is part of the same comic book, and Netflix, universe as "The Sandman," but the Cat King, Yockey noted, is something the show's writers came up with, wanting to explore that gay mentor/mentee relationship and make it "as fun as possible..."

"And then we got Lukas," Yockey said, "and that fun was realized."

The fur-wearing character was fun for Gage, as well. "I've been fascinated by cats and how they kind of just play hard to get and give you a little bit," Gage told the LA Times, "and then they're like 'OK, I'm done with you, leave me alone.'"

"I always love to play these kind of complicated characters that you can't tell if you hate them or like them," added the "White Lotus" and "Road House" star.

If the Cat King seems truly enamored of anyone, it might be himself.

"He loves hearing the sound of his own voice," the "Fargo" actor noted. "He loves the way he looks. He loves his body."

He sounds positively sensual.

"I wanted to get in touch with that," Gage added, saying he wanted to delve into "how much of that was actually a lie, how much of that was a mask, how much of that was a front."

Said the actor: "He came off so cold and heartless, but I think it came from a place of getting his heart broken for hundreds of years."

Gage put his finger on a characteristic of many LGBTQ+ people.

"From my experience in the queer community, we love a form of expression other than dialogue," he said, with his own adolescence fascination with the vampires of "True Blood" being an example.

"There's something akin to drag in supernatural things."

Yockey, interviewed by Out Magazine, revealed that Gaiman encouraged him to "do something wild" with the characters.

"And then it was just about making sure the boys were recognizable in their relationship so that comic book fans could be like, 'Oh, that's Charles and Edwin,' and then go crazy everywhere else," the showrunner said.

In the real world, though, these queer specters aren't meant to be mere phantasms.

"Representation matters, especially right now," Yockey said, noting that the present moment is "a regressive time." But, he added, "every story can't be a coming out story" and "it's important to present different gay stories."

"Some of the characters are queer," Yockey explained, "and they're just queer and it's a part of their life. Some of them are discovering their identity. There's a lot of variety and types of queer representation."

After all, Yockey noted, "After you come out, you have to live your life. So it's nice for people to be able to watch a show where being queer is a piece of it, but they're also solving cases, fighting monsters, trying to avoid death."

Or, rather, avoid Death (Kirby) – The Sandman's elemental sister. If she gets hold of the supernatural sleuths, she's probably going to force them to leave the earthly realm once and for all. The possibility of coming face-to-face with her and having their somewhat illicit adventure terminated is a constant source of fun and tension in the series.

Watch the show's trailer, below.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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