cover image Washington’s Gay General: The Legends and Loves of Baron von Steuben

Washington’s Gay General: The Legends and Loves of Baron von Steuben

Josh Trujillo and Levi Hastings. Surely, $24.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4372-6

DC writer Trujillo (the Blue Beetle series) and newcomer cartoonist Hastings (Be Gay, Do Comics) interlace a provocative graphic biography of 18th-century military strategist Baron von Steuben with poignant calls to embrace hidden queer history. After lying about his age to enlist in the Prussian army at 14, von Steuben embarks on a career of social climbing aided by further embellishments. His staunch refusal to switch sides after being captured in Russia makes him a hero and, along with his friendship with Prince Henry of Prussia, who also has sex with men, affords him leeway to pursue queer desires. A looming sodomy charge, however, pushes von Steuben to accept an offer to train American Revolutionary troops, though he doesn’t speak English. Helping turn the tide of “America’s dismal revolution” doesn’t leave him rich in funds but results in notable bonds with other men. Trujillo’s sharp humor shines throughout (he dubs von Steuben “America’s Founding Daddy”), and he does not brush aside problematic aspects, like von Steuben’s slaveholding and underage paramours. Intercut with von Steuben’s narrative are Trujillo’s own personal stories of coming out, and his regret that LGBTQ history has been erased. Hastings’s cartoonish style fluidly navigates the shifts between history, memoir, and moments of erotic charge. It’s an unexpectedly moving testament to the pressing need for more queer heroes, however complicated. Agent: Charlie Olsen, InkWell Management. (Aug.)