Pride Month Character Spotlight: Eric Bittle
Welcome to the eigth article in our Pride series for the month of June! Each day we will be highlighting a different LGBTQ+ character who we think is a great example of representation, dynamic characterization, and overall badassery. Check out the rest of the series here.
Sugar, butter, flour, and just a dash of hockey puck. Bake it at 350º at what do you get? Ngozi Ukazu’s web comic masterpiece, Check, Please!
With the first installment posted in August of 2013, Ukazu introduced Eric Bittle, a Samwell College freshman from Madison, Georgia. Eric is at Samwell on an athletic scholarship as part of the Samwell Men’s Hockey team. The team is an… eclectic bunch. A junior who exclusively goes by the name Shitty, two sophomores – defensemen and best friends – who go by the nicknames Ransom and Holster, the petite female manager nicknamed Lardo, and they cold-shouldered, mean, distant captain: Jack. Even though it takes some time, Eric – now nicknamed “Bitty” – gets to be right at home. Oh, also? Bitty loves to bake. Half of the comic takes place in the kitchen. And this knack for feeding his teammates, plus his general cheeriness and friendliness, earns a room in the team’s frat house, named The Haus, by sophomore year.
The series is broken into four chapters; one chapter for each of Bitty’s years at Samwell. Not only does the art style mature and grow as the series goes on, but so does Bitty. At the end of Year One: Fall Semester, Bitty finds the courage to come out to one of his teammates – Shitty. From then on, Bitty is out to the whole team, and everyone really takes it in stride. From the beginning, Bitty tells the audience – masked as him making a video blog – that he chose Samwell because it is known for being a very open and accepting place for LGBTQ+ students. He is not out to his family back in Georgia, but he is able to thrive at Samwell. Other than his major, debilitating crush. Jack.
Jack is completely shut-off to him the entire first year – until the very last comic when he says goodbye for the summer. Throughout Year Two, Jack and Bitty bond, even become friends. As they bake together for a class project, (poor Jack is useless in the kitchen) Bitty realizes his feelings – but because he believes Jack to be straight, he is crushed. However, to everyone else, it is obvious that Jack has a huuuuuuuge crush on Bitty! Throwing flour at him, lending him his jacket, so on and so forth – this boy is smitten. But it takes until graduation – and a little nudge from his father – to finally make a move.
Jack and Bitty become “official” over the summer before the start of Year Three. And it’s beautiful. These two are so. in. love. But… Jack is in the NHL. And being out in major league sports is a dangerous territory. Figuring out who – and how – to come out adds intrigue and tension to their relationship without there ever being cheating or fighting or anything but love. And for a gay couple to be solid in media is rare and beautiful.
Year Three ended in January on a fairly huge cliffhanger. After Jack’s team, the Falconers, won the Stanley Cup, Bitty came out onto the ice, and the two kissed. On national TV. The final comic shows the aftermath: Bitty’s mom trying to call him, the Falconer’s manager trying to reach Jack, their old, and new, teammates realizing what just happened, and meanwhile Jack and Bitty are nowhere to be found. But if you are new to the comic, you do not have to wait long to see what happens next. Year Four debuts on the Check, Please! website this Monday, June 11th!
Buckle your seatbelts and grab your cinnamon – Bitty’s senior year is sure to be one hell of a ride.
Do you have a character spotlight suggestion? Leave it in the comments down below!