Crisis of Epic Proportion: The Case of Alan Scott

As a young comic reader, I imagined that when you died, one significant perk of heaven would be the ability to read every comic book ever written — past, present or future. Who would be a member of the Justice League in 2086? (Betcha Superman’s going to be there.) Would the Teen Titans have teens of their own by 2002? (Almost.) This would be the earliest recorded instance in my life of a decades-long passion for spoilers.

What I couldn’t have imagined reading in the future was that super-heroes could be gay. Like me. Man, if I could have imagined that, my childhood vision of the future might have been a bit less worrisome. Friday would have been a day I’d like to have foreseen back then.

Sort of.

With DC Comics’ announcement that Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, is being reintroduced as gay, I’ve experienced more joy than I expected, but also a lot of disappointment in the subsequent online reaction. By the end of the day, I felt like scores of fans, men and women I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with in line for autographs at conventions, just couldn’t let this be a good thing for comics. What follows are highlights from my twitter feed (and some message board threads) this week. Prepare to feel spoiled.

It’s morally wrong for a comic book character to be gay. If this is your argument, I’ve got nothing for you. You may as well move along. Just know, friend, you are totally on the wrong side of history here. And if you are with the One Million Moms campaign against gay characters in comics, I formally request that you continue your boycott. Your last media rich attempt, against Archie Comics for portraying a wedding of two gay characters, led to the most profitable single issue for the comic company ever.

DC should only create new gay characters and not change existing ones from straight to gay. This one actually makes me laugh because the argument is invariably that DC should have created an original gay character, like Batwoman, whose sexual identity would feel natural from the very start. What many fans forget is that Kate Kane was a rebooted version of a Silver Age character and former paramour of the Dark Knight himself. Reintroduced six years ago (as a so-called at the time “lipstick lesbian”) to an insane amount of fan criticism and media speculation, Batwoman has gone on to be one of DC’s most complex and well-rounded characters. The Green Lantern is, not coincidentally, also a character rebooted back to ground zero. Like all denizens of Earth 2 (and to varying degrees, the entire New 52), Alan is a new character in a new universe with just the essence of the original retained. What better time to reflect a more diverse real world than now?

Introducing a gay character is just a marketing ploy. I am as happy as anyone at DC to see publicity lead to a sell-out issue, and frankly, comics companies aren’t charities. Their job is to sell you as many books as possible. That said, James Robinson (writer of Earth 2) has a long record, stretching back to debuting the first gay kiss in mainstream super-hero comics in a 1998 issue of Starman, of writing complex, well-developed gay characters. This isn’t his first trip to the rodeo. And Dan Didio (co-publisher of DC Comics) has a solid, very vocal record of supporting the development of gay characters. Many fans may not like his bombastic attitude or direction for the DC Universe, but it’s impossible to fault his enthusiastic, personal support in this endeavor.

The Green Lantern of Earth 2 is a cop-out. He’s not the real Green Lantern. In as much as Alan Scott in Earth 2 is a new character, he also represents a rich past. He was the first Green Lantern, created in 1940, and represents for many fans the height of classic heroism. What’s bad about that? I mean, honestly, when I got married seven years ago to my adorable hubby in Toronto, Canada, I didn’t spend the day complaining that it wasn’t Chicago or New York (the latter of which has legalized same sex marriage today). It was the happiest day of my life. Are we so jaded as comic fans that we can’t be happy in the moment at all anymore? And I dare say, the first child who comes out to his parent and gets “It would have meant more if it was your brother Harry who was gay.” will likely have the same look on his face that I do right now.

DC should have made ______ gay instead. I get that with every step of progress, there is going to be a tinge of disappointment that there’s still a long way to go. In the days leading up to the reveal, fans had a laundry list of characters they wanted to see be “the gay one,” not the least of which was former Robin Tim Drake. The thing is, those who speak as if Alan Scott is DC’s one and only shot at portraying an iconic gay character so have it backwards. Installing a gay man as the leader of the Justice Society of America — the original super-team! — can only lead to more acceptance of gay superheroes in the future, not less. In no other media has the big debut of a gay character meant that other LGBT characters and stories would never appear. Quite the opposite, in fact.

A gay Alan Scott means his children Jade and Obsidian can’t exist. I’ve been really surprised how many adults to whom I’ve had to explain the birds and the bees these last two weeks. The bottom line is, Jade and Obsidian (Alan’s super-heroic children from the previous timeline) don’t exist because he’s young and at the start of his career in Earth 2 #2, not because he’s gay. Gay men can have biological children too. Surrogacy, co-parenting with a female friend, and previous heterosexual relationships are all common ways – in addition to adoption – that gay couples have children today. It’s Earth 2, not Earth 1952, people.

Why is it OK to change a character from straight to gay, but not vice versa? This is a tricky one, because in theory I agree. Turnabout is absolutely fair play — if the playing field is level, that is. DC Comics, along with other comic companies today, are diversifying their stable of characters because they are so unequal in representation as to not even represent their readership anymore. Straight (white) male characters still dominate the comic market because the roots of each universe are so firmly set in a time where women barely worked outside the home and there were still multiple sets of public water fountains. If and when the DC Universe truly looks and feels like the real world in which we live today — with racial, ethnic, and yes, sexual diversity — then I’d be more than happy to see a prominent gay character re-imagined for a new audience as heterosexual.

But we’re nowhere near there yet.


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