Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Gay Thing

Sometimes, if you have nothing to say, it is best to say nothing.  
Thus, I was initially not going to post about DC's recent announcement that they would be reintroducing one of their "iconic" characters in his New 52 incarnation this month and that the rebooted version of this previously hetero character would be gay.  I didn't really think that I had anything cogent to say about it other than recycled opinions from other blogs.  Still, with a tagline that proclaims coverage of "All Things Sequential," I feel I would be remiss if I did not mention at least in passing THE story that has had the comics corner of the Wild, Wild Web all abuzz for the past week or so, especially since it is unfolding in one of the few current DC titles that I'm following.
Since the news hit the ether, speculation as to who this previously unnamed character would be was running heavily in favor of Alan Scott, the once and future Green Lantern of Earth-2.  Early Friday morning, DC finally let the cat out of the bag and it turns out the smart money was on the nose.  Alan Scott's newfound sexual orientation will be formally revealed in the second issue of Earth-2, arriving in comic shops this coming Wednesday.
You can question whether Alan Scott, a character whose solo series ended more than six decades ago, really meets the definition of "iconic," but that's really beside the point.  Still, I'm going to go there anyway.  Don't bother to look up the definition of "iconic."  J. Caleb Mozzocco at Robot 6 has done that bit of research for you.  The way I see it, there are only a handful of characters from either of the big two comics publishers that really fill the bill.  There's Superman, of course, along with the other two points of DC's "trinity," Batman and Wonder Woman, and maybe Aquaman, plus Spider-Man, the Hulk and possibly Captain America from Marvel.   Green Lantern might be considered an iconic name, but if you asked a random sampling of non-comics geeks who Green Lantern is, I'd guess that those who are familiar with the name at all would say either Hal Jordan, due to last summer's attempted blockbuster film, or John Stewart, who filled the role in Cartoon Network's Justice League series.
Of course, DC has always employed a much broader definition of "iconic."  I saw a recent solicitation that applied the term to Looker from The Outsiders.   I guess in that case, the word "iconic" means "a character who has never really mattered to anyone except her creator, Mike W. Barr. "
There has been, amongst the comics commentariat, questions of DC's motives in making one of their oldest characters gay.  To me, that's pretty obvious.  DC's sole motivation since 1935 has been, quite simply, to sell comic books.  Toward this end,  both major comics publishers have eagerly, though sometimes a bit belatedly, jumped on whatever bandwagon was passing by.  You probably remember the spate of martial arts inspired characters back in the 70's when Kung Fu movies and the TV series Kung Fu were the current next big thing.  Then there was the CB radio fad, inspiring a small wave of CB lingo spouting, truck driving super-heroes such as Marvel's Razorback. Need I remind you, as well, of Dazzler, who looked like a living disco ball on skates.  Thus, following the trend of following trends, DC and Marvel have surveyed the zeitgeist and realized that "gay" is the was hot last month.
The ideal scenario would be if DC's announcement, and Marvel's announcement that its highest profile gay character, the relatively obscure even to geeks Northstar, would be getting married to his boyfriend in an upcoming issue, were not news at all.  In a perfect world, DC would introduce a character who just happened to be gay and the response be a collective shrug because, you know, that's just part of life.   But the big two aren't even there in regards to minority or gender representation yet.  It's sadly still big news when either of them introduce a character who isn't a white male.   So it seems that instead of indicating how far comics have come, DC's big news has only pointed out how far comics, and society as a whole, have yet to go.


  1. The veneer of importance surrounding this announcement is pretty flimsy, isn't it? Choosing Alan Scott sounds as much a committee decision as any I have heard. Now DC can rightfully claim to have outed one of their oldest characters (from the Golden age no less) and thanks to Geoff John's magical rainbow of power rings, who's more fabulously iconic than Green Lantern right now? -- besides Batman, I mean.

    But here's the problem. I don't care about Alan Scott. Never have. (Ray knows my favorite Green Lantern has always been Guy Gardner.) I'm too young to have caught his adventures in the 40's (as I am assuming are most people reading DC comics nowadays) and his only inclusion in comics since then seems to be as a member of a larger body, either the Justice Society or the Green Lanterns. This guarantees that he is a character I am not terribly likely to identify with, as he doesn't have much of an individual identity to begin with.

    Let's give him Mr. Plinkett's Phantom Menace test: Describe Alan Scott's character to me without either saying what he looks like, what kind of costume he wears, or what his profession or role in DC comics is. Describe him like I ain't never read a comic by DC.

    His identity as the Golden Age Green Lantern, founding member of the Justice Society, father to Jade and Obsidian, or being DC's newest openly gay superhero doesn't count because these all relate to his role in DC comics, not his character.

    So describe him for me, Gutter Talk readers. I'll be waiting.

    P.S. DC DID introduce a character who just happened to be gay and the response was a collective shrug because, you know, that's just part of life. John Byrne did it back in '86 with Captain Maggie Sawyer of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit. In Superman: The Animated Series there was a scene where her lover was seen at Maggie's hospital bedside when she was recuperating from a fight with Intergang. The creators of the show recorded a commentary for this episode and their responce to Maggie having a lesbian lover was, more or less, a shrug.

    I guess Maggie doesn't count because she doesn't have super powers -- or a penis.

    1. I'd completely forgotten about Maggie Sawyer. Of course, she never quite made it into the inner circle of Superman supporting characters. The producers of the animated series, though, deserve credit for not changing her orientation out of fear of corrupting the poor, precious kiddies. Actually, what you say about Sawyer echoes somewhat something I wrote a few years back about the introduction of Joe Robertson in Amazing Spider-Man:
      As for being able to describe Alan Scott's character, this is essentially a new character, and I have a degree of faith in James Robinson, based on the 1st issue and 80 issues of Starman, that he will make Alan into a fully rounded character.
      DC's hyping of Alan's sexuality may have been crafted solely to achieve maximum publicity, and maybe steal a bit of Marvel's thunder in the wake of their announcement of Northstar's wedding, but you've got to admit that it has worked out for them. Even Bronze Age Babies, a blog devoted to 70s and early 80s comics and whose authors, Doug and Karen, admit they really don't read many new comics, is talking about it.
      Regarding the choice of Alan Scott as the gay character, I wonder if James Robinson, when he made the decision, realized that he was opening the floodgates for every half-clever wise ass out in cyberland to make snarky double entendres about the Golden Age version of the character's vulnerability to wood.

  2. Aparently I'm less than half clever. I didn't even think about that dumb joke about wood until i read it here. (Dope slaps self)

    Knowing James Robinson is writing this does color my opinion significantly, though. I haven't read Starman (although every friend of mine who has tells me I should) but I have read quite a few of his other comics works and know him to be a talented writer who is skilled at weaving interesting plots as well as crafting compelling characters. I'd recommend anyone who hasn't read it to check out his story "Blades" from Legends of the Dark Knight 32-34.

    Time will tell if Robinson's Green Lantern will rise above the current ballyhoo, but I still say the 20th century Alan Scoot would have failed the Plinkett test.