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 new...er...whatever 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.