A couple of weeks ago at a comics convention, DC publisher Dan DiDio let it slip that one of their characters would be coming out. Not just of the superhero costume closet, but out of the gay one.
Speculation was rife, with Wonder Woman being posited as an Amazon with Sapphic leanings, and Batman’s close relationship with his sidekick Robin coming under close scrutiny. However, it was revealed that it was to be the Green Lantern as DC’s most prominent gay superhero. They’ve done it before, of course, with Batwoman, but the new Green Lantern will be giving Marvel’s X-Man Northstar a run for his pink pound when it comes to moving forwards with gay characters.
The brief given to artist Nicola Scott was clear: a big, strapping handsome man that everyone would instinctively follow and love.
All good so far, right? And the fact that Scott insists that the Green Lantern’s sexuality is incidental means that DC are on the right track as far as gay visibility goes in comics.
But this Green Lantern isn’t the rebooted Hal Jordan character that we all know. No; this relaunch features the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who was married (twice) and has children. He first appeared in the 1940’s and has since had a contemporary update, featuring in the Earth 2 series of comic which features an alternate universe.
Writer James Robinson insists that Scott will still be the same “dynamic” guy he always was. “Alan’s sexuality is just one facet of him, along with his innate goodness, valor, charisma and skill at leadership.”
While this is a positive move forwards and a much-needed leap into the 21st Century for comic book superheroes, there have been mixed reviews to the relaunch of Scott’s character as a modern, gay hero for our times.
First of all, this Green Lantern isn’t the one that we’re all familiar with. The rebooted version who appeared in the 50’s has been enduring. Hal Jordan even starred in his own movie with Ryan Reynolds as the eponymous hero and has become synonymous with the Justice League as the embodiment of the values the Green Lantern espouses.
As Chris Gavalier points out on AfterElton.com, “That’s right. Gay superheroes aren’t just secondary characters like, say, Oscar Martinez on The Office. Their entire universe is secondary.”
And therein lies the problem with the outing of the Green Lantern. What DC have done is to give the comic book world a modern superhero who represents a part of society that is often marginalized, but the bone of contention is that they’ve done it by having the Green Lantern as a part of a world that isn’t OURS. One has to question the underlying intentions behind this. On one hand, we can see it as a positive step in representation and diversity, but we could also wonder why this Green Lantern belongs to a universe that contains sibling mutants Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver who are involved in an incestuous relationship.
Certainly, the connotations aren’t particularly reaffirming if one is to look deeper, and there may even be a blatant element of marginalization in the relaunch of this character. It’s neither a step forwards, or a step backwards, Gavalier claims. It neither aids the progressive representation of gay characters in comics, nor does it prohibit them.
The conservative activist group “One Million Moms” is trying, through an email campaign “to change and cancel all plans of homosexual superhero characters immediately”. And the new Lantern has been deemed “a form of gay indoctrination for a new, younger generation”. It seems that even on Earth 2, superheroes aren’t free from prejudice.
It remains to be seen whether a gay Green Lantern will be received with tolerance and enthusiasm, but DC have already done this before. Somewhat sidelined by an independent publisher that DC bought up, Apollo and Midnighter are not only a gay superhero couple, but are married. And, although somewhat sidelined, they continue to take the main stage in DC’s continuity.
So is this new, or is it a gimmick? It’s hard to say, but what remains is that Alan Scott is NOT Hal Jordan and Earth 2 is most definitely not the universe in which we’re most familiar with the Green Lantern.
Opposition or not, DC have backed the relaunch and Robinson has told USA Today that “presenting that kind of heroic role model hopefully will be a good thing and help to show gays in a positive light for people who might be a little more small-minded.”
In the past, DC Comics has won awards from GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for its portrayal of an openly lesbian Catwoman, and having outed Batwoman in recent years, it seems that their gay-friendly agenda is only set to continue with Alan Scott as Green Lantern.