Blatant Insubordination: So Green Lantern is Gay…
“So the Green Lantern is gay…”
That was the random text message I got from my mother as I was sitting down to lunch the other day. My mother is an amazing woman, but comic book superheroes aren’t exactly her strong point. It took her awhile to wrap her head around the Joker being used in The Dark Knight, despite having appeared in Batman nearly two decades earlier. (“But they already did the Joker!”) So naturally, I was a more than a little surprised to get this message from her.
That’s as strong an indicator as any of how widespread the “Gay Green Lantern” story was this past week. Indeed, DC Entertainment announced that in their recently relaunched “New 52″ universe, Green Lantern is gay. But there’s a pretty big catch. This Green Lantern in question is NOT Hal Jordan, the character mass marketed by DC and Warner Bros. alongside Superman and Batman. The guy we’re talking about is Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern from the ’40s. He’s been a staple of the company’s Justice Society of America mythos for decades now, and there’s definitely a historic quality about him. But he’s by no means a major character. Another catch? Alan Scott will be appearing in the pages of Earth 2, which takes place in an alternate reality from all of DC’s other titles.
In thinking about this move, I can’t help but be reminded of something Alex Ross once said about the raping of Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis: “You want to act as if you have balls DC? Do that to Lois Lane and see how people react. Have some guts. Don’t do this to a character who’s only known by a handful of people and brutalize her in this way.”
Obviously the Alan Scott situation is completely different, and the connotations aren’t even remotely as negative. But when I look at all the hype surrounding this story, I can’t help but roll my eyes a bit. It all strikes me as distasteful.
For the record, I think it’s great when DC and Marvel want to incorporate an openly gay character into their books. Or even a character that represents some kind of new inclusiveness, like Miles Morales becoming the new Ultimate Spider-Man. But when the press gets wind of these kinds of stories, the headlines read: “Green Lantern is Now Gay” or “Marvel’s New Spider-Man is Black,” etc. But those are misnomers. Green Lantern and Spider-Man as we know them have not and will not change. Miles Morales and this new version of Alan Scott are alternate universe characters who we’ll usually see once a month in books that are segregated from the DC and Marvel universe proper. The Spider-Man that’s on posters, in video games and on TV shows is still the same old white kid with the glasses. At the end of the Green Lantern movie, Ryan Reynolds kissed Blake Lively, not Neil Patrick Harris.
And yet when DC decides to make this minor character gay, they build it up in the media as a big mystery, and then put out a press release that shows us Alan Scott passionately kissing another character. As if to say: “Hey everybody! We’re hip and modern! We have gay people in our comics! C’mon and pat us on the back for being forward thinking!”
I love DC. Take a look at our front page and that should be rather obvious. But seriously guys, shut the hell up. Oh wow, it’s a gay guy. Big whoop. There are millions of them in the United States alone. I spotted a gay guy in Starbucks the other day ordering a latte. But Starbucks didn’t take his picture and parade around yelling: “Starbucks serves gay people!” Making Alan Scott gay doesn’t make you more modern or contemporary any more than Jim Lee covering the Justice League in armor does. If you want to reintroduce a character as homosexual, that’s fine. If you want to create an entirely new character that happens to be homosexual (case in point, Batwoman), that’s fine. But don’t use it to clamor for attention. It’s tacky.
I should point out here that in both the original press release, Earth 2 writer James Robinson talked about how Alan Scott’s sexuality is just one facet of him, along with his innate goodness, valor, charisma and skill at leadership that makes him the perfect man to wield the power of the green light in the world of Earth 2.” He later echoed this sentiment in an interview with Newsarama.com. I don’t doubt Robinson’s sincerity, and am sure the publicity campaign is not something he pushed.
What makes it even more tacky is the fact that less than a year ago, DC’s New 52 initiative gave the company a chance to hit the reset button on every single one of its characters. And yet Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and all the other iconic DC characters all came back as more or less the same straight, handsome white dudes they’ve always been. The Justice League got a new black member in Cyborg. That was the most noticeable demographic adjustment from the New 52. Seriously guys, if you want to actually earn praise for diversifying your comics, make the Flash a gay character and see what happens. Make Green Arrow a hispanic man. Make Hawkman, a character whose origins actually tie him to ancient Egypt, an African man. And then, don’t shove them off into an alternate universe line where our exposure to them will be limited. Take a real risk, and then stand by it. Then you’ll have earned those pats on the back you’re so keen to give yourselves.
Front page image from badassdigest.com. Image 1 from newsarama.com.