- Category: Comicology
- Created on Monday, 11 June 2012 17:41
- Written by Marco Sumayao
- Hits: 1857
I was playing a video game one evening when my dad walked up to me and said, “Did you know Green Lantern is gay now?” By then, it was already a few days after the news broke about Alan Scott’s new sexual orientation, and being the nerd I am, I was quick to inform him that it wasn’t the character Ryan Reynolds played in the movie. I understood how he could’ve been misinformed, though, since all the headlines were saying “Green Lantern Comes Out of Closet” in some form or other. Even the Examiner contributed to the confusion, combining a similar headline with a poster of the film.
Also, "Justin Society"?
That’s what irked me about the whole thing. Alan Scott turning gay was clearly a publicity stunt timed around Obama’s public support of same-sex marriage, and it was sensationalized to a ridiculous degree. It wasn’t so much the news that his sexual preference was rebooted along with most of the DC Universe, but the way DC handled the development. They teased back in May that an “iconic character will reveal he is gay”, and speculation spread like wildfire. People left and right were guessing who the character might be, with some rational arguments for Superman, Batman, Kyle Rayner , Captain Marvel, and Dick Grayson. The obvious joke of it being the Martian Manhunter was also tossed around. Suddenly, everyone wanted to out a superhero, and DC fueled the situation with further hints, such as “he has yet to make his heroic debut”.
Juxtapose this with Marvel’s own publicity stunt: Northstar’s gay marriage. It very conveniently coincided with Obama’s announcement, so there’s always the shadow of the story being concocted as a cash grab present, but it at least happened naturally and without controversy. The difference lies in their personal histories – Northstar has long been established to be gay, whereas Alan Scott’s orientation was flipped overnight. It was abrupt and inelegant, like a sexuality bull come rampaging out of nowhere – BOOM! He’s gay.
It had all the subtlety of this guy.
In contrast, Northstar was gay since the very first issue of Alpha Flight (1983), when the comics industry wasn’t progressive enough for him to be open about it. There used to be cover stories for why he never seemed to be romantically involved with a girl (He needed to focus on competitive skiing) and other throwaway hints. In the late 80s, when AIDS was widely (and wrongly) regarded as the “gay disease”, he was supposed to be dying from the malady, only to have editorial forcibly retcon his degeneration into some ridiculous notion that he was a magical being, and that the separation from his homeworld was killing him. He finally came out of the closet during a time when social acceptance of gay men was increasing, screaming “I am gay!” (Alpha Flight #106, 1992)
Surprisingly not Liefeld.
His marriage today is simply part of the natural progression of his personal story, and a reflection of society’s evolving views towards men who like men. Gay marriage is being legalized throughout the world, and so the door has opened for Northstar to make that sort of commitment. If anything, the event is an expression of the newfound freedom homosexual couples are now happily experiencing.
Alan Scott didn’t even need to be gay in the first place. His new orientation resulted from the hole left by the absence of his gay son, Obsidian. Since all of DC’s heroes were now younger, it wouldn’t have been cohesive with the rest of continuity if he had a fully-grown child. The problem with this line of reasoning, though, is that Alan Scott exists on Earth-2, and therefore isn’t bound to DC’s main continuity. He didn’t have to match the timing of DC’s mainstream heroes. He didn’t have to be as young as they were. There is absolutely no problem with Obsidian existing as the son of a younger Alan Scott.
If anything, it could have told a much more compelling story: that of an adolescent slowly discovering his sexual identity, coming to terms with it, and eventually coming out to his father. Alan, on the other hand, could express the realities parents with homosexual children eventually come to face, from the initial coming out to the full acceptance of that revelation. Mass media is at a lack of stories addressing this extremely significant life experience, and it was an opportunity that DC sorely squandered. Instead, it used the Reboot Card and made the easy switch. The fallout of such a move – that it inspired (undeserved) scandalous gossip and ridicule in discussion of the matter, two problems many gay people struggle with – is regrettable.
Alan's face speaks volumes.
What’s important, though, is that we don’t forget what lies at the very core of Alan Scott’s new sexual orientation, Northstar’s marriage, and DC’s other LGBT efforts (Voodoo and Batwoman): acceptance. The fact that these characters are who they are, that it’s presented unflinchingly, and that people actually want to read these comics, is a progressive step, regardless of intentions or how the news was handled.
We should also be thankful that it’s happening in mainstream superhero comics. Archie had its own comic gay marriage through Kevin Keller, but it lacks the resonance of Northstar’s (or the pioneering Apollo’s and Midnighter’s, for that matter). Archie was always an exaggerated reflection of American culture, where teens juggle love lives with school and other responsibilities, a clear line is drawn between the financially elite and average everyman, and people like Snooki become overnight celebrities. Since today’s society has grown more accepting of the concept of gay marriage, so too did Archie’s Riverdale.
Superhero books, however, work on a higher realm of fantasy. The very notion of a superhero is an idealization of humanity – the term “superhuman” being extremely apt. We want to be more than the average person, and to balance our human flaws with something spectacular. By extension, the world superheroes live in is arguably the type of world we want to live in, too. We want the excitement of adventure around every corner, as opposed to the soulless monotony we tend to imagine we experience. We want to have the strength to overcome any adversity that comes our way, even if it’s powerful enough to wipe out the cosmos.
And now, apparently, our ideal world is a place in which people of all sexual orientations are free to be who they are. Maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for humanity yet.