Green Lantern reinvented as gay superhero

Green Lantern by Alex Ross

DC Comics has announced recently that they will ‘out’ one of their iconic superheroes as being gay. There has been lots of speculation and a kind of knee-jerk reaction/guess that it would be Batman, along with a litany of other guesses all the way down to Vibe, who was so surprised he jumped out of comic book limbo and then fell back asleep just as quickly.

Alan Scott was a train engineer who nearly died when a strange meteorite crashed into his train. Thinking quickly, he carved a ring and power battery from the rock, donned one of the weirdest superhero costumes ever and fought crime with a magic ring that created giant green boxing gloves. His associate was the bumbling and obese Doiby Dickles.

Comics back in those days embraced the inventive lunacy that is mostly absent from modern comics.

Green Lantern disappeared in the 1950’s when funny animals took over the stands after Fredric Wertham’s assault on superhero comics reduced them to subversive perverted trash… oh if only he were alive today he would laugh himself giddy. When DC Comics introduced a new spin on an old idea by creating a new Flash, it was only a matter of time before the other classic heroes followed suit, including Green Lantern.

Borrowing heavily from EE ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensman novels, the new Green Lantern was a space policeman that guarded the galaxy from evil using a sci-fi spin on the magic ring. In time, a parallel world was located where the original superheroes still lived on, aged and even had children. There were a number of team-ups between the two world until it all got a bit silly and DC decided to smash all of their continuity into one world.

In the new DC Universe, Alan Scott was one of the very first superheroes and his ring slowed his aging process, allowing him to fight alongside the kids of today. The Alan Scott Green Lantern gained a massive support base during this time and went on to star in not just the JSA, but also as leader of Checkmate.

Totally bizarre drawing of Green Lantern and the Pillsbury Dough Boy by Martin Nodell

But that even that version of Alan Scott is gone forever, wiped clean away from the comic book annals of history by that great equalizer known as the editorial process. In a new ongoing series called Earth-2, the Golden Age versions of the Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are being introduced. Rather than serving as elder statesmen of the DCU, as they had in the past, they are entirely different characters.

Most notably, Alan Scott is now DC’s high profile gay superhero.

Alan Scott makes his debut as the Green Lantern in Earth 2 #3

BleedingCool has outed the hero first by revealing that it is none other than Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern. There are a few things to keep in mind here, of course. This version of Alan Scott has no relation to the original Green Lantern created back in 1940. This version of the character is from a parallel Earth in a post-52 DC Universe. So DC hasn’t exactly taken a character who has been straight for decades and had them come out of the closet, they have in fact warped reality, rewritten time and launched an alternate universe comic book in order to create a gay character.

So… is this really a win for equality in comics?

There’s a lot of press and opinion out there on this as you’d imagine, but here’s one of my favorites from ComicBookResources

Green Lantern drawn by artist Irwin Hasen

DC and Marvel are shouting about going gay with a — well, with a straight face, and they’re doing so in 2012. Read between the lines of the public relations, and essentially the two biggest North American superhero comics publishers (and Hollywood IP farms) are proudly, cluelessly boasting about the fact that they’re not as out of touch with the rest of American pop culture and society as they were last month, and they’re accepting congratulations for it.

It’s a bit embarrassing, really, and not just for DC and Marvel — I mean, all of us readers-of and writers-about these publishers get to share in guilt by association.

I’m not sure which of the Big Two comes off worse in this week’s campaigning.

Marvel’s big, gay news is, of course, that mutant superhero Northstar proposed to and is set to marry his civilian boyfriend, Kyle. This plot point has been hinted at by Marvel since at least March, when the publisher started its “Save The Date!” advertising campaign for Astonishing X-Men, and the February-released solicitation for the May-shipping Issue 50 included a line about Northstar having to choose between his boyfriend and the team, and another read “Don’t miss the end of this issue – it’ll be the most talked about moment of the year!”

Pretty obvious that Northstar was going to get married, right?

Earlier in the week Marvel started hyping an announcement that would be made on The View, of all places. (Do you know what a Venn diagram of “People Who Watch The View” and “People Who Will Ever Buy An Issue of Astonishing X-Men” looks like? It’s two circles on separate sheets of paper, and about a mile and a half between each of those sheets of paper). And it turned out to be that, yes, as you’ve surely already guessed, Northstar would be the first Marvel superhero to be married to a member of the same sex. (An aside: I wonder if, in the Marvel Universe, if mutant/human marriages are considered a greater threat to “traditional marriage” then gay marriages …? Do Republican politicians in the Marvel Universe introduce Defense of Marriage Acts forbidding a homo superior from marrying a homo sapien?)

So Marvel’s big news of the week is that the publisher whose foundational, traditional identity has been that it was the edgier, more realistic and with-it alternative to DC’s staid comics line, is just now catching up to Archie Comics, traditionally the most conservative and slow-to-change of the extant publishers. (They still publish comics for kids! And sell them in grocery stores!) Archie’s Life With Archie #17, published in January, featured a wedding between Kevin Keller and his boyfriend Clay Walker (six months, by the way, is about how long it would take to plan, create and publish an issue of an ongoing comic book series, at least in the olden days of the 1990s).

The appearance on The View, corporate synergy or no (Disney owns both Marvel and the show’s network ABC), was at least pretty well timed. President Barack Obama publicly stated his support for gay marriage on May 9. That too would have (and perhaps should have) been a non-story, as Obama had publicly supported gay marriage in 1996, but changed his mind as he campaigned for the presidency the first time, were it not for the fact that he was a sitting president. Like the Marvel story, the Obama one was basically along the lines of a declaration that someone was not as backward as previously thought. It’s just too bad so many news cycles have occurred between the Obama’s announcement and Marvel’s; that guy has been great for helping Marvel sell comic books in the past.

DC’s big, gay news of the week wasn’t made in such a splashy fashion, so company gets some points for not jumping as high or shouting as loud about how totally not-homophobic it is, but it also seemed calculated to insert the publisher into the Marvel news, in the hopes of getting DC’s name mentioned in the mainstream media at least as often.

DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio didn’t call a press conference to make his company’s gay announcement, but it nevertheless seemed more cynical and calculated, given the timing.

DC’s announcement seems somewhat smaller on the face of it — DC will apparently “out” one of its “major iconic” (and male) characters as gay in a New 52 storyline that begins in June — and whether it’s actually a big deal will likely depend on the identity of the character.

My Word dictionary function is telling me the definition of “iconic” is “relating to or characteristic of somebody or something admired as an icon,” with “icon” being either “somebody … widely and uncritically admired, especially somebody or something symbolizing a movement or field of activity” or, more simply, “a picture or symbol that is universally recognized to be representative of something.”

DC no doubt has a pretty loose definition of the word “iconic,” which it often uses to mean “all of our superheroes, even Vibe.” If I were to list all of DC’s truly iconic characters, the ones most likely to be recognized in the streets of foreign countries and the ones that many other characters have been derived from, my list would end up being pretty small: Superman and all his derivatives (-girl, -boy, maybe Steel), Batman (and –girl) and Robin, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Captain Marvel (I suppose I’ll get used to calling him “Shazam” some day …) and Plastic Man.

There’s also an excellent article about gay superhero characters in comics here and the author has done plenty of research on the subject.

I’m kind of frustrated by this news as while as I have said on previous occasions I fully support diversity in comics, this changes the original character almost to the point where one has to wonder how much of Martin Nodell and Bill Finger’s character is left?

Why not just create a new Green Lantern who happens to be gay instead of warping reality in order to ‘catch up with times’? Is that level of modification really what is needed in order to inject something other than a white straight Anglo-Saxon into comic books?

It reminds me of the holiday specials of old where all of the characters are excited about Christmas, even Superman (well, his parents lived in the midwest, they probably took their space orphan to church). Are there no superheroes of different religious/cultural backgrounds? They ALL celebrate Christmas… SERIOUSLY?? And nearly every alternate future story has a Ken and Barbie match-up between superheroes who have gotten married and all have children. Not one of them remained single? None of them are gay? ALL OF THEM HAD CHILDREN?

It strikes me that comics have a very very long road to maturity and maybe all things considered they should remain places where thugs wear bandannas and caps and are knocked out by giant green boxing gloves. Save the social commentary for the pundits.

Unless you’re a socially conscious publisher like DC… way way back in the day.