(*POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD…YOU’VE BEEN WARNED*)
IF you haven’t been locked in a room without windows and doors, then you may have noticed a definite increase in a certain aspect of comics lately that in the recent past has only been occasional, and further back was not only absent, but discouraged. I’m speaking of the appearance of homosexuality in comics. In the past few years, we’ve seen a gay male character be introduced to Archie Comics, and the introduction of several prominent lesbian characters in DC Comics (through Batwoman, Renee Montoya, Scandal Savage, Knockout, Grace Choi, and Thunder). These characters have not only been masterfully written and long overdue in our comics, but have been largely accepted by the comics community, with the exception of several anti-equal rights groups (many of whom have never read a comic book in their lives).
More recently, however, we’ve seen a jump in some major plots that will be showcasing these characters and some major plot lines. These include the biracial marriage of Kevin Keller (Archie Comics’ gay male character), the biracial marriage of Marvel’s Northstar (who has been open about his sexuality since the early 90’s), and the announcement that one of DC’s “iconic male characters” will be revealed as gay.
…the original Green Lantern (and former Sentinel), Alan Scott. Personally, Alan would have been my last guess to be the character in question. Other rumours and guesses have been making their rounds as well, which I believe to be far more reasonable at this point: Joker, Icon, Jason Todd, Captain Atom, and Lex Luthor.
As many who have read my opinions on the DCnU (Post-New52 Stories in the DC Universe), I have many issues with their decision to reboot the universe and change many of the characters I’ve loved and followed. This is going to be one of those times. Alan Scott has never been a gay character. He has two children who’ve grown to become superheroes in their own stories and exploits, and has loved and lost several women in his life. Before the reboot, Scott was still happily married to Molly Maine, his wife of over 60 years that he has been completely in love with through age fluctuations, other dimensional travels, and a few world-spanning wars. To completely change all that history about Scott changes his entire back story, and truly spits in the faces of everyone who has followed Scott and his Justice Society adventures all these years.
Before I am misunderstood, please note that I have zero problems with homosexual characters in comics. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a great idea, as they’ve been sorely under-represented in the past in this medium. But what is the advantage in revealing a long time heterosexual husband and father to actually be gay? There are several other homosexual characters to work from at present (Appolo, Midnighter, Bunker, Damon Matthews, and Scott’s own son, Obsidian), an infinite number of possible new characters to introduce into the universe, and many characters whose sexuality has never been established or discussed in any major way, or wouldn’t be changed much if they were revealed to be gay (Joker, Jason Todd, and Captain Atom).
Do I disagree with Alan Scott being outed? Yes. Does that mean I disagree with other such stories, like Northstar’s wedding? Nope. Northstar has been a gay character for a long time. He was never shown to be heterosexual. He’s been shown to love Kyle. He deserves this marriage as much as we deserve to see it happen. The same goes for Kevin Keller’s marriage. Kevin seems to be a great character, and there is no reason why any part of his stories shouldn’t be included as they are currently appearing.
But now we see a bigger question. Why are all of the publishing companies making such big decisions to show homosexuality in comics now? Some may tell you that it is a part of the liberal agenda attempting to destroy our family structures in North America. This is false, and only serves their own agenda to force their views on others. What about the world we find ourselves in? The 2012 world? Homosexuality is certainly more acceptable to the masses now. More and more people are more comfortably sharing their sexual orientation, and the world around them is becoming more welcoming (though slowly) to that as well.
Here’s my opinion on why we are seeing these stories and characters now, summed up in one word: Money.
Could they have introduced these changes and stories years ago? Yes. Would they have been accepted as much then? Not as much. In the 70’s/80’s, comics never showed homosexuality, and that reflected society’s perceived view on it. So in the 90’s, when homosexuality was starting to become more widely discussed, comics (the ones concerned with public opinion) introduced a few gay characters, though rarely discussed them in any length after that. In the mid 2000’s, when same-sex marriage (also known as just “marriage” to any logical-thinking person) started becoming a legal and acceptable institution in North America, they started introducing more of them, and actually developed their characters and relationships. Today, where homophobia is hated (by many but not all), we are seeing gay marriages in comics for our highly developed characters.
This pattern is not only due to publishers trying to take a proactive stance on encouraging equal-rights for the LGBT community. They’ve routinely made the safe choice again and again. They always choose times when the issue is slightly controversial, but where the majority of society is slightly more accepting of the issue. This practice sells books, while creating controversy in the comics-reading and non-comics-reading communities, which sells more books amongst new and old readers. This practice is not only sequestered to homosexuality, but every other hot button topic in the world today: Divorce, Religion, War, Terrorism, Sex, Death, Disease, and Vigilanteism (to name a few). Some of these topics were covered on day one of the invention of comics, and some were explored over time, as those issues became a little less controversial, while remaining timely and debatable. This isn’t restricted to comics either, but also TV, literature, music, and film.
So what am I trying to say exactly? Only that we should all remember one thing about comics: it is BOTH a medium of communication AND a business. The secondary goal is for the writers and artists to share their stories and ideas with us all, expanding our imagination and understanding of the world (depending on the comic you read). The primary goal, the main reason for the existence of comics, is to sell comics and make money. If comics did not make money, the publisher would not print them. We’ve seen this happen when a writer/artist is removed from a project, when a title is prematurely canceled, or when a publisher is forced to sell off their business.
Alan Scott’s potential outing is another Death of Superman, another Bucky Reborn, another Mohammed on South Park, another New-52 Slutty Starfire, another Borat, and another 99-crossover with the Justice League. They all make controversy, which makes headlines, which makes new readers, which makes money.
So before you take a stance in one direction or the other on this current issue in comics, just remember that the driving force in comics is this:
Controversy = News in Media = New Readership = More Money
DC Has now made the change official regarding Alan Scott. See all the details here, from Bleeding Cool, who were first to break the story early last week: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/06/01/its-official-alan-scott-the-original-green-lantern-is-dcs-newest-gay-hero/
What do you think!? Leave a comment below!