Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thoughts On DC's Latest Decision

For those of you who haven't heard...which probably isn't many of you, but I'm recapping anyway...DC has announced that they are going to be unveiling a major difference between the New 52 DC Universe and the old DC Universe. Specifically, one of the major, recognizable figures in that universe will be revealed to be gay in the new version of continuity.

Today, Rich Johnston posted an article suggesting that the new gay character will be Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern. This has not been confirmed yet, and it may yet turn out to be some other character (although I'm pretty sure it's too late for DC to change the character's identity the way they did with Monarch in Armageddon 2001...) But it's worth looking at the news on the assumption that it's true.

The first question is, "Does this pass the 'iconic character' test?" After all, DC made a decision to announce this in a way that risks criticism as a publicity stunt. (I'm still not sure entirely how to feel about the announcement itself in that regard, but suffice to say, I think it's going to be a long while before we see headlines that say, "DC To Announce New Straight White Male Character".) If this is going to be news, it's going to have to be big news to avoid complaints of tokenism and hype.

In that regard, I think it does a reasonably good job. Alan Scott might not be as famous to the general public as some, but in comics terms, he's definitely an elder statesman of the DCU, and one with a long and storied history. This is definitely a better choice than some of the ones rumored (like, say, Vibe.) I still think that the most seamless and most audacious decision would have been to go with Batman, because he doesn't really have a history of strong female relationships--his relationship with Vicki Vale has never had the same kind of iconic status as Superman and Lois Lane, and his girlfriends are frequently shown as "beards" to explain away his late-night disappearances and eccentricities--but I suspect they were concerned about the potential insinuations of child molestation. (Which is a shame, as that's always been one of the nastier and more slanderous accusations directed against gay men--that they "can't be trusted" around straight boys--and it would have been nice to see a character who's not just a role model as a gay man, but as a gay parent. But I can dream.)

Which brings us to the second question, "Does it fit in with the character's history?" Well, certainly people are going to point to Jade and Obsidian, but if having kids disqualifies you from ever being gay, nobody ever told my uncle. Molly Mayne is a bit of a stronger counter-argument, but again, she's not an iconic part of his history in the way that Joan Garrick is with Jay. His relationship with her is something that was added on by noted continuity hound Roy Thomas in the 80s, during the absolute heights of his obsession with connecting all the dots in all the Golden Age characters' histories. I don't think that this should offend DC history obsessives too much. (Although expect most of the homophobes out there to insist that they're mainly bothered by the blatant disregard for continuity!)

And that brings us to the third question, "Does it have potential for good characterization and interesting storytelling?" Well, maybe. I think it would have been a bit more interesting if they'd kept the JSA as rooted in their World War II origins and their pre-reboot roles as elder statesmen of the DCU; a gay character who'd lived through a number of different eras, each with their own views of homosexuality, would have been very illuminating. (Frankly, I just don't think a young JSA is very exciting in general, although I admittedly come to that as someone who didn't pay much attention to DC comics until 'Crisis'.) But really, time will tell. I'm not sure if they handled this well...but I'm certain that they could have done it a lot worse.


Chris said...

Isn't continuity pretty much out the window anyway, especially for the JSA? The New 52 Earth 2 heroes are all young, and their book is showing them all at the beginning of their respective careers, so I really don't see this Alan Scott having grown kids with powers or being married to Harlequin.

And based on what DC has said, it looks like they aren't Dumbledoring the pre-Flashpoint character as gay, they're just making the rebooted character gay, so all that continuity can still be preserved in amber, just as God intended.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this doesn't amount to much.Even if it's a terrific book (and the first issue was better than I thought) I can't see it triggering the same reaction (whatever that might be) as GA Alan being gay.
Dr. Midnite has often been picked (no wife, no significant romances) but Alan's certainly a better choice.

Michael Penkas said...

I agree that Batman would be a better choice. It could be played up that even Batman didn't realize he was gay since his obsession with fighting crime blinded him to this aspect of himself. In that context, Catwoman wouldn't be a beard to fool others so much as a way to fool himself (I could have a healthy relationship if only this career criminal gave up crime). Alfred, the Robins and probably even Commissioner Gordon would have figured it out so that Batman would be the last to know.

Of course, the upside for homophobic comic fans would be that the revelation wouldn't change much of the month-to-month stories at all. Batman stories rarely revolve around his relationships with women, so there's no reason for him to have a male love interest (just because he comes out doesn't mean that he instantly gets a boyfriend). He could just continue to sublimate his sexual urges into acts of violence.

No way DC would ever do it; but that would be a newsworthy reveal.