DC Comics is very proud of itself over the decision to make the original Green Lantern gay. It shouldn't be.
After promising a "major, iconic" character would come out, DC went about it in the weakest possible way. The home of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman is well behind rival Marvel — and oh-so-middle-of-the-road network television.
Let's just say it: Green Lantern is one of the lamest comic book characters. And this isn't even the Green Lantern anyone cares about — Hal Jordan, the one Ryan Reynolds played in the movie. This is Alan Scott, a Green Lantern unknown to anyone but serious comics nerds, who debuted in the 1940s.
DC is loving the free publicity over its not-so-bold move. James Robinson, who writes "Earth 2," the comic you've never heard of that features the gay Green Lantern, told USA Today: "He's going to be the leader of the team, this dynamic hero, he'll do anything to save people, the bravest man on the planet. Why not just make him gay as well?"
That sounds like DC patting itself on the back. Robinson, for all his good intentions, sounds kind of like that white guy who says, "I don't see you as a black dude, I just see you as a dude." As if that makes him worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.
Truth be told, comics — especially DC comics — are far behind television and other media in offering positive portrayals of gay characters. Which is ridiculous. Comics, which are basically soap operas with super heroes, can afford to take risks because of their very niche-oriented audience. DC should have done this years and years ago with a much more prominent character.
Before anyone says, "But the children," go to a comic book store and see if you see any children there. And no one's arguing that comics should feature graphic sex between Batman and Robin. Or any kind of sex.
Mainstream comics' timidity about sexuality isn't entirely their fault. For decades, the Comics Code, which existed partly to prevent kids from being indoctrinated into homosexuality (as if such a thing were possible) kept Marvel and DC from letting characters be openly gay.
But Marvel found a way around the Comics Code. Chris Claremont's run on "The Uncanny X-Men" treated mutants as stand-ins for a wide range of historically oppressed groups. The excellent "New Mutants" issue number 45 featured a character who is taunted by bullies and accused of being a mutant. He kills himself because he actually is. Can't figure out the symbolism here? The X-Men's Kitty Pryde spells it out in a eulogy at the end of the issue:
"Who was he, then, that we gather to mourn him? Who am I? A four-eyed, flat-chested, brat, chick, brain, hebe, stuck-up Xavier's snob freak! Don't like the words? I could use nicer. I've heard worse. Who here hasn't? So often, so casually, that maybe we've forgotten the power they have to hurt. Nigger, spic, wop, slope, faggot, mutie — the list is so long. And so cruel. They're labels. Put downs. And they hurt."
As AfterElton put it, "Kitty's inclusion of a gay slur in her list of hateful words was a quiet acknowledgment that the X-Men's angst was meant for them, too."
I read that Comics Code-approved comic book when it came out in 1986. I was 11. It didn't turn me gay, but it made me a little less stupid. Thanks, Kitty Pryde.
In 1992, another mutant, Alpha Flight's Northstar, came out. He's the Marvel character who just married another man. Marvel is way ahead of DC, but still behind "Modern Family," one of the most popular shows on TV. (Northstar is also fairly lame, as superheroes go — he's never been a key player in the Marvel Universe. But still, it was a pretty big move for 1992.)
The dozen or so moms at One Million Moms — who object, basically, to gay people existing — are making DC look braver than it is by again raising the spectre of "indoctrination." But this isn't authentic trangulation, where there are two extremes and DC is finding itself in the moderate middle.
Rather, it's a case of millions of Americans accepting the existence of gay people (and realizing it isn't up to them, or anything but genetics), and one very small, very irrelevant group making a lot of noise with help from news organizations trying to present "both sides" of the issue.
But this shouldn't be an issue, and it doesn't have two equal sides.
DC should have gone with Superman. It might have finally made him interesting.