Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Why A Gay Alan Scott DOESN'T Bother Me

There have been many reactions to the news that the first Green Lantern, Alan Scott, will be revealed as a gay man in the next issue of Earth 2. If I never hear another "Rainbow Lantern", "Green Flame", or "wood weakness" joke again, it'll be too soon.

There were also many arguments against James Robinson's decision to have Alan "come out". And quite frankly, upon analysis, none of them hold much water.

Allow me to take those arguments apart one-by-one:

"I'm never going to buy a Green Lantern comic ever again!" - The problem with this line of reasoning is that I don't think Alan has ever been in a Green Lantern comic in several years.

"This is a poor example for kids reading comics." - Ah, yes, the "what about the children?" contingent, who think that exposing readers to a gay character in comics is too immoral for children. All I can say to these folks is: Where the hell have you been? You're a little late to the party, aren't you? If you've been watching the Big Two's comics the last 10 years, you've borne witness to Sue Dibny getting raped, Spider-Man making a deal with the devil, Roy Harper getting his arm ripped off, his daughter Lian's exploitative death, and Ultimate Blob feasting on Ultimate Wasp's insides. What about the plethora of hyper-sexualized female characters in exploitative Maxim-esque poses? Do I even need to mention all the Escher Girls? I think that "what about the children" ship has long sailed, folks!

"This is just another publicity stunt." Well, duh!! In fairness, DC overhyped the crap out of this move. Seriously, this made their Kate Kane Batwoman hype seem absolutely subdued by comparison. (Contrast this with Jun coming out in the most recent issue of Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma's Morning Glories, which was completely unannounced but happened to be released, by sheer happy coincidence, on the exact same day that President Obama announced his support for gay marriage.) And there is the vaild point that this PR push underscores gay characters' insufficient representation at DC in the first place. However, doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still doing the right thing, despite the motivation.

"They've ruined the classic Alan Scott." There are some kernels of truth mixed in here. Robinson and DC did destroy many of the aspects of the pre-reboot Justice Society. Jay Garrick has gone from a gray-haired veteran to a 21-year-old slacker, while his former wife Joan has morphed into a bit of a shrew. Earth 2's Lois Lane, Hippolyta, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were all killed off, the former two dying off-panel and the latter two grossly mischaracterized. And Hawkgirl now uses guns! Alan has also lost some key characteristics because of the reboot: He's no longer married to Molly, the original Harlequin, nor is he the father to the adult Jenni-Lyn Haydn (Jade) and Todd Rice (Obsidian), signifying yet more marriages and family relationships the New 52 has erased. And, as with the other classic JSAers, Alan's status as elder statesman in the DCU is also gone.  However, the important thing to remember that those changes would have happened regardless of Alan's sexual orientation. James Robinson himself stated that his motivation for making Alan gay was to make up for the loss of Obsidian. In other words, Alan's newfound gayness is a reaction to the other changes. It's essentially squeezing some lemonade out of the lemon that the Earth 2 reboot has been.

"Why couldn't they just create a new character instead of changing an existing one?" I've seen this argument used in conjunction with the previous two, and it completely ignores current Big Two superhero comic book reality.

"Just" create a new character, you say? Fine. Good luck getting it approved by the higher-ups. Good luck getting them to give the new character his/her own ongoing title. And even if you surmount those barriers, then good luck building a sufficient following among an ever-dwindling readership for the book to succeed past its first eight months, let alone for the long haul.

Think about it: When was the last time that mainstream DC (not Vertigo) put out a comic starring a completely original new superhero character? And by "completely original", I mean no legacy connection (that rules out Secret Six), no previously established characters (i.e. Zatanna), and no previous Bat/Super/Lantern/Wonder/Titans/League connections. Completely brand-spanking new. Like Aztek or Resurrection Man or Young Heroes In Love were in the 90's. Seriously, when was the last time?

I'm guessing it was Breach. Over six years ago.

In light of these realities, and in light of how behind the curve the Big 2 already are on GLBT representation, making a more iconic character gay may be a more effective way to make progress in this area.

"I'm sick of DC/comics/the media imposing this gay agenda". - What agenda? Existing? Wanting actual representation in the comics they buy? How dare they!

People who make this argument demonstrate what I call The Rick Santorum Fallacy, the belief that granting a group rights or perks already enjoyed by all or most other groups is granting them "special privileges". (This name was given based on two instances, one of which was the infamous "GOP Debate audience booing the gay soldier" incident, where Santorum addressed gay rights as a "special privilege".)

Last week, I made the mistake of coining the term "One More Gay" on Twitter to describe Alan's retcon. It was intended as a play on "One More Day" because of the erasure of his marriage to Molly. However, to my horror, I realized (via a helpful tweet from Thom Wade) that my "clever" term could be misconstrued to mean that there are too many gay characters in comics. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Even the "One More" part is inaccurate. Here's the math: Post-reboot we have Alan (+1) and his boyfriend (+1). However, the reboot cost us an adult Todd (-1), which means we will likely never see Todd's pre-reboot boyfriend Damon Matthews again (-1). That adds up to a net of zero gay characters added.

And even if there were one or more gay characters added, it's not like there were too many already. Estimates rank the homosexual population as making up to roughly 10% of the general population. The percentage of homosexual comic characters? Despite what fandom whiners may think, it's not even close to 10%.

Allow me to provide some perspective:

This is what I look like. (Hint: I'm the taller one in the Green Lantern shirt who isn't Mike Grell.)

Yep, I'm a brown-haired white guy. I'm also heterosexual and cis-gendered. Do you know what that means in terms of my representation in comics, particularly superhero comics?

It means that I can find many heroes and supporting characters who share my race and gender.

It means I can find many heroes and supporting characters who share my race, gender, and sexual orientation.

It means that I can find many heroes and supporting characters who share my race, gender, sexual orientation, and even my hair color.

And one of them is even a Green Lantern.

Who headlines the main Green Lantern title.

And headlines his own cartoon.

And was the lead character in a major movie.

Even with the hair color, that's better representation than any GLBT character in the Big Two has gotten, especially recently. That's better representation than a lot of female characters have gotten, for that matter.

Let's face it: In terms of representation, I, as well as those of you in my demographic, am getting the extremely long end of the stick here.

In light of all that, getting worked up over a gay Alan Scott is rather silly, don't you think?


At 1:16 PM , Blogger SallyP said...

Well said as usual. I'm so proud of you.

At 7:26 PM , Blogger notintheface said...

You mean for having the balls to ask Mike Grell for a free picture together in 2010? Yeah, I was a bit too shy at the Comic Con.

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