As reported all over the comics and mainstream media the last few days, DC Comics is planning in June to reveal one of their "major iconic" characters as gay. You can read the ABC News report here.
It's nothing new for comics to feature gay characters, but DC wants everyone to believe this is something groundbreaking. We are still within the first year of their linewide relaunch, known as the "New 52", which asserted as one of the reasons for relaunching an express intention to "diversify" their stable of characters. However, other than shoehorning the African-American character, Cyborg, into the Justice League rather than the Teen Titans (where he had been introduced and was a longtime member), the major iconic characters have all stayed pretty much like they always have: white and straight. However, DC did make efforts to prop up some of the second and third tier characters and give them a different racial or sexual spin more reflective of the modern world. The top tier are all still mired in their 1940s roots regardless of their updated costumes or attitudes.
Last summer, I pointed out on this blog that DC had quite an opportunity here of giving themselves a clean slate so that they could reintroduce a more diverse group of primary players. My suggestion was to take the Billy Batson/Captain Marvel character and just make him black. I also thought Barry Allen/Flash was a great opportunity to reimagine with an ethnic bent of some sort. We all kind of knew Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern were going to stay the way they were because of the various film and tv licenses wrapped up with them. But as far as I'm concerned, everyone else was fair game for a major makeover.
In my opinion, DC wussed out. But that's their call. At least they seem to be more fully realizing the potential of a clean slate with the new EARTH 2 comic (which I love).
I am curious who they are going to "out" next month in their comics. If not for those pesky new "Non Disclosure Agreements" that DC gets everyone to sign now, we would probably already have the news fully leaked out. Instead, we all get to speculate. So, what do we know? Assuming veracity from those who've spoken on record, we know this much:
(1) It's a male.
(2) It's a "major iconic" character (which means no more second banana types like The Question, Voodoo, or Batwoman)
(3) It's either someone who has not had a lot of focus as a character yet or not been reintroduced yet for the New 52.
When I think "major iconic" DC male characters, that puts a specific image in my head that is limited to these guys:
SUPERMAN, BATMAN, GREEN LANTERN, FLASH, GREEN ARROW, HAWKMAN, ATOM, CAPTAIN MARVEL/SHAZAM, PLASTIC MAN, AQUAMAN, MARTIAN MANHUNTER
However, it is possible that DC might have a different definition of "major iconic". I could see them also include these guys:
BOOSTER GOLD, BLUE BEETLE, MR. TERRIFIC, CAPT. ATOM, FIRESTORM, ANY OF THE VARIOUS ROBINS, ANY OF THE VARIOUS OTHER GREEN LANTERNS, ANY OF THE LEGION OF THE SUPER-HEROES OR TITANS.
We can rule out Superman, Batman, Flash, and Aquaman. Each of them have a love, temptation, or wife that is female. Green Arrow has been shown in the New 52 in a major hetero sex scene with multiple women, so we can probably remove him from consideration. Shazam too. I don't think they want to deal with underage teens turning into adult gay super-heroes. That might make the mainstream a bit uncomfortable, so we'll take him out of consideration. Hal Jordan has been shown to be pretty straight too, so Green Lantern is out of consideration.
This leaves us with Hawkman, Atom, Plastic Man or Martian Manhunter if we are talking actual "major icons". Since Hawkman has already been headlining his own title in the New 52, I don't think he qualifies under the limited info we have been given. Martian Manhunter has been featured in the STORMWATCH title, but that series features the gay Superman and Batman analogues, Apollo and Midnighter, already so I just don't see DC opening the door for a gay trifecta so J'onn gets a sexual reprieve I think (plus the fact that he's a shape-changing alien technically means he is probably asexual but we won't get into that right now).
This leaves us with a toss-up between Plastic Man and Atom. Plastic Man is just too silly. I don't think DC wants to take this marketing opportunity to make their new gay character the quite insane and slapsticky Plas.
So...my money right now is on THE ATOM. I don't even know who they have under the mask in the New 52, but regardless of who it is, it makes the most sense (and thus, the least likely to be overly controversial) to make the Atom gay. He's a positive role model. He's smart, clever, and iconic with tons of potential for a TV series or film with modern f/x. The worst the gay community and DC might have to deal with would be lame jokes about him only being "six inches."
COME JUNE, I PREDICT
THE "GAY" CHARACTER WILL BE THE ATOM.
I'll be curious to see if I'm correct or if they surprise me.
What about John Stewart, Guy Gardner, or Kyle Rayner (3 other male Earth-based Green Lanterns)? I've read some online speculation that Gardner is the one. If DC does that, I think it will be insulting to the gay community rather than a positive move. Gardner is an asshole. That's his character. While it is true that oftentimes a repressed homosexual is aggressively homophobic as a reaction to his desires. However, that's really not been who Gardner was in the past (and I would expect him to be the same in the New 52) where he may act like a jerk, but when it comes to doing the right thing he would step up to the plate. I could see DC do this, but I think it could backfire on them because I don't think the gay community would want Gardner on their team.
John Stewart? Highly unlikely and has a history of deep love for women. Kyle Rayner? A definite possibility as far as I'm concerned. He's young and artistic. Prior to the New 52, he did have a love of his life, but in the New 52? I could see DC going this route to distinguish him even more from the other GLs.
If it's any of the Legion of Super-Heroes or Teen Titans, then it's a total fake-out on DC's part. None of those characters rise to the level of "major iconic" status unless you are a completely disingenuous corporate mouthpiece.
Which leaves me with CAPT. ATOM as my number one pick
from the secondary characters that DC might try to convince me are "major icons."
Just a few days to weeks to find out. But it is definitely another interesting bit of widespread Internet speculation.