Well, this whole thing was a big hullabaloo about nuthin'. I made a prediction in my last blog entry, based on the words coming from the DC Comics publicity machine that a "male" character who is a "major icon" was going to be reinvented as "gay" for the New 52-verse wherein DC rebooted their entire comics universe of comic books in September 2011. Where my guess was "The Atom" as the closest thing to a "male" who's a "major icon" who had not been already established in the New 52-verse as straight. Even then I felt I was stretching the "major" aspect of those clues with the Atom, but he has been a member of the Justice League since issue #14 of the series way back to the '60s. He also appeared in the SUPER FRIENDS a few times in the 70s and on the more recent JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon series. As the premiere size-changing super-hero of the Justice League, he's pretty iconic. Major? Well....I was giving DC grace on that. As a secondary guess, if DC had a different concept of "major icon" than I, then I found myself gravitating towards Capt. Atom -- although, a much bigger stretch, I kind of thought DC might see the archetypal inspiration for WATCHMEN'S Dr. Manhattan as "iconic."
I was wrong on all counts. DC comics editorial and publicity machine have an entirely different concept of what constitutes a "major icon." I'm tempted to just laugh because it's really kind of ridiculous. Get ready....in case you haven't seen the network news coverage from CNN (owned by the same company that owns DC Comics, natch) -- it is......GREEN LANTERN!
Oh my god! Green Lantern? Really?
Well....not who you think they mean.
What only serious comic books geeks already knew (until last summer probably), the Green Lantern isn't just one character, he is a bunch of characters. The recent Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds introduced to the masses the concept of the Green Lantern Corps, plus a couple of fully-animated DVD features, and currently airing cartoon series. These all feature the character of test pilot, Hal Jordan, as the iconic Green Lantern and the various other Green Lanterns as supporting characters.
Lesser known in this history of the character is the character of Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, as created by cartoonist Mart Nodell, was the wielder of a magic green ring and who first appeared on newsstands in ALL-AMERICAN COMICS #16 (1940). His last "golden age" appearance was in ALL-STAR COMICS #52 (1951). This character disappeared out of the collective consciousness of the public and 7 years later, the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern (reimagined completely) appeared with his science-fiction based ring and has been the iconic version of the Green Lantern ever since. Alan Scott reappeared in comics again in the 60s and off-and-on throughout the last 4 decades, but always as either the Green Lantern of a parallel Earth (called Earth 2) or later, after a major continuity jumble, as a redundant and past-retirement-age elderly Green Lantern who has no direct ties to the Green Lantern Corps.
So, does this mean that DC Comics was progressive enough to have a "gay" super-hero all the way back to 1940. No, it does not.
Most importantly, this is not the Alan Scott who first appeared in 1940.
I am not quite sure by what leaps of logic the DC editorial and publicity machine can, with a straight face, identify a brand-new version of a character with absolutely none of the previous version's history beyond a name and a hair color as a "major icon." At best, the original character from the '40s is the inspiration for the iconic version of the character (Hal Jordan), but even in the '40s he was in the realm of the lesser-knowns. In the '40s, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Capt. Marvel would be the major icons.
So, the new Alan Scott, Green Lantern turns out to be gay in the reimagined Earth 2 of the New 52. That's fine. They want to diversify the line. That's fine. Don't bullshit me with the major icon thing and don't try to drum up media coverage under the misleading header of "Green Lantern is Gay" and that sort of thing. It's all just silly and DC never surprises me by actions like this that have no real impact. Making a major character gay would be somewhat dramatic. Making an alternate version of a character in a parallel world gay is essentially meaningless.
Writer, James Robinson, gave some insight on his thinking process in a recent interview where he pointed out that in the old continuity, the elderly (and straight) Alan Scott had previously fathered a daughter (Jade) and a son (Obsidian). In that old continuity, Obsidian was gay. Since Robinson was going to make these new versions of the characters much younger and at the start of their super-hero careers; there was no place for Jade and Obsidian, so he decided to let Scott himself fill that role. Robinson has a pattern in his comic book writing of nearly always including an "out" gay character, so it makes sense that he would look for who might fit that bill in this new EARTH 2 series. And, in truth, since he of any of the writers at DC seems to understand the latitude available when reimagining a world from the ground up, he is probably the best suited for handling this type of characterization with respect and without exploitation. However, he is doing it under the guiding hand of the editorial direction of Dan Didio who approaches the world of comic book marketing like a carnival barker, so it is no real surprise that Robinson's characterization choice became a media circus.
Sexuality is complicated and it's a lot more than just simply "I was born this way", regardless of the efforts by various political and activist groups who vociferously demand validation for their nonnormative lifestyle choices (which is nobody else's business so why demand it?). My point of view is very simply that I am not going to impose my own morality on anyone else when it comes to something as personal and intimate as their sexuality. That is between themselves, their own consciences, and their philosophical/religious values.
Now that I've said that, my only problem with the choice to make the new version of Alan Scott into a homosexual is simply that I think it smacks of tokenism at this point -- "Let's see....who can I make gay????" -- that sort of thing. By using the name "Alan Scott" there is an intention to evoke some sense of history to the character that ties him back to the version from the previous continuity. For some reason, that to me, almost belittles his sexuality choice a bit to think it can be changed so matter-of-factly. I guess that more than anything bothers me from an intellectual standpoint. I can separate the 2 characters well enough in my own mind to have no problem at all enjoying EARTH 2 and Robinson's excellent storytelling abilities. But I also know that this whole thing is going to get muddled and confused in the public's mind and give off a wrong-headed message that something as intensely personal as our own sexual identity can be switched around as easily as a couple of keystrokes.
Worst of all, whenever James Robinson leaves the EARTH 2 series and stops writing the character, I have absolutely zero confidence in whoever succeeds him that they won't turn the new Alan Scott character into an embarrassing gay caricature. The best we comic readers can do is hope Robinson stays in the writing seat for a good long time.
Excellent discussion about the continuum thing.ReplyDelete
Nice post. An astute observation of human sexuality, as well. Anyhow, I have a question: Was SF novelist Alfred Bester the originator of the Green Lantern oath?ReplyDelete
Thanks for the comment. :) The rumors about Bester originating the Green Lantern oath (The one that begins "In Brightest Day...") are unfounded. Bill Finger is reportedly the originator of the first oath (And I shall shed my light...). Sheldon Mayer is the writer who actually penned the replacement oath that has stuck around ever since. However, Bester was credited with it for many many years when, in fact, Bester stated that he hated the oath. :DReplyDelete