June 7, 2012

From the Editor: Out, though not really out there – but it's a start

By ROD HARMON Deputy Managing Editor

On Thursday, DC Comics introduced a gay superhero in the new series "Earth 2." A lot of press has surrounded this event, due in no small part to the publisher's hype-building decision to keep the identity of the superhero a secret for weeks after announcing that a "major" character was going to come out of the closet.

Not surprisingly, it's elicited a lot of complaints from groups that claim it will unduly influence young readers -- not unlike the infamous 1954 book "Seduction of the Innocent" that spawned the now-defunct Comics Code Authority and which claimed (among many other things) that Wonder Woman's strength and independence made her a lesbian.

But I digress. DC's gay superhero is the latest in an increasing number of LGBT characters being introduced into mainstream comics.

In 2010, Archie Comics introduced its first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, in the biggest-selling issue of the publishing company's history. Keller married his boyfriend earlier this year in "Life with Archie" No. 16.

Marvel Comics, DC's main competitor, will have its own gay wedding on June 20, when the superhero Northstar of Alpha Flight and the X-Men marries his boyfriend in "Astonishing X-Men." (Marvel actually has a fairly sizable number of LGBT characters, albeit minor ones, including Karma of the New Mutants; Hulkling and Wiccan, a gay couple and members of the Young Avengers; and Striker and Lightspeed, students at Avengers Academy. Another Marvel character, the Old West gunslinger Rawhide Kid, was re-introduced as a gay character in 2003.)

As it turns out, DC's gay character wasn't really "major" at all, but a new version of Green Lantern that lives on an alternate Earth. If you're a regular comic book reader, you know that's a bit of a cheat -- since it's not part of major continuity, it doesn't really change anything, and can be abandoned without any repercussions to the "classic" Green Lantern, who will carry on as a heterosexual in his own comic.

What's more, the alternate-Earth Green Lantern isn't the first DC hero to be depicted as LGBT. In 2006, Batwoman was revealed to be a lesbian, and last year, the DC comic "Voodoo" was launched with an African-American bisexual hero as the title character.

If DC and its competitors really wanted to make a statement, they would have a major character come out of the closet. Still, I can understand the slow build -- it's not unlike when comics started adding black superheroes and tackling mature themes like drug addiction. These things take time.

And a series of small steps is better than no step at all.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

rharmon@pressherald.com

Twitter: RHarmonPPH

 

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