Getting Oriented

Rumors are flying about the talk that DC will re-introduce one of its “iconic” characters as a gay man, a fact pretty much confirmed by DC higher-ups at a recent convention. Exactly what character has yet to be confirmed, but a certain rumor site is claiming “on good authority” that the newly gay DC super-hero would be the original Green Lantern Alan Scott, recently re-introduced to the revised, rebooted DC Universe in the pages of James Robinson’s EARTH-2.


I have no idea if this is actually true. If so, I’m going to be honest: I don’t know how I feel about this.

I have no problem with DC introducing more gay characters to their continuity. Making comics more inclusive is definitely a good thing. But there’s something that doesn’t sit right with me about taking someone else’s creation, a literary character that has existed for over seventy years, and radically altering it for, let’s be honest, a political agenda (even though it’s a political agenda I happen to believe in and agree with). So many of the creators of the Golden Age of comics never got the recognition or compensation they deserved; it seems the least that can be done is honor that creator’s intent in handling their creation. When Bill Finger and Martin Nodell created the Green Lantern back in 1940, I’m confident that the notion of Alan Scott being gay was not remotely a consideration.


Why not create a new character here? Even a new Green Lantern would be fine, just not Alan Scott. To my mind, if you’re using the same name and the same visual description, it’s the same character, even without the 70 years of backstory.

For example: the new Ultimate Spider-Man over at Marvel. It wasn’t Peter Parker reconceived as a half-Black, half-Latino teen; it was a whole new character, Miles Morales, under the familiar mask of Spider-Man. I know that seems like a very minor distinction, but it’s not. The name and mantle of Spider-Man is something that can be passed on from person to person, but it doesn’t change who they are.


To look at a different example: Marvel’s Northstar, which has been garnering headlines lately for his upcoming “gay marriage” storyline in X-MEN. The issue in which Northstar was publicly revealed to be gay made a lot of headlines back in 1992. The difference here is that Northstar was from the start always portrayed as and intended to be a gay character; it was just unable to be discussed due to the editorial constraints of the time. In his original appearances by creator John Byrne, references to Northstar’s sexuality were handled through implication alone.


When the time finally came for Marvel to have Northstar come out of the closet, it didn’t feel forced or uncharacteristic.

How is making Alan Scott a gay character going to improve the character or make for better stories? DC has had a pretty good track record with its gay characters in the past, from the Pied Piper in FLASH (a good example of “post-converting” a pre-existing character’s sexuality that didn’t feel quite as forced, since the character’s personal life was more of a blank slate) to Mikaal Tomaas in STARMAN, to Kate Kane and Renee Montoya in BATWOMAN. In all those cases, the characters’ sexuality was well incorporated into their characters without feeling sensationalistic or gratuitous.


And in the specific case of Batwoman, enough about the character was changed, from costume to hair color to backstory to even her name (“Kate” as opposed to the 1950s Batwoman’s “Kathy”), that it didn’t feel like the same character at all.

Will James Robinson find a way to reinvent the Alan Scott character such that it doesn’t feel like a betrayal of the creators’ intent? Only time will tell.

Scott Tipton never got his invite to the big Northstar wedding. If you have questions about Green Lantern or comics in general, send them here.


One Response to Getting Oriented

  1. Jeff Nettleton June 4, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    “When the time finally came for Marvel to have Northstar come out of the closet, it didn’t feel forced or uncharacteristic.”

    Well, it was during a fight scene (a rather ridiculous one, at that) which pretty much killed any serious intent. Then, Marvel tucked tail and ran after all the press the story garnered.

    I agree that retrofitting something of this nature into a longstanding character, with a detailed history, is not the route to go. I would suggest a different route, like reviving the old Quality character Madame Fatal, which Robinson referred to in the first issue of the revived JSA, and included for a sight gag in The Golden Age. A man who fights crime in drag would certainly seem to be ready made for that, although you could argue that it would be too stereotypical. At the same time, if you want to introduce gay characters, why not transgendered as well? Gaiman handled it well in Sandman.

    I almost feel that (if it is Alan Scott) the reasoning is that if he is the father of Obsidian (who is gay) then he might also be gay, if they are pursuing the genetic thoery of homosexuality.

    Regardless, it’s always a better path to create new characters and stories than rehash and refit old, as Kirby repeatedly told the younger generation.

Welcoming the Future, Treasuring the Past.