And now a new weekly feature: “Wednesday Comics” where we will discuss all things comic books. Today we will be spotlighting the new decision to make the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, a gay man. And then we will have a review for Smallville issue #1.
Gay Green Lantern
Alan Scott was one of the first superheros, premiering in All American Comics number 16 in 1940. He was the first one to take on the name “Green Lantern” in comics, with powers very much like those of the most notable Lantern (Hal Jordan) with the exception that his powers were based on magic and he was vulnerable to anything made of wood. He was one of the first leaders of the Justice Society of America and he had two (illegitimate) children who became superheros as well: Jade and Obsidian. Alan, along with the other Golden Age heroes acted as elder statesmen to the younger heroes in the DC.
But last September, DC made a wildly bold and equally successful effort to revitalize their brand but rebooting the entire comic book universe. With the exception of Batman and Green Lantern, nearly all the history over the last 75 years has been wiped out and every comic began with a new number one and started from scratch. This meant that in the new continuity, there was no Golden Age of heroes, and characters like Alan Scott were wiped from the timeline.
Enter James Robinson, writer of the greatest comic book series of all time: Starman. Robinson always had an affinity for the Golden Age, having penned a critically acclaimed comic of the same name. Starman itself is diffuse with reference to all things from DC's early history. Since the old heroes like Alan had been wiped from the timeline, Robinson decided to write a whole different universe, Earth-2, to reboot all of the Golden Age heroes into a modern setting. All of the characters began with a clean slate. And on one of those slates, Robinson decided to make Alan Scott gay.
There has been a lot of press on this, some praising, some condemning. Here are my observations:
- Comic Books are not written for young children. People unfamiliar with comics are sometimes shocked to learn about their adult-level content. And while children's comics do exist, the majority of mainstream stories are geared towards an older crowd. They are almost all PG-13 or higher. And it has been this way for decades. Parents who address comic books as if they are juvenile literature are incorrect.
- The Comic Book industry is overwhelmingly liberal. I make no judgment as to whether this is good or bad. But this is can be clearly seen in most storylines involving politics. Take for example the treatment of George W. Bush (the Punisher threatens to assassinate him if he goes to far on the War on Terror) and Barak Obama (he becomes pals with Spider-Man). And if the industry in general has this outlook, then it should be no surprise that they would support ideas like gay rights. (there are some exceptions to the liberal tone of the industry like Frank Miller, Bill Willingham, and I would also argue the great Geoff Johns)
- Gay superheros are nothing new. If, for the sake of argument, DC backed off and decided not to make Alan Scott gay, that would still leave Midnighter, Apollo, Batwoman, the Question, Pied Piper, Northstar, Starman II, Rictor, Shatterstar, Wiccan, Hulkling, Xavin, Karolina from Runaways, and Hector just to name the ones I am familiar with. The only reason Alan Scott is making any news is that he is a Green Lantern, whereas most people have never heard of Midnighter.
- Most superheroes' lives do not conform to Christian sexual ethics. As stated in my previous post on this, any sex outside of marriage is sinful, gay or straight. If anyone wants to expel the new Alan Scott from the world of comics because of his sexual immorality, they would also have to include: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner), Catwoman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood, Starfire, Iron Man, Captain America, Huntress, Green Arrow, Red Arrow, Black Canary, Aquaman, Hawkgirl, the Flash, Superboy, Wondergirl, Ravager, Cyborg, Mr. Terrific, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Kitty Pride, Beast, Angel, Psylocke, Professor X, etc.
So having said all of this, what is my conclusion?
I don't really care all that much.
In the time I've been reading comics, Alan Scott has never had a strong love interest. That part of his life never defined him. What defined him, more than anything, were his illegitimate children. He bore the guilt of not being there for them when they were kids and he spent the rest of his life trying to be a good father, even if it would be impossible to do so. But that side to him is gone. Along with the reboot, we also lose his gay son, Obsidian.
Honestly, though, I am much more upset about other changes to the continuity (SPOILERS IN THE PARAGRAPH. SKIP AHEAD IF YOU ARE NOT UP TO DATE ON DC COMICS). Superman is no longer married to Lois Lane, Barry Allen is not with Iris West, Wally West is still MIA, Ma and Pa Kent are dead, I have no idea if Jack Knight or Courtney Whitmore exist in these comics, and Dick Grayson is no longer Batman, just to name a few.
I am less concerned with them adding story elements that I don't care for than for them removing story elements that I love.
The whole idea, though, of making Alan Scott gay feels gimmicky. Robinson said in an interview that he did it to send a message to gay kids and to preach love and tolerance. As I mentioned in my review of For Greater Glory, stories done to “give a message” fall flat because they forget that the first job of a story is to enchant. If Robinson is trying to preach, then the story will suffer.
Having gay characters per se don't make a story worse. Look at the Harry Potter series. You can even have very orthodox Catholic themes with gay main characters, as in Brideshead Revisited. But when the character is reduced to his or her sexuality, I think it does a disservice to the character and the reader. I don't know if that will be the case with Alan Scott, but I am not optimistic.