Now that I have your attention… Lets talk about gay superheroes. When I say “gay”, I do actually mean “homosexual”, and not “lame”. You may have heard recently about the upheaval over at DC where the writers of Batwoman abruptly left the book over creative differences with the editorial staff. The story goes, that co-writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman walked off the book after being told that Batwoman (one of the aforementioned gay superheroes) could not marry her partner. Dan Didio, DC co-publisher, made it perfectly clear in a statement,
“They put on a cape and cowl for a reason. They’re committed to defending others — at the sacrifice of all their own personal instincts. That’s something we reinforce. If you look at every one of the characters in the Batman family, their personal lives kind of suck…
Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, and Kathy Kane — it’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s also just as important that they put it aside as they know what they are accomplishing as the hero takes precedence over everything else. That is our mandate, that is our edict, that is our stand with our characters.”
Now, he’s only specifically referencing “the Batman family”, so it’s possible that his point is that only the characters derived from this specific series and grouping are the ones held to this standard. But regardless, that’s a pretty weak argument. I mean, hasn’t Aquaman been married, like, the ENTIRE time he’s been Aquaman? Does Dan Didio not remember Superman: The Wedding Album? I completely understand that the editors are probably making decisions based on the guidelines that the company heads have delegated to them, and I also understand that sometimes you sacrifice certain things for the sake of the story, but to say that superheroes can’t get married because it affects the way they execute their superheroness is contradictory to even DC’s history.
In May writer James Robinson announced that he was, amicably, exiting his book Earth 2 (literally, the ONLY DC book I’ve been reading), but no *real* reason was ever given. Earth 2 made some waves when it first premiered in 2012 due to the fact that it altered the background of original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, by making him gay. Alan becomes the emerald knight after an accident that takes the life of his boyfriend Sam and swears he’ll avenge Sam’s death. There very well could be no connection to Robinson and the writers of Batwoman walking off their respective books for the same reason, but it’s a tad ironic right? I’m not suggesting that the people pulling the strings at DC are homophobic. Actually, to the contrary. I think allowing these characters to be gay in the first place is a necessary and positive evolution. I mean, a gay Green Lantern and a gay Bat-person is kind of a big deal. These are, arguably, the most prolific depictions of LGBT characters in mainstream comics. Prior to Batwoman coming out in 2006, there were really only minor and secondary LGBT characters. It was a big step to have an entire comic book about a lesbian superhero. The other thing I’ll give DC is this… A character’s sexual orientation, should be just another normal part of who they are, and not the most important part of them. If the point is to keep Batwoman from only being “the gay superhero”, then I don’t disagree with their goal for the character. Integrating LGBT superheroes into mainstream comics is important, but I can certainly agree that not going about it the right way could doom the character to becoming just a caricature, which would be digression.
Over at Marvel, last June, they released Astonishing X-men #51, which showcased the marriage of superhero Northstar to his boyfriend Kyle. Northstar has actually been an out gay character since 1992, so this seems like a natural progression for the character. Northstar is often considered to be the first major openly gay superhero in mainstream comic books. It was kind of a big deal too, when Northstar came out, because prior to 1989 the Comics Code Authority wouldn’t allow gay themes in mainstream comics. Another reason this was such a big step in progress is the fact that there was an unspoken “NO Gays” rule at Marvel during much of the 1980’s. They have since been open that this is no longer a policy, and it’s evident with Northstar’s marriage and in other books like the recent run of X-treme X-men, which featured a version of James Howlett (Wolverine) who had a gay relationship with Hercules, X-factor, where two bi-sexual characters had and on panel kiss (which won writer Peter David the 2011 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book), and the Young Avengers series that featured gay couple Hulkling and Wiccan (which, in 2005, won Marvel the GLAAD Award for Best Comic Book).
Comic book creators are one thing, but how about comic book readers…? We get notoriously butthurt (irony) because of how detrimental a character’s sexuality is to our personal life (sarcasm). In an interview a few months back, Andrew Garfield suggested that he’d love to see a gay Peter Parker on screen (or at least, a Peter Parker who was exploring his sexuality), and the comic community proceeded to collectively shit many, many bricks.
I understand the argument that Peter Parker is a classic character and there’s no reason to make him gay and screw with the continuity, but I don’t care. We’ll send DEATH THREATS to a publisher for not allowing a gay character to get married, but we won’t even entertain the notion that straight character could be re-imagined as gay, or bi-sexual? These characters have a sentimental value to us that we refuse to let go of and that, to me, isn’t progression. Tradition has it’s place but, while I accept that at this point an on-screen gay Spider-Man will fail to succeed at the box office, I don’t feel like that’s a good enough reason to say that something should NEVER be done. The Punisher is probably my favorite comic book character. Show me a Beretta-toting, muscle-bound, bloodthirsty, handsomely-brooding Frank Castle that also happens to be gay, and I’ll show you a married, father-of-three that has to re-evaluate everything he thought he knew about himself.
As a long time comic book fan, I’m gla(a)d that there are more and more mainstream LGBT characters. Along with being an escape from the real world, comics have often been a beacon of hope for how we want our real world to be. The struggles of the X-men to have a place in a world that rejects who they are as individuals can very much be seen as a parallel to the struggles of the LGBT community. I hope that mainstream comics continue to progress and that we can see new LGBT characters, and characters re-imagined as LGBT, get some time in the spotlight. Comics can be an inspiration to social evolution and I hope that we continue to see a trend of great books paving the way for equality.