It’s been a big couple of weeks for human rights and human rights in comics. Friends of mine have gotten married, things that were obviously unconstitutional have been overthrown, and there has been mass celebration of the ability of love to transcend stigma.
I don’t think there was a single one of us who didn’t nod kudos to DC when they announced last week that they would be announcing a new homosexual character, and a lead character. Of course, most of us were already aware that DC has many homosexual characters, and forum boards across the web reflected this.
Also Marvel lent a hand tackling the controversy of same sex marriage via Northstar proposing to his boyfriend Kyle Jinadu. Again, we all celebrated and kudos were given while people all across the web asked the same question. Why now?
*image property of Marvel*
Well obviously, one could argue that art is the voice of the people and that we as creators need to reflect the times and issues in our work or we are neither artists nor is our art relevant to the modern social climate.
However, as Dark Horse title The Goon #39 alluded too before all of this even went down, all of these changes lately from art style and origin reboots to altering the sexuality or race of classic characters pretty much can only add up to one thing. Commerce. (On a side note, that issue took some serious moxy, so hats off to you, Eric Powell. Also, I think if One Million Moms saw some of the art from The Goon #39 we’d be having one million heart-attacks on our hands…)
*image property of Dark Horse*
This sentiment seemed to be echoed by most when DC’s mystery character turned out to be none other than Alan Scott, aka… WHO???
Alan Scott is a Green Lantern from a different earth, so calling him a main character is a bit of a stretch, however as more jaded internet commenters bitterly pointed out you still get to have your headlines read “Green Lantern Gay!!!”.
Now, say what you want, but I genuinely believe that as much as money may or may not be influencing this reboot, DC really is trying to do the right thing socially as well.
When Cousin Matt and I first heard a main character was going to be gay we actually both figured it would be someone so obscure that only Matt would know them and I wouldn’t. Then all that hype about Captain Marvel came out. Matt was at first furious as Billy Batson is far too young to be handling such content with women or men, but I showed him how he was supposedly going to be launched older and how if true this would actually be a great thing for teenage boys coming to terms with their homosexuality in such an already confusing time in their lives. By the time we learned that it was in fact Alan Scott, Matt had gotten so pro the idea of the potential psychology of this new Captain Marvel I’d warmed him up too that he was twice as bummed about them seeming to settle on such a weak statement when they could have done some good for the world.
I think we all understand that publishing is a business. It is the publisher’s job to make money. However, assuming being gay sells comics would be a mistake. Being gay does not sell comics. It can easily sell manga to teenagers and grownups wanting to see the same sex get naked and/or sensitive with each other and possibly tentacle beasts, but that’s not quite the superhero market.
The superhero market thrives on one thing, heroes. Representations of the human spirit made manifest on pages of ink and chivalry so that multiple generations of readers young and old have something to aspire too. That’s what sells superhero comics. Hope.
A teenage boy facing homosexuality and bullying in his teen years but rising above it and being the best human he could be would give people hope, and major publishers might very well tackle that someday. Batwoman gave people hope, Willow, and The Authority gave people hope. Even The Goon gives people hope. We’re America. Hope sells, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. That said, I look forward to seeing what DC does with Alan Scott from here, and I do so with hope. –N
*image property of DC*