Did DC Really “Out” The Green Lantern?
I’ve been an unrepentant comic book geek since I was about 12; ordinarily this isn’t something that comes up when writing about LGBT politics, but as it happens, last week DC Comics made the announcement that they were retroactively outing the character of Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern.
At first glance, it seems like a pretty bold move on DC’s part; debuting in 1940, Scott is one of DC’s earliest characters who still appears in comics. As a character, he’s wise, brave and generally a good role model. And in a sure sign that DC is doing something right, the move has aroused the ire of the anti-gay shrillmongers at One Million Moms, last seen trying to get Ellen DeGeneres fired as JC Penney’s spokesperson.
But here’s the thing (and this is going to get a bit tricky): Scott is not “the” Green Lantern. The character that everyone thinks of when they hear Green Lantern- and the subject of last summer’s movie of the same name- is the still-straight Hal Jordan, the second superhero to bear the name. Scott hasn’t had his own comic book in years. So while, yes, it’s commendable that DC now has an openly gay hero, it’s a character with very little cultural resonance whom hardly anyone who doesn’t read comics has heard of. Saying that DC has “outed the Green Lantern” is like running into George Lazenby at the mall and telling all your friends you “met James Bond”.
The publisher is essentially trying to have their cake and eat it too; they’re generating publicity and accolades by outing a character, but it’s a character who isn’t major enough to alienate anybody. Not that DC should be singled out; the most prominent openly gay character at their chief rival, Marvel Comics, is Northstar, a Canadian superhero who was introduced as a supporting X-Men character and who probably has even less name recognition than Alan Scott. Their other major outing was the Rawhide Kid, a fifties-era Western hero; this one seems especially insulting considering the Kid doesn’t even live in the same century as the vast majority of Marvel’s major characters, let alone rank among them.
The apparent, but false, boldness of DC’s decision reminds me a bit of a similar one Marvel made last summer; you may have heard news segments about how the new Spider-Man was half-Latino, half-African American. Except that wasn’t the actual Spider-Man; it was the Spider-Man in Marvel’s “Ultimate” imprint, which take place in an alternate timeline.
I apologize if I’m starting to sound like too much of the geek I already established myself as, but, speaking as a straight man, I can’t help but feel that LGBT comic readers deserve better. Hell, look at Archie Comics; they’ve got nowhere near the cultural cachet of DC or Marvel, but when they introduced a gay character, not only was he gay from the start, rather than retroactively, but he was a big part of the plot from the beginning.
When Stan Lee, the man behind most of Marvel’s major characters, debated the outing of the Rawhide Kid with Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition, he defended the decision by saying “We have one gay hero. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure there are [real] gay heroes who exist.” Lee was right, of course, and maybe some of us who have LGBT people in our lives who are more than just tokens or background characters would like to see that reality reflected, even if it’s in a fantasy.
Zack Budryk, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, has been writing since age 10 working towards a career of advocacy-based investigative journalism.
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