Share & Connect
The American gay community and its supporters have had a lot of political and social spotlight in the last two weeks. First, President Obama publicly supported gay marriage. That was followed a week later with an official endorsement and support from the NAACP for gay marriage. Then a day after this, DC Comics jumped into the fray with the announcement that one of their core characters would be outed. That’s right, one of the company’s iconic characters; Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Robin, Green Lantern, or Green Arrow, will come out of the closet and reveal to be gay.
President Obama’s approval of gay marriage is no surprise as he was for it back in 1996 and is the most liberal person to be President in decades. As an organization, the NAACP has been moving steadily down the liberal path for some time and will do a lot to support President Obama. DC’s decision, however, is more puzzling. It is one thing to add a gay super hero to their character roster. However, to decide to out one of the iconic characters in American pop culture is a more bold move, and will in my opinion backfire.
Which ever character DC has chosen to out, they will not be the first gay comic book character. Marvel comic books character, Northstar, was the first gay superhero in comicdom but Northstar never became a well-known character, nor prominent outside the Marvel comics sphere. By comparison, everyone knows Wolverine, even if you do not read comic books. In the ensuing years after Northstar, other gay characters have been introduced. Colossus of the Ultimate X-men line from Marvel, Batwoman in DC, as well as two lesbian characters in the DC title “Outsiders.”
Fanboys and girls took these changes in stride. After all, in a world where people can fly, shoot lasers out of their eyes and hands, and a regular man can beat out Superman, writers try to make it as close as possible to reality. Yes, in a world where all this is possible, there would be gay super heroes and villains. Besides, as one Orlando, Florida area comic bookstore manager said, “they are just following the current social trends.” And he is right, comics left the space of silly kid fun a long time ago. Social realism has been injected in the story lines and characters for years. Characters have been made drug addicted, alcoholics, wife beaters, in the 1970′s black characters where introduced, as were stories about racism. So what is so different now, and what is the big deal?
I have a few answers. The first, I believe it is a cardinal sin in writing to change anything about a well-known character for any reason other than storyline. If you violate that rule, you typically lose the audience. An example of this is the change in powers for Superman, following the “Death of Superman” storyline. After the mega sales caused by the death of Superman, it was revealed that he was in fact not really dead, just in a super coma. Once he returned, his powers were energy based, and his hair was long. Calling the fan reaction lukewarm would be charitable as best. Sales for the comic dropped way below expectations, given he was back from the dead. Over the years various characters have been tweaked and changed in effort to stay fresh, or increase sales. Origin stories can change a little, sometimes costumes can alter, and you can change their powers a bit, but you cannot change say, Batman into a black man. If you make too drastic a change, you will lose readers.
Can there be anything more of a blatant pander, than changing Superman into a gay alien? Will we be faced with seeing Wonder Woman, not in love with Steve Trevor, or secretly Superman, but with Supergirl? There is no original storyline which will makes sense, other than “Oh, well they were secretly gay all these decades.” And that is a problem. Millions of people have grown up with these characters, millions more still enjoy them and now they will watch as decades of story, of character meaning, go out the window just to make a point. Here is why this matters.
Wonder Woman is from an island of amazons; no men. So it is really easy to make her a lesbian. If they ever make a movie for Wonder Woman, will the movie version incorporate a possible impending revelation? What do you do with integral characters like Steve Trevor who was the main reason she wanted to leave her cozy little island in the first place. What if it is Batman? What are the implications, justified or not, of a gay Bruce Wayne, living with young boys dressed in tights? Will this affect the millions of kids who would be future audiences — which super heroes are they going to be cheering on?
To me, the issue is not about having a gay super hero. If super heroes existed, there would naturally be a few. Rather, the issue is changing an iconic character for a political or social statement. The racial unrest of the 60′s and 70′s prompted the creation of characters like the Black Panther, Falcon, and Black Lighting. They did not; however, turn Captain America into a black man from the Bronx.
What DC is doing is wrong and stupid. I love comics, but I will not be buying a comic with one of the major heroes turned into a gay character. Neither will many others. I predict many parents will stop buying those comics for their children. If a movie comes out, if they do not hold true to the original characters, I will not see that either. This will be because DC destroyed an iconic character and all its rich history. The hero, whomever it turns out to be, will not be that character of old, any longer. There is no Superman without Lois Lane. There is no Batman without the tension of Catwoman. There is no Wonder Woman without Steve Trevor. There is no Green Arrow without his doggish ways, and love of the Black Canary. I could go on and on. These are icons. You do not change them.