With Northstar and Kyle about to get married over in the X-Books and a “prominent” character over at DC about to be revealed as gay, I find myself wondering what the big deal is. It has definitely not been a well-kept secret.
On the history side of things, this is nothing new. Northstar has been unofficially gay since we first met him in the late 70’s. John Byrne created the character as gay. It was not actually revealed until the mid 90’s, but anyone that followed things already knew, so it was only “news” if you were not reading the books. It was only implied up to that point because of editorial policy at Marvel. Over at DC, this is really nothing new, it has just not happened in so public a manner before now. I suspect that the eventual reveal of who this character is will turn out to be a bit of a letdown. It certainly feels like a last-minute thing to garner some good press. There have been gays in the comics for a while now. While they are not all that well represented in terms of quantity, I would argue that the few there are have done well by the fans and activists. Batwoman and The Question were well handled, and Apollo and Midnighter were mostly well done. There were others at both Marvel and DC, and still more in the independent publishers, but up to now they have been lower rung characters. The problem with the coming reveal at DC is that there are only a couple of big characters left that could be the one. The hints we have seen imply that it is a male and that he has not yet appeared in the new 52. That does not leave many left. I wont speculate here; one because I don’t care, but mostly because the actual identity is not the issue. The reaction outside of comics is all that seems to matter.
Fox “news” tried to imply that it would be Superman to stir up controversy and clearly to push an agenda. Others have tried to point to Batman as an example of a character that was always gay. None of it matters. There is no way it will satisfy everyone. GLAAD and other groups have been fairly quiet on the issue. I certainly hope it is because until there is a real announcement, this is not worth talking about and that these are fictional characters.
The industry has reached a point where only stunts really matter. If the stunt stirs up chatter outside the industry, even better. If the chatter outside the industry is heated, or even angry then that’s a bonus! I’m sure there are LGBT folks out there who DO feel strongly about this, and they should, but they should also be interested in how the portrayal goes. Will this be positive, negative or realistic? I for one would hope that activists see that a realistic portrayal is better than any of the other alternatives. Sugar coating controversial issues never helps move those issues to a point where they are seriously and intelligently discussed. Just like gay pride parades seem to set “mainstream” acceptance of LGBT issues back, or at best make them the butt of jokes, over doing the happy happy, joy joy is not any better. Comics have come around to be more real world focused. Even the outlandish concept of super heroes has started to be more grounded in reality and genuine issues of importance. The social issue of gay marriage and just being gay is one issue that has been danced around for too long. I don’t really see another gay character in comics helping, but if it is done right, it certainly can’t hurt.