Green Lantern is gay?
It sounds like big news, doesn’t it?
It was reported like it was big news. And, of course, loopy American Christians opposed to living in the 21st century proclaimed that DC’s decision to change an iconic character’s sexuality was corrupting their children.
Leaving aside the fact that comic companies would kill for the chance to corrupt your children because it would mean someone under 35 had accidentally wandered into a comic store, the headlines sort of made sense.
Green Lantern is one of DC’s superhero superstars. He’s a member of the Justice League of America. McDonald’s was recently giving away Green Lantern action figures with their Happy Meals. There was a Green Lantern movie last year and, try as we might, we can’t forget the memory of it. It burns, oh God it burns. Please in the name of Jack Kirby, make it stop…
Thing is . . . there are a jillion Green Lanterns in the DC Universe and the gay one doesn’t even crack the top half dozen in terms of reader recognition.
The all new Rainbow Lantern has never belonged to the Justice League. His action figure isn’t one of the half dozen available with your Happy Meal, which seems unfair since “happy” is still officially a synonym for “gay.” And to make sure he’s never going to make a pass at Bruce Wayne, this Lantern lives on “Earth Two” where, for all we know, gay still means happy.
Ever since the “death of Superman” in 1992 — spoiler alert, no longer dead — the two big comic companies have clued into the fact that the news media (much of which is owned by the same corporations as the comic books) love stories that suggest someone is tinkering with the mythology of comic book characters that anchormen vaguely remember from watching “Super Friends” in their jammies on Saturday morning.
Thus the stories that make the headlines all share two common elements.
The first . . . The characters were iconic when the editors or, better yet, their parents were kids. Or — and this is where DC and Marvel keep pulling a brilliant bait and switch — the characters sound like they’re iconic. Batwoman — a character even ancient fanboys like me barely remember from the tragic days when Batman palled around with Bat Mite and Ace the Bat Hound — made headlines when she was re-envisioned as a lesbian. But hey, she’s a Bat character so it’s news. Sort of.
Northstar — the Marvel hero who’s marrying his boyfriend in mythical New York — made headlines because he’s apparently now a member of The X-Men. If the press release referred to Northstar as the leader of Alpha Flight — the Canadian superhero team even Canadians don’t care about, which is where he got his start — the news wouldn’t have made the comic blogs even if he was marrying Barack Obama in a ceremony presided over by Mitt Romney.
Recently, I wanted to encourage my niece to share my comic book vice by finding her a series for her 11th birthday. And even though she’s consumed the whole Harry Potter series, Twilight, and is now into Hunger Games — in other words, she’s a pretty sophisticated 11-year old reader — I didn’t even consider any of the major DC or Marvel mags (nor did my friends who run the Comicshop in Vancouver steer me towards any) because of their graphic violence and sexuality, which isn’t there to corrupt kids, but because their audience isn’t kids. Instead, it’s nerds like me who have actually heard of Alan Scott. (That’d be the gay Lantern.)
But whenever what Stephen Colbert dubbed the lamestream media reports on “comic news” they either pretend your typical comic reader is a six-year old, or they breathlessly report the “shocking news” that “comics aren’t just for kids anymore” — a story that stopped being news before Dan Rather went gray.
Case in point: In 1999, Gail Simone — one of the most successful female comic writers of all time and a reigning master of superhero storytelling — coined the term “women in refrigerators” to discuss the problem she had with male writers offing female characters in horrific ways to up the dramatic stakes for their men in tights. The phrase referred to a certain superhero who came home to his kitchen and discovered the remains of his girlfriend . . . three guesses where he discovered her. That hero was yet another of the Green Lanterns, Kyle Rayner.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that comic wasn’t written for the Twilight set, where the vampires prefer nibbling to biting. And neither are any of the comics featuring the new gay Lantern.
As someone who still loves comics and hopes they still exist 10 years from now, I’m delighted DC and Marvel keep duping the mainstream media into covering non-news stories about non-events. But just to be clear to those of you who haven’t flipped open an issue since you were a kid . . . none of the iconic characters who have been “killed” have stayed dead for more than a few months. And none of the characters whose sexualities or ethnic origins have been reimagined are exactly worthy of headlines, either.
– Mark Leiren-Young blogs and does all sorts of other stuff at leiren-young.com