Sunday, June 3, 2012

Change for Change's Sake?

Karen: David B made a comment in the Suggestion Box on Friday about the news that the Green Lantern of Earth 2, Alan Scott, is now gay in the new DC Universe. I'm curious how you BABsters feel about this change. Personally, I've been glad to see more gay characters in comics, just as I was pleased to see an increase in characters of different ethnic groups over the years. I think it's great for everyone to get some representation. But this particular decision seems contrived. Writer James Robinson said in an interview that in the 'old' universe, Scott had a gay son, Obsidian, but with the advent of the new universe, he had disappeared. He felt badly about the removal of a gay character, so his solution was to turn the new, young and unmarried Scott into a gay man.

Karen: I can understand what Robinson's saying, but I can't help but think that the primary reason DC is doing this is to get some press. After all, they could have just made the character gay and never made a big announcement.

Doug: As you all know, I'm not reading anything new these days (for the past several years, really). But wasn't the new Batwoman a lesbian? I seem to recall some press about that. I think, as you said, that this is somewhat contrived and for my money is reactionary to the news out of Marvel that Alpha Flight's Northstar is going to get married. I believe he was the first gay character from Marvel or DC. At any rate, it doesn't matter to me in real life who is gay or straight -- the quality of a man's or woman's life is my measuring stick. Do I have feelings about some of the hot-button political issues of today? Sure I do. But a person's worth goes beyond their political, cultural, or sexual persuasions in my book. So for DC to make a big deal about this in the press is bandwagoning to one extent, exploitive to another.

Doug: Quite some time ago -- can't recall when -- we had an Open Forum where the political and/or religious backgrounds/leanings of certain characters became a topic of discussion. Let's face it -- characters from both companies through the years have been written pretty blandly in these areas (Ollie Queen under Dennis O'Neil perhaps the notable exception), and I guess overall that's where I'd like them to be -- not the drab one-size-fits-all of Silver Age DC... they can still have a little personality. But one of our commenters said that once it's known that a given character is Catholic, or a vegan, or divorced, or gay, or whatever, readers form prejudices for or against that character and they cease to be just that -- a character, and may become instead a caricature. Personally I don't read comics for my social commentary, and overall it's not important to me that our fictional friends necessarily mirror the demographics outside the four color page. Let me add one exception -- the expansion of racially/ethnically diverse characters has been welcome, as you stated; but as far as peeling away the onion... Am I making any sense here??

Karen: I see what you're saying, but I think people like to see themselves represented in movies, books, and TV. There have been many groups of people who over the years have not received much attention. I think of the story Whoopi Goldberg has told about how excited she was as a young girl when she saw Lt. Uhura on Star Trek for the first time. She ran to her mother and said, "There's a black lady on TV and she's not a maid!" There's something to be said for having characters, in any medium, represent society at large. But I'd like it to be a more natural, organic development and not some pre-meditated publicity stunt. However it shakes out, I just hope they do a good job with it. But honestly, I really miss the old Earth 2, with the senior citizen heroes who had sons and daughters. That was really different, and special, and I think it was a huge mistake to wipe that out.


david_b said...

As the way my comment is no doubt expressed, I woefully submit my view of today's comics is not what it was 40 years. I view 'em through the eyes of someone more cynical, mature, and perhaps more objective, not so much the characters as I do the motives of those who create 'em.

Karen, you help bring up the core point to me..: If it's so natural and shouldn't be surprising since it's in everyday life, why advertise it so..? Are sales really THAT bad these days? I never cared much for orientation, but the virture of it advertised so much irritates me that it has to be in my face, and with an established character. I'm with Doug as the measure of a person is in his courage, and how he overcomes his challenges in life, whether it be against the dreaded Red Skull, or simply gets him/herself in a wheelchair each morning with missing limbs.

Where's the imagination to create a new character..? If the motive was to, in some respect, go 'oops, hey, DID YOU KNOW GL IS...', then it sadly reveals more sensationalism on the part of the creative team than any true concern for character development.

I made a comment once where I liked the development of Wally West in the New Titans as being a staunch Conservative, but what was primarily used for team banter and to perhaps reflect a more dimensional team, resonating their members off the 2D page and endear their motives more to us as living, breathing characters, like peeling away the onion. But that was kept within the aspects of the story, like Cap's occasional comments about the war in Vietnam. It worked well on a more subtle nature from a story-telling perspective, not blatantly advertised.

I'm eager for everyone's comments.

(And yes, I did hear the joke making the rounds whether Alan's only weakness is still.. wood.)

Kid said...

I think we can safely assume that Whoopi Goldberg's childhood comment (if not apocryphal) has been filtered, processed and coloured by and through her adult sensibilities to some degree. As I've pointed out elsewhere, there are no Scottish, bearded, middle-aged superheroes of my size, weight and build currently on the scene, and I don't feel marginalised or under-represented. Nor do I need one in order to feel comfortable with myself or accepted by others. There is no anti-gay stance in comics, so there's no imbalance that needs to be redressed. It's nothing more than cynical exploitation on the part of the publishers, and pushing an agenda on the part of the writers.

William said...

I'll start by saying, "I hate retcons". I really do. Which is one of the big reasons I don't read the new stuff. If you think about it, both companies have basically "rebooted" their respective universes multiple times. The New DC 52 thing being the latest. (Marvel has especially retconned Spider-Man many times). Retcons are lazy writing and a slap in the face to long-time fans. When some new "creator(s)" come along and declare that everything you thought you knew about a character or storyline, is WRONG!

I don't really care that much about Alan Scott as a character or whether or not he's gay. The thing that bothers me is that he's been around for 75 years and he wasn't gay before. Marvel's "Ultimate Universe" did a very similar thing with Colossus. In case anyone didn't know, Ultimate Colossus is gay as well, but Marvel figures it's O.K. because it's not the "real" Colossus. That is basically what James Robinson has stated in his comments. To paraphrase, "Hey old-time fans, it's cool this is the NEW DC Universe, so this isn't the same Alan Scott you grew up with. This is a totally different guy. So all your old comics are unaffected by this radical change." What a load of BULL!

Marvel found a way to change Spider-Man's race in the Ultimate Universe without altering that Universes' Peter Parker. Marvel didn't just suddenly change Peter Parker's race, they created a new character named Miles Morales, somehow gave him spider powers and made him the new Spider-Man. So Ultimate Spider-Man is now black AND hispanic (which seems a little overly PC to me, I'm surprised Bendis didn't also make him Jewish, Arab and Asian while he was at it), but I digress. DC could have done something similar to this with the Alan Scott/Green Lantern situation. Instead of fundamentally changing Alan Scott, they could have created a new character, who happened to be gay, and made him a Green Lantern. That way they could have still misled the press by announcing that "Green Lantern is now gay." But it would have left the classic continuity intact.

This was quite a rambling post. Sorry, my thoughts were all over the place.

dbutler16 said...

I do think it's good to add some gay characters to the pantheon of superhero mythology, but I agree that this seems forced, contrived, and a publicity stunt. I also don't think a person's sexuality should be the main focus of a superhero comic, though of course there will be certain issues where it will be a significant part of the story. I am also in the "I hate retcons" camp. I'd rather they either created a new character, or took a character whose sexuality hadn't been clearly established over decades (yes, I know this is a reboot so it's not "the same" Jay Garick) and who many people had gotten used to being a certain way. I don't like making major retcon types of changes to long serving characters.

Was Northstar the first gay superhero? I think Element Lad was "outed" at some point, though I don't know when it happened, and it was probably something subtle (remember subtlety in comics?) so an exact confirmation would be tough to pin down.

Edo Bosnar said...

Like Doug, I don't read any new stuff put out by the big two, not super-hero comics anyway, so at one level I really don't care.
Otherwise, I like the fact that at least since the Bronze Age, super-hero comics have continually included attempts at matching the diversity of society in real life, and I have no problem with gay super-heroes and supporting cast members.
That said, I tend to agree with what seems to be the consensus in this thread, i.e., that this particular instance is very contrived, and it's not just "change for change's sake" like the title of the post, but "change as blatant marketing ploy." It's yet another stunt, meant to generate a buzz that even gets picked up by the 'mainstream' media (like the various infinite identity crises or "Civil War" or the "New 52" and so on and so forth), which usually bring nothing new or better to the table. Which is the reason for my abstinence from mainstream super-hero comics as mentioned above...

humanbelly said...

I distinctly remember that there seemed to be an apalling race between Marvel & DC around 1989 to "out" an established character. Rumors flew early about Northstar in Alpha Flight, and then suddenly the Pied Piper revealed his orientation in The Flash. It just seemed calculated and cynical, regardless of how relatively well/poorly either was handled. Personally, I like the Piper better-- but he was such a goofy oddball that it pretty much put him in the realm of "quirky token gay friend", which doesn't strike me as an actual step forward.

The problem, of course, is with a "we need more gay characters!" editorial/creative mandate. Whatcha need are more characters for their own sake, and be willing to commit to racial/religous/sexual diversity whilst creating them. But the process needs to be more organic in its roots, I'd think.


William said...

I agree with humanbelly. Merely assigning a minority trait to a long-standing, well established character, just comes off as insincere to me. It doesn't come organically from the heart of the creator. It's just diversity for diversity's sake. Like it's some kind of commodity or something.

ChrisPV said...

While I agree that this is a terribly, terribly cynical marketing ploy, it could be worse. Tell me you can't picture some genius at DC deciding that the Joker should be gay to "explain" why he has such an obsession with Batman? I don't know how many gamers we've got here, but Arkham City definitely gave off that vibe. It was a really, uncomfortably homoerotic take on the characters. I believe at one point Joker makes a comment about his "Bat-tushy" or something to that effect.

So the take home message is think about consequences before suddenly introducing subtext into your comics. Or at least be talented enough to pull it off.

Lemnoc said...

Ironic that comic "heroes" had to wait until popular opinion shifted before they "could" champion their own lifestyles.

Was Alan Scott such a coward that he had to wait until it was culturally safe to come out of the closet? Where were these "heroes" 25 years ago when taking a stance about the civil rights positions were dangerous, daring and in need to champions and role models?

Doesn't seem particularly heroic of the heroes or their publishers. Just seems exploitative. And there's nothing new or daring about that.

ChrisPV said...


Are you implying that Flashpoint was a hastily conceived, ill-considered attempt to grab headlines whilst simultaneously making every last gorram book a transparent grab to the lowest common denominator, with the odd clumsy fumbling at cultural relevance sprinkled in?

'Cause that would just be silly.

Anonymous said...

Northstar was gay for years before it was "revealed" if you paid attention in Alpha Flight by John Byrne. That was much better handling than any announcement of his sexual preferences.

They're hoping for some media attention and a sales spike.

If they had any guts, they would have made Hal Jordan, the REAL Green Lantern with his own comic book, come out. Now that would be a man without fear.


Garett said...

I agree with the consensus here, and also with Karen that the old Earth 2 characters were great!

Fred W. Hill said...

Got home late after watching a movie, Year of the Dog starring Molly Shannon, at a friend's house. While looking up commentary on the film I saw a link with the line, "Green Lantern revealed to be gay". My initial reaction was, "which Green Lantern?" Perusing the site, I learned it was the original, Golden Age G.L. Well, ok, I really didn't expect it would be Hal and it might have been funny if it was Guy, but I don't recall ever reading any comics featuring Alan so I have no idea if this contradicts decades of stories showing Alan romantically involved with a woman, perhaps married with kids or even greatgrandkids by now. Yeah, it's a publicity stunt, but not one that particularly bothers me, but only because I'm not familiar with the character. Now say, if they suddenly decided that, say, Reed Richards or Steve Rogers had been gay all along, I'd definitely feel different and I truly hate the retcon that Norman Osborne not only survived the events of Amazing Spider-Man #122, but he also made out with Gwen and she had twins by him. That version of Marvel is a decidedly different fantasy universe than the one that got me hooked back in the Bronze Age.

vancouver mark said...

To me the only real concern is what would Martin Nodell say. He created the original Green Lantern. I never read the Golden Age GL and am not familiar with Nodell beyond the Wikipedia article. Does anyone know what his view on this sensitive issue would have been?
Apparently Alan Scott was his most famous creation and he worked on the title for seven years. Nodell was married for over sixty years until his death in 2006, and has two sons. Were they consulted before this radical change of his most famous character? If not, why not?

It's fine to create new characters that reflect diversity, but long-established characters should not be fundamentally changed to reflect changes in social demographics or fashion, unless their original creators approve.

Anonymous said...

Nodell doesn't own GL ni consult needed abd hes dead.

Chuck Wells said...

Can't have any respect for DC or any of the "creators" (lol) involved in turning Alan Scott gay.

Let's face it, the fans of this character were not clamoring for something like this, and if the writer felt bad about the absence of Obsidian, he also had the option of reintroducing him to fill that void. He didn't!

DC wanted to "out" an established name brand like Green Lantern or Flash, but then they went the pussy-whipped route and failed to impose this important new characterization on any of their established modern iterations: Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart or Kyle Raynor.

It's a cheat, and clearly the older fans who've clung onto the remaining golden age contingent are the most easily dispensed with when it comes to bullshit actions like this. It's not worth getting worked up over, and there is little to be done about it anyway.

DC go ahead create all the gay characters that you want, introduce all of the ethnic characters that you want, but if stealing established brand names (while fairly common over the long haul), detracts from "CREATING" a new HERO that could build its own legacy (without slamming anothers) is the best that you can do, then you guys are nothing but headline hunters for the wider media. The core fans aren't calling for stuff like this, did you guys even read the Nielsen ratings of who buys most comics? It just came out a month or so ago.

Inkstained Wretch said...

This is the type of thing that gives retcons a bad name. As most of the comments have noted, even with Robinson's explanation, this is a terribly contrived publicity stunt, nothing more.

I many be the most annoyed person on this thread in fact. I'm a long-time fan of the Alan Scott version of Green Lantern and have collected most of his appearances in the Silver and Bronze Ages. And this just doesn't square with the character as he evolved over six (!) decades.

Now, making his son Obsidian gay did work because it did fit in with the character as he was created: No female love interests, secretive, troubled, etc. Having him be "in the closet" explained all that.

But Alan Scott married twice, fathered two children and struggled to accept his son's homosexuality. He was the very model of a heterosexual guy from the 40s who didn't get gayness. To make him one now shows a complete disregard for the character.

Thank you, comics industry for giving me yet another reason not to buy new comics.

Roygbiv666 said...

I don't really care if he's gay or straight.

I think that the trend to re-jig an existing character (making them gay, or a different color, or whatever) points to a real, underlying problem - where are the brand new characters? When's the last time DC or Marvel created a brand new character that has achieved any level of success?

That said, if DC/Marvel does make a change, should they be doing so without promoting it in some way? They are (desperately and ineffectively) trying to get new readers (presumably), so of course they want to advertise anything they do. Does anyone seriously believe that the plethora of superheroes created in the wake of Superman was anything but a cynical attempt to hop on a bandwagon and make some cash? There's nothing wrong with wanting to make something popular and make money, that's the Capitalist way.

The question is really - are you more interested in reading about GL now that he has a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend (wife?)? Given that the comics themselves are no better than last year, I know what my answer is.

ChrisPV said...

Well, I think there are two reasons why new characters aren't being created. First, they flat don't sell as well. Comics are so niche marketed now and, myself included, I wanna read about Spider-Man and Superman, not some new guy. Now, if the books didn't cost three flamin' dollars a pop, I could justify taking a chance on something like, say, OMAC. But I can't, so I won't. Simple economics. And really, what's the most recent character you can think of who got really big? Like, recognizable outside the hobby big? Wolverine? Maybe Venom, if you really stretch? The new guys just don't hold a title.

The second, and I think more cynical, option is that creators don't want to contribute good character ideas to the big two because they'll get hosed on rights. Invincible would fit in great at Marvel, I can picture Hellboy running around with Zatanna pretty easy. But those creators want to keep the rights, so they do.

As far as the inclusivity piece, go the Miles Morales route. How cool would it be if Hal Jordan (because screw that guy) got somehow incapacitated, and had to mentor his new replacement who just happens to be a gay kid? Hal gets to stick around, you get your minority GL, and some good stories can come out of that. I don't understand why DC is so hellbent on denying the legacy aspect of their comics of late, seeing as that's their one major strength over Marvel. They've never had storytelling as consistently good, their artists spent most of their time desperately trying to catch up, and they only really started developing their heroes ten to fifteen years after Marvel had already hit the stride. The only thing they have going is the sense of long, continuous universe.

And now that's gone. And so am I.

Roygbiv666 said...

Yeah, I do like (liked) the whole Legacy thing (at least when it just existed, not having it highlighted (show, don't tell)).

It's just kind of sad that neither DC nor Marvel seem to have a clue. There are a bunch of old nerds (us) with fond memories of the 1970s, but I don't really expect anyone will be talking about 2012 in 35 years.

On that note, check out some alternative Bronze (Silver and Golden Age) comic covers here:
Setting the Standard in Comics!!


Karen said...

Thanks to you BABsters for the thoughtful comments AND for keeping the level of discussion polite. You're the best!

ChrisPV said...

Just out of curiosity, am I the youngest one here? I'm 28, came into the BA after the fact and just straight up liked it better than most of what was coming out when I was actually a kid.

Full disclosure, I have enjoyed a lot of what's come out of Marvel of late. I can even abide Bendis, although he's far from my favorite. But the DC reboot really has cut me off at the proverbial knees.

Roygbiv666 said...

I'm 43. Is there a poll somewhere on BABer's ages?

humanbelly said...

Ah, these threads dissipate all-too-quickly, IMHO. I feel like there's still an abundance of fine, thoughtful discourse to be had on this one.

A related thought I had on this one is, ARE there major characters in the big two that might conceivably come to terms with their sexual orientation? Much the way any number of non-super adults do right here in the real world? Even after they've married and started a family and everything? It would depend, of course, on how deeply we had historical access to those characters' innermost thoughts over the years. Or perhaps on whether they're particularly introspective at all.

Sheesh-- Batman's the first guy that comes to mind, which is REALLY unfortunate, given the 60-year-old SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT wounds that will likely never heal (man, if that congressional panel could see the comics of today. . . !).

Y'know-- what about Superman, too? Who's to know the genetic vagaries of Kryptonian sexuality? If someone were to make a case for a race that had a high incidence of bi-sexuality, I'd certainly receive it with an open mind.

Hmm. Iceman? Wonderman? (Always, at best, very awkward in his relationships) Ha! Fandral & Hogun? (that would actually be kind of awesome)

Nah, now I'm doing the same awful thing: trying to find an opening somewhere to introduce orientation into the already-existing character template. Bad, HB-- bad.


ChrisPV said...


See, I don't think that is bad. I think it can be done badly, but it isn't in and of itself bad. I think a lot of folks are willing to take changes like that if they are obviously thought through and not obvious gimmicks. For example, casting Laurence Fishburne as Perry White in the new Superman movie? Awesome, because he has all the chops to pull it off; he just happens to be black. All of those rumors flying around of having Beyonce play Lois Lane? Infuriating, because it's obviously about the gimmick.

If this had been the story of eighty year old Alan Scott coming to terms with his sexuality, maybe it'd have worked. Given how he responded to his son, I find that unlikely, but it could have worked. This is just an obvious sales stunt, which is why it annoys me while I'm legitimately excited about Miles Morales and his upcoming meeting with 616 Peter Parker. It's all about execution, and whether or not you've got an idea or it's a naked grab for attention.

humanbelly said...


Well heck, I'll give myself a bit of slack then, thank you. Y'know, if this had indeed been handled as an 80-year-old Alan Scott coming to very, very late terms with his sexuality (in, of course, the now-defunct continuity), I would have bought it completely. It almost certainly would have drawn criticism for being 'way too close to the character Christopher Plummer just won an Oscar for portraying, mind you, but it would totally have worked for me.

Yeah-- the problem is in the massive, massive reboot/retcon, really.


Related Posts with Thumbnails