DC to Out a Classic Character

Stand away from the closet doors, nerds, someone's a'comin' out!

DC co-publisher Da DiDio set off a bomb of fanboy and -girl speculation this weekend by confirming that DC will re-introduce a prominent, established character in the New 52—BUT GAY!

One question asked at the DC panel today at Kapow, was about Dan’s interview with the Advocate in the USA. Specifically over the decision not to change any character’s sexual orientation when relaunching the DC Universe. At the time Dan stated they would introduce new LGBT characters rather than switch orientation, but the question asked why DC would switch race, size, age, all sorts of identifying features, but not orientation.

Surprisingly, DiDio stated that they had changed DC’s policy in this regard. And they are about to reintroduce a previously existing DC character who was previously straight and now will be “one of our most prominent gay characters.”

As Bob Wayne explained that, just like the President of the United States, the co-publisher’s policy on this “has evolved.”

This is a reversal—or to buy the buzzword-y spin—an "evolution" of DC's longstanding (and unpopular) policy and could signal an important conceptual shift in how sexuality is treated in comics and how gay characters are integrated into shared-universe continuity. An established name from one of the major "families" (cosa nostra realness, love it) carries infinitely more weight for readers and fans than new ones obviously shoehorned in to make a point. It's a bold creative move, too, from DC, who's perhaps feeling heat on this front from Marvel.

So, let's dish—Who's the new girl? So far, he / she hasn't been named but the buzz is building for a number of favorites. The Gay League and DC Universe Gays have lists, which so far include

Doll Man, Al Pratt and Alan Scott (the soon to be Atom Smasher and Green Lantern of Earth 2), Shazam, Black Adam, a new Hawkgirl, Vibe, Tim Drake, Charles McNider as Dr Mid-Nite (which would actually give the character sexuality for the first time), Wally West (in a “be careful what you wish for” proposition), Wonder Woman, a villain (you fill in the blank), Jimmy Olsen, Phantom Lady, and on and on.

This isn't out of left field nor all that new, see this and this.

Comics Alliance's Andrew Wheeler, whom we love, may be the Joe Biden to DeDio's "evolved" Obama in all of this. His prescient post named Tim Drake among the 10 Superheroes Who Need to Come Out:


DC doesn't have a prominent queer teen the way Marvel does with Wiccan and Hulkling. And Karolina Dean. And Julie Power. And Anole. And Graymalkin, and Xavin, and Striker. Basically all of Marvel's teen team books have at least one gay or bisexual member. DC has Bunker. They're a little behind the trend.

Yet DC has a chance to leapfrog all of Marvel's gay teens by outing a prominent member of the Batman family. Making Tim Drake, one of the former Robins, gay would instantly give DC the most high profile gay teen character in comics. Batman himself will never be more than conceptually gay, but there's no good reason for Tim Drake to be straight. He's young enough to still be coming to terms with his sexuality (though there's actually no upper age limit on that), and in his twenty year history he has never had a truly significant relationship with a woman.

This would be a controversial coming out, to be sure, because a whole generation of readers regard Tim as someone they grew up with. That actually makes his coming out more realistic, and would give those readers the experience of coming to terms with a friend's sexuality. For readers who defiantly prefer their Robins straight, there's still the older one. And the younger one. And the other one.

Previous to DC's line-wide superhero reboot, a lot of readers wanted Superboy to be gay as well so that he and Tim could be a couple. I'm not against the idea. But I also don't object to a bromance that remains a bromance, and a gay/straight bromance would be a refreshing change of pace.

DC Women Kicking Ass has a savvy take on this, too, which while appreciating what a "huge step for comics" it would be for Tim Drake to come out, nevertheless points us in another direction. Her theory, which also predates DiDio's announcement—a fact that really shows you how much this idea was out there—is that it'll be the new Earth-2 Green Lantern Alan Scott who becomes gay. Since they are rebuilding the characters from scratch in a so-far exciting way (see the new Hawkgirl), there's no reason Earth-2's Alan Scott couldn't be gay. This would also seem to play into DiDio's words "about to retintroduce," since the character makes his official debut in Earth-2 #3, hitting stands in July (handy timing, that).


Here's James Robinson on the legacy of the classic JLA Green Lantern and how he'll reinterpret that for the New 52:

Alan Scott really is the big guy of Earth-Two. Quite literally. He's very tall, he's dynamic, he's charismatic and he's also the bravest, most gallant man on the planet. He's like the great knight defending the Earth. He would die for his planet, he would die for his people. He is the epitome of what a hero should be. And I think even if he wasn't that way when he first began in the 1940s, he is kind of evolved to that in terms of his place in the Justice Society. I have always felt that he was that character and I have tried to keep that spirit and element of him alive.

To me, that reads like an old-school matinee idol-type hero, the kind to whom they might want to add some modern edge by making him gay? And with the "family" system of titles the New 52 is setting up, this would place a queer character squarely in one of the major families with none of the "now what?" awkwardness of a convenient second-stringer coming out or creating an all-new character just to be gay. Scott, too, being an elder statesman of the DCU has an unimpeachable quality that will shield them from too much backlash—it'd be a different story with Hal Jordan. Having the "new" queer character be an Earth-2 version of a major name from the DC universe is smart. It's a plausible and provocative difference between the old and new versions, downright timely if not trendy, and it seems little risk to greater continuity. 

It could always be a lady, too, with speculation including the new Hawkgirl, covergirl of Earth-2 #4, the new Phantom Lady, and perennial lesbian icon Wonder Woman. It's not a man's world, but without taking anything away from the girls, doesn't it feel like a guy's turn? A white, gay male's not exactly a symbol of incredible diversity, granted, but we're not talking about inventing a whole new character. This feels like they're gearing up for the sort of reaction that turning an established heterosexual male superhero, literally a symbol of masculine power, strength, and virility, into a gay male superhero—without a corresponding loss of power, nobility, or heroism—would generate. Such a move would say something about gender in comics, about being a hero, and about being a gay male, that DC hasn't said, yet. That's exciting! Isn't saying something new with familiar characters and their huge legacies what the New 52 was all about?


UPDATE:On Tuesday, May 22, Bleeding Cool followed up on its original story with a confirmation and comment—one that gives a little of the game away—from DC’s Senior VP Publicity Courtney Simmons to ABC News:

“One of the major iconic DC characters will reveal that he is gay in a storyline in June”

With "major iconic" and "he," it definitely sounds like it's not going to be Phantom Lady or Wonder Woman.


on May 21, 2012