Going Gay?

DC Comics has announced that they are planning to change the sexual orientation of one of their already ‘established’ superheroes.

While I’m positive that every comic reader out there is already looking through back issues of their 52 Relaunch titles to find clues as to who it might be, and in heated discussions, hypothesizing online on who it -should- be, I’m left with one question: Why?

I actually have a really big problem with their whole ‘announcement’ and how it’s taken the internet by storm – for two main reasons.

First, I find it incredibly disheartening that fans of certain characters are protesting the possibility that their favorite superhero may now be gay/bisexual/transgendered. There have been countless posts surrounding the rumor that it may Tim Drake, former Robin, now Red Robin, who is the leader of the Teen Titans. Another possibility has been Justice League International member and Green Lantern, Guy Gardner. Sadly, most of them are fans crying out that they would be ‘appalled’ or ‘disappointed’ if this was true. Does that inherently make them less heroic? Will their personality change so drastically because of it? I highly doubt it. It’s just embarrassing to see fellow fans, people who are willing to accept tights, masks and superpowers (genetic or otherwise) as part of who they are, but are so unwilling to welcome and embrace that their hero may want to love someone of the same gender.

Kate Kane

Secondly, it bothers me that DC feels it necessary to make a big deal about this in the first place. DC has been around for decades and they aren’t strangers to the concept of having a character of being gay. Immediately, three come to mind: Kate Kane (Batwoman), Apollo and Midnighter (Stormwatch). I know for a fact that there have been countless other superheroes and supporting cast members from DC who have been open about their homosexuality, but these are the ones with whom I am most familiar.

Kate was first introduced in the Detective Comics before the relaunch, the series was written by Greg Rucka and the art was done by J.H. Williams III, who now writes the current (and still lesbian) post-52 version of the Batwoman character. Never once in either of her comic runs did it seem trite or contrived, nor was it announced from the rooftops to draw attention to the character or sell more comics. The relationship between Midnighter and Apollo is not so different. Both characters were featured in a Warren Ellis’ run on Stormwatch, but when the series ended and he created The Authority through Wildstorm, he retained them for the new title. Not only are they gay men in a relationship, later on they adopt a daughter.

So, it begs the question: Why?

Honestly? I feel like this is a giant publicity campaign to try and gain more readers. Maybe DC realized that since they offended the majority of their female fans because of their overly sexualized superheroines in the DC 52-Relaunch, they needed to tap into a different market. The saddest thing about that, is that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. What is more likely is that they’re trying to stay competitive with Marvel, who has announced that they will feature the first ever married gay couple in comic book history.

Jean-Paul & Kyle

To me, one of them seems like a genuine care of the characters involved and allowing their relationships to evolve as they might in real life. The love between Jean-Paul Baubier (Northstar) and Kyle took time to develop, so the idea of them getting married is romantic, despite how tragic most marriages wind up in comic books. The other, just seems like a way to make news by essentially materializing a sexuality for a already established character out of thin air. We don’t know which character will end up coming out of the closet in DC’s universe, but whomever it is, it’s going to seem forced. I’m all for superheroes having different backgrounds, genders, sexual orientation, race, and creed, but when I feel it’s done solely as a publicity stunt, I’m not going to support it.

Sensationalism does not sell comics – Great stories and interesting characters do.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted May 21, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Very well put, Kim.

    Comics (the majority anyway) have a long, long way to go before anything other than white, American born males are represented fairly and respectfully. DC are a particularly bad (good?) example of a company who continue to squirm desperately reaching at the bottom of the barrel for anything that’ll sell their funny books.

    What you say is absolutely true, quality stories do sell, they sell well and they sell for a long time. Shock and awe sells too, briefly, then it blows over and no one cares. The really sad part is, there’s no need for it. The comic department of Warner Bros. is so small the guys at DC can do whatever they like, yet they continue to go for the quick fix approach.

    I used to say that if you don’t like something, don’t buy it -speak with your wallet- but DC’s sales continue to fall and they continue to pull the same stunts anyway- I guess they really do whatever they like after all.

    • Kim Brown
      Posted May 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      It just amazes me that they’re doing this at all!

      If they wanted to show their support to the LGBT community, why wouldn’t they simply promote the characters in their universe that are already of a different sexual orientation? I mentioned three in my post, but there have been others, especially in the supporting cast category. In the Manhunter series by Marc Andreyko, Kate Spencer’s assistant district attorney, Damon Matthews is gay and begins to pursue a relationship with a superhero (Obsidian, aka Todd Rice) in the short lived series. DC is in no way behind the times when it comes to these types of characters, so it -baffles- me that they’re trying to exploit it now.

      No one made a big deal about Kate Kane being a lesbian, and I’m wondering if that just had more to do with the team that was working on the book – or if DC was just concerned of the backlash that would come from it. Now that a lot of fans seem to be embracing and supporting the upcoming wedding between Northstar and his partner, I guess DC feels its their time to jump on the bandwagon. It’s shameful.

      You’re right though. Sensationalism does sell comics – but it never maintains those sales. The 52-Relaunch is a sparkling example of that… and this announcement will follow suit, I’m sure.

      Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Shannon
    Posted May 22, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    While I’m always going to be the first one there pining for characters who are gay because that’s who they are as opposed to characters who are gay to fulfill some kind of quota, I’m not going to shut this one out until I get a chance to actually read it and judge it on it’s own merits. I’ve made that mistake before, and almost missed out on Batwoman.

    Because the truth of the matter is, a very big deal WAS made about Kate Kane’s return to comics as a lesbian back in 52 (the year-long weekly series that followed Infinite Crisis, not to be confused the new 52) #11. DC shouted that one from every single rooftop available to them. There was a total media blitz. Even CNN was making a fuss about it. Batwoman’s reveal as a lesbian was in fact handled exactly the same way as this mystery reveal has been, and I’ll be honest, it upset me for exactly the same reasons this one upsets you, Kim. At the time, it did feel forced and like a publicity stunt, because that’s what it was. But it moved past that. The media storm died down and when the dust settled, you found a legitimately amazing character at the heart of it.

    Is it possible we’ll see a repeat performance here? Who knows. Given DC’s attitude of late I’m inclined to say ‘probably not’, but I’m still willing to give this a chance. I’m still willing to believe that not everything is done just to make a buck, and that you can’t fault a character for the way publicists decide to present them. And as slim of a chance as it is, I’d certainly hate to miss out on what could end up being the next Batwoman.

  3. Kim Brown
    Posted May 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I guess the big difference for me, is that this is an already established character who they’re ‘suddenly’ going to make gay. In the case Kate Kane, it was always the intention of the character to be a lesbian.

    I also have to say that a lot of the reason people love Kate Kane is because of the way that Greg Rucka conceived and wrote the character. J H Williams III is doing a good job, but I doubt she would be as likeable had he not had Rucka’s basis to build off of, and here, I feel like there is no foundation… they’re just building a house on sand and expecting it not to sink.

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