Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Green Power
Column by Steve Bennett
Published: 06/06/2012 01:36am
Like I said in last week's column I wouldn't hazard as guess which established DC superhero would "come out as gay" and I didn't. But if I had given it serious thought I don't think the Golden Age Green Lantern would have cracked the top five of my usual suspects. Although apparently there were commentators who seriously thought it might be Batman or Wonder Woman, it was of course never going to be one of the publisher's top tier characters. Heck, it wasn't ever even going to be any of their reliable B-listers -- it's unlikely but you never know when someone at Time-Warner might get a hankering to do a Martian Manhunter movie. And it couldn't be a C-lister -- if the story was going to have any kind of actual media impact they would have to have some kind of brand name recognition, so it makes all kinds of sense to make it one of the major brands' auxiliary characters.
In interviews Earth 2 writer James Robinson has assured us that this was all his idea, and I believe him, because the move does make a lot of sense on a purely creative level. The Golden Age Green Lantern has for decades been a character a lot of people (myself included) kind of liked in theory who has been desperately in search of, for want of a better term, a "deal," a method of distinguishing himself from all of the other Green Lanterns. For a while he went around calling himself Sentinel but that never caught on and during the final days of the old DC Universe for reasons obscure he became the landlord of The Emerald City, a housing development for magical creatures located on the moon.
But it also makes a lot of sense as a coldly calculated business decision. In spite of the fact the recent Ryan Reynolds movie didn’t make them the sort of money Time-Warner desperately hoped, the Green Lantern franchise has been a solid earner over the years. And one of the strengths of this particular brand is that, like the Disney Princesses, the fact that the character is in fact a group of characters hasn’t diluted the brand but grown it. Take, for example, John Stewart. His introduction in Green Lantern Vol. 2 #87 was a purely creative decision by writer Denny O’Neil to help tell stories about race relations and help diversify the DC Universe. It was a risky "political" move forty years ago and I don't believe anyone could have imagined Stewart would go on to appear in several Justice League cartoon series (I have to admit I get a little tingle when I think there’s a generation of kids who grew up with him as Green Lantern and think of Hal Jordan as "the white guy").
Maybe it was just a slow news day but the story got a remarkable amount of traction, even earning a joke in a David Letterman monologue, but what surprised me most was just how many variations of the phrase "out of the closet" were used in stories about the news. And it wasn't just at ICv2 (see "DC Hero Out of the Closet after 72 Years") -- "Green Lantern Out of the Closet" got 139,000,000 results at Bing (Fox News called it a "super coming-out"). I was surprised because I assumed that in these modern times the phrase was positively antique, plus there's the fact the term was inappropriately applied, seeing as it wasn't the 40s character revealing the true nature of his sexuality.
So by having Alan Wellington Scott (he has a middle name; I'm as surprised as you are) Time-Warner and its subsidiary DC Comics faces limited risk to reap high potential rewards, and if that seems like a cynical take on the subject, you might want to take a look at "Green Lantern Going Gay to Help Boost Stagnant Comic Book Business," a piece by Alex Klein that appeared on The Daily Beast site on June 5th. Among Klein's observations were "It's a decision that may have less to do with diversity than it does with new dynamics in the comic-book business" and "Switching up sexual orientation is a cunning way of compensating for flagging sales and aging characters."
Maybe it's all of the comic books that I read as a kid but I really don't want to be that cynical; I'd like to believe that it's not about money or promoting a "political agenda" but simple fairness. I would like to believe a character like Alan Scott could make a difference as a role model, for gay kids sure, but also as an example for everyone that you can introduce not as a gay character but as a character who happens to be gay.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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