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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

Before DC revealed which of their mainstream heroes they were outing, I guessed Green Arrow. So I was half right. Probably I was thinking of the Green Parrot, the bar not a superhero. I don’t know if the Green Hornet is gay too, but he had his own suspiciously cute sidekick long before Batman met Robin.

So when Green Lantern flew out of the closet last week, I didn’t burst into song about DC’s bravery and boldness, but I was happy enough. Founding member of the Justice League. Not one of the big three, but right up there with Flash and that guy who talks to fish. With a good writer, he could be the Kurt Hummel of the superhero ensemble cast.

Except DC had already rebooted Green Lantern and the rest of the Justice League last year. And that Green Lantern remains as clumsily heterosexual as he was in his recent Hollywood flop. All of the hype was about the other Green Lantern. You know. The one who lives on Earth 2?

I teach a course on superheroes, which is pretty much what you need to understand the ever evolving DC multiverse. So let me make it simple: Earth 2 ain’t us.

Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne are names almost as iconic as their alter egos. But only comic book readers know the world of difference between a Hal Jordan and an Alan Scott. Hal suddenly unmasking his inner homosexual to his tolerant teammates? That would be news. But Alan? Yes, he was the original 1940 Green Lantern. But he was never a member of the Justice League, and he hasn’t starred in his own comic book in over six decades. Unless you’re visualizing a clashing red and green uniform with a high-collard cape, he’s not the Green Lantern. When DC first rebooted their universe in the late 1950’s, Lantern got the full makeover: costume, origin, secret identity. The retired Alan Scott didn’t belong to a Corps of interplanetary policemen. He was an Aladdin’s lamp knock-off. His lantern was magic.

And I have absolutely nothing against him. But a gay Green Lantern on Earth 2 is not earth-shattering. It’s just earth-2-shattering. As one reader commented at comicbookmovie.com: “So what if he’s gay? This is Earth-2 and this is not the same Alan Scott from the golden age, this is an alternate version of the character like the gay Colossus in Ultimate Marvel.”

That’s right. Gay superheroes aren’t just secondary characters like, say, Oscar Martinez on The Office. Their entire universe is secondary.

And yet the conservative activist group One Million Moms (they don’t think much of Ellen DeGeneres either) is orchestrating an email campaign “to change and cancel all plans of homosexual superhero characters immediately.” Alan Caruba calls the new old Lantern “a form of gay indoctrination for a new, younger generation.”

If only. It’s neither a step forward for gay rights or a step backwards. Writer James Robinson suggested converting the Earth 2 Lantern only because the reboot erased the character’s gay son. So the cosmic quotient of gay superheroes remains the same: pretty damn small.

Meanwhile, anything goes on an Earth 2. Remember those sibling mutants Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver? They’re the reigning incest couple on Ultimate Marvel. But don’t worry, they’re still their former and perfectly wholesome selves back here on Normal Earth. Just like Heterosexual Hal.

What DC really deserves credit for already happened. And it happened without the headlines and conservative backlash.

While last year’s gay reboot news swirled around the lesbian Batwoman, the real change was for Apollo and Midnighter, comic book’s leading gay superhero couple.  Like the gay Green Lantern, they lived in a different universe. In fact, DC had them quarantined in their own imprint, WildStorm, a previously independent publisher DC bought up in the late 90’s. Readers feared the reboot would wipe out not just the heroes’ marriage but their sexualities. But not only do the two remain gay, they and their secondary dimension were welcomed into DC’s mainstream continuity.

Apollo and Midnighter now hang out with former Justice Leaguer Martian Manhunter. Who, incidentally, is green. But for once the straight guy is the secondary choir member. It’s Apollo and Midnighter belting out the lead duet.

[A special thanks to AfterElton.com, where a version of this post originally ran.]

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