Friday, June 1, 2012

Does DC Stand for Decision of Courage or Deceptive Cowards?

So it's out there.  After a few weeks of buzz about which DC Comics superhero was to be outed as gay, the word has finally come that it is the exact hero whom I thought it would be.  I now find myself wishing I had documented this prediction so that my prophecy could be recorded for future generations.  Alas, I will have to fall back on the old, "I swear I knew who it was going to be.  Just ask my wife."

Who is it, you ask?  None other than Green Lantern.  And the media seems to be celebrating DC for its courage in making one of its more well known heroes gay.

But while many are applauding DC, I am a bit suspicious.  Not at all because they made an iconic character gay.  I'm all about superheroes being more human and realistic.  It makes for a more compelling story.  I have no problem with a homosexual character.  What leaves me suspicious is the way DC has gone about its decision.  It has insulated itself.  Allow me to explain.

The nature of comic book characters is that they are forever the same, yet ever-changing.  By that, I mean that Peter Parker is still in his twenties fifty years after his first appearance.  Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman all look the same too.  At the same time, Captain America has died as has Thor numerous time, except that they didn't.  Comic book writers are forced to use drastic and often times absolutely ridiculous means to keep their characters' lives progressing while still keeping them around.  When it becomes too difficult to make up some sort of pseudo-science to explain the events away and when claiming it was all a dream (again) would cause readership to plummet faster that David Caruso's career, there is always the ultimate out for comic book writers: the alternate timeline.

As we have seen, and as I have come to accept, everything needs rebooting now and then.  Houses need painting, costumes need updating, drains need clearing, villains require resurrection.  It's all part of the life cycle of comic book story arcs just as in real life.  The alternate timeline as seen in such forums as Captain America, Spider-Man and the new Star Trek movie is a controversial, time-tested method by which to do so.  For the most part, the fanboys and fangirls that get pissed off about the old switch-er-roo and storm off in a huff eventually come back because they can't stand not to know what's happening.

Consider DC's decision in this light.  The Green Lantern is a cyclical character to begin with.  One lantern dies and anther is chosen to take his place.  That provides DC with an out (no pun intended) should they change their mind.  Too much backlash?  Guess what, the brave, gay Alan Scott dies in a heroic event for which he will always be remembered fondly and the just as brave (and dreamy) Hal Jordan steps in.  Did we mention he just so happens to be straight?  Taa-daa!

Consider also that the alternate timeline isn't just there to use as the ultimate comic trump card.  It already exists!  The comic book series with the gay Green Lantern is set in an alternate timeline from the very beginning.  The mainstream Green Lantern still exists with DC's flagship line and this extra gay one (by that I mean he's extra and gay, not extra-gay, although that is another potential story development) is around just for the hell of it.  It is for these two reasons (and the fact that they chose the superhero with a recent terrible movie) that I feel the excitement and celebration over DC's decision should be tempered.

Still, this is the most premier gay superhero to date, even if it is a secondary version of a main character and I suppose DC does deserve some credit for that.

On the contrary, whoever chose the photo to go with the Rolling Stone article online may have just set things back a few decades.  You write an article about Green Lantern being gay and you include a picture where he is engulfed in flames?  Flaming?  Really?

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