A friend of my brother’s who knows next to nothing about comics approached me today and asked “Have you heard they’re making the Green Lantern gay?!” At once I knew that he hadn’t heard the whole story. It’s true that all of the news articles reporting on DC Comics’ big announcement featured similar headlines–“Green Lantern Gay!”–but those headlines were a tad misleading. For those who don’t know this already, They are not making the Green Lantern gay. They are making a Green Lantern gay. See, there are five superheroes who use the name “Green Lantern”, and Alan Scott is probably the least well known. He was the first Green Lantern, but he has nothing to do with the space cops who use the same title. His ring is magic, not science. The character first appeared in 1940, disappeared in the 50’s, and came out of retirement to be a superhero once more. Since DC rebooted all of their titles last year, he has returned in the comic Earth 2 as a member of the Justice Society of America (JSA), an alternate reality version of the Justice League. And he is gay now.
There are a few different reactions I’ve witnessed since the story broke, and they intrigue me. There are people like the aforementioned acquaintance who don’t know the comics and don’t have all the facts. They are under the impression that one of DC’s most iconic characters is now a homosexual, which simply isn’t true. Of all the Green Lanterns, Alan Scott is the least recognizable. When I first started reading comics around 1997, Kyle Rayner was the Green Lantern. Before that, from 1958 to 1993, it was Hal Jordan. Even people whose only exposure to the Justice League was through the animated series of last decade remember John Stewart as the Green Lantern. So only a hardcore comic book fan who either read Green Lantern stories from the 40’s and 50’s or Justice Society comics in recent years will know or care about this particular Green Lantern.
Speaking of hardcore fans, I have seen some of their reaction to the news about Alan Scott’s sexuality. Most of it is muted. I should point out to those of you who are not comic readers that DC’s “New 52” (reboot) has many fans feeling apathetic about anything that happens in their titles these days. DC basically erased all the stories written about their characters in favor of trying a fresh new approach to things. It hasn’t really payed off for them in the long run. For every new reader they get, they lose an old one, and sales are basically back to where they started. That being the case, most diehard fans of Alan Scott just don’t care one way or the other, because this Alan Scott is not THEIR Alan Scott. The one they spent years reading about in JSA (seriously, you should read the graphic novel collections of JSA because they are wonderful). This Alan Scott is young and just starting out, not the battle-hardened and no-nonsense veteran mystery man who seeks to impart his wisdom into younger superheroes inspired by his legacy. All of the character development that Alan and the rest of the JSA have had since the 40’s doesn’t exist anymore, so who cares about this new version of him who already bears little resemblance to the character they love?
Now some fans do care about this news, and it’s in a positive way. They find it refreshing that a character with so much history has been reinvented as a superhero that LGBT readers can look up to. Comic book historian Alan Kistler is very pleased with the new direction, as are most of my friends who read JSA. That being said, there are those who feel this is somehow a betrayal of the character and is a horrible idea. Well, to them I would ask…why? So much about Alan Scott has already been changed. Why does this one thing matter to you? After all, it’s not like Alan’s love life was a big plot point in the old timeline (as was the case for almost all of the senior members of the JSA). I mean, sure he had kids, but one of them was gay. And yeah, he did marry one of his reformed villains, but she was largely ignored in the recent stories anyways. Besides, there have been gay characters in comics before. Alan Scott isn’t even the most high-profile one. The only reason anybody is making a big deal out of this is because he shares a codename with a more famous comic book character. Well, that and…
The people who are upset with this for religious reasons need to grow up. Seriously. You’re really going to single this one thing you find immoral as a reason to get mad at DC? Plenty of other things happen in comics that should bother you if you treated all “sins” as equal: scantily clad women, gore and violence, cursing, withcraft, sex (tons of sex), etc. Why, if you are willing to either ignore or downplay those other things, would a character who is in a stable and loving relationship with another person bother you so much more? Because it sends the wrong message to the children? Well, comics haven’t been for children since the 80’s so that argument doesn’t work. And nobody is forcing you to buy it. You think Alan Scott being gay “ruins” the character somehow? Fine. Go read any of the stories featuring not-gay Alan Scott from the seventy years prior to this announcement. You find homosexual sex disgusting (actual reason I’ve been given)? Well it’s a good thing it’s a comic and not hardcore gay porn, isn’t it? Comics are not written with the preferences and prejudices of anti-gay people in mind. They don’t care about the opinions of those kind of people. Nor should they.
To wrap up, DC doesn’t deserve your wrath if you’re truly mad about this. They are constantly trying to shake things up in a desperate attempt to get more readers. Don’t read the comic if you don’t like what’s in it. And be honest with yourself about why you’re upset. If this new development really effects the story in a negative way (and it could happen. Glee, anyone?), then get upset. But right now we have no idea where this story will take us. James Robinson is a gifted writer who has written lovely stories before, some of them even featuring gay characters. I beg you to keep an open mind in this regard. Please give Earth 2 a chance. And if you don’t read comics, please understand that this is not a bad thing, nor should it change your opinion of the Green Lantern in any way.