The big secret is out. The New York Post is reporting that DC Comics original Green Lantern – of the past 70 years - will come out of the closet as a gay man in next week’s issue of “Earth 2.” This particular character, Alan Scott, his alter ego, is being re-woven into the series through obvious agenda politics, but most comic book readers will tell you it is hardly a huge victory for LGBT activists hoping for a gay Superman or gay Batman.
Without going too much into the weeds of comic book geek-dom, here are some important points to consider. Alan Scott’s Green Lantern is not the Green Lantern many non-comic book readers have become familiar with from the movie and cartoons recently.
In fact, there are two different characters that are Green Lanterns for the cartoon and the film. In the movie version, Actor Ryan Reynolds is Hal Jordan, an American test pilot who is chosen to become a Green Lantern. In the cartoon version John Stewart is a U.S. Marine veteran chosen to be a Green Lantern.
According to the contemporary story line, Green Lanterns are a “corps” of individuals assigned to protect different sectors of the universe and planets. In the case of Alan Scott, he is the GL of Earth 2, an alternate universe from Earth 1. Earth 1 is where the mainstays Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern hang out.
Alan Scott first appeared as a Green Lantern in All American Comics #16 in 1940 and is part of the “Golden Age” era of comics. In 1998, he was later re-written to have an openly gay adult son by the name of Obsidian. Alan Scott’s new story line within DC’s new “52” series next week erases Obsidian from his biography completely.
What is the point? There are many Green Lanterns in the DC Comics world and choosing one of the GL’s from the 1940’s comic book to come out of the closet is more symbol over substance.
The majority of comic book readers today are males. According to an online DC Comics survey (H/T Comics Alliance), 93 percent of the readership of their “52” series is male and only an estimated 2 percent is under 18 years of age. Only five percent are new readers. Given the complicated current story arcs of both Batman and Superman, does their readership really want them to come out of the closet as homosexuals?
It would have been a bigger marketing risk for DC to out one of their iconic three: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Although some argue that the male readership would not mind if Wonder Woman came out of the closet, nevertheless, these three characters are international pop culture symbols and go beyond regular comic book readers.
The comic book industry is amazing at marketing cliff-hangers and teasers. However, the big reveals tend to be another story. That is the interesting thing about comic books. They are like soap operas. Major characters are killed off only to come back months later in a different way. Some characters who were killed off years ago re-appear as well. The second Robin after Dick Grayson retired from that role was killed off by readership phone poll in 1988. He later re-surfaced in 2005 as “The Red Hood.”
DC Comics know very well how to put on a politically controversial marketing ploy, but in the end, they also know how to keep the money flowing.