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Big Shiny Robot!

Power in Pride

Superheroes coming out of the closet

By Bryan Young
Posted // June 5,2012 -

It’s always been fascinating to see what pieces of comic-book culture find their way into the mainstream media. It was no surprise when, over the years, the news media latched on to big events with major, iconic characters. When Robin died in 1989—well, the second Robin, Jason Todd—the news media swarmed all over it. Robin had been part of the popular culture for years, was recognized the world over and was voted by readers to die. That seems pretty newsworthy to me.

When Superman died a few years later, it was another major media event. Again, it made sense. This was the (alleged) end of the single most recognizable comic-book character of all time.

But things are decidedly more bizarre today. Marvel Comics took to that daytime talk show of my nightmares to announce that two characters in the Marvel Universe were getting married. Unless it was Spider-Man getting married to the Dark Phoenix, I couldn’t imagine an instance where it was going to be news that big. Turns out it was Northstar getting married. And he’s going to be marrying his boyfriend.

Who?

The ladies of The View had to be told who Northstar was, too. He’s a C-lister on the Marvel roster, a member of Alpha Flight—the Canadian version of the X-Men—and he’s only been around since the late ’70s. He was one of the first superheroes in comics to come out of the closet, all the way back in 1992. Now he’s getting married, and the media is swarming all over it—even though they have no clue who he is.

I applaud Marvel for portraying gay characters doing normal things like getting married and having lives. I really do appreciate it. But when does someone’s sexual orientation stop being news? Marvel Comics could announce tomorrow that Wolverine was getting married to Jean Grey and my guess is the press would meet that news with a collective yawn.

Not to be outdone, DC Comics has also announced a character coming out of the closet, and it’s actually a major character: Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern from way back in 1940. His Green Lantern power was derived from mystical flame of his green lamp—and, ironically, for those fond of sexual double-entendre, his weakness was an aversion to wood.

Both DC and Marvel are still behind the Riverdale of Archie Comics, though, whose gay character, Kevin Keller, married his boyfriend in the best-selling (and sold out) 16th issue of Life With Archie. Predictably, conservative organizations like One Million Moms have already begun the protests. From their website: “Why do adult gay men need comic superheroes as role models? They don’t, but do want to indoctrinate impressionable young minds by placing these gay characters on pedestals in a positive light. These companies are heavily influencing our youth by using children’s superheroes to desensitize and brainwash them in thinking that a gay lifestyle choice is normal and desirable.”

Their argument against it is actually my argument for it, except that I don’t think it’s desensitizing or brainwashing; I think it’s just common sense. Of course being gay isn’t a choice, of course it’s normal and, if you’re gay, of course it’s desirable. And I’ve had plenty of talks with my kids about what that means. They’re 8 and 10. Thanks to comics, it was easier for me to have that conversation with them.

Enough people seem to agree with me that, when One Million Moms posted a “warning” on their Facebook page June 1 about Green Lantern coming out, their comments were so innundated with pro-DC comments that the page was taken down. According to a tweet by the organization, the reason was that they will be “offline most of next week for Vacation Bible School.”

I was discussing this topic on the Geek Show Podcast recently, and I think one of the panelists made the best point about the whole thing: “The real news will be when gay marriage isn’t news anymore.”

Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.

 
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