By now, you’ve probably heard that DC is planning to reveal a gay character in June. Through various statements to the press and convention attendees, the powers that be have hinted at the following criteria for the mystery man:
• The character is male.
• The character has previously been portrayed as heterosexual.
• The character will reveal that he is gay in a storyline in June. (Courtney Simmons, DC Comics PR VP)
• The character was not part of the relaunch back in September. (This statement is based on the Bleeding Cool report that Dan DiDio said the character was being “reintroduced.” I don’t have a direct quote. It could be he meant only the character’s sexual orientation is being “reintroduced.”)
Speculation is, of course, running wild. Relegating the character to Earth 2 is a popular theory, since it will less likely anger the homophobic comics fans out there. That is, admittedly, a cynical view. It’s unlikely to be a Teen Titan or a member of the Bat family on Earth 1, since Bunker and Kate Kane are on those teams. I don’t see there being two gays on a single team, yet. This isn’t Marvel. A Green Lantern or a Flash is a good bet. And I don’t think it’s out of the question to consider a villain. I might be somewhat disappointed to have a gay Bizarro or Mr. Mxyzptlk or Harvey Dent, but we’ve come a long way in terms of positive representation, so a gay villain carries less stigma than before.
The big question…is why? With Batwoman, Voodoo, Apollo, Midnighter and Bunker, why introduce another LGBT character? In his interview with The Advocate last year, DiDio said, “What we really wanted to do was show the diversity of our audience across the line of our books. Right now we have such a wide fan base, and we wanted to create characters and stories that really reflected [that] fan base.” While popular, Apollo, Midnighter and Bunker do not have the mainstream iconic status (yet) of a Batman or Superman or Flash. Do we take DiDio at his word? Could it be that DC recognizes the benefits of having a major player playing for our team?
In recent years, DC has done a great job of introducing and sustaining LGBT characters in their books. Well, LGB characters, anyway. When you talk about LGBT characters in mainstream comics, the last letter in the acronym is non-existent. Still, Batwoman is consistently one of the best books out there. I also enjoyed Starman’s Justice League run prior to the relaunch. And I still miss Renee Montoya. Since the relaunch, Apollo and Midnighter have been the main reason I read Stormwatch, and I love how Bunker’s sexuality is such a non-issue to his teammates. I cringe more at his tendency to yell “Aye! Caramba!” than his purple costume.
So, what would it mean to have a major hero or villain be gay? After the late night talk show jokes and online flame wars die down, what will be the significance? Popular culture has always had (and will always have) the power to change people’s minds and open them up to new experiences and people who are different. Sometimes it takes something as seemingly trivial as a TV show or a comic book to break down some pretty hefty walls. Even the Vice President agrees with that. In his recent Meet the Press appearance, he gave a shout out to Will & Grace. “When things really began to change is when the social culture changes. I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anybody’s ever done so far. People fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand.” I think Karen would definitely drink to that.
No matter who DC’s “iconic” gay character turns out to be, it’s going to be another significant break in all those walls that seek to segregate and subjugate anyone who is different. Kids who may not have heard of Batwoman or Bunker may just find their way to those titles thanks to the publicity surrounding this character. And if it is a villain, we will love him and support him, no matter what. Because whether you’re saving the world or trying to rule it, you were reborn this way, baby.
Who do you think the character will be? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.