Comics join LGBTQ rights fight as superheroes "KAPOW" their way out of the closet
Published: Monday, June 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
Next time you hear someone say, “Comics are gay,” feel free to reply, “You bet they are! And they’re proud of it!”
Media are a reflection of the human species, and as humans evolve it only makes sense to bring that mirror along for the ride. Today, equal rights for the LGBTQ community are in the hot seat. Celebrities, companies and even President Barack Obama are all showing support for the equal rights of all humans.
While gay characters are no stranger to the comic book universe, Marvel and DC are taking the greatest strides recently by not only hosting a same sex marriage, but also announcing that a well-known superhero will be coming out of the closet in June, which is coincidentally LGBTQ Pride month.
Marvel Comics made the first move by announcing on “The View” earlier this month that issue #50 of The Astonishing X-Men will show Canadian superhero Northstar propose to his longtime boyfriend Kyle.
Northstar came out in Alpha Fight #106 in the early 1990’s proclaiming, "Do not presume to lecture me on the hardships homosexuals must bear. No one knows them better than I. For while I am not inclined to discuss my sexuality with people for whom it is none of their business--I am gay!"
The Astonishing x-Men #51, scheduled to hit shelves June 20, will showcase the mutant-human couples' same sex wedding, accompanied by an all-star superhero guest list.
The Marriage Equality Act legalized the marriage of same sex couples in New York last July, and considering most of Marvel’s characters reside in New York, it only seemed appropriate to Marvel Comics’ Axel Alonso to carry the storyline along with the times.
"Our comics are always best when they respond to and reflect developments in the real world,” he told Rolling Stone in a recent article. “We've been doing that for decades, and this is just the latest expression of that."
Earlier this month, DC Comic co-publisher Dan Dido announced at the Kapow! Comic Convention in London, that the company's stance on homosexuality among established characters has "evolved", and they will be reintroducing a known character from the DC universe as gay.
DC is receiving quintessential mixed reviews after announcing its plans. Some applaud them for their brazenness; others are skeptical of not the homosexuality, but the means by which DC is approaching the topic.
Brett Williams, writer for the comic Black Wraith and author of comic blog “PING! Mother Box PING!” said, "If it were the intention of the writer of the series to include an openly gay male in their book and that was approved by editorial, that's one thing. But a mandate from on high that some classic character with no historical precedence for being homosexual is now going to be homosexual, however well intentioned, just smacks of publicity stunt."
“I think the moral outrage now concerning DC Comics is particularly interesting given Obama's endorsement of same sex marriage recently,” said Blair Davis, instructor of MCS 349: Comic Book and Film Studies at DePaul.
“Perhaps pop culture is now becoming a non-political battleground in which critics can debate larger cultural issues through case studies of media representation.”
Regardless of whether DC is using this character as a stunt or platform, it’s all been done before. Last September, DC released new story lines and artwork as a part of their “New 52” re-launch, reintroducing Batwoman as "a lesbian socialite by night and a crime-fighter by later in the night."
Batwoman was hailed the year's "Most Outstanding Comic" at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards in March.
The organization states, "The GLAAD Media Awards elevate and promote fair, accurate and inclusive stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, people and allies that have increased awareness, understanding and respect for the lives of LGBT people.”
“Because it is such a hot issue right now, it’s nice to know that these companies are showing their support by having more of their characters come out as LGBTQ," said Kacie Swatkevitz, a DePaul senior and comic book enthusiast. "There are LGBT kids, teens, and adults that admire these characters and it’s nice that now they can look at a gay comic book character and say, 'Hell yeah, Batwoman is a lesbian and she’s a badass. I’m a badass, too.'"
Not everyone views this new page in comics as ‘badass,’ however. The conservative Christian activist group One Million Moms is up in arms against DC for ‘tarnishing’ one of their superheroes and exposing their children to the ‘evils’ of homosexuality.
On their website, OMM supporters claim, "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."
One Million Moms are currently calling on members to email DC Comics with hopes of convincing them to put an end to the entire project.
“I think groups like One Million Moms would probably picket two men shaking hands if they deemed them appropriately swishy,” said Williams. “As for them worrying about kids being corrupted by comic books, I just have to laugh. Last time I checked, kids don't even read comics anymore. And I check pretty often.”
Amanda Breuning, a Chicago native with a Master’s degree in Literature and Women’s Studies from Roosevelt University said, “Sure, kids are influenced by the books and comics they read, but reading about a gay character will not ‘turn them.’ It is important to me that the youth, the future leaders of our world, are not tarnished by the ignorance of past generations.”