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Actual Comments To Brazil’s O Globo About Alan Scott

Tuesday afternoon Rodrigo Fonseca, a reporter for Brazil’s O Globo newspaper contacted me for any comments I might have about DC’s Alan Scott revision. The article ran today on O Globo’s website. Taking into account inaccuracies in Google Translate, I thought my comments were used out of context. The following are his initial questions, my comment. and followup questions and answers.

a) How do you analyze the impact of the change of the sexual orientation from Alan Scott upon the readers? Do you see any political background upon this change?

Personally, I’ve read comments made on a few message boards and in Gayleague’s Facebook group. A lot of reactions from straight people have been negative for different reasons. Some gay readers aren’t happy either, if only because we’ve been disappointed more than once before and there’s a sense of mistrust. I think we’ll have to see how the story is told and if people who were upset change their minds. There’s another viewpoint that says writers shouldn’t pay attention to readers comments and just write good stories and people will come around. While DC’s readers are typically older than people reading Archie Comics, I suspect the impact will also be favorable and younger readers will communicate how having a young, gay superhero is a good influence for them. From a business side, DC will take into account how the sales figuers are for the comic. What I think is important is that DC reached out to a gay media outlet, The Advocate, with this development for only the second time that I’m aware of.

New York State legalized gay marriage in June of 2011. Perhaps this event had some input on Robinson and DC’s publishers and editors, but only they can say for certain. Writer James Robinson has stated in interviews that he first started thinking about these characters, including Alan Scott, eight months ago. Concisely explaining the complicated histories of comic characters can be difficult. At one time Alan Scott and many of his fellow heroes were much older and their origins were tied to the World War II period. Robinson made them all much younger in this new version and in doing so, Alan Scott’s daughter, the superhero Jade, and gay son, Obsidian, were done away with. Robinson said the idea to make the new version of Alan Scott gay came to him because he was unhappy over the loss of Obsidian. I’m trying to be an optimist these days after being cynical for too many years but it wouldn’t surprise me if there are some politics involved. Maybe the politics are industry driven though. Archie Comics had a huge success with Kevin Keller, and the religious backlash against the character only made the character more popular. I wonder if DC and Marvel are now in competition with Archie over having gay male characters? I think so to some degree. No one ever expected a gay teenager in Riverdale!

b) How do you analyze the growth of gay characters in the big industry of comics, like DC or Marvel?

The growth has been long and slow, complicated by the Comics Code Authority which regulated the American comics industry after its creation in 1954. Any kind of sexual deviancy, which at the time primarily meant homosexuality, was prohibited until 1989 when the Comics Code revised its rules. There were occasional gay or lesbian characters or references but they were either heavily coded or enforced stereotypes, sometimes negatively. There has also been the widely held perception that comics are only for children that shouldn’t include any “controversial” content, which some people still believe today.

Eventually writers created sympathetic gay characters in minor roles. Then along the flamboyant hero Extrano from DC in 1986 and Maggie Sawyer in Superman the next year. But comics couldn’t print the words gay or lesbian until 1989 because of the Comics Code. Many readers suspected Marvel’s Northstar was gay before he famously shouted “I AM GAY!” from the cover of Alpha Flight #106. The pace of growth picked up, but the results were often two-dimensional characters that were forgettable and easily done away with.

c) Is there any character that never showed his/her real sexual orientation?

The history of American comics starts in the 1930s, so there have been thousands and thousands of characters in this time. The one example I recall of a character that didn’t have a clearly depicted sexual orientation is another Golden Age DC character, Dr Mid-Nite. He had a female nurse assistant, but there weren’t any clues that either were romantically interested in the other. I think the original Mr. Terrific, also from DC, may not have had any love interests, as well as the original Kid Eternity from Quality Comics during the same time period. There are probably other male and female characters that I could come up with in time. Truth is, characters like this are usually thought to be straight simply because the majority of people are straight.

Below are two links I included as examples for points I made.
A Wonder Woman story from 1969 with lesbians

An old Batman story with a criminal that I believe is a coded depiction of a gay man.

###

Perfect.
Could you measure the growth of gay characters in comics in recent years. Could we say there is a growth of maybe 20%, 30%, both gay and lesbian? Are there transvestis?

Rodrigo,
Estimating the growth of gay and lesbian characters is a little difficult for me. There are more gay and lesbian supporting characters now than 10 years ago but many of these characters are minor and in supporting roles. We gain some more gay and lesbian characters and we sometimes we lose them for different reasons. What I have noticed is that the comics gay and lesbian characters are featured in are more popular and important comics or franchises, like Striker in Avengers Academy. Also true is that only in the past couple years have there been comics with gays or lesbians as popular leads in their own solo comics, specifically Batwoman and Kevin Keller.

If you really want a number then I’ll have to guess and guess conservatively and say 25%, but this can probably be proven  wrong.  If I had been keeping track I could give you a more accurate number.

I think transvestis means transvestites, which in the US is defined as a man or a woman who likes to wear clothing of the opposite sex., a cross dresser. No, there aren’t any cross-dressers in comics today. Stories with transgender characters are usually found in comics labeled for Mature Readers, from comics like Vertigo. Wanda Mann is a transgender character from a story written by Neil Gaiman for his Sandman comic.  Marisa Rahm is a trans woman that was the star of a mini series titled Deathwish. Most mainstream superhero comics writers do not seem capable of creating or interested in telling stories about complicated or well rounded transgender characters.

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Last request: do you see any political dimension in this growth, concerning the di[s]cussion of gay marriage for the election campaign?

Rodrigo, no I don’t see any political dimension with regards to gay marriage and the US’s presidential election campaign season.  James Robinson, like Marjorie Liu with Northstar’s wedding in Astonishing X-Men, planned this months ago, approximately last October.  President Obama’s announced his endorsement of marriage equality last month. Marjorie Liu, and editor Axel Alonso(I believe it was Alonso) said that New York legalizing same sex marriage influenced to some degree the events with Northstar.

What I see is that comics writers and comics publishers are finally willing to acknowledge its gay and lesbian readers and openly embracing gay and lesbian characters because of social factors changing in advance of government positions, which are trying to catch up.

September 5, 2017
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