When DC announced its Rebirth — reboot? — relaunch? initiatve and the subsequent cancellations of series from last year’s DC YOU launch it seemed probable that the status of LGBT visibility might be called into question. We’d seen an ongoing Batwoman and Midnighter, Catwoman having feelings for a woman complicated by the fact that she was the daughter of a Yakuza leader, a Constantine in a relationship with a man, the glimmering promise of a gay Green Lantern in Alan Scott, and maybe a couple other examples I’m forgetting.
The number of LGBT characters in print with both DC and Marvel seems to run in cycles, at least based on my “reading of tea leaves” from years of compiling the monthly LGBT Previews here. The list of titles with LGBT characters from both publishers is greater than fifteen years ago, which now that I think about it may seem like decades ago to many people who started reading comics in the last ten or so years. Even as the number of comics increased over the years there were still high and low points in the quantity of characters (and LGBT creators) at each company. Let’s save the discussion on quality of LGBT characters for now. Before the announced slate of DC’s Rebirth, the most recent time that LGBT visibility was up in the air was with Marvel’s line wide event last year. As it turned out a lot is still the same, Machinesmith and the new Giant Man in Ant-Man for example, and some isn’t now with the cancellation of Angela Queen of Hel. The time before this that comes to mind is DC’s Nu52 overhaul in 2011. For example, Apollo and Midnighter appeared in a revamped Stormwatch right out of the gate while it took a little longer for a non heteronormative relationship between Exoristos and Shining Knight to begin. Both books were written by Paul Cornell, by the way. Gail Simone didn’t reveal right away in Batgirl that Alysiah Yeoh is transgender.
So, yes, I am concerned about LGBT visibility at DC in the upcoming monthsjust as I feel optimistic that representation will be back close to par. What I quite honestly mean by that is I cannot imagine neither Steve Orlando or Phil Jimenez including a new or existing LGBT characte in their serries though I don’t see another comic with a solo lesbian or gay lead in the near future to replace either Midnighter or Batwoman. DC has done it twice in a row now and yes, there’s also Constantine and Harley Quinn. True, DC also shot itself in the foot when it fired J H Willaims and W Haden Blackman, causing the book to bleed readers. For whatever reason, a sufficient number of readers never flocked to Midnighter just as Angela seems not to have retained enough from its pre Marvel relaunch.
LGBT readers can and should demand from DC and Marvel to have comics with and about LGBT characters, but the hard truth is that both are corporate owned companies and neither is under any obligation to publish a comic when it loses money. Just as readers aren’t under any obligation to spend money on a comic they think they won’t like or to continue buying one that no longer delivers enjoyment. From a publisher standpoint putting LGBT characters into a supporting cast is a much safer option. But for LGBT readers it means settling for seeing characters relegated to a supporting role which gets less focus and can be more easily eliminated by a current or new writer. Personally speaking, I find the lack of a popularly supported LGBT lead comic to be frustrating, but I also remember when LGBT characters couldn’t (officially) exist in comics thanks to the Comics Code Authority. It’s a huge Catch 22 situation and that’s the way it works with publishers.
Whatever your thoughts are about either DC or Marvel and LGBT characters there are quite a number of indy LGBT artists and writers out there pouring their hearts and imagination into making comics who’d all appreciate having more people read their work. Granted much of the work falls outside the boundaries of the superhero genre but I’ve discovered a little variety can be really good!
Time to be transparent. Before deciding to write this I read Joe Glass’ op piece at Bleeding Cool. Glass is the writer of the indy comic The Pride with an all LGBT cast ofsuperheroes. I’d be remiss in not mentioning that Glass has a Kickstarter going now for a Pride hardcover.
I may be either more of a pragmatist or more an apologist here.