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Thoughts On Equality Or Rescue Sam If He’s On Fire

By now you’ve probably had the opportunity to read Earth Two #2, the issue with a now gay Alan Scott that we’ve read about so much during the past two weeks. Last week DC released images of Alan Scott with his boyfriend Sam, a corporate businessman in his own right as we learned later in the story. They seem very much in love despite the long distance nature of their relationship. So much in love that Alan wants Sam to relocate his business headquarters to the US, so much in love that Alan takes a ring from his pocket and proposes marriage to Sam. Yes, folks, comics have its second gay marriage proposal in a little over two weeks! Not only that, but I suspect marriage equality is a reality for gays and lesbians in the US of this alternate Earth. Should writer James Robinson follow through with a marriage it will make for the third same sex marriage in less than a year, after Kevin Keller and Clay Walker and Jean-Paul Beaubier and Kyle Jinadu. Of course Apollo and Midnighter were married by a fictionalized Ellen DeGeneres some years back in the first volume of The Authority.

Equality is great!

Except when the standard isn’t.

There is some doubt that Robinson intends to marry Alan and Scott. Look at Alan’s Golden Age origin and a large trainwreck is at the crux of the event. Robinson’s current and unfolding origin of Green Lantern has Sam surprising Alan with a getaway far from the crowds of Hong Kong. Traveling is a breeze on a bullet train. Yes, train! The proposal scene is placed on the penultimate page in the story and happens on board the train speeding to the countryside. Turn the page and you’re liable to have any number of reactions, none of them making you feel warm and fuzzy, as you witness the tracks exploding and the train plunging down the mountainside. The cover image to issue #3 features Alan transformed into his new Green Lantern persona complete with raging fireball and surrounded by skeletonized bodies. With such a cliffhanger to issue #2 and the following cover image, the evidence however circumstantial, doesn’t lead to the conclusion that Sam survives. We won’t know if that hint of a green glow in the train window, the glow that presumably transforms Scott, will also envelope and protect Sam, who then gets safely whisked away or maybe valiantly helps other survivors, however unlikely. No, we’re trained, no pun intended, to think the worst is in store for Sam because of the damsel in danger trope, the helpless and hapless female love interest (or mandatory female stand in to subtly affirm the hero’s heterosexuality). It’s Lois Lane kidnaped by Luthor for the 10,000th time.

In several interviews James Robinson has pointed out that he is the first writer to have a male couple kissing. It’s true of mainstream comics. This happened in Starman #45 with Mikaal Tomas and Tony during his incredibly well written in my opinion Starman. Why would Robinson mention that event and relationship in interviews about Alan Scott? He did so previously after reactions to the offpanel deaths of the aforementioned Tony and the sexually ambiguous Blue Jay, and the imagery of a skinned Tasmanian Devil serving as a grisly decorative accessory in Justice League: Cry For Justice. Granted, Robinson “un-rugged” Taz in an only in comics fashion and the writer asserts in this Newsarama interview that he never intended for Taz to be really, truly, and permanently dead. In fact, he planned for Starman and Taz to fall in love with each other. Maybe it happened. Robinson hinted with dialog between Shade and Mikaal Tomas in Shade #1 that Tony’s death holds true as do Mikaal’s Justice League adventures (in some form at least) in the relaunched universe. Perhaps we’ll see Mikaal and Taz happy together. But why bring this kiss and relationship up again? Is a pre-emptive defense the reasoning? A subtle hint to “stay with me because Alan will be happy with Sam whom I’m not ‘bullet-training’ as collateral damage in service to the “tragic death inspires hero” trope”? Only Robinson knows at this point.

It isn’t just James Robinson though. Similar concerns also came up after Kyle Jinadu was kidnapped following Northstar’s botched proposal in Astonishing X-Men #50. For now the difference between Kyle and Jean-Paul and Alan and Sam is that we know Kyle lives and marries Jean-Paul. How Marjorie Liu approaches the relationship in terms of storytelling  devices will unfold soon enough. Just as we’ll learn Sam’s fate on July 5th.

But should the romantic interests of LGBT characters, whether in heroic or supporting roles, be off limits from being treated in the same fashions their heterosexual counterparts have been in the past and currently? One easy answer is yes – all characters regardless of orientation should receive the same treatment. If Kyle Rayner can suffer because Alexandra DeWitt was murdered and stuffed in a fridge (did you only remember her as the girl, and not even woman, in a fridge? I did.) then Mikaal Tomas can suffer because Tony was murdered just as Sam’s death might well be the catalyst for Alan Scott. No surprise but female characters have often been handled in ways that make them less than equal to male characters. Do you need examples trotted out for you? I’ll assume not.

A more challenging answer is no, LGBT characters should be treated – just as female characters should be treated – as equal to straight male characters. “But,” you say, “stories need tension! Tension comes with characters! What will writers do?” To which I say they’ll have to think a little harder and write a little better, and we’ll have even comics.

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