Thoughts on Green Lantern’s “Coming Out”

Alan Scott as the Original Green Lantern, art by Alex Ross

Green Lantern is gay.

Not Hal Jordan, the popular Green Lantern that you see on the small and big screen, but Alan Scott, the lesser known Original Green Lantern. Obviously, the media, and the fans, have said a few things on the subject. Here’s an article from USA Today, and here’s more from comic news sites ComicBookResources (check out the fan comments!), Bleeding Cool, and Newsarama. The whole story was broke by MTV Geek a couple of week’s ago when they correctly surmised that Alan Scott would be the most likely target of switched sexual identity.

My opinion: I don’t like it. NOT because I’m a homophobic miscreant fanboy who has sexual issues and hates change — far from it. I don’t like it because it was dumb — and, as a fan, parent, and writer I see it as a real lost opportunity.

Controversy

The most prominent reaction to altering the sexual identity of Alan Scott is that it is reprehensible stunt casting. James Robinson, the writer, has said this was not the case and I believe him. I don’t think that was his intent at all.

Is it bad to bring sexual identity into comics? Not necessarily, and, again, that’s not the reason for my objection to this alteration. Actually, I think it’s a good thing. I think comics should reflect society and there is definitely a gay contingent in the world — currently, America is believed to be 0.2% gay (4 million people), so it’s only natural that at 1% of characters in the DCU (and Marvel Universe for that matter) are homosexual. The issue I have is that, prior to this little “New 52” change, Alan Scott was already an exceptional character of the DCU — he was a father. The only true parent (his children were not adopted) in the entire DCU. And, to top it off, one of his children (Obsidian) was gay.

James Robinson has said that everything about Alan Scott will remain the same as it was previously, just that now he’s gay. I beg to differ. As the current version of Alan Scott was never married, and has no children, this aspect of his character never happened. He is not a widower. He was not a grieving single parent. He was never even a parent. He has no children and now, the only prominent character in the DCU to which the lessons of fatherhood could be explored and applied is gone.

I don’t care that he’s gay. I do care that now he was never a father.

Who Is Alan Scott?

The Death of Jade, art by Ivan Reis

Alan Scott was a train engineer in the 1940’s who, while working late one night, saw a strange object on the rail road tracks. When he came to investigate it, he saw it was a green glowing metal lantern. Saying “Hmm, you don’t see that every day”, he picked it up, put it in his train, and kept chugging. When threatened with a bridge collapse, the lantern (being magically sentient), instructed Alan how to make a ring from it’s metal so he could channel its energy and save the day. From that point forward, he was the super hero known as the Green Lantern. For those wondering, this kind of origin was pretty standard for the 40’s — just go with it.

From his inception, Alan Scott has always been hailed as the perfect man. Tall, powerful, good looking, natural leader, successful at business, hero, wielder of the most powerful object on the planet — and husband and father. Alan’s children were a result of his first marriage to Rose Canton, who later died. As a widower, he raised his two children (boy-girl twins) who were super powered. His daughter, Jenni, had a birth defect (born green as a result of his usage of the Green Lantern), and his son Todd was gay. Alan later married again, this time to Molly Mayne.

DC, to it’s credit, maintained that Alan was a man born in the early 1900’s — all the way up to the current story lines. When you’ve got a magical ring, it’s easy to write off the loss of vitality, and it was nice to have a true father figure as a mentor for so many younger super heroes. Consequently, DC also kept Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, at his original age — though Jay and his wife Joan never had children.

As he aged, he dealt with several of life’s tragedies — a mentally ill son (not referring to his being gay, he actually went insane for a while), and the death of his daughter, Jenni (killed in action defending the universe as the super heroine Jade).

Alan Scott was a character/man who had truly lived. But, now, due to the “New 52: Earth 2 Retcon”, none of that ever happened.

Lost Opportunity

Todd Allen, son of Alan Scott, kissing his boyfriend.

I am much more interested in Alan Scott as a father raising his children. As the father of boy-girl twins that would have been a real treat. I’d like to see a real storyline about Alan seeing his son through the travail of being gay in high school — something I feel would have been far more effective than a million “it gets better” videos. I would like to see him go to his daughter’s ballet recital, navigate her first date, and see her off to the prom.

How did he handle being a single parent and dating? How did he handle the grief of losing his first wife? How does he balance parenting, working, and being a super-hero? There’s a HUGE amount of potential stories here. Stories that now will never happen.

Final Comments

Comics today are a bit adrift. The art is better, the stories longer and deeper — but the subject matter is really straying. As the “dedicated readers” are aging to their thirties and forties, the age gap between long term readers and new readers is pretty huge. The result is a bit of a mess. Story lines are becoming more mature, in some cases even hyper-sexualized, but other titles are still trying to bring in younger readers. TV shows differ dramatically from the written version. The two audiences are so different in terms of maturity that it is exceedingly difficult to sell to both audiences. I don’t envy the editorial staffs of comic companies.

The idea behind the “New 52” was that DC would wipe the slate clean of all previous continuity and reboot their entire line of comics. This would clear up the burden of previous storylines and provide a fresh start for a new generation of fans to pick up reading comics. So far, the idea has been a successful one. Many old fans are disappointed, but many others are happy because the writers are freed up of all baggage and some great new stories are coming out as a result.

The heroes of “Earth 2”, the alternate version of Earth where the “Golden Age” heroes have been deposited, was the chance to really flex some creative muscle. It was the chance to tell new stories for a new generation of readers using all of the old classic heroes. But, it was also a chance to make old readers happy and give them something they could use to introduce their children to this imaginative hobby. Instead, DC screwed the heck out of it.

The only thing Earth 2 is right now is a giant “Elseworlds” project, where you can really take heroes in a new direction – and they are. Batman beats criminals to pulp with electrified sticks, Wonder Woman is laying about with a sword all over the place, Superman is throwing people left and right, and let’s not even get into the new versions of the Flash and Hawkman/Hawkwoman. Instead of being a bridge, it’s just the next elevation in hyper-everything.

DC would have been far better off, in my opinion, using the older Golden Age super heroes as starting points for a next generation of heroes — their children. I would like to see hero dynasties continue, the struggle between parent and child, the growing and maturity of exceptional children under exceptional parents. They had this before but got rid of (or ruined) most of it. Earth 2 was the chance to rebuild it into a growing new franchise free of the mistakes of the past. It would have been something I’m sure I would have loved to share with my son. Instead, I’m reading him Pokemon comics and some outstanding graphic novels from Scholastic. I would love to read Green Lantern with him, but now I can’t. Sorry, but my son isn’t old enough to fully (or even partially) understand the intricacies of a homosexual relationship. I don’t want him to think of Batman as a thug – he is the world’s greatest detective, after all, and he should remain so. And I think the version of Wonder Woman I’d like to introduce to my daughter is that of the world’s greatest woman — not some harridan war monger overly preoccupied with killing and completely lacking in any previous signs of intelligence and diplomacy.

I like comics, I always have. I like super heroes. But, DC, you are making it increasingly difficult for me to continue to follow this hobby. You’ve also made it nearly impossible to share with my children. And that’s a shame.

About Rob McClellan

Rob is the founder of ThirdScribe, a unique author services platform and social network. As a naval officer and diver, he spent a majority of his career doing a lot more than you would think with a lot less than you can imagine -- a skill that has proven extremely valuable in the start-up world. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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