James Robinson Confirms: Original Green Lantern Alan Scott is Gay
In interviews for The Advocate, Entertainment Weekly and multiple other outlets, Earth 2 writer James Robinson has gone on the record that Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern created by Bill Finger and Martin Nodell, is indeed the previously straight DC character now coming out as gay.
The rumor that it would be Scott has circulated for about as long as the news that DC was bringing someone out of the closet, but Robinson's interviews casts a fresh light on the outing, confirming that one of the reasons for making Scott gay was to make up for the loss of another gay superhero. Robinson told The Advocate:
Alan Scott was an older hero who'd been around a long time and he had a gay son, a superhero named Obsidian. Since we were making Alan young again, I thought it was a shame to lose that gay character. When I began writing Earth 2, I wanted the book to be as diverse as possible, and so I thought, Why don't we make Alan Scott gay?
Robinson says that DC co-publisher Dan DiDio did not hesitate at the proposal, which is surprising given that it marked a welcome walk-back of DC's stated policy to not change the sexuality of any characters, as outlined in DiDio's own interview with The Advocate just ten months ago. On the other hand, I've never seen an interview about a writer doing something socially progressive where they said, "My boss hated the idea and fought me every step of the way, but somehow we're doing it anyway."
The interviews also put a different spin on the momentousness of the decision to switch a character from straight to gay. After the initial announcement was made at the Kapow comic convention in London, DC's publicity team was quick to declare that the character would be "major" and "iconic." Though this seemed obvious hyperbole, the subsequent a hubbub saw major media outlets speculate that characters as significant as Superman and Batman might come out, and the scale of the story was blown out of all proportion.
To be more accurate, Alan Scott is not "major" or "iconic," unless you're feeling very generous or your job title is senior vice president of publicity at DC Entertainment. If he were truly major and iconic, he'd be the guy headlining the post-reboot Green Lantern book. His character hasn't headlined a book in over 60 years, and he's likely not even the third or fourth most popular Green Lantern. (Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner and John Stewart probably all have more fans, maybe Guy Gardner too. For that matter, maybe G'Nort and Ch'p. I've always been a Sodam Yat guy myself.) That Scott isn't in the main DC universe, but in the parallel Earth 2 continuity, serves to emphasize how very B-list he is. Not only is he not in the same league as Aquaman and Martian Manhunter; he's in the universe that doesn't have a League!
Yet if it hadn't been for all the noise surrounding this coming out story, Alan Scott's emergence as a gay character would have been a welcome surprise. There ought to be gay characters in Earth 2, just as there ought to be many more gay characters in the DC universe. Every time a new gay character is introduced it's an encouraging moment for those of us who celebrate diversity, equality, and fair representation.
If DC hadn't let the hype machine bubble over, this would have been a coup. Instead, by raising expectations so high, DC reminded us that they weren't yet ready to do something as bold and progressive as have, say, Tim Drake/Red Robin come out of the closet. The hype made us very aware of how far the superhero mainstream has yet to come.
And there is still the sad sorry story of Obsidian, Alan Scott's gay superhero son in the old continuity who got wiped out of existence. Given how few gay superheroes there are, that's not a minor detail. As I noted in my rather prescient article about the need for heroes to come out of the closet (and I will happily toot my own horn about that one), it's tough for newer characters to get established, and by definition most gay characters are newer characters. It has to be a cause for concern when one of them is wiped off the board.
Yet I think it's important to note that Obsidian was not erased to make way for Alan Scott, nor did he cease to exist because of any outdated idea that gay men cannot father children. Obsidian doesn't exist because the new Alan Scott is much younger than his predecessor and hasn't yet started a family. Obsidian was going to be gone no matter what was done with Scott, so I think it's laudable that James Robinson recognized a problem and fixed it.
Of course, the problem is much wider than the disappearance of Obsidian. Gay heroes are still rare enough that their very existence is novel enough to be a news story. By taking a straight character from one continuity and reintroducing him as gay in a parallel continuity, DC has repeated a trick Marvel performed about ten years ago with Colossus in the Ultimate Universe. At this rate DC will only have a gay teen couple in 2015, ten years after Wiccan and Hulkling; an existing hero re-established as gay or bisexual in the main universe in 2019, ten years after Rictor and Shatterstar; and a same-sex wedding in 2022.
That's not to say that Marvel is an exemplar for gay inclusion. On the contrary, when the publisher of Rawhide Kid is years ahead of you on so many of these achievements, that looks really bad. DC has a better record than Marvel when it comes to gay female heroes - especially in having a lesbian hero, Batwoman, headline her own book - while the introduction of Apollo and Midnighter in the late '90s was a milestone to match the coming out of Northstar, but neither publisher has done everything they could to bring their comics up-to-date with the real world.
The emergence of Alan Scott as a gay superhero, one who, according to Robinson's interviews, will eventually lead a super-team, is undoubtedly another significant milestone. But there shouldn't be any milestones left to count. Introducing a gay character ought not to be a way to bait the press into writing about your book. It ought to be the way things are. When gay characters mean no news, that will be good news.
Of course, in his interviews Robinson mentioned that he would introduce a second gay character later in his run. That sound you hear is the circus heading straight back in to town.