Alyssa

Guest Post: The Failures of DC’s Gay Green Lantern Alan Scott

By Dennis Farr

“We both know this will be DC’s attempt to convince us that a second-string character is more major than he actually is, right?” When DC first announced it would be outing a major character in its universe, my straight roommate expressed his skepticism. It was one I didn’t wish to hold on to, and so I kept hope that we would have a big name. Fortunately (or not), my experience with DC tends toward their Vertigo line, picking up some of their books about Bats and Magic every so often, meaning my own litmus test for whether the character was major would be whether or not I’d even heard of him. Though in an age of HeroClix and Wikis clicked late at night, I’ve gleaned far more surface knowledge than the average non-comics fan.

When DC’s announcement came down, the name Alan Scott didn’t ring any bells, though Green Lantern certainly did. Having a fair amount of LGBT folk in my various social network feeds (most of them not really that interested in comics, but interested in having more representation in all forms of pop culture), they were excited until I informed them that no, this was not Hal Jordon. Which is to say, from the start, in choosing this particular icon, DC’s marketing has seemed a little off. Who were they targeting with this announcement? And how big was it really? Complicating those questions was the fact that the story was picked up and spread quite quickly to many mainstream sites, as well as the more niche queer-centered news blogs. Coupled with Marvel’s same-sex marriage storyline featuring Northstar, it seemed like there was major news in every corner. DC could not have believed it would only reach the fans who are more knowledgeable than I on DC’s main universe.

And upon reading the Earth 2 comics, I was left even more confused.

The big three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) have been killed off in this alternate Earth. This means that when Alan Scott is told he has to pick up the mantle of the Green Lantern, he is being asked to replace Superman as Earth’s champion. So, on the one hand, the replacement for Superman is a gay Green Lantern. On the other hand, this is in the other version of Earth. Considering the slate with which they are working: apparently weaning themselves off the reliance on a world with the Big Three, and making room for new stories, this at least makes sense, and is a positive step.

However, what we saw of this version of Alan Scott, before the pamphlets released, was that he had an Asian boyfriend in Hong Kong, Sam. During the issue in which Scott was introduced, #2, we are introduced to Sam, they exchange a kiss, go on a train, Alan proposes to Sam, and their train explodes. In #3, it is confirmed that Sam is dead. This is not quite fridging, though its similarities are close enough that it is more than a little disturbing.

Jason Tseng points out that this storyline was in keeping with the treatment of same-sex couples in comics through both Marvel and DC’s universes. Of particular note is the difference between couples where both have powers, and one has powers and the other not. This is further complicated by the fact that this is a somewhat staple convention in comics (and why we have words to identify the troubling trend of fridging in the first place). However, despite knowing this, as someone willing to jump into a new storyline in a universe that is not necessarily one in which I was well-versed, and coming in particularly to see how the introduction of this gay superhero was being handled, I was almost immediately cringing.

The LGBT community is no stranger to tragic storylines and members in our community dying. While this is no hate crime, or crime of negligence (see: HIV/AIDS in the ‘80s), this is an instance where, as Tseng points out, we have an Asian character introduced only to serve as a prop for the introduction of the main superhero (who happens to be white). His death is used to spark anguish that’s not really displayed, and to raise the stakes for Scott–his engagement ring becomes the Green Lantern power ring instead.

Sam serves to highlight two things. First, DC was pushing an interracial, same-sex relationship. This sounds great from a diversity standpoint (and somewhat mirrors Northstar’s current relationship), but when the non-white character is the one who is easily disposed of, it becomes a bit troubling. Second, they firmly established that Scott is now gay, and can move on, eliminating the need to worry about how to fit Sam, or the relationship, into the picture as much (I am sure Alan’s PTSD will come up again when it’s convenient). They may introduce new lovers, bring Sam back, or just milk the distraught Scott trick.

Unfortunately, at this point, I am left not wanting to return. I have more than enough media where I get to see painfully unsuccessful same-sex relationships, and read more than enough news of harm inflicted on the LGBT community. I am left wondering what would make this Green Lantern specifically interesting to me. Watching him go through pain? As yet, they have defined nothing else about him as queer man. While on the one hand, this is normalizing gay men into the broader culture, it also means that the queer history and culture I know and live is not present.

Which probably means that I will return to see how they handle the fallout Scott now faces, but only for a handful of issues, so as to give them a chance. Far from being a landmark, Alan Scott’s story has become so tiringly predictable.

Denis Farr once attended an all-male college as a joke. He has since rejoined the world and started writing about games, LGBT issues, and intersectional feminism. You can find his blog here, and follow him on Twitter here.