The Gay Race of Comic Books

This week, both DC and Marvel Comics made pretty big announcements in regards to their characters and homosexual revelations. In the case of Marvel, the reveal that Northstar will be proposing to (and subsequently getting married to) his long time partner isn’t a huge deal, but it is kind of interesting that suddenly that character is going to be relevant again. He was always a well written character, and has been “out of the closet” for quite some time, but has been reduced to a background role without much to do in the greater Marvel universe for more than a decade.

On the other hand, in the case of DC, Shazam! (previously known as Captain Marvel) has been a pretty important character for quite some time. They have announced that he will be coming out of the closet in this recent rebooted version of their universe. Although it is a positive to think to see the comics medium continue to be very progressive and forward thinking when it comes to social issues (see the Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-up book from the late 1960s, where they talk about homelessness and drug addiction among other things), it seems like an unnecessary contest between the two big imprints that they would have these announcements come at the same time.

The fact of the matter is that there are pretty few comic book fans who only read one of the company’s products, and those that do tend to be loyal to one side or the other are not going to suddenly jump ship over something like this, so why compete on it? I’m glad Northstar is getting married, but it is hard not to be cynical and point out that it is probably little more than an attempt to get GLBT youth buying their comic books and putting more money into the business. Sure, business is business, but it feels forced.

There is an unfortunate tendency in comic books to make characters who are gay be known only for being gay. Northstar is basically known first and foremost as “that gay guy from Alpha Flight.” Shazam has a longer history behind him, but will he just be known as “the gay super hero” from now on? I think the point of the LGBT equality movement needs to be that we get to a point where being gay is no big deal. It shouldn’t be a media circus when a comic book character is gay, because there are a LOT of gay people. Why is this still a novelty? Having a diverse cast of characters from all walks of life, including sexual orientation, race, and otherwise, should just come naturally to these writers, and shouldn’t be just the big comic book event of the summer.

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