Support Shawn's writng with a donation

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Not that there’s anything wrong With Gay Superheroes (except the execution)



There’s nothing wrong with Gay superheroes.

Except how the Comic book industry executes the concepts for them.

In 1992, Marvel comics announced that Alpha Flight’s Northstar was coming out of the closet in its 106th issue. It got huge press in the national mainstream media.

Alpha Flight was soon cancelled in 1994 with the 130th issue. Not because Northstar was gay, but because the book was a poor-selling fourth-tier title with next to no readers. The book had been garbage since John Byrne abandoned it around the 24th issue.

In 2004, Marvel Comics announced the Rawhide kid was gay. Again it got huge press in the national mainstream media.

The Miniseries came and went. Again, the Rawhide Kid was never a big player in the Marvel Universe so his coming out had a marginal impact on readers. Currently his comics can be found in a quarter bin at most comic shops.

In 2008, DC Comics announced that Batwoman was a lesbian. She got her own critically acclaimed comic. Not a top 10 seller, but it’s got a small following among the over 35 white male comic fans.

A few years later DC Comics introduced two more lesbian superheroes, The Question and Scandal Savage. They also had small cult followings in the small group of comic book fans.

In 2010, Archie Comics announced it was introducing Kevin Keller, it’s first gay character.

His first appearance in an issue of Veronica Sold out.

In 2011, they announced that Kevin would participate in comics first gay wedding to huge national press.

The book sold out.

Leaving Marvel and DC with egg on their faces.

Not to be upstaged by Archie, in 2012 Marvel Comics Northstar’s is getting married to his longtime boyfriend Kyle in the pages of Astonishing X-Men.
And now DC Comics is announcing another one of its major iconic characters is going to come out of the closet to huge national press in the mainstream media.

Big deal.

The editors at Marvel and DC still don’t get it. And that’s why they look like they’re jumping on a bandwagon instead of reaching an audience of new readers.

Which is why there are next to no new gay readers flocking to Marvel or DC comics after a comic book character comes out of the closet in one of their titles.

There have been gay and lesbian characters in comics for years like Obsidian in Infinity Inc. and Maggie Sawyer in the Superman comics. When they’re written well the reader doesn’t notice their sexual orientation.

Nor does the reader care. There’s no need for all the fanfare.

This kind of gimmick shows how out of touch DC Comics editors actually are at publishing and promoting comics. It’s the kind of silly shock marketing that should have stopped in the 1990’s when Northstar came out of the closet.

Over the past 20 years comic book publishers have exploited homosexuality as a gimmick to get some cheap press in the national news media. Usually it leads to a lot of controversy in the beginning, but at the end of the day it doesn’t’ have new readers picking up comics.

Why? Instead of creating a new character that gay readers can relate to and identify with, like Archie did with Kevin Keller, they slap a gay label onto an existing third or fourth-tier character not realizing how offensive they are to gay and lesbian readers.

Just slapping that label onto an existing comic book character who was once straight is a cop-out. It shows how ignorant comic book writers, artists, and editors are about gay culture and gay lifestyles. No one who is straight just decides to be gay out of thin air.

And just slapping that label on said existing character shows that a comic book publisher just doesn’t CARE about gay readers, just making a few quick bucks off them.

Who wants to read the adventures of a second rate version of a fourth-tier character? Don’t gay and lesbian readers deserve a first-tier original character? Don’t homosexuals deserve a book all their own? After all, their money is the same color as everyone elses.’ Why should they have to pay for team books featuring second or third tier characters so they can read about a hero that is just like them?

This latest stunt by DC comics is another half-assed attempt at diversity. just like DC’s Latino Blue Beetle, it’s Black Firestorm or its Asian Atom, this “iconic” “Formerly straight” character coming out of the closet is just going to be a token character just meant to make it look like DC is doing something groundbreaking when they’re actually just patronizing gay and lesbian readers.

What would get new readers interested is creating a new gay character from the ground up and letting the audience discover them.

Which is why Archie Comics is successful and Marvel and DC are playing catch-up.

The reason why that issue of Life With Archie sold out was because Archie comics made a serious effort to reach new readers. They didn’t just slap a gay label on an existing character in the name of political correctness. No, they created a new character (Kevin Keller) from the ground up with traits readers could relate to and identify with. Then after his debut, they gave him his own series. Archie Comics supported the title and allowed the readers to form a relationship with him. It took them two years to build to that wedding issue and its success.

It’s not the idea, but the execution. I know this from personal experience.

I'm a heterosexual Black man and I’ve written gay characters. (A Recipe For $ucce$$/The Cassandra Cookbook ) And I know from personal experience most readers don’t care about a characters’ sexual orientation. If a character is interesting they’re going to grab the reader from the first page whether they’re gay or straight. People who read A Recipe For $ucce$$/The Cassandra Cookbook loved the story not because the villain was gay, but because he was a lying cheating misogynistic bastard. It always made me proud that most people who read the story never saw Gerald’s sexual orientation when they read the story, but his dishonesty. Readers were more angry over his cheating and scheming than the fact he was gay.

If the White Males at Marvel and DC  would put the kind of effort I put into Gerald Davis from A Recipe For $ucce$$/The Cassandra Cookbook into developing its gay characters it’d have an audience of new lesbian and gay readers. There’s nothing wrong with a gay superhero. There’s just something wrong with the way White male comic book publishers like Marvel and DC execute the concept. Gay and lesbian readers deserve better than second best treatment and fourth-tier characters. 

1 comment:

  1. Though I'm not a terribly huge super hero fan (though an Archie fan), I can relate to this. In the Harry Potter series, the author J.K Rowling announced one of the main characters was gay. However, since he was a major character, did great things and had such a large fan base, everyone was okay with it. They didn't care nor think about it until one curious person asked. That tells me straight away that a character's orientation isn't defined by good writing, unless it is wanted by the author of course.

    ReplyDelete