Recently, DC Comics announced that one of its previously straight superheroes is coming out of the closet. On the heels of this announcement, Marvel Comics has announced its first openly gay hero, Northstar, is going to be married to his boyfriend in Astonishing X-Men #51 (to be fair, the storyline was set in motion prior to DC’s announcement). Naturally – it pains me to say – some people aren’t taking this news too well.
Yesterday, the site OneMillionMoms.com condemned the decision. They state that “children mimic superhero actions,” and that gays “want to indoctrate [sic] impressionable young minds by placing these gay characters on pedestals in a positive light” and “confuse them on this topic.” To be fair, children do mimic superhero actions; just think about all the kids who died leaping from the tops of buildings after they saw Thor fly in The Avengers! Or how many kids got shot when they tried to karate kick criminals after they saw The Dark Knight. I’d imagine a similar amount of kids will turn gay when they read how their favorite man who wears skin-tight leather and runs around with other men who wear skin-tight leather is actually attracted to men! (Possibly men who wear skin-tight leather.)
But I can’t stand with One Million Moms on this one. For one, they – along with Marvel and especially DC – are about a decade late on this issue. The most famous gay characters in comics are Midnighter and Apollo from The Authority, under the publisher Wildstorm. They were also already married. Somehow, I doubt anyone turned gay as a result.
Then you have characters like Batman, who Grant Morrison, one of the best comic book writers today, describes as “utterly gay.” I can’t imagine why he would describe a man who acts like an affluent playboy to distract people from the fact that he sneaks out at night in skin-tight leather (notice a pattern yet?) with a young boy wearing skin-tight leather to chase strange, charismatic men, and leave them bruised and tied up for the police to discover them the morning after as “gay.” But to each his own.
The point is this is all a non-issue. If One Million Moms wanted to find something gay about comics, they sure as hell didn’t need to wait until this past week. And besides, what’s so wrong with gays in comics? Are gays somehow incapable of heroism? I suppose if you believed being gay is somehow, in and of itself, immoral then you may think that.
Comics have bigger issues to concern themselves with than reactionary, gay-baiting Christian housewives. This excellent interview with comics writer Greg Rucka illustrates the difficulty in finding well-written, “strong” female characters in comics. One of his better points is how a good author approaches either a male or female character: as a character. Women are written poorly in comics because many authors lazily write them as “women,” or whatever their (generally stereotypical) idea of women is. In reality – and good writing – sexuality is a component of a character, but it does not solely define them. A superhero is no more virtuous than a superheroine, just because one has boobs. And a gay superhero isn’t somehow less virtuous just because they like dudes.
In comics, being gay, just like being female or a minority, is an ancillary quality that fleshes out a character and helps give them a distinguishing identity. It allows them to connect to readers who are women or gays, who desire to relate to a character that seems to embody some aspect of what they are. Gay superheroes help appeal to a gay audience, they don't brainwash straight kids into being gay. Just like in real life, homosexuality is not an impediment to virtue, selflessness, or any other quality that makes superheroes “super.” If you disagree with that, feel free to take it up with the Batman.