Now if you didn’t know, and if you don’t frequent the same news sites I do it may have completely passed you, Garfield actually expressed some interest earlier this month in portraying a flexible aspect of Peter Parker’s sexuality. I’ll let him speak for himself, of course:
“What if MJ is a dude? Why can’t we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking!…So why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?”
While at Comic-Con he was also able to follow-up these comments with the following statement:
“It would be illogical for me in the third movie to be like, “You know what? I’m kind of attracted to guys.” That’s just not going to work. It’s clear. It was just more a philosophical question.”
All of this adds a considerable amount to the discussion of homosexuality in comic books, a topic I last touched on way back in May of 2012 [and which this post is titled after]. In that post I mentioned superheroes Hulkling and Wiccan getting engaged, as well as kissing. I also discussed which at-that-point-unnamed DC hero would be coming out of the closet, and said the following as far as why the hero would not be a “major, iconic” character:
“It’s not because of fan outrage, though that’s a factor. So many of the really iconic DC characters have rich histories which involve their heterosexual love interests.”
And, sure enough, the character turned out to be Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern. Not a household name by any means, and a version of the character that existed in an completely alternate universe. Not a particularly daring step by DC, at least not in my opinion.
The issue I’ve sort of more or less been leading up to is this: What is it going to take to bring homosexual characters into mainstream superhero comics?
This exact topic was discussed in an article on Bleeding Cool by Dale Lazarov, a writer and editor of gay erotic comics. Titled “In Continuity: Why People Complain About The Lack Of Gay Characters In Mainstream Comics And Why It Isn’t About Gay Characters,” Lazarov briefly mentioned offhand something that I am going to focus on completely [leaving you to, of course, read his whole post if you’d like]:
“It’s not a cry for gay representation — it’s for gay representation ‘in universe’. You see, non-canon gay comics are not “in continuity’. It’s like when a comics buyer asks a comics dealer if this comic ‘counts’ for the crossover: if it doesn’t ‘count’, it’s not worth reading.”
Alan Scott is the perfect example of this. While the orientation of his character was changed from straight to gay, it was still in a book that didn’t crossover with any of the other big hitters like Superman and Batman. When viewed in contrast with Kevin Keller, an original gay character from Archie Comics who actually has his own title, the difference is starkly apparent.
If a character wasn’t created with his or her orientation already in mind then, as Garfield noted earlier, you run into a bit of a problem. An established history of any length of time makes changing a character appear arbitrary and done for the diversity’s sake. Mutant superhero Northstar has been around since 1979 and was married to his husband in 2012, but had been created homosexual [albeit in a time when outright stating so was against the established Comics Code].
I was on the subreddit /r/comicbooks some time ago and someone mentioned that Captain Marvel [Carol Danvers] should come out as a lesbian, and I couldn’t disagree more. I realize that her and Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, have a very strong friendship. I realize that some homosexual people realize their orientation much later on in life. I realize that the character has garnered many, many fans ever since Kelly Sue Deconnick breathed new life into her, and that a number of these fans are lesbians. I just don’t think it’s the right move.
I don’t think it’s the right way to go because Danvers has been around since 1968 and never expressed any hints of being interested in other women. I don’t think it’s the right way to go because there is such a thing as strong, same-sex friendships and assuming that they’re always indicative of sexual attraction is frankly kind of dumb. I don’t think it’s the right way to go because I want gay and lesbian characters to be gay and lesbian characters, not straight characters that suddenly “find themselves,” and I don’t mean that in a pejorative manner.
There’s a pretty large dearth of homosexual characters in superhero comics in general, and I say that without forgetting the greats like Hulkling and Wiccan, Northstar, Batwoman, and Apollo and Midnighter. There’s always room for more characters, and instead of rehashing old and existing ones like we’ve been doing for decades let’s ask for more diversity in every area with the originality and creativity for those characters to stick.