Superman is coming out of the closet in June.
When you get down to it, there’s something about superhero comics that is just inherently homoerotic. You have these strapping, square-jawed men in skin-tight spandex with rippling muscles forging lasting bonds with equally spandex-clad muscle-men – it’s like the locker room after a football game. In that light, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more openly gay superheroes. However, DC Comics says that one of its major heroes will be soon joining the ranks of Northstar and the Midnighter as an openly gay crimefighter.
Speaking at the Kapow comic convention in London, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio was asked about DC’s policies regarding its universe “reboot” and the reimagining of its historic characters. DC had previously said that any LGBT characters would be newly introduced rather than existing characters reworked. But why, DiDio was asked, was it okay to change a character’s age, race, size, or any other number of features that made them identifiable, yet sexual orientation was off the table?
DiDio answered that DC had in fact reevaluated that policy as well. In fact, he said, a storyline in June would reintroduce a character who had previously been portrayed as heterosexual as gay. This superhero would be “one of our most prominent gay characters,” said DiDio.
Predictably, this answer caused quite a stir, with many across the internet trying to figure out which of DC’s many, many characters would be coming out of the closet. A statement from DC’s Senior VP of Publicity Courtney Simmons narrowed it down, when she confirmed to ABC Burbank that one of DC’s “major iconic” characters will “reveal that he is gay in a storyline in June.” So we know that the hero in question is male, and that he is considered an “iconic” level character.
That slims the field down considerably. The only male DC superheroes I can think of who would be considered “iconic” are Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, and maybe Aquaman. Any one of these coming out of the closet would be a huge deal, as he would easily be the most high-profile gay hero in the comics business – how many people who don’t follow comics have heard of Wiccan or Apollo?
Is this a publicity stunt? Whether it’s to keep pace with the mood of the country following President Obama’s declaration of support of gay marriage, or to keep pace with rival publisher Marvel, who just announced that two of its gay heroes would be getting married – it feels a bit more exploitative than it does genuine.
Of course, maybe DC will treat the subject matter with the seriousness it deserves. Maybe the high profile nature of the character will make it so that instead of being “that gay superhero,” he’ll be “that awesome superhero who fights crime, and oh yeah he happens to like dudes.” I would love for that to be the case.