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Comics Coming Out of the Closet - A sign of social change, or profit-grabbing?

Comics have gotten a little gay recently. The comics industry, in true form, has taken notice of an already-explosive topic and made a spectacle out of it, perhaps capitalizing on controversy, or helping to fight for a cause.

On May 15, President Obama publicly declared his support of gay marriage. On May 23, Astonishing X-Men #50 hit shelves and digital storefronts featuring longtime hero Northstar proposing to his boyfriend. On June 1, DC Comics revealed that Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott will be a homosexual man in The New 52. On June 7, Earth-2 #2 featured Alan Scott proposing to his love interest. On June 21, Astonishing X-Men #51 will feature the first gay wedding in superhero comics.

It's very easy to get cynical about all these events taking place soon after Obama announced his support of gay marriage. Whether or not you believe it's a media stunt, exposure of the topic was increased by the media frenzy that occurred. News outlets from The View all the way to TMZ and local radio stations reported on the burgeoning gay stories. This is the start of huge social change.


Comics have historically been intertwined with American history all the way back to the creation of Superman in the 1930s. Early stories cast Superman as a champion for social justice against the corruption that brought about the Great Depression. Captain America started his career in 1941 as anti-Nazi propaganda. The X-Men (debuted 1963) have been adopted as metaphors for social causes including the Civil Rights movement, anti-Semitism, the Red Scare, religious persecution and LGBT acceptance. Green Lantern/Green Arrow had a short but celebrated run in the 70's famously tackling social issues including segregation and drug use. Captain America's assassination in 2007 is believed by some to be a commentary on the War in Afghanistan and Operation: Iraqi Freedom. Major social change is reflected in comics. With the string of gay marriages we're seeing recently, I think this major bump in the topic's exposure will help the new wave of social change: equal rights for homosexuals.

Comics have introduced LGBT characters before; their presence is not groundbreaking. Not since Northstar became the first openly gay (non-caricature) superhero have gay issues in comics been so widely recognized. Kate Kane, Karolina Dean, Young Avengers' Billy and Teddy, Ultimate Colossus, and others have all made a stir, but not as big as recently. As gay rights becomes a more prominent issue, comics featuring LGBT characters will become more popular. Capitalizing on controversy is a good way to make sales, but we're also seeing the industry take the pro-LGBT side. That is a major win for the gay rights movement.

Northstar

We've all heard stories about how comics characters can have a strong influence on their readers. Hal Jordan is my personal inspiration to live life without fear. If even a handful of people read about Alan Scott and say, "Green Lantern is comfortable being gay in public, and I can be too," that's bigger than any potential financial benefit. The surge of LGBT awareness in comics is not completely altruistic (Marvel and DC are businesses after all), but I do believe that some comics creators are cognizant about the impact these characters will have.

I look forward to that day 50 years from now when the youth of America have never known a time when gays were given less rights than other Americans. I'm glad that the comics industry is doing this. My hat is off to you Marvel, DC, Archie Comics, and all other publishers brave enough to headline LGBT characters and try to give them fairytale weddings. What we're witnessing is a moment in history when comics came out of the closet and helped show the American people that it's okay to be gay. The spectacle of it all will fade, and stories involving LGBT elements won't raise eyebrows.

Stay nerdy, my friends.