The new Earth 2 version of Green Lantern was revealed to be gay. As is the case with many DC superheroes, the history of the character is a bit convoluted. Alan Scott was the first Green Lantern, introduced in 1940. The most famous Green Lantern was Hal Jordan, introduced early in the Silver Age. Most of the things we would associate with the franchise (the Green Lantern corps, Sinestro, the focus on willpower) were introduced in the Hal Jordan adventures.
It was eventually established that the two Green Lanterns existed in separate universes which sometimes crossed over. So Hal Jordan was the Green Lantern of Earth-1 and Alan Scott was the Green Lantern of Earth 2. Though the Earth 2 characters predated the Earth 1 characters.
With Crisis of Infinite Earths in 1986, DC merged the various worlds together. It was then established that the Earth 2 heroes were active in the 1940s, while the Earth 1 heroes were more contemporary. As time went by, there were further explanations for why characters born in the 1920s were so healthy, including the revelation that the golden age heroes were struck in limbo for decades. This elderly version of Alan Scott had two grown children, his daughter Jade and his son Obsidian. The latter was, until recently, DC’s most prominent gay superhero.
After the Flashpoint revamp, DC brought back the idea of Earth 2. But they did it a little differently. The new series series features the Golden Age heroes as young people in contemporary times, taking over after the world’s sole superheroes: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were believed to be dead in the aftermath of a great battle. The Earth 2 title thus makes a lot more sense, as this is a world in which superheroes are a more recent development. Though Earth One now refers to another line of books, a series of original graphic novels in a world in which Superman and Batman are just starting out.
Part of James Robinson’s rationale for making the Alan Scott of Earth 2 gay was that the format of the series meant that he was unable to use Obsidian in the book. He also suggested there would be similar changes to other characters. And this touched off some discussions about what defines characters, and whether it’s appropriate to change seemingly concrete factors such as gender, race or sexuality when doing a new version of an old story.
There is precedent for new versions of characters having different attributes. The Ultimate Marvel Universe introduced a black Nick Fury, as well as a gay Colossus. It’s somewhat akin to casting a movie adaptation.
One suggestion was that if DC wanted to make gay characters, they should introduce new heroes. Comics fans generally aren’t as likely to be interested in that, but it also wouldn’t quite work for this series, which is supposed to feature new versions of DC’s golden age superheroes. Featuring entirely new characters would contradict the entire point of the series.
I would support a meta approach, suggesting that it’s important to look at the characters in the context of their time. Alan Scott was a straight white guy because pretty much every superhero created by DC in the 1940s was straight and white. If the Golden Age DC superheroes had been introduced today, they wouldn’t all be heterosexual Caucasians. As a result, it’s okay to change demographic attributes of the characters for a new version of an old story.
The argument that this version of Alan Scott shouldn’t be gay, because the original character likes women, when he was created at a time when there were no alternative for comic book protagonists, reminds me of a shortcoming of some arguments against gay marriage. Opponents of gay marriage are likely to apply statements constructed at a time when there was no understanding of loving gay relationships to argue that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman. So they’ll quote Matthew 19 to suggest that Christ has given his opinion on gay marriage.
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
And they’ll argue that a statement about what was the norm at that time and place, means that an alternative that was inconceivable at the time, shouldn’t be considered today. And for some reason, it only applies to gay marriage. It doesn’t apply to the other men who have failed to find wives, or the women who don’t have husbands. Just as you’ll have some comics fans bothered by Alan Scott being gay, who won’t care if he uses a cell phone, or any other technology unavailable in the original stories.