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Openly gay characters feature prominently in upcoming comic books from DC and Marvel

By Russell Axon
On June 18, 2012

As Kory Kyler started reading his comic book stack last week, he saw action, costumes and villains trying to rule the world. He also saw two gay men kissing.

The UT senior majoring in education was surprised by the intensity of the scene.

“I thought that they did a good job, but they really emphasized it,” Kyler said.

The book in question, the second issue of DC Comics’ “Earth 2” by James Robinson (writer) and Nicola Scott (artist), features a modern update of the character Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern. As part of the update, Scott, who was originally heterosexual, is now in an openly gay relationship.

Wednesday, Marvel Comics will also promote gay characters with the release of issue 51 of “Astonishing X-Men” by Marjorie Liu (writer) and Mike Perkins (artist).

The issue features the marriage of Northstar, a member of the X-Men and Marvel’s first openly gay character, to his longtime boyfriend.

Although openly gay characters have appeared in comics since the ’60s, most of them are featured in books from independent publishers, while major companies such as Marvel and DC have slowly given more focus to such characters.

Both of these storylines come off the heels of several forward gay rights events, specifically the vote to ban gay marriage in North Carolina and President Obama’s endorsement for same-sex marriage.

Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, said in a statement that the idea came organically from those real world events.

“When gay marriage became legal in New York State, it raised a question, since most of our heroes reside in that state,” he said.

Robinson, who is known for prominently featuring gay characters in his work, said in an interview with the website Comic Book Resources that homosexuality is too common in the real world to be ignored in comic books.

“It’s a realistic aspect of the cross section of diversity that exists in society,” he said. “That would exist on a team.”
Kyler said both stories are a great step for gay rights and for comics as a respected medium.

“In comics nowadays, we really see a lot of fantasy but we like it to be in a hint of reality,” he said. “To just ignore the fact that there are homosexual people in the world isn’t very realistic.”
Kyler said this focus on real world issues helps make the otherwise fantastical characters relatable.

Paul Shiple, manager of The Game Room, a Toledo comics and games shop on Sylvania Avenue, said the increased exposure of gay characters has affected his store’s sales marginally.

“[The response is] mostly apathetic. No one really seems to care,” he said.

Shiple, however, said this general mood is a positive compared to the extreme responses populating the Internet, citing conservative group One Million Mom’s call to boycott all DC and Marvel titles featuring gay characters.

“It is my belief [that] true equality will be had in this society when instead of celebrating sexual lifestyle choices, we all shrug and say, ‘So?’” he said.

Shiple said that while events and gimmicks can help to bring in readers, the quality of the storytelling is what determines true success.

“If it’s a good story, people will start reading it. And if it isn’t, people won’t,” he said.

“Astonishing X-Men” #51 goes on Wednesday, June 20. “Earth 2” #2 is already available. The Game Room is located at 3001 W. Slyvania Ave.

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