Editorial: The First Green Lantern Comes Out

DC announced that Alan Scott would be returning to the universe, and he would be gay.

This is another change introduced into DC’s New 52 line, in this case their book Earth 2, which revolves around the formation of the Justice Society in modern times, mirroring the events that happened in the mainstream 52 story. Instead of having these characters come from the World War II era, they are now the product of modern times, with updates to their costumes.

“I was sort of putting the team together and I realized one of the only downsides to relaunching the Justice Society as young, vibrant heroes again was that Alan Scott’s son was no longer going to exist in the reboot,” said series writer James Robinson.

Alan’s son, Obsidian, had been rumored to be gay for years. When first brought up when he was part of the Justice League, he merely shrugged it off as wondering why people needed labels. In Manhunter #18, he finally came out as an officially gay character. It should also be pointed out that Alan has a daughter as well. Her name was Jade, and she was formerly in a relationship with Kyle Rayner; the former last of the Green Lanterns.

For those who don’t know much about Alan Scott, here’s the Wikipedia page to get you started.

For the rest of you who don’t want to go there, here’s what you need to know:

Alan Scott was introduced in 1940 in All-American Comics #16 as the first Green Lantern. His ring was much different than that of the better known, Hal Jordan. Instead of a weakness to yellow, it had a weakness to wood. This was easily explained outside of the story as needing to give the hero something common to be vulnerable against. It would make sure that he had the bulletproof nature of Superman, but a guy with a bat could give him a bad day. It was to give a sense of drama and the bad guys a little hope to beat this powerhouse character. His popularity, along with the rise of others heroes (such as the Flash, the Spectre, Doctor Fate, Hourman, the Atom, Sandman and Hawkman) led to a team being formed in All Star Comics #3. The group came to be known as; the Justice Society.

I could go further into the history, but I think it would be best if you read the wiki page, or picked up a few of the cheaper volumes of collected stories that told the origins of this hero. Pick up several! They’re great old time stories to have on hand! Which is where we pick up with my thoughts on this…

When I first heard about the reintroduction of Alan Scott to the new 52, I immediately went into defensive mode. Not due to any one change they were making, but the fact that they were changing him at all. I take the changes a bit personally, knowing I shouldn’t. Superman and this Golden Age Green Lantern have been tied as my #1 favorite superhero for years! I wish I would have had the luck that Troy did, when he met Martin Nodell (creator of Alan Scott) years ago. To meet this man would’ve like cinched it that much more. From what I’m to understand, he was not only a fun guy to talk to, but could convince a person to become a fan of HIS GL very quickly. To me, at first it was cool to have a hero with my last name. Yeah, I was 12 when I first ran into the guy, sue me. Then as I learned more about him, and how his ring worked, it just became that much cooler. He wasn’t like Hal Jordan or Guy Gardner. He was his own Lantern, and had this moral code that fundamentally stuck with me. I know part of that is because my grandfather, on my mother’s side, was a US Marine in World War II.

This is what really bugs me most. They’ve removed the 1940s influence of the Justice Society. I understand why that is, because even in the DCU I grew up with, these characters were in their 60s/70s and still fighting crime. Times move on, I understand that, but there are certain characters that lend themselves so much better to that time frame. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman could adapt themselves to the rigors changing backstories. Kal-El’s rocket could land in Kansas at any time, Bruce’s parents could be killed in that alley at any given year, Diana could come from Themyscira at any point in history. You can go as far into the future or way back into the past with those stories. Alan found the Lantern while working as a railroad engineer. The Lantern gave him instructions on how to forge a ring, and he became the very colorful Green Lantern. This doesn’t lend itself very well to updating.  Sure, it can be done, but does it lose something in the translation on doing it?  That’s up to James Robinson, a man who has worked with these characters extensively in the past. 

It also removes characters like his daughter Jade and Obsidian from continuity.  I was always fond of Jade as a character, it wasn’t until after I started getting out of comics that I think Obsidian became interesting.    To bring them back with a different origin story would somehow lessen who they were.   To me, it would be like them deciding to take Dick Grayson and make him Nightwing, and never make him Robin.  You could write it that way and later have him introduced to the Batman mythos, but it subtracts something from it.   And I can’t forget the help Alan was to Kyle Rayner when he first became Green Lantern.  He’s the one who explained to Kyle what his ring meant and the history of it.   He became a mentor and close friend.   As mentioned, he dated Alan’s daughter for a long while.     With the exception of dating Jade, I’m sure that you could argue that any able bodied Lantern could mentor Kyle.  Not the point.  There was a reasonance to the idea that the first GL was guiding, what was to be believed, the last GL.  I’ve very lucky to still have these issues in my collection.   While erased from DC’s new storyline, I’ll always be able to go back and read through these great stories again.

As to Alan now being gay; honestly, this isn’t a big deal to me. When they said a major character was going to come out, I figured that it was going to be Capt. Marvel, Shazam, or whatever the hell they call Billy Batson’s hero ego now. Guess I was far off the reservation with my idea. So here it was presented and I took a pause and asked if I had a reason to be mad? Making him gay shouldn’t fundamentally change him being a superhero. So it comes down as to why do it at all? You have James Robinson’s answer above. I think there’s more to it than that, but I’m not the writer of the book.

Look, I’m all for having gay superheroes. I won’t go through the cliche that some of my best friends are gay. That’s a stupid thing to say, true or not, and most people use it as a way to hide their insecurities. Not all people, but enough to make it sound bad when said. The truth is though, that when they announced that the first Green Lantern was going to be gay, the next thing I heard was people asking; “Who?” In comic fandom (admittedly who this is aimed for), Alan is recognizable. To the average individual, they’ll know of Green Lantern and think Hal Jordan or Jon Stewart. Those two have had the most exposure. Hal was around in the Superfriends and was the main character in the Ryan Reynolds film. Jon got his time to shine in the Justice League animated series. While he has been in comics since the 70s, he got more exposure this way to children and adults who weren’t aware of other human GLs. Alan’s had cameos and one shots here and there through media, but he’s 95 % a comic book influence. While not a bad thing, it’s still something to consider when you’re announcing the character’s coming out. It seems to me as it was done for a gimmick, to impress a bunch of people who don’t know who he is or what he’s all about. Naturally, my mind would have gone to looking him up online. It’s been proven to me time and again, that the mass public doesn’t always go for that option. They want to be told rather than read it. Sorry to disappoint you if I haven’t given you enough already. If they want this new Alan Scott to be gay, then I say fine. Just realize that by doing this, you’re not making the impact you might have with a better known character. The codename GL has had a lot of different individuals behind it, and they went for the 40s hero hoping that it would draw new people in? Maybe they are right, I don’t know. I don’t think so, but I truly don’t know. I just hope that it doesn’t become a flash in the pan, then fall flat when people didn’t get a good story out of it. That’s what these books are supposed to be about; good stories. I could care less what the heroes race or sexual orientation is. I want to know one thing; is this character a good hero?

I’ll keep my ear out and listen for what people think. Right now, the only thing I can say is this isn’t my Alan Scott. I like the guy from the 40s in the gawdy uniform. Why? I love to see where these characters come from. I know changes will happen. I mean, Superman is nothing like he was when he started out. But for a relatively small amount, Alan has stayed the same for nearly 75 years now. This is a little too new not to be weird.