Ever since I read the new Teen Titans line and saw the introduction of Bunker to the team (and world in general), I’ve been sort of cringing at the obvious stereotypes of gay characters. For the most part, I’ve only seen a handful over the short time reading comics, but the ones I have seen have made me want to yell at certain creators. Even the Avengers aren’t immune to this, with the recent revelation that Striker from the Avengers Academy line is gay. That normally wouldn’t upset me, but the way he comes out to the world is rather trashy, even if it is in keeping with the personality of his character.
There are a lot of positive gay characters, such as the recent Batwoman title. She’s openly gay (at least in her civilian life) and is dating one of Gotham City’s leading detectives, and thus far I haven’t seen any over-the-top stereotyping—no surprise given the title has been nominated for a GLAAD award at least once. And, the main reason why she’s such a positive character is that they don’t make the comic entirely about her sexual orientation; it just happens to be a side aspect of a much larger whole. The fact that she’s gay does not define who she is, it just adds to who she is.
Let’s take a look at what I consider a major change within some of the more conservative aspects of comics: the introduction of a gay character—Kevin Keller—in the greater Archie Comics shared universe. I’ve been a fan (though not a large one) of Archie Comics for years; along with Star Trek, Star Wars, and G.I. Joe, Archie is one of the few series of comics I’ve read before I started becoming more involved in the mainstream community; however, it is rather predictable in terms of plot and characters. The readers can count on seeing nearly the same thing from issue to issue, though there has been some evolution over the years. When I first found out that Kevin Keller was introduced, I was unsure what to think, but when I discovered that they meant to make it so his sexuality wasn’t that big of a deal to the in-continuity aspects of Riverdale, I was actually ecstatic. It actually made me want to see about reading Archie Comics again (even though I haven’t, but it’s the thought that counts).
But, that hasn’t really made me feel better about some of the other characters that have been introduced in comics for sensationalism in terms of their sexual orientation. Sometimes, I feel as though such introductions—or rather, some characters’ revelation of their sexual orientation—have been made as shock value, or attention-getters. Within Scarlet Spider #3, one of the supporting characters makes an announcement that he and his husband are gay to the title’s protagonist (and antihero, in my opinion). This comment is made rather off-the-cuff, as though it’s not a big deal, and sure, while it’s not that much of a big deal to me, it makes it seem as though the revelation was made in such a fashion as to shock people (especially given the location of the series). And, while part of me is glad that the reintroduction of Alan Scott (the original non-Oa associated Green Lantern) shows him as a positive gay man, another part of me wonders if it was done for marketing purposes.
I’m not one who likes to stifle someone’s creativity or their ideas that might turn out to be really awesome, but I dislike people, companies, or creative teams trying to capitalize on shock value for the sake of increasing sales or publicity. I see the creation of gay characters a lot like I do female characters: it’s good that they’re starting to be taken seriously, but there’s still a long way to go. I just hope that people with the ability to do something about it will not treat the characters as money makers.