Last week, a convention Q&A with DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio turned into high-profile news opportunity as the company teased that an "iconic" superhero would be reintroduced as a gay character as a part of DC's New 52 relaunch. (A story which teamed with Marvel's news of a gay wedding in "Astonishing X-Men" for a synchronistic moment in the zeitgeist).
This morning, DC let go of their promotional breath and revealed (as many already expected) Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott would be the latest out character in the publishers pantheon. Scott's sexual orientation will first play into his story in June 6's "Earth 2" #2 by James Robinson and Nicola Scott.
Created by artist Martin Nodell with legendary "Batman" writer Bill Finger, the original Green Lantern debuted in 1940 wielding a magical ring by night and working as a radio reporter (and later mogul) by day. One of the cornerstone members of the Justice Society of America, Scott has been largely replaced in pop culture by '60s GL reinvention Hal Jordan, but the original character's name, historical status and longevity fit the idea of DC's "iconic" tease.
CBR News spoke with James Robinson about the change, and below the writer speaks to his history writing gay characters into superhero stories, the family inspiration for Scott's change, the surprising interest in the story and the future of "Earth 2's" alternate DC Universe.
CBR News: James, "Earth 2" as a series is something you developed for a while before the comic hit the stands. At what point in the process did changing Alan Scott's sexual orientation come about, and what did you feel it added to the world and character?
James Robinson: We were developing the book for about eight months before the first issue came out, and there's a part of me that loves the old continuity and everything else. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of DC. But one of the things I felt was that if you're going to reinvent a universe, you should really go for it. You should go for it the way Grant Morrison has done with Superman or how Geoff Johns has come up with a new origin for the Justice League. With that in mind, the only thing I was sad about in terms of a younger Justice League was that there wasn't going to be Jade and Obsidian – Obsidian of course being Alan Scott's gay son. And just as one idea can foster the next, from there I went, "Why don't I just make Alan Scott gay?" And to Dan DiDio's credit, there wasn't a moments hesitation on that. He just said, "That's a great idea," and we went with it.
And I can't speak for Dan, but I suspect that he is as surprised by how much attention this has gotten as I am, because I believe I did the first gay kiss in comics back in "Starman." That was in 1998 in issue #45. So this has been going on for a long time, and we obviously had Mikaal Tomas in the Justice League before this. So to me, it's a realistic aspect of the cross section of diversity that exists in society. That would exist on a team. So the fact that it's become a big deal, I'm a little surprised by that. But I'm delighted by the mainly positive reaction that it's gotten and the attention it's bringing to the book, which is obviously a really good thing.
I wanted to ask about that history with Mikaal Tomas Starman. Even though we've seen gay characters in mainstream comics and gay heroes, things like this and Marvel's wedding in "Astonishing X-Men" are drawing a lot more attention. What do you think has the raised spotlight on these stories, and does that attention change how you approach writing Alan at all?
One of the things I want to stress and one of the things I take pride in and hopefully do well is that when you meet these characters – and both Alan and [the Flash] Jay Garrick were only in two pages of the first issue – you'll see that I'm not changing them. I'm just turning them into modern day versions of how they used to be when they started out in the Golden Age. Jay Garrick was this young, slightly naive and idealistic guy that got his powers in the last year of college and went out into the real world. This version of Jay Garrick is pretty much the same person. The thing about "Earth 2" is that it isn't a magical world, but there's a little more mysticism there than there is on the main DCU. So all of these heroes get their powers in a slightly mystical way. As opposed to that strange original Jay Garrick origin with that "hard water" fictional science, he instead gets his powers from the dying god Mercury.
Alan Scott gets his powers from the green flame. He used to be this dynamic, bold, young guy who was originally an engineer but eventually became a radio announcer and then a radio station owner. Then as TV became a part of life, the Gotham City Broadcasting Company became a TV station too. So we're really going back to the way he was – that honorable, brave, type-A hero that he was starting out. The only thing I've done is treat his sexuality differently. But to me, that's just one aspect, one facet of the character. There are so many other aspects to him.
As for why it's getting all this attention, I think maybe it's just the time. The public is now more aware of this sort of thing and frankly is more accepting of it all. I think that's a good thing. It's the progress of society.
You've written Alan many times over the years in "JSA" and other books he guest starred in. Do you feel like this younger version feels different from the character that's been on the page for the past ten or 20 years of stories?
Like I say, I'm really going back to the roots, but I'm taking pains with all of the characters to make them unique. You'll learn that Jay Garrick is the one speedster that isn't a part of the Speed Force. And the way he runs, visually, is different from Barry Allen's power. Alan Scott's green flame you'll see as more organic and fiery. Geoff and I have already been talking about down the line seeing the first time the Justice League and Justice Society might meet, and when you see Alan Scott and Hal Jordan together, you'll see how their powers look and feel different – what effect they'll have on each other. So I'm taking pains to make this team unique and different and not just older versions of the new characters. That's what they were to some degree. So there is that idea to what I'm doing.
And there's a little Easter Egg in #2 I'll mention now that shows Ted Grant. He's going to be a huge part of the second arc, and obviously at that point he'll become Wildcat. When you see him, he's going to have a lot of the traits that made him that character back in the '40s, but he'll be very unique and different from anybody on the main earth.
Alan Scott is a media mogul in the story with a high public profile. Will being gay impact that public aspect of his life in any major way?
When I was first trying to work out who he was in terms of the archetype, I saw him as part Mark Zuckerberg and part David Geffen. David Geffen is a very openly gay man who's a very, very successful billionaire. Since Alan is out there in the internet and new media, he's been able to achieve a lot of that wealth and that public attention at a younger age. But in terms of his sexuality, I've been asked if people know he's gay. And Alan Scott is a very forthright, type-A personality. When we discover that he's gay in issue #2, it's not like he's coming out. He's gay. I imagine that at whatever age, he realized, "Oh, I'm gay. Now I'm going to get on with my life and do what I want." He accepts it, so the fact that he's openly gay in the world is something the world accepts since he's such a dynamic and likable guy as Alan Scott.
"Starman," as you mentioned, featured the first gay kiss in superhero comics which was different then because so often even when a gay character would be featured, they'd just have them say, "I'm gay" and that was that. Mikaal had a real romantic life in the story. What will Alan's personal life be like in the series?
There are aspects of that which are important to the story, so I don't want to get too into spoiling surprises for the reader. I've made no secret that seeing solicitations and advanced info is often no good as a reader because it's best to have stories revealed as you read them. Still, I don't think it's too much to say that in the first few issues will have the Justice Society dealing with their first threat, and as we inevitably will show these characters in their private lives, yes there will be romance for Alan, and it will be with a man.
"Earth 2" isn't just the story of these characters or even the team of the Justice Society. It's about that whole universe and world. Since the Justice Society has had an impact on how superhero universes function as a whole, are there ways in which their impact will be felt on this world on a broad?
I could be very clever here and just say "Yes" because you've given me an answer there I can agree with. But one of the things I've enjoyed about this book being called "Earth 2" means I can take my time showing the world. If the comic is called that team's name, there's a rush to get all the characters on the table immediately. With this, I can take my time a little bit more. I can roll my characters out one at a time and let them know each other so we can see who they are as people. Yes, you're going to see how they interact with the word. And I'll be honest, you'll continue to meet people like the Atom in issue #4. You've seen him as Al Pratt, but that's where he becomes the Atom. And he doesn't join the team for like a year. When you meet Ted Grant in the second arc along with a lot of other Earth 2 characters, you won't necessarily see them all join the team, but they'll be in the world. This allows me to show the team but also cut away to what other characters do and have B-plots specific to those characters. That's my goal, and it's a fun aspect of the book I hope people enjoy as we go issue-by-issue.
"Earth 2" #2 is on sale next week from DC Comics. For more on the talk around recent stories, see CBR's Gay Heroes story index.