Of all the announcements from this weekend's Kapow! Comic Convention in Britain, the one that has set the most lips flapping is the announcement that DC plans to retcon one of its major characters to be gay. As opposed to their initial plan to only create new characters to be gay, they've chosen to take an existing one and re-introduce them in the DCnU as gay. They've not said who, they've not said when, just that they plan to do so. Indeed, it's only been inferred that it'll be a character that has not yet been seen in the New 52; the way Dan Didio made it sound, using phrases like "would be" suggested that it'd be a big part of the character from the get-go.
Allow me to make one thing clear from the same get-go - I am totally cool with this. Having more gay characters, more black, Asian, what have you characters only serves to make the DCU more similar to the real world in how many different sorts of people are in it. From a narrative viewpoint, if they'd tried this in the old DCU, any character they wanted to do this to would have had a whole bunch of stories that would likely need tweaking or explaining should they make such a change. Here in the New 52, there IS no backlog or adventures, or at least not as many. If you want to re-make a character, this is the time to do it.
There's any number of characters in the DCU which hasn't gotten a lot of time spent on their private lives. Most of the time is spent in the costume. Even though they have the opportunity to start any character from scratch here, if they choose to use a character who very clearly was heterosexual beforehand, had a lot of male/female relationships, they might get more pushback than if they'd chosen to go with one where it was never really addressed. If they were to use, say Ralph Dibny the Elongated Man, I'd be disappointed, as his married relationship was a major part of the character. If they used, I dunno, Aztek or Agent Liberty, characters whose personal life is more of a blank slate, it might be easier to swallow.
DC has done new versions of their characters with new ethnic backgrounds and other major changes of late. Almost every one of them has been met with...oh, let's call it "reticence" with a facet of the readership, who tend to describe it as ramming an ethnic character down our throats. And as a rule, that's a shame, because many if not all of said characters have been exemplary. Batwoman, once they finally got the book off the ground, has been an artistic masterpiece. I've gone on about how much I adored the new Blue Beetle, though I must admit the New 52 iteration has been a bit too dour for me. The Renee Montoya Question was another very good character - not as much a chance to get used as many would have liked (myself included) but what there was was cherce.
Considering that homosexuality is much more a hot-button for people than mere ethnicity is, I expect there to quite a hue and cry once said character is announced. The way they're saying it, this won't be a new version of the character, but the same character as in the pre-DCnU, with the big difference that he/she will be gay. And judging from Dan's statements, their being gay will be a bigger part of the character, becoming as he put it, “one of our most prominent gay characters.”
Now I gotta admit, I don't know how I feel about the being gay becoming a "big part" of the character. I think it's going to depend totally on who's writing the character. Marc Andreyko had a large number of gay characters in his version of Manhunter, and never did the characters feel forced, nor did their predilections get overly mentioned in the narrative. Rarely, if ever, was their gayness relevant or important to the plot; they were just gay. And that's EXACTLY how it should be played. I've gone on about how well the new Doctor Who has integrated gay characters into the stories - some characters are gay, it's mentioned, it's not made the center of the story, and nobody comes away learning an important lesson about tolerance. There's gay people, and it doesn't mean a hang about their goodness or evilness, they're just there. Perfect.
Personally, of all the gay characters DC have had, the one I thought was done the best was Pied Piper early in the Wally west Flash run. He'd gone straight (you should pardon the choice of words, but even HE made the joke) and was working with Wally on many cases. Having a conversation, Wally starts a very guyish "Are any supervillains gay" discussion. Piper admits he isn't aware of any villains who are gay...except himself of course. Wally does a total double take and reacts the way any average guy finds out his friends is gay - he runs off to watch football or box or do something mannish. By the end of the issue, he realizes it doesn't make a damn bit of difference and their relationship goes back to what it was, and it's barely made a Thing of again. Of course, Countdown, that place where oh so many things went wrong, had him played like being gay was the only thing he'd ever done, and all the other Rogues constantly going about it and generally acting very out-of-character towards him. But Countdown is one of those books we wish we could all just forget and ignore, so no need to make a big frooferau about it.
It's neat that DC is trying to create more diverse characters. As long as they get played as fully formed, and not just one-trick ponies, all will be well. How well the general readership accepts them will also hinge on how well they're written, and who's writing them. If you create or introduce a character specifically to BE gay, and that becomes their biggest characteristic, there's a real likelihood they'll stay two-dimensional. The new Teen Titan, Bunker, got introduced with much fanfare, and all told, his gayness hasn't made too much of a difference, because they've been far too busy fighting for him to go on about how wonderful guys are. There's been no "can I trust this guy to have my back, as he is gay" plotlines, thank god.
So not counting the moaners and groaners, the hot topic has been to try and guess who the character is going to be. It's taken as read it won't be one of the big three (And let's be honest, while Wonder Woman would be a far more obvious choice than many would care to admit, they've already had mention of her dating Steve Trevor, so it's likely it's not her.) Having it be any of the back-up characters in any of their stables is also a slim chance. Most of them have enough history that such a change would require a fair amount of history fixing. So it's likely a character we've not yet seen in the DCnU yet, or one whose personal life we've seen very little of.
I think there's a VERY good chance it'll be one of the Earth-2 characters. They're in the process of re-inventing all the Earth-2 versions of the characters in a new timeline. Making one of them be gay would be an easy move, as they're all effectively new characters, Also, James Robinson, writer of the Earth-2 book, has had a lot of success writing gay characters, and making them three-dimensional characters who don't exist solely to be a token tip of the hat.
I'll put my bet on the table - Alan Scott; media mogul, and Earth 2's Green Lantern. They've said the character would be a major character. James has already said that his GL would pretty much be the most powerful character on Earth-2. Alan Scott likely already has a fair amount of notoriety as a head of a major media company; he could easily be in a position to be a positive role model.
So let the guessing commence - Who's gonna come out of the closet instead of the phonebooth?
Postscript - so far, both MTV Geek and Bleeding Cool have come out in favor of my guess, both reporting various insider information and rumor. But we know where they heard it, don't we?