As The New York Times recently noted, the comics world has begun to write a number of homosexual characters and books that now incorporate gay characters or interact with them in some way. It referenced the new, ongoing Midnighter, and Wonder Woman officiating a lesbian wedding.
The article also went out of its way to dive into the independent side of comics to shine a spotlight on books like “Virgil,” “Flutter,” and “Lumberjanes.” While the piece was predominantly celebrating transgender and homosexual comics, it also revealed the main goal of a social movement pushed by a number of different comic book opinion websites.
In the last paragraph, George Gene Gustines quotes Comics Alliance Editor in Chief Andrew Wheeler: “We need to get from some to enough. And really, we’ll know we’ve achieved success when Captain America can have a boyfriend, and Wonder Woman can have a girlfriend. For queer representation in superhero comics, that’s what success looks like.”
You read that right. Queer representation in comics will only be a success when the mainstream DC and Marvel characters are gay. It’s not enough that Wonder Woman is officiating lesbian weddings; she needs to be a lesbian, bisexual, or transgender herself.
This gets to the heart of their movement. They aren’t interested in good storytelling, interesting characters, or fun plot lines. They are more interested in identity politics and whether the big Marvel or DC characters identify with their cause and vision of what comics should be. They are willing to sacrifice quality in favor of this vision.
There Can Be No Legitimate Opposition
Thomas Sowell’s “The Vision of the Anointed” succinctly addresses this approach. Now, Sowell’s book is targeted more towards public policy, but it can also be used to examine cultural phenomena. Sowell notes there are four key elements common to the prevailing vision of the anointed at any given time. They are:
- Assertions of a great danger to the whole of society, a danger to which the masses of people are oblivious.
- An urgent need for action to avert impending catastrophe.
- A need for government to drastically curtail the dangerous behavior of the many, in response to the prescient conclusions of the few.
- A disdainful dismissal of arguments to the contrary as either uninformed, irresponsible, or motivated by unworthy purposes.
These four elements are also found within the social justice movement to transform comics. The first can be seen in the recent Batgirl cover controversy. The cover depicts The Joker with his arm around Barbara Gordon in homage to Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke.” Brett Schenker of Graphic Policy described it as “continued victimization and fridging.” However, anyone outside the comic world could care less about this one single image, let alone it representing some kind of victimization and fridging of women.
The second and third elements are also seen in Graphic Policy’s response to the second issue of “Airboy.” They were so completely appalled by the comic, they issued a call for the publisher to remove it from publication for being “transphobic.” If the comic wasn’t immediately pulled from the stands, they charged it would promote transphobic behavior such as murder.
Finally, the fourth element shows up almost anywhere there is a dissenting opinion to the social justice crowd, and it does not always come off as disdainful. Instead, it is usually championed as something morally good, written or said in a way that does not even allow challenge. It is dogmatic.
One specific example occurred in a Wired article discussing the Marvel hip-hop variant controversy. C. Spike Trotman declared, “Diversity is legitimacy. It’s sincerity. It’s truthiness, to borrow a certain expression.” You have already been painted into a corner if you try to argue this statement. Diversity is truthiness, so if you critique it or offer a different point of view, it is obviously falsiness. (Yeah, that was a terrible joke. Should have hired Man vs. Rock.)
LGBT Characters and Themes Are Representative
While the prevailing visions hold to these common elements, they also hold something else in common with the social justice movement: the lack of evidence to support their vision. In my short time covering the comics industry, I have yet to see an analysis detailing how many characters in specific universes are gay, transgender, or whatever other diversity or identity label the social justice crowd wants to use. It is always “we need more diversity and representation” despite the number of LGBT individuals in the United States only being between 1.2 and 6.8 percent of the adult population.
To put that in perspective, DC is putting out 57 comics in March, two of which are non-Superhero Scooby-Doo books. “Midnighter” features a gay lead, “Constantine: The Hellblazer” features a bisexual lead, and “DC Comics Bombshells” features a lesbian couple lead. The representation for lead characters is 5.4 percent if you remove the Scooby Doo books. That’s pretty right on compared to the overall population. It doesn’t provide a perfect picture, because I do not have data showing the percentage of LGBT individuals within the comic consumer base.
Despite this, we get people and websites like Andrew Wheeler and Comics Alliance complaining that the only way LGBT people will be fairly represented in comics is to essentially eradicate the straight characters.
Try Writing New Characters Instead of Morphing Old Ones
They would rather have Wonder Woman or Captain America’s sexual orientation changed than create brand new, interesting characters. Now, a number of these talking heads will cry that it is too difficult to create new characters. That is hogwash. DC is already doing this with Midnighter, who now has his own ongoing saga.
Just a little over 20 years ago we were blessed with two of the most popular characters right now with Deadpool, who is getting his own movie in two short months, and Harley Quinn, who looks to have a very prominent role in the upcoming “Suicide Squad” movie. Gustines’ own article details a number of independent books that have created original characters that are finding fantastic success. It’s quite possible they might get their own movie or television show sometime in the future!
Despite evidence to the contrary, the push for diversity in comics is a vision of the anointed that is unsatisfied with representation that reflects reality. They are so dogmatic in their belief that they are underrepresented they will only feel satisfied when they have changed popular and mainstream characters’ sexual orientation or gender.
Based on their history of complaints, however, this will not satisfy them. They will find something else that must be changed because it doesn’t fit their vision of society.
One thing is clear: These complainers are confident in their ability to change comic culture and are now openly admitting their goals to continue to change characters. The question is, what are you going to do about it?