On Monday, DC Comics used “National Coming Out Day” to announce the new Superman, Clark’s son Jon Kent, is now bisexual. Accompanying the art was a quote from writer Tom Taylor, declaring society doesn’t need “another straight white savior.” But Superman fans objecting to this change don’t hate Jon for who he loves but for what he represents: the continued disrespect of the legacy of America’s first superhero.
Here’s some background on the recent state of Superman. After sales peaked with 1993’s Death of Superman, writers relied on gimmicks. To quote Batman in 2005’s Infinite Crisis: “The last time [Superman] inspired anyone was when he was dead.” DC swapped his powers, gave him a mullet, and even restarted America’s longest running serial, Action Comics, from issue No. 1.
This latter change happened in 2011 when DC launched The New 52 and rebooted all of their heroes to be edgier and inexperienced. The talents of veteran Superman artist George Pérez were wasted, when he quit the title over frustration with editors. Running concurrently to this mismanaged mess was Grant Morrison’s “socialist” Action Comics. Without Lois, the red trunks, or his big blue boy scout smile, the Man of Steel became an inconsistent mouthpiece for social justice.
These changes proved so unpopular that DC killed him again, and reintroduced the pre-reboot Superman with Lois and their new son, Jon.
From this, Tomasi & Gleason gave us the amazing Rebirth series, focusing on family, faith, and fatherhood. This ran parallel to legendary writer Dan Jurgens’ return to Action Comics. It was a red-caped renaissance.
But, in 2018, these writers were fired to make way for Miles Morales creator Brian Michael Bendis. Bendis set about deconstructing Superman by putting marriage with Lois on the rocks, and revealing his secret identity (with little lasting impact).
But worst of all? Bendis sent Jon Kent into space, and aged him up instantly.
All his potential development as Superman’s teenage son was gone. The successful Supersons book with Robin fell by the wayside. Jon Kent was winded of potential, and sales suffered.
The main Superman was then exiled to an anthology book, with his temples greyed to hammer home how much of a fuddy-duddy he is. Journalists declared him “irrelevant.” How could a patriotic straight white male be heroic while Trump occupied the White House?
Superman’s past was as under threat as his present. In the first issue of the recent anthology series Red and Blue, Superman’s backstory is revised to include him being de-powered and raped by a dictator. What’s the point of such ritual humiliation of our heroes? It’s done to demoralize us of virtues like bravery and strength, and to prop up “marginalized” identity characteristics in their stead.
Superman has been wounded at the cinema too. With Henry Cavill done the indignity of a CGI’d mustache in the Justice League (2017) reshoots, Critical Race theorist Ta-Nehisi Coates is now writing a “black Superman” movie. Superman remains creatively homeless, despite fan support for the Snyder Cut and bringing Cavil back.
Then Future State happened. This “diverse” reboot replaced Batman and the Flash with black and non-binary successors. During this time, Jon Kent became Superman, and had a relationship with a new bisexual Brazilian Wonder Woman.
But of course, that couldn’t last. Now Taylor has coupled him up with pink-haired “hacktivist” Jay Nakamura. If there were any doubt politics influenced this decision, Jay idolises Lois Lane: who recently took on the Trump Administration in Greg Rucka’s “Enemy of the People” series.
To sum it all up: the uninspired hijacking of established characters for ideological ends is paired with studio interference producing box office bombs, and an absence of interesting new characters. These factors have sent the comics industry into managed decline; and no amount of Disney or Warner Bros. bucks can bail out such creative bankruptcy.
Stories only work when characters are believable as individuals — when they’ve developed relationships, aspirations, and anxieties, all particular to them. Making membership of an abstract identity class (BAME, LGBTQ+, etc.) their sole trait reduces them from person to “representative” avatar. They’re not characters: they’re brand ambassadors for whichever group is celebrated by today’s hashtag.
Identity politics hollows out characters of their mimetic humanity, with all the resulting depth and direction of a puddle. It inserts “Protected classes” into fiction, making characters static and incapable of experiencing hardship. How are writers supposed to write a good story under constant threat of Mary Sue and Pink News headlines accusing them of misogyny or homophobia?
Fans don’t hate gay people or gay characters. Our problem is with writers inheriting a legacy, disregarding long-established history of these characters, and insulting the fans who paid for decades of comics as racist or homophobic for objecting to sudden changes. If your aim is to “represent” rather than write, you’re a propagandist. And I only care because propaganda doesn’t sell comics.
“Representation matters” only if you conflate ideas with identity. To claim some identities are heroic implies the others are villainous. Activists would have you believe all straight white men are Lex Luthor, but those who created these heroes during the Depression and World War II dispel that narrative. Heroism transcends tribalism, and superman can represent any reader by what he does, not who he is.
These critiques come from a need to save a hobby I love dearly from extinction. Comic shops are closing because they’re made to buy unsellable books under Marvel and DC’s distribution monopoly. If writers keep pandering to an activist base who retweet articles but don’t buy the titles, the industry will implode.
Writers must rediscover heroic values, respect their audience, and pay tribute to the creators who came before. What a hero does is Let’s have less “Now he’s gay!”, and more “Truth, justice, and the American way.”
Connor Tomlinson is the Policy Director for the British Conservation Alliance, and a Young Voices UK Associate Contributor. He is a regular contributor to talkRadio, GB News, and publications like CapX & Daily Express. Follow him on Twitter: @con_tomlinson
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