It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane! It’s a Bi?
The comic universe recently exploded when one of the all-time favourite comic book characters, Superman, came out as bisexual. As always, people reacted in many different ways, including but not limited to joy, disappointment and also, sadly, bigotry.
Superman is a character created for comic books and movies by DC Comics. He was born on planet Krypton and was sent to Earth on an emergency pod just before Krypton bursts in a ball of flames. He lands on Jonathan and Martha Kent’s farm in the fictional town of Smallville, who adopt him. They name him Clark Kent. He grows up to be a journalist in Metropolis (another fictional city). There he meets and falls in love with another journalist called Lois Lane. They get married and have a son. They christened him Jon Kent, succeeded his father as Superman.
This new Superman came out as bisexual in the latest and fifth edition of the series Superman: Son of Kal-El, where he features on the front page, sharing a kiss with his friend, Joy Nakamura.
The trailer of the book and the cover were outed on 11 October, National Coming Out Day. The writer of the series Tom Taylor felt it was a missed opportunity if the new Superman had been another straight white saviour. Responding to comments, he stressed the fact that it was not a gimmick. Twitter exploded with reactions to this event, and some were quite homophobic. Why so? There are a few reasons.
The most recurrent reason is homophobia. People have a weird and deep-rooted hate for LGBTQIA+ people which is not limited to any specific region or country around the world. Though comics are no longer as popular as movies, they are still iconic in pop culture and have a massive following. In DC comics’ native country, the United States, the coming out of the new Superman received heavy backlash. It is vile and disgusting to behold. Superman is probably the most popular and old superhero. Even though he is technically an alien, people view him as the quintessential white saviour, heterosexual, muscular and loyal. He is the typical superhero, one may say.
Another reason is bandwagoning. Bandwagoning is making inclusive and diverse changes only for the sake of it. It maligns genuine attempts made at inclusivity and is toxic at large. A popular example is JK Rowling, who desperately tried to label characters from Harry Potter somewhere into the LGBTQIA+ spectrum after allegations about her being homophobic and racist surfaced.
One argument against DC Comics is that it changes existing characters and ‘makes’ them gay, instead of creating new ones. First of all, Jon Kent is a new character. He is Superman, but the original one’s son. However, having an old character come out is also very important. It conveys that there is no specific “right time” to come out, and that you can do it whenever you are comfortable and feel safe, which is a message of paramount significance.
Jon Kent is not the first comic book character
to come out. In January 2021, the original Green Lantern came out as gay, an idea that had been there since 2012. After that, Tim Drake, the third person to play Robin (Batman’s superhero sidekick) in the comic universe, came out as bisexual. This move had also sparked quite a controversy when it took place in August 2021.
Dean Cain, an actor who played Superman in the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman(in the 1990s) labelled this move as bandwagoning. “If they had done this 20 years ago, perhaps that would be bold or brave. But brave (today) would be having him fight for the rights of gay people in Iran,” he said in an interview with Fox and Friends. Tom Taylor mentions in his interview that the new Superman does fight for these issues, including the refugee crisis.
Well, news flash! Homophobia is a contemporary issue, and Superman should fight for it just like any other. Just by coming out, Superman is validating so many people around the globe. Like writer Tom Taylor said, Superman coming out as bisexual helps those of the LGBTQIA+ community to connect with him. It gives them the courage to come out too and it tells them that they are not alone-their superhero loves just like them.
– Miheer Karandikar