"The Ring is the Thing, or The Play is the Gay"
All-American Comics #61
"Fighters Never Quit"
Writer: Alfred Bester
Penciller: Paul Reinman
Inker: Paul Reinman
Editor: Julius Schwartz
DC Comics, 1944
by Terrance Griep, Jr.
So! At long last, the cat is out of the bag, the case is out of the closet, and the beam is out of the beacon. Last month, DC Comics announced inside a Dickens-esque orphanage, or someplace, that "one of the major iconic DC characters" would be unmasked as a super-homo who moonlights as a super-hero. And after weeks and weeks of pointedly non-Platonic teasing, the pop culture suspense popped with the climactic revelation that the mystery queer is the one, the only Gree-ee-een Lan-turrrn!
Well, actually—this Green Lantern isn't the one and only. In fact, he's the first of roughly 3,601 Green Lanterns who would come down the cosmic pike. And for that very reason, something about this outing rings hallow. This major, iconic DC character is merely the prototypical ring-slinger whose jade generations are more mysticky and less sciency, and whose kryptonite is all things xylemy. This is the Green Lantern who forces you into a twelve-cylinder, metaphysical explanation whenever your non-geek friends mention Ryan Reynolds. It's cool that Alan Scott is gay, and all...
Pop culture reaction has variegated itself into a predictable spectrum of commenters: the LGBT non-comics folk who sigh whimsically about how swell it is for gay kids to have a positive rôle model, neverminding the fact that damn few kids—gay, straight, or other—read funnybooks these days; the crotchety misanthropes who loudly long for the days when such complex issues as gender identity weren't discussed in print and, by cracky, comics were about the bad guy's fists against the good guy's wits, doo-dah, the end; and that ingeniously ironic comedy troupe, One Million Moms, who publicly wring all twelve of their collectively liver-spotted hands whilst hilariously "fretting" over zombie-eyed consequences that wouldn't even occur to slightly-less-funny figures as David Koresh and John Hinckley, Jr. It's cool that comics are being talked about in the mainstream press...
All of this reaction, pro and tem, is frankly misplaced...because Alan Scott outed himself nearly seventy years ago, in All-Star Comic #61. Green Lantern's outing at that point was somewhat coded, admittedly, but it's undeniably pixilated within those pages...and it ain't because of his propensity for swooning in the presence of men wielding wood.
Oh, and another thing about All-Star Comics #61: it also introduced Solomon Grundy to the DC Universe. Solomon Grundy is that burly, whirly, non-girly, bucktoothed villain who's equal parts evil Hulk and Sean of the Dead, with a soupçon of Edgar Winter thrown in. In his first appearance, Grundy emerges, Aphrodite-like, from a pit of quicksand, immediately establishing his contrarian relationship with the laws of physics. Two killers—just as they finish scoffing at the legend of Cyrus Gold's fi'ty-year-old ghost haunting the swamp they currently traverse, scoffing ALWAYS being a bad idea when you're a character in a comic book—attempt to kill the ghastly newborn, only to be transformed into killed killers when said newborn petulantly decides to kill them right back.
The next muster of miscreants who encounter ol' Solly play it smarter, making him their stooge-slash-leader. Apparently, they've long harbored a scheme wherein they would hold up a sporting goods store wielding fake firearms so that they could steal real firearms in order to hold up a theatrical supply store so that they could steal fake firearms. All their plan lacked was an eight-foot-tall zombie of criminal temperament, so it's off to the disgraces they go.
Alan Scott, probably checking out the latest union suit fashions, just happens to be shopping in said sporting goods store and beats a tallowy retreat, only to return in his swishier persona, that of the original Emerald Crusader, the Gay Lantern! Police bullets having failed to faze the Fafner-esque felon, GL wields his verdant radiance against his future arch-foe...and for the first time in his mystery man career, that radiance fizzles and fails. A Grundy left cross to our flabbergasted hero's grungy chin sends him careening into la-la-land via the Rightnow Express.
A silver ring belonging to Cyrus Gold—yes, he of the scoffed-at ghost fame—asserts itself after Grundy's escape, and GL wonders how such an item could be part of a sports store heist's pistolcentric loot. "Nevermind dem vain spectralations!" Doiby Dickles, the less Dynamic half of this particular Dynamic Duo, dismisses in faultless Brooklynese. "What are we gonna do?"
Well, that's simple. The Green Gladiator, perhaps taking a cue from President Obama trying to reason with John Boehner, figures more of what isn't working is the solution to the Grundy Problem: after overcharging himself (via power battery, not via credit card, like the rest of us), the Master of Light is greeted with a second Grundy sock in the jaw, much like Smokin' Joe during Ali-Frasier II, and is hurled from a high window, his credit card partially breaking his fall before maxing out. The snazzier half of their partnership properly groggified, Doiby Dickles bravely decides to fly solo against the Grundy Gang.
GL, still knocked goofy, eventually follows, forgetting his power ring in deference to his goofy-knockedness. As his senses return, Green Lantern arrives at a trainyard where he overhears Doiby confronting the Grundy Gang all solo-like. "The ring was powerless!" GL rationalizes, running toward the ambient villainy without his namesake weapon. "Now let's see what fists can do!" Fists can't do as much as feet, it turns out, and GL proves this notion by kicking the Swampland Scarecrow into the trail of an onrushing train after Solomon Grundy refuses to sign over the deed to the family ranch and GL, twirling his moustache, says, "Mwa ha ha haaa!"
With Solomon Grundy thoroughly eliminated, GL explains to Doiby that, per the whole Cyrus Gold/silver ring thing: the recently-departed zombie giant was what was left of Cyrus Gold. Over the course of the previous five decades, Cyrus Gold's skeleton collected "bits of rotten wood and leaves" which, for no reason other than filling up twelve pages of comic book, "built themselves into the monster of Solomon Grundy."
So! There you have it: irrefutable proof of Alan Scott's poofdom, poof proof that dates back to the fourth FDR Administration and is delivered by...hah? Wozzat? You still don't see it, eh? Hmph. Oh. Okay. Ahem. The irrefutable proof of Alan Scott's That-Way-ness is his obsession with accessories...rings, in particular. Gleaning all that information from Cyrus Gold's silver ring, not to mention his own penchant for perfervid finger bling, positively identifies the Master of Light as a flaming, green 'mo. The ring is the thing.
Which, strangely enough, brings us back to Solomon Grundy. "He was not real life," Alan concludes, explaining to Doiby and the reader why the power ring went ding-a-ling when applied to the Marshland Monster. "He was a distortion of nature." In other words, Grundy's very existence rings hallow in the same way the Green Lantern's coming out does. Just as Solomon Grundy's very existence demands a multi-panel explanation, so, too, does Alan Scott's outness.
Yes, it's Green Lantern, and yes, he's gay, and yes, there's more good there than bad.
Terrance Griep, Jr. is a writer on "Scooby-Doo," published by DC Comics. Based in Minneapolis, he is also very involved with the queer press, having written for "The Advocate," "Lavender," "QMinnesota," "Queue Press," "Seattle Gay News," and "Out." Speaking of "Out," he was featured in the February 2004 issue as his alter ego, wrestling bad boy Tommy "The SpiderBaby" Saturday.
All characters © 1944, 2012 DC Comics. Article © Terrence Griep, Jr.
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