Superman Makes His Public Debut, as DC Comics Introduces a New Man of Steel.
The new Superman, the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, is environmentally conscious, is not afraid of politics, and is ready to embark on a sexual engagement with a male buddy.
DC Comics stated Monday that the new Superman, Jonathan Kent – the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane — will soon establish a sexual connection with a male buddy.
This same-sex relationship is only one of the ways in which Jonathan Kent, sometimes known as Jon, is demonstrating that he is a different Superman than his famous father. Jon has fought wildfires caused by climate change, averted a high school shooting, and protested the deportation of immigrants in Metropolis since his new series, Superman: Son of Kal-El, premiered in July.
"The concept of Clark Kent being replaced by another straight white savior felt like a squandered opportunity," series creator Tom Taylor said in an interview. He stated that a "new Superman" needed "new fights — real-world challenges — that he could confront as one of the world's most powerful individuals."
Even in an era when many comics have embraced diversity and are examining critical social themes, Superman's coming out is a significant occasion. Batman's sidekick, Robin, recently admitted to having love emotions for a male friend (not Dick Grayson, who was Batman's partner for over four decades, but Tim Drake, a later replacement; just as there are several Supermen, there are multiple Robins). And a new Aquaman comic book features a gay Black man who is vying to be the title character.
It's been a continuous progression for an industry that began self-censoring in a variety of ways following the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham's 1954 book "Seduction of the Innocent," which highlighted worries about sex, gore, and violence and established a relationship between reading comics and adolescent criminality. Wertham defined Batman and Robin as "a desire dream of two homosexuals cohabiting" in one passage.
The book sparked congressional hearings and resulted in the establishment of the Comics Code Authority in 1956, through which the comics industry established criteria for what may be depicted in comics. Batwoman was established as a love interest for the Caped Crusader that year. She eventually faded into oblivion before being resurrected in 2006. (In her new backstory, she departs the service after refusing to hide about her sexual orientation.)
In 1980, one of the first prominent comics to portray gays or lesbians debuted. This was not a favorable portrayal. Bruce Banner, Marvel's Hulk's alter ego, is at a Y.M.C.A. when two gay men attempt to rape him. By 1992, when Northstar, another Marvel hero, was released — an occasion lauded in an editorial in The New York Times — things had begun to change. "At some point in the future, mainstream culture will reconcile with gay Americans," the editorial stated. "At that point, Northstar's disclosure will be recognized for what it is: a positive indicator of social transformation."
Though Superman is not the first lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (L.G.B.T.Q.) superhero and will not be the last, comics scholars believe there was something particularly important about Superman's debut.
"It is not Northstar," said Glen Weldon, author of "Superman: The Unauthorized Biography" and co-host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. "This is not the Hulkling. This is not a Wiccan practice. It is not a case of Fire and Ice. Tasmanian Devil is not the correct term. That would be Superman. That counts for something — at the very least in terms of visibility, at the very least in terms of the fact that this will garner attention."
There has been some pushback against comics' recent growth. In August, as rumors about a Superman film began to emerge, a commenter on one website lamented that "Marvel and DC have damaged their characters to appease the awakened crowd, who don't even read comic books." However, others have applauded the news: "It's great to see gay superheroes become more prominent now; I'm overjoyed to see individuals like me as main characters," one commenter on another site commented.
According to Weldon, modifications in comics can result in more vibrant storytelling. "Any move that can be taken to make the world of superhero comics more resembling the real world is beneficial," he stated. "This provides you with a greater variety of stories, more intriguing stories, more captivating stories, and a greater variety of storytelling styles."
This year, Jonathan Kent assumed the mantle of Superman with his father. Clark Kent's Superman debuted in 1938. In 1996, he married Lois Lane. Jonathan was introduced in 2015 and — to cut a long story short — spent some time as Superboy before being persuaded by his father to become the new Superman.
Jonathan and Jay Nakamura first crossed paths in an August tale about the new Superman's botched attempt to establish a secret identity and enroll in high school. Jay, a budding writer, visited Jonathan's parents last month — and was taken aback by Lois Lane.
In a piece that will be published next month, Jonathan and Jay will share a kiss. This month, readers will learn about Jay's extraordinary powers. "Jay may be the only person in Jon's life who is not a target," Taylor explained. "I desired for them two a truly equal and helpful relationship."
The editors at DC were already exploring similar directions for the character's evolution and were supportive, he explained.
"I've always maintained that everyone needs heroes and deserves to see themselves reflected in them," Taylor added. "Having the strongest superhero in comics come out is tremendously powerful for so many people."