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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Experimental Tokenism?

In my last post, a pretty common sentiment that came up in the comments was the wariness toward creating a character solely to create a specific sort of character.

I can see their point, really. It's easy to create a token character that way, without giving them any depth.

But then really, if you stop and think about it, does a token character have to be bad? Supergirl could certainly be considered a token character. She's "Superman as a girl". Batgirl? Hawkgirl? They're naturally very developed and interesting characters in their own rights. Very popular.

But when it comes down to it, the original core idea was "a girl Superman".

So why can't a core idea be "a gay Green Lantern"?

I decided, as an experiment, I'm going to see what kind of character I can make using the frame quota idea "a gay Green Lantern" with about five minutes of thought:

Okay, now, I've decided that I want my Green Lantern to be a gay male character and to have ties to a pre-existing character. Mostly because I like that sort of thing, and because I like to tease Hal.

Hal's been active for quite a while as a hero. I don't believe they've ever given a date really, but he's been a hero for quite a few years before Guy and John showed up. He's definitely been a Lantern as of eleven years ago (as we see in Emerald Knights) and he's been portrayed as reasonably capable and experienced there.

He's the same age or so as Ollie, and Ollie was already active when Connor was born, so it's not terribly hard to imagine that Hal was active at that same time. Hal can then, pretty easily, have a child around Connor's age.

So there we go, a premise: Hal, during his first or second year of Lantern-dom was indiscreet with a female alien he met on his travels. This would have been back when his relationship with Carol was still shaky and on-again, off-again, so he doesn't need to have cheated on her or anything like that.

The mother being a female alien will allow the child to be a Green Lantern without adding to the multitude already from Earth.

Okay, now that we have a premise, we need a character. Green Lanterns are, by definition, pretty fearless and pretty dumb. This kid, who I'll dub "Han", (Because I like Star Wars), was chosen the traditional way, via ring, because he fits the qualifications.

Since Han is going to be his father's son in a lot of ways, it'll be important to define his mother too (to see what he gets from both). His mother will have been a high-ranking aristocrat of a high-tech civilization. Possibly a military officer, which will have given her an opportunity to meet Hal to begin with. She's brave, but far more structured and disciplined than Hal is. She's more Navy than Air Force, to over-generalize.

Anyway, Han grew up in this environment. He has a lot of family connections and money, didn't lack for much growing up, and had a particularly strong education. He's illegitimate, which in their culture also holds a bit of a stigma (possibly because Hal, as an alien, had never had his genetic profile evaluated...there could be all sorts of oddities in there!).

His upbringing was very strict, his mother loved him but she was distant, involved with her work. The rest of the family looked at him like he was some sort of unpredictable wildcard. They increased the discipline and rules just to be sure that he would stay in line. Nothing monstrous, of course, and they did care about him, they just wanted him to tow the line and make a good life for himself.

He's got all the mettle of a fine officer, ability-wise, but the pressures of his position have begun to grate on him. They're even talking about an arranged marriage (with a family desperate enough for better connections not to mind some wild-card genes), and the girl's nice, but...well. His interests don't lie in that direction.

He doesn't last long in military school. Everyone's watching him, either expecting him to be the stellar officer his mother is, or for his chaotic alien genes to prove him completely unsuitable for military service. He decides that he doesn't want to deal with this anymore, after all, why bother? He's better than this. So he steals a family ship and decides to go free-lance. Remnants of the Rann-Thanagar war start hitting this sector of space, he decides to help his people, there's lots of bravery ensuing and whoom. You have shown the capacity to overcome great fear.

So now, the character's on Oa. He's not designed for a starring role really, just as yet another side alien Lantern that'll show up every so often in GLC or GL for a single adventure and then go do his own thing.

He'll do well on Oa. There are no expectations there. He can even design his own uniform (paradoxically, it's designed very similarly to the military uniform back home, except green and with Lantern insignia...he's got some unresolved acceptance/proving himself issues). He's good, not great. He's on the upper group, technology wise, his people are probably about the same level as the Rannians or Thanagarians. He's not a scientist, but he's probably got at least some basic programming and tech ability that would be compulsory for military aristocrats of his planet. He's got basic knowledge of tactics and combat based on his homeworld, but he's got a LOT to learn.

He's not really used to having commanding officers. When he was freelance, he was pretty much on his own. Fortunately, the GL authority types are pretty informal and hands-off, so he can work well with them. He's not actually prone to rebellion, now that the stifling pressure of his home-life isn't a factor anymore.

The fact that he's half human may end up an issue, as, well, the other Lanterns have got to be aware of the over-whelming power/prominence of the multitude of Earth-based Lanterns. Most sectors have exactly two, and usually not from the same planet, Earth alone has four. Point five, in this scenario.

So he's charming, fearless, reckless and enthusiastic. He tends to trust his authority figures and he's eager to prove that he belongs here. He can be a little uptight, but a lot of that is just nervousness. It takes him a while to get used to Kilowog and *definitely* Guy, but really, when it comes down to it, they're the sorts of commanding officers/teachers that he'd always wished he had.

Most of his acquaintances are fellow nightlights who've heard all sorts of stories about Hal Jordan/Parallax, so all of them are pretty wary, aloof when it comes to the ex-prodigal Lantern. He probably wouldn't be one of the ones that would give Hal a hard time (since his teachers don't seem to appreciate that...), but he's not going to be very comfortable around the man.

As to how everything would ultimately turn out when things are revealed, I'm not sure, but I think it will be interesting. Especially as there would definitely be a point where, trying to get Alan's advice, Hal will eat his foot regarding gay, prickly, long-lost sons and get schooled for his trouble.

The thing about Han's sexuality is that it would be a part of his character, but not really any more than heterosexuality is for another character. There was some pressure growing up, but he's in an organization now where homosexuality is far and away not going to be the weirdest thing encountered there. His colleagues include a planet, a mathematic equation and Guy Gardner. He will probably meet interesting guys on his adventure, there will be chemistry and dates. He may get a neat alien love-interest who will probably end up in the fridge. It will probably throw Hal some, because Hal's a man with a lot of casual bigotry that he tends to overcome pretty well once he's forced to come face to face with it.


I'm sure it's an idea that wouldn't work for a lot of people. I think it'd be pretty interesting though. And not too bad, considering the prompt was "a gay Green Lantern".

I wonder what I could do with a prompt of "a gay Flash"...


  • At March 17, 2007 2:34 AM, Blogger Willow said…

    Gay Flash should be a lesbian. Mostly because I don't know enough about Flash to know if there's ever been a Female one.

    But why can't girls run fast too? And like other girls, in short skirts, with long eyelashes?

    Also as a somewhat Random Aside: Isn't 'token whatever' how people build up characters in RPG's, even super hero rpg's? You have a concept outline that's kind of open and then you fill it in to make it personalized and internally meaningful.

  • At March 17, 2007 3:41 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Jesse Quick (current Liberty Belle) was Flash for like a minute and a half. Kid Flash from Kingdom Come was, IIRC, Wally's daughter. And XS was a female speedster with the Legion...

  • At March 17, 2007 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There is no Soviet Union anymore, but everybody remember those great victories and defeats. We trusted in idea and we made our history through great losses...

  • At March 17, 2007 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    And I support your call for a gay Green Lantern...AND Flash!

  • At March 17, 2007 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There was also a "Lady Flash" for maybe five seconds more than Jesse. She was the last member of the blue trinity. When the writers switched she promptly dropped of the face of the earth only to return much later as a villain (again).

    I too could really go for a gay Flash/Green Lantern paring. That would be a fun way of carrying on the these too must be friends tradition.

  • At March 17, 2007 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    opps... that should read "two".

  • At March 17, 2007 11:19 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    When you first began your premise about a gay Green Lantern, my first thought was...finally, Hal and Ollie! *snicker*

    However the subsequent idea is even better. I fully believe that the universe is probably LITTERED with the illegitimate offspring of Hal Jordan. I also firmly believe that there is a brothel planet, and that they know him on a first name basis.

    It would also be fun to put "Han", Connor Hawke and Kyle on an adventure together. Teeheehee!

  • At March 17, 2007 11:28 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Personally I think tokenism is like obscenity, it's hard to define but we know it when we see it. If all that a character has going for him/her is gender, race, sexual orientation etc especially if said character is minus the one token almost a carbon copy of a pre-existing character then I feel it is tokenism, especially if the existing character is "destroyed" (and I'm using that in the broadest sense to include, killed, depowered, turned evil, etc)solely to make way for the new token.

    Ironically one of the biggest examples of tokenism involves two white heterosexual males, because frankly if it weren't for the nature of the Green Lantern concept one could make the charge that Kyle Rayner was a tokenistic character.

    Having said that however, I'd like to go on to say that unfortunately some people will blindly level charges of tokenism without looking deeper. DC's Firestorm and Blue Beetle being two great examples. To the best of my knowledge neithers death was editorially mandated solely so a new character could take their place. So they clear the first hurdle. Second of all, the nature of the characters are sufficiently different, especially in the conception of the new Blue Beetle that they are very much their own characters.

    I will admit I'm less bothered by Ronnie Raymonds death, mainly because it feels right for the characters legacy. He got handed yet another raw deal by life and did his best to handle it like a hero.

    Blue Beetles "replacement" bothers me more because Ted Kord did not need to die for the new Blue Beetle to be born. There are all kinds of ways that the scarab could have come into the posession of Jaime, and personally I think it would have made for interesting story possibilities to have had two very different people running around, both with a legitimate claim to the name Blue Beetle.

    As for Kalinara's writing exercise, I think she's right. But only in so far as the talent of the writer goes. A good writer can turn even the most bizarre nonsense into something interesting, (look at what Grant Morrison has done with a lot of hoary old silver age cliches). On the other hand a bad writer could be handed a golden set up on a silver platter and still turn out drek.



    Where's the love? It's at GeekLove

  • At March 17, 2007 2:22 PM, Blogger GamerGuy said…

    I kinda thought that was what we were going to have when Terry suddenly had a ring on his finger (interesting that of all the people Kyle could have felt an intimate connection to, to manage that trick, it went to his pretty young art assistant :) ). I was curious and went to the DC boards to see what the speculation was. Man, you've never seen such chest beating. "OMFG ognoes11!!, Ky;e's dead and we're gonna have a fag GL!" Feh. Eh, and nothing came of it at all; never mentioned as even unusual.

  • At March 17, 2007 2:58 PM, Blogger Will Staples said…

    Also as a somewhat Random Aside: Isn't 'token whatever' how people build up characters in RPG's, even super hero rpg's?

    Absolutely. Race and class come first, personal details second. I do think it's somewhat different with comics, though, since they're a mass medium meant to be enjoyed by the public, so a gay Green Lantern would need a lot more thought put into him, whereas the diversity of a RPG party really only matters to the players, so a lesbian hobgoblin druid/samurai would not.

    So, a gay Green Lantern? And he's Hal's son? Does this make Han Obsidian's Earth-1 counterpart?

  • At March 18, 2007 1:00 AM, Blogger Seth T. Hahne said…

    Hey K, thanks for the responses. Let me see if I can succinctly speak to my thought on the matter.

    1) While I hate tokenism and character-type quotas, I think some of the characters that have come out of that kind of editorial need have been great, rad, or any other positive adjective one might choose.

    2) I think these great characters have arisen in spite of their origins rather than because of then (a good storyteller can make even the most mundane circumstance into a thing of greatness - e.g. the works of Raymand Chandler).

    3) While I'm happy to embrace good characters (even those who come about via tokenism), I'm also all about advocating a Better Way. And I think story-driven character creation will always be a better and more noble way than quota-driven character creation.

    4) I am absolutely fine with diversity in comics. I just like it to come about in a more natural manner than sitting down, looking at the landscape of characters, and saying, We don't have many characters with attribute X... Bingo! I think we have our next character. I'm fine with a female Superman, a lesbian Batwoman, and a Jewish Kitty Pryde. I would feel best about them, however, if those attributes came about as a natural part of the creation process rather than as answer to a demographic "need."

    5) For this reason, you will never hear me say something remotely close to: We need more practicing Presbyterian heroes.

    Does that help clarify my reluctance at all? Peace out.

  • At March 18, 2007 1:14 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Dane, thanks! That does clarify a lot!

    I never thought you were against diversity, and in a level playing field I'd definitely agree with you.

    Unfortunately, the majority of heroes still fit a very specific role: male, white, straight, non-specific generalized Christian.

    Heck a lot of my favorite characters are white, straight male non-specific Christian characters, but I do think that because the proportion still seems so uneven, sometimes we NEED to step out.

    It's our instinct to write what we're most comfortable with. For most of us, that goes for people like us and like the people we see every day. Our first inclination when creating a character will be to those specifications. (It's like that for me, I have to admit. Most of my main characters come to my mind as middle-class, very often white, college-age single agnostics. I've been working on that, but honestly, it does take deliberate effort.)

    I think eventually it'll be second nature to just create a character first and have an equal chance of it being male, female, christian, non, gay, straight, white/black/whatever (I think we're getting closer to that point with male/female) but until then, I do think some deliberate quota-choosing, I guess is a good way to put it, is needed to ensure a broader variety.

  • At March 18, 2007 3:10 AM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    How about a furry superhero?

  • At March 18, 2007 3:12 AM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    Also: A transexual hero that's not a Latin American magical drag queen. Even Grant Morrison fell for that one.

  • At March 18, 2007 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I totally support your gay Green Lantern, except for the "related to Hal Jordan" thing.

    Maybe have it be some other Lantern hero or villain.

  • At March 18, 2007 8:38 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Sorry, Matthew. For me, it's got to be Hal.

    See, since his origin, Hal's characterized by his assumptions and prejudgements. He's a bigot, though not a bad hearted one. He just thinks he understands the world when he doesn't.

    It comes up with regard to race via Tom and John. With sex, via Carol and Katma. It's his most endearing trait really, to me, because as clueless as Hal is, he always learns from it

    Now, I don't think Hal would be anti-gay people, but I think he would have a lot of assumptions that a lot of forty something vaguely conservative/conservative-moderate men would have about gays. It would take a lot of getting used to, if his son were gay.

    (In contrast, Kyle's too young, John's got a gay brother, Guy's used to waaay more weirdness than just a gay kid, and it wouldn't mean anything to an alien. The main character connection is also important for allowing the kid a minor role in the series, without him overshadowing anyone else.)

    Also it makes for the key scene in the story...Alan getting irritated as Hal keeps putting his foot in it. (Earth-1 Obsidian! Hehehe)

    Also, Hal's the sort of guy so ill-suited toward parenthood and yet relatively personally irresponsible that it's only karmic that he have a lot of illegitimate kids running around. In fact, I want someday a mini-series to be made starring ALL bastard brats of Hal Jordan. It'd be hilarious.

    So yep. Definitely Hal's kid. :-P If you want a gay Lantern that isn't Hal's kid, make your own. :-P

  • At March 19, 2007 4:14 PM, Blogger Will Staples said…

    It's a weird thought, but... what if Obsidian became a Green Lantern? I mean, he's part of the legacy. Would the ring and his natural powers cancel each other out, or would they come together in some bizarre way?

  • At March 21, 2007 3:20 PM, Blogger Sleestak said…

    I'm one of those who was surprised that when Terry got the ring from Kyle he didn't become a Lantern at least temporarily. The following issue the status quo was restored with Kyle and I always wondered what happened there.


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