On the 34th National Coming Out Day, Superman came out as bisexual.
Well, not quite Superman, but Clark Kent’s son Jon, who is set to come out in the fifth issue of DC Comics’ Superman: Son of Kal-El, which will be released on Nov. 9.
“I’ve always said everyone needs heroes and everyone deserves to see themselves in their heroes and I’m very grateful DC and Warner Bros. share this idea,” said series writer Tom Taylor in a press release.
“Superman’s symbol has always stood for hope, for truth, and for justice. Today, that symbol represents something more. Today, more people can see themselves in the most powerful superhero in comics.”
Since the series began in July, this new Superman has tackled issues like climate change and the deportation of refugees while grappling with the pressure of becoming Superman at the age of 17.
For support, Jon has turned to his pink-haired friend Jay Nakamura. And in the fifth issue, atop a building, they kiss.
Like Jon’s mother, Lois Lane, Nakamura is also a journalist. Despite these parallels, Taylor told IGN that while “historically, Lois has often filled a damsel role…Jay Nakamura will never be that.”
“He and Jon will tackle many things side-by-side,” Taylor said, noting that Nakamura has his own set of superpowers.
“Over the years in this industry, it probably won’t surprise you to hear I’ve had queer characters and storylines rejected,” Taylor continued. “But we are in a very different and much more welcom[ing] place today than we were 10, or even five years ago.”
Taylor and the comic’s artist, John Timms, have both previously worked on Harley Quinn, one of the most prominent queer superheroes. Others include DC’s Batgirl and Alan Scott (the first Green Lantern) and Marvel’s Iceman and Northstar, who in 1992 became one of the first openly gay comic characters.
Nearly two decades later, Batman’s sidekick Robin came out as bi in August, marking progress from an industry that had censored itself after psychiatrist Fredric Werthram described Batman and Robin as a “wish dream of two homosexuals living together” in one section of his 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent.
This book, which suggested a link between reading comics and juvenile delinquency, helped lead to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, limiting what comics could depict.
Glen Weldon said on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, that while “progress is being made, here, it’s just a much smaller and more incremental species of progress than DC Comics’ press releases, and much of the ensuing coverage, is suggesting.”
Weldon, who hosts the podcast, stressed that Robin and Jon are both second-generation superheroes, not “core characters” who “resist meaningful change because they must, especially if they’re to keep paying out dividends by, among other things, getting printed onto kids’ bedsheets.”
Despite notable progress, queer people are still not “the heroes of our own stories,” Weldon said, so “it’s not yet time for any laurel-resting.”
Nevertheless, many fans were overjoyed by Superman’s coming out, which Megan Townsend, director of entertainment research and analysis at GLAAD, said was especially important, given that “bisexual men in particular continue to be underrepresented in media.”
“As we recognize and celebrate National Coming Out Day, it’s worth noting that while bi+ people make up the majority of the LGBTQ community, we are less likely to be out due to the unique stigmas our community faces,” she told NBC News.
She continued: “We look forward to seeing Jonathan Kent’s story explored further as he comes to understand his own identity, his mantle as Superman, and his relationships — and hope to see this wave of growing visibility of LGBTQ characters in comics be reflected in TV and film adaptations.”
By contrast, the development angered some conservatives, with a Republican Senate candidate tweeting that “bisexual comic books… are literally trying to destroy America.”
Perhaps with a supportive boyfriend by his side, Superman has what it takes to save the nation.
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