Last month, many LGBTQ comic lovers rejoiced when famed publisher DC Comics announced that one of its characters was coming out as bisexual. Not just any character, either, but Jon Kent, the 17-year-old son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane — and the new Superman.
The young superhero, who made his debut in the series Superman: Son of Kal-El this summer, is different from his predecessor in several ways. For one, he’s more interested in battling climate change and the refugee crisis than tackling petty crimes on the streets of Metropolis or rescuing damsels in distress. And in the fifth issue of the series, on newsstands November 9, he “finds his identity,” a press release said, embarking on a same-sex relationship with friend and reporter Jay Nakamura.
But in a world still plagued by sexual orientation discrimination, not everyone was thrilled with the new story line. Mauricio Souza, a Brazilian pro volleyball player, was fired from his team after posting a homophobic caption for an image of Jon and Jay kissing on his Instagram. Fellow player Douglas Souza, who is gay, condemned the remarks and added, “Thank you, DC [Comics], for thinking of representing all of us, not just a part.”
Predictably, right-wing media outlets and conservative politicians bashed the character. Republican Josh Mandel, a candidate for the Ohio State Senate, said DC Comics was “literally trying to destroy America.”
Meanwhile, queer Twitter users rushed to the defense of the comic book publisher and the LGBTQ+ community. “[Jon Kent] is a fictional half-alien superhero with superhuman strength, who can fly and shoot laser beams out of his eyes,” one user tweeted. “If your biggest problem with him is that he likes to kiss guys as well as girls then you really need to get a life, you biphobic bigot.”
According to some reports, the Los Angeles Police Department dispatched officers to patrol the homes of DC Comics staffers who allegedly received threats following the announcement of Jon Kent’s coming out. (Hyperallergic spoke to LAPD, which could neither confirm nor deny the reports. DC Comics did not provide comment.)
To many readers, the inclusion of a bisexual superhero is an important shift toward diversity in the world of superheros. Jon Kent’s character isn’t the only example — Marvel’s latest film, Eternals, also includes an openly gay superhero, the publisher’s first, likely the reason for its censorship in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. A recent Aquaman comic, published by DC Comics, features Jackson Hyde (Aqualad) as a gay Black man, written by Black Southern California cartoonist Brandon Thomas. Tom Taylor, author of the Superman: Son of Kal-El series, said in an interview that “replacing Clark Kent with another straight white savior felt like a missed opportunity.”
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