A director once described Superman as the “most heterosexual character”. But the writers at DC Comics clearly disagree after giving the great American superhero a male love interest in an official sequel.
The bisexual “man of steel” has been given a modern makeover in upcoming comics, with foiling school shootings and refugee deportations among the challenges confronting him.
In the new Superman: Son of Kal-El series of comics, Jonathan Kent, the son of Lois Lane and Clark Kent who has disappeared off into deep space, assumes the protagonist role and begins a romantic relationship with a male friend.
Superman’s coming-out, announced on Monday by DC Comics, will appear in the new issue of the sequel released on November 9, as Jon Kent progresses from Superboy to Superman and assumes his father’s powers.
‘Everyone deserves to see themselves in their heroes’
Tom Taylor, the writer of the sequel, told the New York Times: “Everyone needs heroes and everyone deserves to see themselves in their heroes.”
“The idea of replacing Clark Kent with another straight white saviour felt like a missed opportunity.
“A new Superman had to have new fights — real world problems — that he could stand up to as one of the most powerful people in the world.”
Since the Superman: Son of Kal-El series made its debut in July, Jon Kent has been deployed to battle several contemporary issues including wildfires sparked by climate change.
A trailer for the upcoming comic says that “just like his father before him, Jon Kent has fallen for a reporter”. The plot charts his friendship with Jay Nakamura, a budding journalist, blossoming into a same-sex relationship.
Jon Kent is deployed to battle several contemporary issues including wildfires sparked by climate change in the latest series of the comic
Credit: John Timms/DC Comics
“Following a scene where Superman (Jon Kent) mentally and physically burns out from trying to save everyone that he can, Jay is there to care for the Man of Steel,” the description reads.
Artwork for the comic by John Timms shows the pair embracing in a passionate kiss, with Superman donning his iconic blue and red uniform.
The diversification of the iconic superhero comes amid a broader shift in the comic world towards 21st century social and cultural challenges.
In August, DC Comics also revealed that Batman sidekick Tim Drake, one of several Robins, would get a boyfriend, while a new Aquaman comic stars a gay Black man who is set to become the hero.
‘We are in a very different place today than we were ten years ago’
The mastermind behind the sequel, Mr Taylor, said: “Over the years in this industry, it probably won’t surprise you to hear I’ve had queer characters and storylines rejected. I felt like I was letting down people I loved every time this happened.
“But we are in a very different and much more welcome place today than we were ten, or even five years ago.”
Speculation about Superman’s sexuality has long been rife. In 2006, amid rumours that Superman would be gay in Superman Returns, the film’s director Bryan Singer insisted that he was “probably the most heterosexual character in any movie I’ve ever made”.
Portrayals of secondary LGBT characters in comics stretch back decades.
In 1992 Northstar, a Marvel hero, came out as gay and DC Comics eventually made Batwoman a lesbian socialite.
In 2018, a TV adaption for CW, a US channel, saw Batwoman become the first live-action superhero series with an openly gay lead character.