Video: We discuss sexual identity in comics with our guests: author and researcher, Anna Peppard; comic book creator and chair of the graduate comics program at the California College of the Arts, Justin Hall; and chief digital officer for the Chicago-based “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” and the author of “Hemingway in Comics,” Robert Elder. (Produced by Evan Garcia)
(CNN) -- Superman’s done a lot since he first appeared in comic books 80 years ago, almost. He’s saved the world more than a few times. He’s died and come back to life. He dodged punches from Muhammad Ali and even faced off against white supremacists.
Until this year, though, every comic iteration of Superman has been besotted with longtime love Lois Lane. But in an upcoming issue of a new “Superman” series, the Man of Steel enters into a queer relationship.
The fifth issue of the DC comic series “Superman: Son of Kal-El” will confirm that the new Superman – Jon Kent, child of Clark Kent and Lane – is bisexual after falling for Jay Nakamura, a male reporter, DC announced this week.
The “Superman: Son of Kal-El” series follows Kent as he becomes Earth’s new Superman and grapples with the immense weight of his new gig. Nakamura, a bespectacled writer with a bubble-gum pink mop, first appeared in the series’ third issue as a shoulder for Kent to lean on when the business of being Superman gets too rough.
But in the forthcoming fifth issue, coming next month, Kent falls for the journalist – he is his father’s son – after he “mentally and physically burns out from trying to save everyone that he can,” according to DC.
The particulars of the issue’s plot are to be revealed in November, but images from the comic show Kent and Nakamura sharing a kiss and sitting together atop a building, their legs dangling off the edge.
Series writer Tom Taylor said the evolution of this new Superman is keeping with the values the character has always represented – and, importantly, reflects the experiences of many comic fans.
“Superman’s symbol has always stood for hope, for truth and for justice,” Taylor said in a statement. “Today, that symbol represents something more. Today, more people can see themselves in the most powerful superhero in comics.”
In an August interview with Nerdist, Taylor teased that Kent would find a “very good friend very early on ... and they’re going to have a big role in this.”
That friend, it soon became clear, was Nakamura. He and Kent are the newest, but far from the only, LGBTQ characters in the DC universe – earlier this year, the character Tim Drake, one of the many Robins to fight alongside Batman, accepted a date from a male admirer. And before Kent and Drake, there was Batwoman, also known as Kate Kane, who at one point was punished for her relationship with another woman under the U.S. military’s former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; Harley Quinn, who’s ditched the Joker for her friend Poison Ivy in recent comic runs; and the transgender scientist Victoria October, who debuted in a 2017 Batman series.
NPR’s Glen Weldon, who’s written a book on Batman and regularly writes about comics, said that the queering of characters like Robin and Superman is “progress,” but because the characters who come out are not the canonical iterations of heroes – Drake isn’t the only Robin in the DC Universe, and Jon Kent’s father will always be the best-known Superman – the plot developments aren’t as significant or genre-shifting as they seem, Weldon wrote this week.
Still, Weldon said, a bisexual Superman and queer Robin are worth celebrating – they’re not a one-dimensional villain or side character who’s quickly killed off, but the “heroes of their own stories.”
Fans can read more about Kent’s burgeoning romance when the fifth issue of “Superman: Son of Kal-El” is released on Nov. 9.
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