DC's Best LGBTQ Reveal Happened Way Back In 1991
The recent revelation Superman's son is bisexual shocked a lot of people, especially those who didn't know Superman has a son and/or that bisexuality exists (what will DC Comics come up with next?). But LGBTQ+ superheroes are nothing new: Marvel has rather clumsily been toying with the idea since the 1980s, which is also when DC introduced the somewhat regrettable Extrano, a gay man who never said the word "gay" but made up for it by dressing and acting like a one-man pride parade.
But then, in 1991, The Flash writer William Messner-Loebs decided to establish that one of the heroes in the supporting cast was gay, and we submit that this is still the finest LGBTQ reveal in comics, for the following reasons:
It's pretty casual
Fun fact: the issue where Superman Jr. comes out hasn't come out yet, so anyone who has already declared it the best or worst comic ever published is talking out of their ass (it won't be published until November 9, which is still the future as of this writing). It feels like every LGTBQ reveal in comics these days has to be preceded by a month of media hype building up to the dramatic moment, otherwise, no one will care. By contrast, The Flash #53's historic scene happened completely out of the blue, with no teasing or press releases.
The scene: Wally West, the current Flash, is making some rooftop small talk with one of his allies, the Pied Piper. And, since Piper is a former villain, the subject of the Joker's sexuality inevitably comes up.
Piper says that he can't think of any supervillains who are gay ... except for himself, that is. He adds, "But you knew that, right?" Wally's face here is the answer to that question:
It's honest (and awkward)
Wally's initial reaction is to pretend he knew, get super awkward, make up an excuse, and run away.
This is a perfectly realistic reaction for Wally, who comes from a conservative household, grew up idolizing a cop, and was the sweater-wearing, commie-hating member of the Teen Titans. It's certainly more honest than, say, having two elderly farmers from rural Kansas accept their grandson's pink-haired new boyfriend without a second of hesitation, to give a hypothetical example. Wally immediately feels like crap for running off ...
... and, later in the story, he tacitly lets Piper know he supports him by involving him in his latest mission, but this is not the main focus of the issue. It's treated as another part of the character's everyday life, like when they show us Wally going to therapy or arguing with his mom. And that everyday quality is part of the reason why ...
It's a great character choice
The internet loves to complain about writers "turning characters gay," but finding out that someone you've known for years isn't straight IS a thing that happens in real life, you know. Your neighbor probably didn't "turn" gay the moment you saw him making out with another man -- or hey, maybe he did, sort of! Late self-acceptance is also a thing that happens.
Piper was a great choice for this reveal because he was a long-running character that Wally was just getting to know better. It would have been ridiculous for him to say "By the way, I'm homosexual!" during a fight when they were enemies. Also, the fact that he wasn't created as gay allowed him to avoid the cliches that made every other early LGBTQ+ superhero so cringeworthy.
Despite being mistreated in certain future storylines, Pied Piper remains a great example of effective, non-stereotyped representation in comics. So take notes, current writers! Or better yet, just give William Messner-Loebs more work, DC.
Top image: DC Comics