On Monday of this week, DC Comics announced that their latest iteration of Superman is coming out as bisexual.
Starting in 2021, the entertainment giant began a new comic series called “Superman: Son Of Kal-El.” Centering on Jon Kent, the son of the original Superman, this series focuses on the exploration of superhero identities in the 21st century. Taking up the mantle of his father, Jon's journey differs greatly from his predecessor’s.
One way this will come into fruition is on Nov. 9, when the fifth entry in the series will be published. This edition specifically focuses on the budding romance between Jon and friend and reporter Jay Nakamura coming to a head. As more and more media incorporate diversity into their works, we’re seeing a broader spectrum of representation — across race, class, gender and sexuality.
However, Superman being queer...that’s kind of profound.
Actually, it’s not “kind of profound.”
It’s a big deal.
In American mythos, Superman is revered as this Jesus allegory, white savior figure. Peoples across both sides of the political spectrum have always viewed him as this symbol for American exceptionalism: a champion for western values. This is no-more evident in his original portrayals.
Historically, Superman came from humble beginnings. He grew up on a ranch in the Midwest to a hard-working family (most likely instilled with traditional values). He’d always save helpless civilians and the odd damsel in distress (read: Lois Lane). In a lot of ways, he’s a representation in what a lot of traditionalists idolize: the white-knight in a red cape that’d save the innocent, protect women and children, express stoicism and use violence as a means to solve problems.
It’s not lost on me that he’s portrayed as an ideal of manhood.
An unrealistic one at best.
So to see this? Honestly, it’s moving.
Whereas Clark is rooted in traditionalism, Jon has been a deconstruction, a challenge, of these ideals. We see this take root in the way he takes recognition of a foe greater than most extraterrestrial threats in the first issue: climate change. That already was a massive challenge to traditional American values — with climate change denial being rooted in capitalism.
Getting a queer Superman is a huge step forward in representation. Kids, especially young boys and teens, look up to Superman. To show him having an intimate, loving relationship with another man shows that it’s OK to express feelings of homosexuality; your gender — your manhood — isn’t compromised because of it.
I appreciate the way DC Comics is handling this relationship, too. Superman has usually been an allegory for “the breadwinner” in previous iterations. However, there is nothing more revealing about the nature of Jon’s relationship than the cover of the fifth edition: the villain gloating over a beaten hero...who is being shielded by his civilian lover.
Stop. This is everything.
Choosing to portray the Man of Steel as fallible and vulnerable instead of impervious, especially by using love — queer love — as the means of portrayal, matters a lot in the ways of portraying healthy masculinity.
As DC Comics put it in its statement, “How much can Earth’s new Superman do before this Man of Steel buckles? And when he does, who swoops in to save Superman?”
I hope that this is only just another step in the long road to telling nuanced, diverse stories. More importantly, I hope little, comic-book loving children look at this and see themselves in this new Superman.