Mastermind by Andrew Mayne Mastermind by Andrew Mayne Mastermind by Andrew Mayne
Comics/Graphic Novels

Is DC Really Making Superman Gay?

As you may have heard, Robin recently came out. Or, to be more specific: in Batman: Urban Legends #6, Tim Drake — the third but not current Robin — agreed to go on a date with another boy. Tim has long been read by many comics fans, yours truly included, as queer, and so this canonical confirmation was cause for celebration for many readers. It was a financial success, too; Urban Legends #6 sold out and is going back for a second printing, which is not particularly common in the comics world and unheard of for an anthology book. Congratulations, Tim!

In the wake of this, a new rumor arose: DC’s next character who will be revealed to be queer is Jon Kent, son of Superman. Congratulations, Jon!

Except, hmm, this seemed pretty unlikely to me. Superhero comics are still overwhelmingly straight, so the odds of DC revealing two major franchise characters as queer within the span of a few months are pretty steep — especially one who is currently wearing the mantle of Superman. So I did a bit of digging to figure out how this rumor got started.

Good news: it’s hilarious.

First, though, who is Jon Kent? Jon is the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. He debuted in 2015 and is best known for costarring in the delightful all-ages Super Sons with Damian Wayne, son of Batman and current Robin. Due to convoluted plot shenanigans, Jon was abruptly aged up from 10 years old to 17 a couple years ago, something I plan to harbor simmering resentment about for the rest of my natural life.

Until recently, Jon went by Superboy, but as of July, the regular Superman comic book has been put on hiatus, and Jon has been starring in a monthly series called Superman: Son of Kal-El. The two issues that have published so far have both been excellent.

The cover of Superman: Son of Kal-El #1, showing Jon Kent, an 18-year-old who strongly resembles Clark Kent, wearing a Superman costume and flying over Metropolis. The cover is designed to resemble the original Superman #1 and includes the title as well as the following text: "22 pages of action! All in full color. The beginning story of the daring exploits of the 21st century SUPERMAN."
This cover is a tribute to the original Superman #1 and I’m desperately in love with it.

So! The rumor.

From what I can tell, it originated with Ethan Van Sciver. Van Sciver is a comic book artist best known for being a leading figure in Comicsgate, a harassment campaign that targets women, people of color, and LGBTQ people in the comic book industry, and decries anything perceived as “forced diversity” — such as, oh, say, having Robin go on a date with a boy.

On August 19, Van Sciver made a livestream in which he claimed that “Clark Kent is going bye-bye” in order to be replaced by Jon, who would then come out as gay, “so Superman is effectively gay.” He claimed this was because the estates of Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, wanted Superman to turn a profit for them, and attributed this to his many unnamed sources at DC.

I haven’t watched the livestream and don’t plan to, so I don’t know if Van Sciver was being sarcastic because of the Tim Drake news, or earnestly claiming that Jon’s coming out is imminent. I do know that he has a history of claiming outlandish things that never pan out, like DC shuttering its entire comics division to focus on movies.

I also don’t know the ins and outs of DC’s legal arrangement with the Siegel and Shuster estates, but I am positive that the estates have exactly zero say over what actually happens in the comics. DC had to be shamed over the course of decades into giving the families any money, they’re not going to take creative direction from them. Also, saying that the Siegel and Shuster estates want Superman to be a profitable character — and thus implying that DC doesn’t — is pretty hilarious.

And while we’re on the subject of the estates, some of these articles claim that changing Superman from Clark to Jon would somehow mean that DC no longer has to pay royalties. I doubt the estates get enough of a percentage of this billion dollar character for this to even matter. But more importantly, changing Superman’s secret identity would in no way change how much DC pays the estates in royalties, because “Superman” is the part that is trademarked. Don’t believe me? Try publishing a comic about a Superman named Steve or something, see how far you get.

Finally, in case you too are worried that Clark Kent is “going bye-bye,” DC very very famously already killed Superman off in the ’90s. He was fine. (Well, he grew a mullet. But other than that, he was fine.)

But if that doesn’t assuage your fears, I’m here to reassure you that he is currently headlining in Action Comics, Superman: Red and Blue, Superman and the Authority, Superman vs. Lobo, Batman/Superman, and Superman ‘78. Not to mention appearances in several Justice League comics, plus, you know, Son of Kal-El, where he’s hanging out with Jon and dispensing fatherly advice and is generally extremely alive.

A variant cover to DC Pride #1 showing Superman (Clark Kent) sitting on top of the Daily Planet globe, a rainbow pride flag draped over his shoulder.
The Superman variant cover for DC Pride #1 released earlier this year, drawn by David Talaski. An early hint? How deep does the rabbit hole go?

Not that I would ever claim that Comicsgaters don’t actually read comics or anything. Ahem.

Anyway. Either way, the livestream got picked up by what comics site Bleeding Cool accurately refers to as “the comics outrage press. You know, the kind of sites that monetize knee-jerk reactions of divisiveness in an anti-virtue circle jerk.” Again, unclear if these sites actually think this is true or are just fanning the flames of knee-jerk homophobic anger, but this sort of thing happens all the time and generally stays contained within its usual echo chamber.

Except. Somehow the story then made the leap to LGBTQ sites like PinkNews, which presumably aren’t conversant enough with stupid comics drama to recognize that Van Sciver is hardly a reliable source. The rumor has broken containment!

From there, the story seems to have ouroborosed back to legitimate comics sites like Bleeding Cool, which is…well, a better source than Van Sciver, but their article on Jon’s sexuality still raised my eyebrow a bit. Specifically this bit: “It’s time for Bleeding Cool to step in, talk to some actual sources, and run some spoilers to let you know something a little closer as to what is going on.”

The article then goes on to explain some scrapped plans for both Clark and Jon, all hyperlinked out the wazoo, before landing on this noticeably non-hyperlinked conclusion: “Jonathan Kent is a human/Kryptonian hybrid, and DC Comics is currently intending him to be portrayed as a queer young man, though the exact labels are up in the air. Or up in the sky. Gay, bi, pan, it may be a while till this comes to fruition on the page.”

No hyperlinks. No attributions to a source at DC. The vast majority of the article is heavily, thoroughly sourced (although often said source is…Bleeding Cool), but the central claim isn’t. Not the tiniest bit.

But that was enough to start the cycle all over again, with more articles in the comics press, the LGBTQ press, the political press for some reason, and mainstream news sites. Oh, and TikTok. Long story short, a whole heck of a lot of people firmly believe Jon Kent is going to come out any day now.

It doesn’t help that Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 features Jon tracking down his best friend Damian Wayne by listening for his unique heartbeat, which he has apparently memorized, while #2 introduces Jay Nakamura, a fuchsia-haired college student who flirts openly and adorably with Jon before offering to introduce him to a whole new world of…progressive activism. Anyone writing about this rumor who is paying enough attention to the actual comics has identified Jay as Jon’s new love interest — and hey, when I read the issue, I too was like “Well, there’s some homoerotic subtext happening here!” But comics have been rife with homoerotic subtext since Jon’s dad first decided to wear his underwear outside of his pants in 1938. Jay might be queer, but he’s almost certainly not going to become Jon’s new boyfriend.

Three panels from Superman: Son of Kal-El #2 showing Jon and Jay talking on a roof. Jay is holding a blond wig.

Panel 1:

Jay: I think I understand why you were wearing a terrible wig.

Jon: Was it really that bad?

Panel 2:

Jay: Oh, yeah. It did absolutely nothing for you.

Panel 3:

Jon: This is the problem with having hair that's impervious to bleach.
I regret to tell you that boys smirking at each other almost always means nothing in superhero comics.

Now, I could be totally wrong here! I freely admit that I have zero sources inside DC. Maybe Jon is about to come out! Personally, I’d be thrilled. But like I said at the start of all this, I really, sincerely doubt that DC is going to give us two queer characters in such quick succession, especially one bearing the Superman mantle.

On the other hand, if the world at large firmly believes Jon Kent is gay, maybe DC will have to make him gay or risk looking homophobic…? Which, considering the spiteful origins of this rumor, would just be…hey, editors, how many chef’s kiss emojis am I allowed to put in here? [editor’s note: the limit does not exist.gif]

Okay, yeah, forget everything I just said. Jon Kent is definitely gay, and I too have many secret sources inside DC confirming this. Congratulations, Jon! I’m so proud of you!

If you’d like to read Jon’s 100% canonically queer adventures, pick up the delightful Superman: Son of Kal-El. If you’d prefer to read about Clark Kent, who of course is tragically no longer with us, you can somehow still miraculously read about him in Action Comics, Superman: Red and Blue, Superman and the Authority, Superman vs. Lobo, Batman/Superman, Superman ‘78, Justice League, Justice League: Last Ride, Justice League Infinity, and Checkmate. RIP, Clark, gone too soon.

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