Green Lantern ignites controversy among readers

Matt Trapani

Let’s play a simple game of word association. The phrase is “comic book.” Now, if you are like most people, the first thing that entered your mind was the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, a geek. Perhaps if you are still in touch with your inner child, Superman or Spiderman might have flashed in your head.

I can tell you one thing that probably didn’t enter your head: serious issues such as hate crimes. However, after last Wednesday’s release of Green Lantern #154, this might change. One of DC Comics’ top selling titles tackles the topic of gay bashing.

For those of you who don’t know, the Green Lantern is Kyle Rayner, a freelance artist who happened to be given the last Green Lantern ring (often called the most powerful weapon in the known universe).

Limited only by the wielder’s will and imagination, the ring has the power to create anything the hero imagines.

In Green Lantern # 129, author and former “Real World San Francisco” cast member, Judd Winick, introduced character Terry Berg, a 17-year-old intern who worked as Kyle’s assistant. Eight issues later, in issue 137, Terry admitted to Kyle that he is gay. The issue was very well-acclaimed and won several awards for the story.

A reader of the comic wrote to DC Comics and said, “As a young gay guy, it’s nice to see a character in comics … who is gay, and people around him who support him.”

Not surprisingly, a plethora of people disagreed and did not feel that a gay character should be in comics. As many may remember, Winick was very good friends with Pedro Zamora, another member of the “Real World” cast who died of AIDS.

Many readers felt that Winick was using Green Lantern as his own personal agenda.

After Terry’s coming out issue, he faded into the background as a recurring supporting-cast member. However, in this month’s issue, Terry is brought to the foreground once again. As Terry and his boyfriend are walking down the street, three men start to chase them. They eventually catch up with Terry and brutally beat him within an inch of his life.

“Terry has a broken arm, two broken legs – one of them in three places…He also has a skull fracture. He may lose an eye…He may die…” (Green Lantern #154).

In an interview with the New York Times, DC Comics Editor Bob Schreck explains why this story was written.

“It’s a story that needs to be told,” Schrek said. “Where we’re bringing Terry is very similar to the Brandon Teen and Matthew Shepard moments.”

Probably the best part about the controversial issue is how the Green Lantern deals with the tragedy. His power ring can do anything he can dream of, yet he is unable to save his friend from being assaulted.

However, thanks to a lucky break, Kyle is able to learn that one of the attackers has been arrested. He goes to the jail cell, and using his ring, tortures the man to make him confess to where the other two attackers are hiding.

He then hunts down the men and brutally beats them up. This scene, while disturbing to see, was all too real.

Winick said in his interview with the New York Times that he would love for this issue of Green Lantern to prompt some discussion.

“It would be nice if some teachers recognized that this is a story that could spin off conversation. And not just on the issue of sexuality and brutality, but in how people react.

Is Kyle right in hunting these guys down and beating them? Do one of these guys deserve to die? I think there’s a lot to be said there.”