DC Comics has not been shy about standing at the highest mountain top and trumpeting as loudly as possible that Superman was going to be revealed as bisexual in Superman – Son of Kal-El #5. Sorry to the few readers who actually purchase this title each and every month and want to be surprised. DC Comics has also not been shy about breaking their own arm patting themselves on the back for this enlightened decision to make Superman bisexual. Never mind that all the normies who read these articles have never heard of Jonathan Kent. And never mind that all of the normies also think Superman is Clark Kent.
The fact is that DC Comics is circling the drain due to years of bad decisions ever since Flashpoint back in 2011. It has been a decade of futility for DC Comics as Marvel has repeatedly kicked them in the teeth every month in the sales charts.
Is Jonathan Kent being revealed as bisexual just another desperate attempt by DC Comics to pander to a crowd that do not read their comics? Is this a desperate attempt by DC Comics to gain exposure from the mainstream media? Of course. DC Comics is barely clinging to life and thinks that big mainstream media attention will lead to increased comic book sales. Except it never has. And it will not happen in this case, either.
There are several reasons why DC Comics’ handling of the Superman franchise is failing and is experiencing poor sales numbers. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Quality of Story
Kevin already posted an excellent review of Superman – Son of Kal-El #5. I encourage you to read it. Kevin delivers a good review. Kevin also really enjoyed Superman – Son of Kal-El #5 and gave it 8 Night Girls out of 10. I clearly have a different opinion of Superman – Son of Kal-El #5. I found it to be an incredibly generic read. The character work is shallow and the dialogue is bland. The story feels uncreative. Trust me, you have read this issue many times before. There is nothing unique or particularly creative with this story at all.
There are also dumb moments that give the story a lack of internal logic. Personally, I always wear a KN95 mask when indoors. Why? Because I am not a Kryptonian and I don’t want COVID. But, I am unsure why Jon Kent would be wearing a KN95 mask when he is outside. Beyond being outside, Jon is totally invulnerable. He has a super immune system and is incapable of getting any diseases. This would also render Jon incapable of passing a disease to anyone.
Another example is when Jay comments about his sofa that he got for free off of the street. This is the writers attempting to convey that Jay is struggling financially. However, this is belied by the fact that Jay has the most elaborate computer system set-up that would cost thousands of dollars.
Never mind that DC Comics has to have Jon’s boyfriend have pink hair. I mean, as always, DC Comics always has to engage in stereotyping when doing something “groundbreaking.” It is stuff like this that makes readers view these characters as just caricatures designed to pander rather than being honest and creative ideas.
At any rate, I would grade Superman – Son of Kal-El #5 as a 4 Night Girls out of 10 for the writing. I would not suggest that any Superman fan should bother buying this comic. And I also have no idea why a non-Superman fan would be even remotely interested in Superman – Son of Kal-El.
To be fair, I have found Superman – Son of Kal-El to be a terrible read ever since the debut issue. So, my being unimpressed with Superman – Son of Kal-El #5 has nothing at all to do with Jon being revealed as bisexual in this issue. Even if DC had never made Jon bisexual, I still would have given this issue a poor grade. Superman – Son of Kal-El is a bad idea that is the answer to a question no reader was asking.
I also have to disclose that I am not a huge fan of Jon Kent’s character. I also think that there is one Superman and one Superman only: Clark Kent. Anything else is as unappealing as tofu masquerading as steak. DC Comics’ decision to replace Clark Kent as Superman is bizarre. It certainly does not feel creative or interesting. Now, are there reasons why DC Comics might be doing this? Yes. And we will get to them a bit later in this article.
Honest Creativity v. Pandering Publicity Stunt
DC Comics sees engaging in a pandering publicity stunt as a way to gain a pat on the head from the mainstream media and hopefully that attention that will lead to increased sales. LGBTQ representation has become a popular talking point in recent years. DC Comics clearly thought that trying to cash in on this trend would be beneficial to their sales numbers. However, at some point, percentages do matter. On February 23, 2021, Gallup released an in-depth poll covering the LGBT population in America. 3.1% of Americans self-identify as bisexual. I would imagine that many people would be shocked at the small percentage of this group given the exposure over the past few years.
Do I think that DC Comics is engaging in honest creativity with this retconning of Jon’s sexuality? Of course not. DC Comics is a corporation that exists to do one thing and one thing only: make money. DC Comics is absolutely doing this as a publicity stunt with the hopes that it leads to increased sales. To think otherwise is to be utterly naive.
Having said that, is representation important? Definitely. And very few readers in 2021 would suggest otherwise. And those few readers who do say otherwise should be ignored. However, with Tim Drake coming out as bisexual was there a real need for Jon Kent to also be rolled out as bisexual, too? The approach that DC Comics has taken makes it seem like they are simply trying to pander to a tiny percentage of people and get mainstream media shout-outs and praise. However, DC Comics needs to ask if the juice is worth the squeeze? Is there is a much larger percentage of readers who do not like to see their established characters being radically changed for no apparent reason?
And this leads me to my next point. Many readers will view taking an established character like Jon Kent and suddenly making him bisexual as nothing more than pandering. This move could lead to turning away fans of Jon’s established character.
Of course, this is not the first time a comic book company has done this with an established character. Tim Drake, who first appeared in Batman #436 in August 1989, had an established 30-year history of being a straight dude. However, DC Comics shoved Tim Drake’s character into the role of being bisexual. Again, another attempt to gain mainstream media attention in hopes of increased sales numbers. We have seen Marvel Comics do this with Iceman who had an established fifty-year history of being straight but was awkwardly made gay in All-New X-Men #40 in April 2015.
Me? I could not care less what DC Comics does with Jon Kent. I have never been much of a fan of his character. I view Jon Kent as a confusing piece of DC continuity stemming from the New 52 and Convergence. I would rather see Jon Kent killed off so DC Comics can close the door on that bewildering period of their continuity. Plus, I have never liked the idea of Clark Kent having a son.
However, unlike many comic readers, I know that I am not the center of the universe and not every comic must be written to my desires. The fact that I am not a fan of Jon Kent’s character does not diminish the fact that many other comic book readers love Jon Kent’s character. Many comic book readers have grown very attached to Jon’s character and they view DC Comics’ decision to make Jon bisexual as arbitrary and against Jon’s established history.
The fact is that DC Comics had to know or should have known that a large percentage of readers would reject Jon being made bisexual as being completely inconsistent with how Jon Kent has been written and presented ever since he debuted in Convergence: Superman #2 in July 2015.
Taking characters with long-established histories and shoving them into a radically different role is always going to lead to pushback from readers. And this pushback is unnecessary and counter-productive for comic book publishers. There is no financial upside to going to war with your readers. A look at the sales numbers of manga versus American comic books will clearly demonstrate this fact.
There are three possible solutions to this problem. The first is the most obvious solution. DC Comics should create new characters who are bisexual. I know creating new characters requires more work and effort. But, that is what the paycheck is for. Every popular character was once an unknown new character. It obviously can be done.
The second solution would be for DC Comics to reinvent obscure or minor characters and make them bisexual. A good example of this would be Vibe. Now, Vibe may be one of my all-time favorite DC Comics characters, but it would be safe to assume that I am completely alone in my love for Vibe’s character. DC Comics could easily take Vibe, who was a Justice Leaguer but is still an obscure character and repackage him as bisexual. Again, the list is long with minor and obscure characters that DC could choose to make bisexual.
There is even a third solution. DC Comics could utilize their most precious literary tool: The Multiverse. Even though Marvel Studios has managed to make the multiverse concept a Marvel idea in the eyes of most non-comic book readers, we all know better. The Multiverse has been a core concept of DC Comics ever since The Flash #123 was published in September 1961. The Multiverse is a wonderful literary tool that allows DC Comics to do absolutely anything they so desire with their characters. And all without disrupting the main DCU’s established characters and without pushing away fans of those established characters.
Does DC Comics desire a bisexual Superman? Well, roll out a new mini-series starring the Superman of Earth-35 who is bisexual. You could make this Superman either Clark or Jon. It does not matter. This would free up writers to explore new ground with these unique variations of the established characters from the main DCU. It also would not unnecessarily piss off readers of these established characters in the main DCU. In fact, DC Comics might even get the readers who would reject Jon Kent as bisexual in the main DCU to give a Multiverse title about a bisexual Jon Kent a chance.
Either of these three options for DC Comics would make all sides happy. The readers who like to see more representation for bisexual characters would be pleased. And the readers who don’t want to see their established characters in the main DCU randomly retconned would be happy, too. It is unfortunate that DC Comics has constantly chosen to avoid either the path of creating a new character, retconning a minor/obscure character, or creating a Multiverse version of a character. The result has been fan pushback and low sales numbers. As a DC Comics fan, I want to see DC Comics succeed and not slide into irrelevancy and financial trouble.
We know that DC Comics is preparing for a legal battle as Action Comics #1 is set to enter the public domain in 2033. If DC Comics loses this upcoming legal battle then they will need to differentiate their Superman from the Superman that will be entering the public domain. It would make sense that this is a major influence on DC Comics’ decision to replace Clark Kent with Jon Kent.
At this point, nobody knows for sure if the upcoming legal disputes are the primary influence behind DC Comics’ bizarre handling of the Superman franchise. But, it would be a good explanation for decisions that otherwise seem to make no sense and are also proving to be unpopular. And how do we know these moves have been unpopular? Easy. Sales numbers.
The September 2021 sale chart shows that Superman Son of Kal-El #3 sold a mere 34,000 units. Now, keep in mind, these are not actual sales numbers. That is just the estimate of the number of comics ordered by local comic book shops. Who knows how many units of those 34,000 units were actually purchased by readers. That is a terrible sales number for a brand new title only on its third issue. That is a sales failure. Popular decisions do not lead to a new title selling that poorly.
Now, will Superman – Son of Kal-El #5 enjoy a sale bump? Of course! That is the entire point behind DC’s decision to make Jon bisexual. However, it is also predictable what will happen next. Superman – Son of Kal-El will immediately crash back down into the mid 30,000 unit range. This is not rocket science. We have seen this over and over and over again through the years whenever Marvel or DC pull a publicity stunt like this.
If Superman – Son of Kal-El is selling this poorly by just its third issue, then to be sure, Superman – Son of Kal-El is going to be down in the 20,000 unit range by its tenth issue. Before the title is even one year old.
Readers are also not happy with how DC Comics is handling their beloved Clark Kent, either. Superman and the Authority #3 sold just 31,000 units. Action Comics #1035 sold a mere 28,000 units.
There is simply no good news to be found anywhere for the Superman franchise. I do not see how DC Comics is on the right course with the Superman franchise. I see no path to sales success under DC Comics’ current direction with this franchise.
Superman is a character that I have never loved. I have always been on Team Batman. However, Superman is a character that I greatly respect. At the end of the day, I am not emotionally invested in what DC Comics does with the Superman franchise. How DC Comics handles Jon Kent and the Superman franchise is largely irrelevant to me.
Honestly, I am not annoyed with DC Comics engaging in awkward retconning of Jon’s established character in making him bisexual. What annoys me and what I view as the true fatal error in DC Comics’ handling of the Superman franchise is replacing Clark Kent with Jon Kent. That is where I think DC completely screwed up and submarined the Superman franchise in the process.
Having said that, I am a massive DC Comics fan. I have always preferred DC Comics over Marvel Comics. Therefore, I want to see DC Comics succeed. And that means DC Comics having sales success with all of their various franchises. I do not want DC Comics to get shut down and for AT&T to have all of their characters licensed out to other publishers. I want a vibrant, confident, and financially successful DC Comics. This is why I am concerned with DC’s handling of a franchise that I have no real connection with at all.
Personally, I would like to see DC Comics completely get rid of Jon Kent, re-establish Clark Kent as Superman, and focus on telling modern Superman stories starring Clark Kent and his incredible supporting cast. I would recommend that DC Comics embrace Clark Kent’s character and what makes him so unique in the world of comics. I would also suggest that DC Comics infuse the future Superman stories with plenty of that classic Superman vibe that honors the long and storied history of the Superman franchise. Even if DC Comics did not completely get rid of Jon Kent, I would be okay if Jon stuck around as a de-aged child engaging in adventures with Damien Wayne. It was a massive mistake by Brian Bendis to artificially age Jon Kent’s character.
Hopefully, DC Comics sees the errors of their decisions for the Superman franchise and quickly corrects course before it is too late.
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