The New Gay Teen Titan and LGBT in Comics

Teen Titans #3 give us our first real indroduction to the team’s openly gay member, Bunker.

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing Teen Titans #3 ever since artist Brett Booth announced on his blog that the issue would be introducing Miguel Jose Barragan, a new flamboyant, openly gay, Mexican superhero who goes by the alias Bunker.

In a recent interview with Comic Vine, Scott Lobdell explained his decision to create a new openly gay Titan: “It just came about because when Brett [Booth] and I were asked to create some new characters, he and I agreed that the comics industry is filled to overflowing with straight white male characters… and it was time (well, past time) to bring an openly gay teenager to the series.”

I’ve also been worried, but not for the reasons so commonly expressed by some of the more conservative elements in the comic book community. In fact, I whole heartily support the addition of an openly gay Titan. I also applaud the addition of more non-Caucasian heroes. What we need in superhero comics is more diversity, not less. However, recently I have become aware of an alarming trend in comics I refer to as minority stuffing.

Minority stuffing is exactly what is sounds like. It’s when creators make a character a member of multiple minority groups simply for the sake of “diversity.”

I am not suggesting that characters, like Bunker, who are members of multiple minorities are intrinsically offensive. What I am suggesting is that there is a serious problem within the industry of letting one or two characters represent all that is not white, straight, and male.

You’re far from perfect, Miguel.

As a whole, I was rather happy with Bunker’s first true appearance in Teen Titans #3. The comic is a good one. It manages to fit a surprising amount of character development and action in a book with numerous characters and only 20 pages of story. Plus, I like Bunker. He’s a confident, easy-going youth who seems comfortable with who he is. What’s more, he holds his own against Red Robin both in a physical confrontation and also in regard to his ability to carry a scene.

The well dressed Bunker hopping a train to the U.S.

But Bunker is far from perfect. I can’t get over the fact that he is an openly gay character who wears a purple suit and makes purple energy bricks. Really? Purple? How original. We get it, he’s gay.

Purple costume aside, I actually think that Bunker’s sexual orientation is handled better than his ethnicity. When we first meet Bunker, he’s trying to get to the U.S. by sneaking onto a train. So right away, the first things I know about this character are that he’s a flamboyant, gay Mexican boy who wears purple, manipulates purple energy, and is heading to the U.S. by… sneaking onto a train. If the purple costume wasn’t stereotypical enough, this sure as hell is.

Batwoman’s com-bat boots. Get it? Because she’s a lesbian.

The fact that DC only has two prominent LGBT characters in their mainstream continuity, one of whom is a combat-boot-wearing Jewish lesbian (Batwoman), the other a flamboyant Mexican immigrant (Bunker), is a problem for me. Not only do both characters consist of gay stereotypes, but they are each one of the only superheros of their respective ethnicities.

Miles Morales is Spider-Man in the Ultimate Universe

But DC’s not the only company who tries to cram multiple minorities into the same character. Marvel is guilty too. Not only is the new Ultimate Spider-Man (Miles Morales) of African American and Latino descent, but there are also hints that he may be gay. So not only is he the Ultimate line’s token Latino, and one of the line’s few black characters, but he could also be the token gay character.

Honestly, the Teen Titans’ creative team is about the only one who’s gotten DC’s New 52 relaunch right. Lobdell and Booth actually took this as an opportunity to make their book more diverse, more inclusive, and more compelling to a larger percent of the population. Just compare the new Teen Titans to the “new” almost entirely white, almost entirely male Justice League. The Titans have 3 Caucasian males, 1 Caucasian female, 1 non-Caucasian openly gay male, and 2 non-Caucasian females. Compare that to the Justice League’s 5 white guys, 1 lady, and only 1 non-Caucasian member!

The new Teen Titans is a lot more diverse than the “new” Justice League, which is really just the old Justice League plus a black guy.

I would like to clarify that this is not an attack on white, straight characters. This also not an attack on Kate Kane, Miguel Jose Barragan, or Miles Morales as individual characters. Hell, it’s not even an attack on these characters’ creators. As a whole, I applaud these creators for their collective and individual efforts to make comics a more diverse space. This a critique on the comic industry (and to an extent pop culture) as a whole and its unwillingness to give us the truly diverse characters we deserve.

I still dream of the day that comics and other media better represent the world’s ethnicities, races, religions, genders, and other minorities, but for now, I guess I’ll take Bunker and the handful of characters like him who are forced to exist as individual microcosms of our world. Mr. Lobdell and Mr. Booth, take care of Bunker. It’s not right and it’s not fair, but he’s now the source of a significant part of the industry’s diversity.

[Update: It appears that the rumors of Miles Morales being gay were just that: unfounded rumors. However, I have left the article as it first appeared. While he may not be one of the Ultimate line’s only LGBT characters, he’s still one of the line’s very few Latino and Black characters.]

2 Responses to “The New Gay Teen Titan and LGBT in Comics”

  1. 1 Spike September 7, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Excuse me, but how is Bunker a gay stereotype because he’s purple? GAMBIT is purple and shoots purple energy. HAWKEYE is purple and shoots purple arrows. Parasite, The Wrath and Thanos are all purple. These characters aren’t gay or effeminate, how does this mean anything different just because Bunker happens to be gay? He’s not dressed like a gay stereotype, he’s dressed like a goddamn superhero.

    • 2 Daniel Amrhein October 2, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      Hey Spike, I think you may have misunderstood what I’m saying here. I’m not saying that Bunker is a stereotype (although I do voice some concerns about possible stereotypical behavior and clothing). This post is a critique written solely based off comments from Bunker’s creators and his first appearance fours years ago. It’s more about identifying potentially problematic aspects of a new character (who I say in the article I like).

      In the first article I link to, Brett Booth specifically mentions that he tried to make Bunker “flamboyant” and give him a costume that let readers “know he might be gay as soon as you see him.” (The link also mentions his apprehension about the purple and says that it wasn’t his first choice.)

      Purple is not a typical color for a superhero. (It has to do with old printing techniques that made red, blue, and yellow easy to print and green, orange, and purple more challenging.) Typically, purple is reserved for villains like Parasite, The Wrath, and Thanos that you mention. Also notice that two of your examples have purple skin and monstrous appearances (in fact, Thanos’ purple skin is a big part of his character as a sign of his Deviant Syndrome). When not used for villains, purple tends to be used for reformed villains like your examples of Gambit and Hawkeye (or “monstrous” heroes like the Hulk). So you see, purple is an unusual choice for a superhero who isn’t a “monster” or reformed villain. It’s a color that is typically used to other a character. (I should also point out that there are a lot of hints and speculation that Gambit is also queer.)

      All that being said, it doesn’t really bother me that Bunker has a purple costume. The color choice, coupled with a few comments from his creators, did concern me four years ago when I wrote this and we didn’t have more info about Bunker to go off of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,617 other subscribers


%d bloggers like this: