The original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, first appeared in All-American Comics #16 in 1940. Armed with a magic ring and a multi-colored costume, he was a far cry from later sci-fi Green Lanterns like Hal Jordan and John Stewart. But as the first bearer of the name, he still has iconic status. In recent years, DC has reinvented Alan as a hero who struggled to keep his gay identity a secret. Now, writer Tim Sheridan (Teen Titans Academy, Masters of the Universe: Revelation) is exploring the original Lantern’s secret past, in the new mini-series Alan Scott: Green Lantern.
Nerdist: Many write most LGBTQ characters these days from a very 21st-century perspective. But in your new series, you’re approaching it from a mid-20th-century POV, where things were completely different. Being discovered as gay could literally cause you to lose everything, even your life. How different was it writing a queer character from this perspective over say, a Gen Z gay in 2023?
Tim Sheridan: Well, there’s no way around the fact that I am reporting from 2023. So some of my sensibilities, are going to find their way into it. It’s not a historical document, right? It’s a comic book, and there are some slight liberties we take in trying to keep within as honest a historical framework. But I think that this period we’re dealing with wasn’t just a difficult period to be a closeted queer person. I think if you weren’t a straight white man during that period, there was a lot of adversity. There were a lot of things that you came up against.
In some ways, Alan is a lot like I was when I was growing up. Where you’re able to hide in the light, and people look at you and they don’t necessarily know that you have a secret identity. And so that’s something that Alan is grappling with, and I think a lot of people in that period would’ve grappled with. I wish I could say that that wasn’t the case today, but I think today people are still dealing with coming out of the closet, and being honest about who they are. If it’s not something that you wear on your skin or with the way you outwardly present to the world, you have a choice. And it can be a very tragic choice. Certainly, the consequences in the 1930s and 1940s were dire for someone like Alan Scott.
But the other side of that coin is Alan Scott’s a hero, and he’s a born hero. So what does that mean for someone like him in that period of time? Those are the things that I was thinking about. And like I said, there’s no way to completely divorce ourselves. We know that we’re looking back through a window in time with all of the advantages of living in the present.
Alan Scott had a circuitous route to becoming an LGBTQ character. First, his son Obsidian came out as gay in the ‘90s. And then an alternate Earth version of him was a gay man in the New 52 era. Now, the original version of Alan is a gay man. Before his very late in life coming out, did you perceive Alan as a queer hero who was basically closeted? Or did it come as a surprise when DC made the decision to make him a queer hero?
Sheridan: I think I was surprised that they were willing to do it. Surprised in a good way. I never considered it. I’m a big Obsidian fan and a big Infinity Inc. fan, and I love that character and I love what they introduced with that character. I think in a lot of ways, I hunger for more stories about Obsidian and what his life’s been like. I didn’t expect it, and it was a delight for me because I think it makes a lot of sense.
On the Watchmen TV series, they dealt with and touched on the idea of being closeted gay heroes during the golden age. And so the idea of taking a character like that and introducing this new layer of information about everything that they were dealing with during all of those adventures and all of that time and all the things we saw play out for them? I just think it opens up an incredible new level of storytelling that we can reach with this character. And a new audience that we can really talk to about this character.
So, like I said, I was surprised and delighted. I never dreamed that I would get a chance to add my voice to Alan’s and to the canon. And it was only because Geoff Johns, when we worked on Flashpoint Beyond, started setting up this concept for the new Golden Age. And he called me and said, “I think you should write a story about Alan Scott as a closeted gay superhero in the 1940s. I think you’re the one to do it.” Honestly, I was completely terrified. Because I’ve never written a story with a lead character who was gay first of all, but also who was like me in any way, really. And so I said, “Okay, let’s do it. Let’s see what we can do.”
In the old ‘40s Green Lantern comics, Alan had a sidekick named Derby “Doiby” Dickles. He was a taxi driver with an ultra-thick New York accent. Not to give away a big spoiler, but in this mini-series, you reveal that he’s fully aware of Alan’s sexuality. Even though he’s a ‘40s street tough kinda guy, he accepts him. What made you decide Derby knew, and that Derby would be ok with it despite the times?
Sheridan: Well, for me, knowing how Derby, aka Doiby, knowing the way he worships the Green Lantern, as an inseparable sidekick, I wanted Alan to have some kind of confidant. Somebody who knew more about him than everyone else, the way that Doiby always did. They were tight. So for me, it made sense to have Doiby be a sort of sounding board and a confidant for Alan Scott.
He’s outside the world of superheroes. He’s outside the world of the JSA. These are things that remain complicated for Alan at this point in the story. The JSA has just formed. He is terrified that he is endangering the Justice Society by being, as he sees it, by the laws of the day, a criminal. He’s a criminal in his own bedroom. And he knows he stands for the law, and here he is, someone who is breaking it and knows that he’s breaking it. So to have somebody like Doiby outside of that circle as a sounding board for him was important for me in terms of how to tell the story.
Doiby represents that. A glimmer of hope for a world that could eventually accept someone like Alan. He’s a rarity, certainly in 1941, Doiby Dickles. But this book is about a beacon of hope. And the Green Lantern himself should be a beacon of hope. And I think his inextricable partner, Doiby Dickel, should also represent that hope for a better future
Cian Tormey’s art is incredible in this. It has a throwback flavor while still looking modern. His illustrations of Alan and his boyfriend really convey how these two characters really love each other.
Sheridan: I don’t think I’m overselling it when I say that he’s doing the best work of his career on this book. And he’s somebody who even from issue to issue, or from the six-page DC Pride story that we did, and then to issue one and issue two, his work just gets richer, and better. And more emotional. The storytelling gets better. He really has locked into something, and I’m very happy for that for him. I’m very happy to see that for him. But I’m thrilled and relieved that it’s happening in our book.
I’m very grateful that he signed on, and our relationship has been amazing. We didn’t know each other before and we just kind of threw ourselves in and we started having four-hour conversations, just talking about the character, talking about the world. He’s a huge history buff, and specifically US history. Cian was born in Ireland and he lives in Spain, but he’s a huge of US history and is well-read, so it’s been a joy to get to say things to him and have him bounce some ideas back.
As the first superhero named Green Lantern, Alan Scott retains a kind of prestige at DC. But he’s also often cast aside, or thought of as a footnote to the overall Green Lantern mythology. What do you plan to do to fight people’s notions of Alan as just the “rough draft“ of Green Lantern?
Sheridan: I’ve seen people say that before, the “rough draft Green Lantern,” oh my gosh. I don’t think about Alan that way, and I’ve never thought of Alan Scott that way. I believe there’s so much great work done over decades to connect and flesh out the connection to the mythology. But I think that work has been done, and I think he’s an integral part of Green Lantern history. He is an inspiration to the ones who come after him. And I think that’s the exciting thing about doing a story about a golden age hero that we know is going to be someone who inspires other heroes, not just the public.
There has always been room to expand upon the lore and mythology surrounding Alan’s Green Lantern. And that’s where Geoff Johns’ creation of the Golden Age Red Lantern character, Alan’s arch nemesis, the Soviet answer to the Green Lantern, comes in. Vladimir Sokov is his name, and that’s where that gets really exciting. Geoff created a dynamic where this character, this important figure in Alan’s life became removed from time. And then in a very sort of huge Geoff Johnsy way, reinserted back into the timeline. This book takes place in and around the origins of Alan, and also the origin of the arch nemesis relationship between the Red Lantern and the Green Lantern. And so it’s incredibly exciting to add to the lore and the mythology like this.
Alan Scott: Green Lantern #1, the first of a six-issue mini-series by Tim Sheridan and Cian Tormey, is on sale now.