A reader adds a new wrinkle to this phenomenon:
The big news in the past couple weeks is the two powerhouses of the comics industry, Marvel and DC, trying to outdo each other in jumping on the President's "evolution" coattails on marriage. After Marvel announced that Northstar, the first openly gay superhero (and Canadian!) would propose to his longtime boyfriend in Astonishing X-Men #50, followed by mainstream comics' first same-sex marriage in #51, DC announced that they would be reintroducing an as-yet unidentified "iconic" character to the New 52 continuity as a gay man. Naturally, these positive developments prompted outrage from the American Family Association's most likely inaccurately named One Million Moms, claiming that these comics would confront children with "homosexual topics that are too complicated for them to understand."
Which leads us to the part where it gets cool.
I keep thinking back to your post on the Dharun Ravi sentence that ended with "being gay is not an 'alternative lifestyle,' whatever that is." Well, one fellow who seems to agree with you is Dan Slott, the writer of "Amazing Spider-Man". When asked about the Million Moms boycott call, Slott essentially said "bring it on, we'll sell more with you against us." He then followed up by pointing out that he'd already introduced a gay character in Spider-Man:
"Actually, we already have two openly gay characters in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: Peter's boss at Horizon Labs, Max Modell, and his partner, Hector. We just treat it like an everyday thing. Which it is. From my P.O.V. there was no real need for Max to "come out" or to make an issue out of his sexual orientation. In Spidey's world, Max is a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates level celebrity. So everyone already knows about it.
Yep. Max Modell was always gay. The 1st time I had to mention it was when @fredvanlente wanted to do a joke over in the SPIDER-ISLAND issue of HERC. Fred had a scene where Emma Frost was reading Max Modell's mind, and she could tell he was having impure thoughts about her. Basically, I had to send in a note saying that the scene shouldn't play out that way because Max was gay. The first time it's actually mentioned in the book is in ASM #678 when Peter comments on Max's watch (which was an important plot point) and Max thanks Pete and tells him it was a birthday gift from his partner, Hector."
This actually floored me. I've been reading Spider-Man for two decades. I know everything. Not only was Max outed four whole months ago, it was in my absolute favorite recent story – a time travel romp littered with Doctor Who references. And I didn't even notice.
So I think Slott handled it perfectly. A major supporting cast member is a gay man in a committed relationship. That's not something that needs a press release or a Very Special Issue. Everyone knows and they just go about their business. Good on Spidey.
P.S. Slott has also come under criticism recently from a conservative blogger who took issue with Spidey not killing North Korean soldiers and not waterboarding the Sandman. Not even joking.