(Tim Drake, the third Robin, seen here in his current identity as Red Robin. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Homosexual heroes in the world of comics is nothing new. Neil Gaiman has incorporated gay characters in his books, Northstar of Alpha Flight "came out" in 1992 (although basically in name only since his sexuality was never really mentioned), and Bunker of the New 52's Teen Titans, Karma of the New Mutants and many others have been openly homosexual in the pages of our favorite comics. There have been some very strong and award-winning stories featuring gay characters in mainstream comics, such as X-Force mainstays Shatterstar and Rictor, and there have been absolutely fucking brutal stereotypes that should be erased from existence, such as the reboot of The Rawhide Kid.
As I was reading through my Twitter feeds this morning, I saw DC Women Kicking Ass posting about the possibility of former Robin/current Red Robin (Yummmmmm!) coming out as a homosexual. Current co-publisher of DC Comics Dan Didio has stated in the past in an interview with the gay-oriented magazine The Advocate that DC would not "turn" an existing character gay, but would create an all-new character, like the Teen Titans' Bunker, that gay fans could identify with from the beginning.
However, Didio and DC has apparently done an about face. According to an interview with Bleeding Cool, he said they are about to re-introduce an existing character who will become the company's most prominent gay character. The ladies at DC Women Kicking Ass publicly considered the possibility of Drake coming out of the closet and they have spent the remainder of the day discussing/debating the topic with the droves of people who have commented on the original post.
The Rictor/Shatterstar storyline earned a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book, despite Rob Liefield, the creator of the characters, saying he would reboot the characters if he ever had the chance (way to keep an open mind, dickhole. Go back to drawing big-titted heroines and leave making the world a better place to others) and Drake being "outed" would be just as big, if not bigger given his affiliation with Batman, arguably DC's (and possibly all of comics') most popular character.
Therein lies the problem.
The relationship between Batman and Robin has been questioned as far back as the two have been partners (crime-fighting partners, assholes; you know what I was talking about). Dick Grayson was the Robin most folks have identified as being Batman's, ahem, Boy Wonder if you catch my drift (NOW you can be a pervert). Grayson went on to become Nightwing, a great hero in his own right. Jason Todd followed and was thought to have been killed by the Joker and later resurfaced as Red Hood. Drake became the third Robin and, later, Bruce Wayne's adopted son, so I don't think there has been any serious belief that Batman and Drake have ever been anything other than a crimefighting duo and that's all.
However, Drake being introduced to the world as a gay character, despite all the positives, would create a very serious distraction. Grant Morrison recently stating he believed Batman was gay certainly can't help DC's decision, if Drake is truly the character they're planning to out. Tim being a homosexual would do little more in the mainstream than refuel all the "Batman and Robin are gay" comments and jokes. It would be a hit for the late-night comics, it would turn into fodder for the homophobes and idiots who know nothing of the comics or the storylines. DC has garnered a ton of positive press for its relaunch of the New 52 and I'm not sure they want to run the risk of tarnishing that by dealing with the jackasses who would turn a great decision into a cheap line of dick jokes.
The sad thing is, Drake really would be a perfect character for the storyline. He's an extremely interesting, three dimensional character who has been popular since his debut more than 20 years ago. During the Batman/Bane storyline, he became one of the strongest characters at DC. He's young and identifiable with teen readers and with his being an orphan and then adopted, he already has appeal to those who have struggled through their adolescence. Making him gay would see Tim Drake as a hero who would give hope to real-life teens and young adults struggling with their sexuality, especially now in a political landscape that seemingly wants gays to have the same social standing as blacks in America throughout the 19th and 20th century and Jews during the Third Reich.
It's important that there be a character, even if it's not Tim Drake, to be held up as a role model and a gay hero that doesn't just confirm all the effeminate, swishy stereotypes (again, see The Rawhide Kid). Seeing a gay hero on the pages of a mainstream comic can not only provide gay youth with inspiration and assurance that they are not "living in sin" or "making a lifestyle choice" or bad people, it can provide education to those that believe those aforementioned comments.
I applaud DC for making this decision and I really hope that it's Tim and I thank DC Women Kicking Ass for creating this debate.
For more information on gays throughout comic history, check out this Wikipedia entry.