I. TIM DRAKE, ASEXUAL SWAN QUEEN. ALL WILL BE GRACED BY HIS BEAUTY BUT NONE SHALL HAVE IT.

Maybe it wasn’t a troll. It could’ve been a joke article taken seriously. Simple misinformation. A practical joke gone too far. If it was a joke, the punchline is unclear—maybe the idea that DC Comics, famously embattled when it comes to diversity, would relish such a change to two flagship characters instead of the heel-dragging tokenism they’re more notorious for. But then, after some of the advance publicity for the reboot was a forlorn Clark Kent discovering Lois Lane romping around with a man named after his dead father, nothing’s too risible. In many ways, the least important aspect of the controversy was how it happened.

Just for the record, here are the facts. On Saturday, a post was made on tumblr purporting to be quoting an article on Comics Alliance. It was short and to the point, with a glean of authenticity—the writer took the time to pseudo-journalistically clarify both asexuality and the character of Tim Drake. It said that in the upcoming DC reboot, Tim would break away from his established heterosexual characterization (and even more established homosexual fanon) to identify as asexual. And while the new Superboy, styled after the fresh-faced clone of the Young Justice cartoon series, would be exploring his sexuality, Tim would respond to his overture with a blanket rejection. The article’s “Scott Lobdell” added he didn’t think a Tim/Kon relationship would work.

A better way to describe it would be crude but effective; the content source link had a Comics Alliance URL, but it redirected back to CA’s homepage. Still, that was enough for many. As of this writing, it’s acquired over four hundred notes. The touched-upon refuting of Tim/Kon turned out to be the troll’s masterstroke. While many of those four hundred notes were Likes, it seems just as many were outraged. There were many, many people for whom the article struck a chord. Some were touched by “Scott Lobdell’s” apparently earnest attempt at diversity.

*pass out*
this is…I cant believe this is happening.
is scott lobdell born out of my god damn dreams??? IS HE FROM THE FUTURE??
i’m getting married to him. right now.

Similar sentiments abound. For as few strides as minority superheroes have made over the years, asexuals have gotten the short end of an already tiny stick. Apart from a character on Big Bang Theory and interpretations of Sherlock Holmes (discounting both the amped-up love interest of Irene Adler and the full-out subtextual bromance of both recent reinterpretations), there are virtually no expressly asexual characters in popular culture. And Tim Drake was widely-theorized to be one. If his lack of an apparent sexual interest in women had fandom interpreting him as gay, than his obvious lack of a sexual interest in men makes asexuality as likely an explanation as any.

The story caught fire. A popular Tim Drake roleplayer on tumblr, apparently inspired by the “news”, even came out as asexual, to predictable sniping from a Damian Wayne RP account. Many people said they would buy Teen Titans. The article itself was able to merit at least cautious optimism in most (with a new tumblr feature which adds the reblogee’s tags to the reblogger’s post, a small percentage of tumblr is now attempting marriage to Scott Lobdell). “Lobdell” seemed knowledgeable of asexuality, correctly pointing out that Drake’s sexuality didn’t preclude a romantic relationship, but felt it made him incompatible with Kon-el. The backlash, however, was apparent from that last link.

And fandom, I do not care how much you want to write Kon fucking Tim (lol, because that’s always fandom’s idea of “diversity” in queer stuff)- this is AWESOME. (p.s., they can still love each other. google, it is your friend.)

What Lobdell says: “This is something we’re not going back on. Dan [Didio] has done a lot to try to increase the visibility of gay characters in the reboot, with Midnighter, Apollo, and Batwoman getting her own series. It’s about time that this diversity extends to asexuals.”

is absolutely and utterly true. Quick, name five canon gay men in the big two comics. Name five canon lesbians in the big two comics.

Now name five canon asexuals. Or five canon trans* characters. Or five canon bisexuals, for that matter.

More gay men and lesbians are always, always needed in comics, because it’s still pretty damn straight across the board. But we’ve got to start demanding more than that.

I just know there is going to be so much of the bullshit wank like the one above that goes “THEY ONLY DID THIS BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T WANT TO MAKE HIM GAY!” which is so fucking ignorant that I”m not giving it more than this one sentence to roll my eyes. (Though, have a hint: If ever you have to start a sentence with “I don’t have a problem with *insert group of people here*” it’s a pretty big clue that you do have a problem.)

Several Tim/Kon fangirls saw the change not as the representation they so vocally wanted for genderqueer characters, but as an obstacle for their OTP, like the superfluous girlfriends so often demonized by fandom.

I don’t ever remember this argument about Tim. It’s like they’d rather call him asexual than even hint that he might be exploring his sexuality in any way that isn’t straight. BTW a lot of people do before they decide on one sexuality or none at all. Plus I strongly doubt this has anything to do with creating a strong asexual character as much as it was a way for them to avoid Tim’s sexuality all together.

BUT WHAT THE HELL. SUPERBOY AND RED ROBIN COUPLE NOT GOING TO GO WELL? THEY ARE YIN AND YANG AND WOULD BE THE MOST PROBABLE HOMOSEXUAL COUPLE IN DC OTHER THAN THE ALREADY STATED ONES.
DC you made Tim fabulous for nothing. TIM DRAKE, ASEXUAL SWAN QUEEN. ALL WILL BE GRACED BY HIS BEAUTY BUT NONE SHALL HAVE IT.

though I do approve of them using a more obscure sexuality, I just don’t think they’re using it in the right way. I think there might just be someone up there that’s sick of seeing Tim/Kon and is butthurt about it enough to keep it from happening in canon. >:U

I don’t like how they’re planning to make Red Robin asexual. Though I do like how they’re thinking of making Superboy bi, but to make Tim asexual would cancel out WHY they’re planning to make Conner bi in the first place. Tim and Conner have this chemistry, as shown in the last post. They BELONG together. Jesus, make them gay already. They deserve each other.

“The fans have spoken loud and clear that they’d be interested in seeing this aspect of the character”
I NEVER heard a fan say “Hey, I really want to see Tim being asexual. Don’t you think this would be awesome?”
“I doubt a relationship between Superboy and Red Robin would work.”
Really? I mean…really? Why? They are already super best friends and there is more than one moment when they act like they are totally married. And I’m not saying this because I just want it to be. Actually I’m totally fine with them just being friends. But this halfassed shit is just something that makes me furious. This sounds to me like “Oh shit, the fans want them to be an item! What are we going to do? Hn, we should at least make Tim asexual, maybe the fans will shut up then.”
Fuck this shit.

And yeah, visibility is nice, but I can see this just causing more unnecessary hostility, particularly if they don’t want him to be anything other than heterosexual and are only doing it to avoid being properly called out on homophobia.

So…… asexuality gets to be in comics because it’s the only thing they haven’t marketed yet? I wouldn’t mind Tim being an asexual if it was more than just because they haven’t done it yet.

Do I think they’re doing this for the wrong reasons? Yes.
Do I think that, for the way this is being played out, that it’s a cop out? Yes.
Do I think DC is trying too hard and unsuccessfully to make everyone happy? HELL GOD-MOTHERFUCKING-DAMN TO THE YES.

I don’t even know how to feel right now ;_; all my love for kon exploring his sexuality, but goddamnit if it can’t be with Tim

I doubt a relationship between Superboy and Red Robin would work.
I doubt a relationship between Superboy and Red Robin would work.
I DOUBT A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SUPERBOY AND RED ROBIN WOULD WORK.
Yeah I mean it’s not like there are tons of people who ship it and stuff. Who would want that pffffft.

BUT REALLY. REALLY. IF THIS IS YOUR WAY OF GETTING OUT OF MAKING TIM DRAKE GAY AND KON AND TIM BEING A COUPLE, I WILL JUST.
FUCK PROTESTING. I AM SLAUGHTERING ALL OF YOU.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but for a number of fangirls, queer visibility was a sales gimmick, a way of keeping their OTP apart. So what’s interesting isn’t the possibility of Tim Drake being gay, straight, asexual, or a robot built to attract fangirls. It’s the pattern of behavior some of those fangirls fit into.

II. Cultural appropriation is like Your Writing/The Other, but non-cons

It’s no wonder cultural appropriation is a debate that can often get heated. As a spectrum, you have Avatar: The Last Airbender (the series) at one end, as an example of what to do right, and Avatar: The Last Airbender (the film) at the other, as an example of why M. Night Shyamalan shouldn’t have a career. Given that every writer will write about someone who is fundamentally different than him or her at some point in their career (unless he’s Geoff Johns, and exclusively writes about male characters created when “respecting women” was saying “Nice ass!” when you slapped them on the romp), the question of how you can portray another culture without exploiting it is always contentious.

Sometimes, you get fawning stereotypes that are just as bad as the caricatures they replace—your Wise Old Indians, your Wise Old Asians, your Wise Old Morgan Freemans. What do minorities do before they get old and wise?


And then he gives Miss Daisy a ride.

And sometimes, more happily, you get canons that are more diverse, interesting, and universal than your average episode of Friends. The thing is, cultural appropriation isn’t just something hipsters do to warbonnets. It can happen in slash fandom.

Last year, one of the semiannual fandom brouhahas was an old issue that’s unlikely to cool down anytime soon. Metafandom did as good a job memorializing it as any. On one end, you had gay men tired of being portrayed in fanfiction as a bunch of weepy semes and ukes. On the other, you had women, predominantly straight, and tired of being told how to express themselves by men. It was one of those annoying debates where everyone has a point, so you can’t just point at the smug white guy and say “Get him!”

That doesn't mean we can't give it a shot though!

It’s also a debate that’s not going to be settled here, because it touches on a larger one—what allegiance does fantasy owe to reality? Is it tasteless for the Captain America movie to use World War 2 as a backdrop for a pulpy feud between the Red Skull and a flag-draped superhero? Or for 30 Minutes Or Less to use a real crime in which a man died as the basis for a slight summer comedy?

But if there’s one thing we can take away from it, it’s that there’s a line. It’s between “yay! smut!” and being as big a hypocrite as the homophobe who gets off on lesbian porn. When you cross it, you get things like Neo_Prodigy, a Scans_Daily moderator who left the community after his attempts to call out transphobia were ill-received (apparently the safe space Scans_Daily took it upon itself to be didn’t extend to gay black men as much as straight white women). Or straight women writing gay romance novels with male pseudonyms, implicitly claiming to have experienced a culture they’ve never been part of it—maybe less offensive than an Anglo-Saxon deciding to publish a book about the Holocaust under the name “Maury Goldstein,” but not by much.

And you get fangirls who see an underrepresented minority get some much-needed representation, who see their fellow fen excited and enthused by this representation, who see an opportunity to educate and diversify and explore. And all they see it through is the prism of whether or not they’ll be able to slash two male characters.

Last Friday, there was a brief kerfuffle on tumblr. A post on Superconfessions, a Fandom Secrets-type tumblr, said “Tim Drake isn’t gay.” It garnered two hundred notes, many of them snarky dismissals of the idea of Tim being straight.

I will never understand how people can argue that he’s straight. Just… come on already.

It coincided with the launch of a tumblr called fuckyouoverdefensivefanboys. One of the more polite entries reads, captioning a picture of Steve Rogers hugging Tony Stark, “Some people think they’re fucking. Big deal. Maybe they are. And maybe they aren’t. Get over it.”

It’s a shame the attitude they use for a character’s homosexuality can’t always extend to orientations they find less attractive.

Photo source: Superconfessions.

  • Jon Callan

    You need to make it clear the article that went up on Tumblr is a fake. Even from what you’ve presented in this piece, it is corroborated by no other source. The opening does nothing to clarify things. You continually quote the fake Scott Lobdell from the piece without identifying him as fake other than to put quote marks around his name. That’s just bad bloggery.

    It also would have been very simple to contact Scott via facebook/twitter/email for a comment and to verify that, in fact, he had nothing to do with this.

    -Jonathan Callan

    • The article is about the reactions of the fan community rather than about the actual original fake piece. 

      • Jon Callan

        That’s no excuse to be sloppy. It’s bad reporting and/or blogging to leave people head scratching about what occurred and whether Scott Lobdell had anything to do with it.

        • I actually thought it was pretty clear? But then 1.) I’m biased towards our writers and 2.) the minute I see the word “purporting” – the skeptic’s favorite gerun – I make the leap that we’re being presented with unsubstantiated info.

          I think since the author provided links to the actual the events as they occurred combined with this being essentially an editorial I personally had no issue.