By Darren Franich
Updated June 08, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

There aren’t very many gay superheroes out there. So when DC Comics announced on June 1 that the original Green Lantern — whose off-duty name is Alan Scott — would be reintroduced as a gay man, people took notice.

This isn’t the same Green Lantern that Ryan Reynolds played in last year’s poorly received action movie. (That one’s name is Hal Jordan.) Alan Scott became the first Lantern way back in July 1940, almost 20 years before Jordan’s first appearance. For decades, the character coexisted with later Green Lanterns in the crowded DC universe. (DC, like EW, is part of Time Warner.) In the new monthly series Earth 2, however, Scott has been reimagined as a young, openly gay man.

News about the character came just over a week after Marvel announced that the gay X-Man Northstar will marry his longtime boyfriend in an upcoming issue. It’s a mini-boom for gay superheroes, albeit superheroes who are, arguably, unknown enough to qualify as ”safe” choices. (You won’t see Northstar or Alan Scott in a movie anytime soon.)

Earth 2 writer James Robinson (Starman, The Golden Age) says that bringing Scott out of the closet wasn’t about catching the latest trend. ”When I was first putting together this version of the team eight months ago, adding in a gay character seemed like the natural thing to do,” he says. ”It’s meant to be about a team that’s well-rounded, that shows the diversity of the world around us.”

As for any controversy over the character’s homosexuality, Robinson considers his version of the Green Lantern to be decidedly old-fashioned: ”The original Alan Scott was this bold, brave man who would risk his life for you. The Alan Scott I’m doing now is that same man. He’s everything you want in a hero. And he happens to be gay.”