By Mike Berlin
With his West Hollywood fashion sense and faux-hawk, Miguel Jose Barragan might look the part of a cartoon Project Runway contestant. But as his alter ego, Bunker, he is DC Comics’ first major gay teen superhero -- recently added to the Teen Titans roster, a junior Justice League of sorts.
“If the comic book industry doesn’t create another white, straight male superhero, that will be OK,” says Scott Lobdell, the comic’s writer, who’s adding other non-white heroes to the series.
A sprightly Mexican import with more attitude than a Chola girl, Bunker (who refers to his own “cute butt” in his debut), is in the unique position to alienate some readers for being too gay. “It never entered my head that people would object to the color scheme of his outfit based on whether or not he was a homosexual,” says Lobdell about the character’s signature color, purple. “I thought I was being clever and fresh.” The writer lives close to Los Angeles’s unofficial Little Mexico and created Bunker’s outfit as a throwback to the retro vibrancy he found there. Bunker’s superpower, wielding force field bricks, is a sly homage to Stonewall.
Bunker isn’t the first gay bomb Lobdell has set off in the comic world. Working with Marvel in 1992, he outed the company’s first major character, Northstar, who lived as an ill-tempered closet case for over a decade (due to an editorial ban on homosexuality). His coming-out—though a watershed cultural moment in gay visibility -- was an isolated event left undeveloped for years.
Given the chance to create a new gay character in Teen Titans, Lobdell was averse to watering down Bunker. “I don’t think it’s my place to write a gay everyman,” he says. “I’m writing a very specific character.” And indeed, the specifics craft a deservingly intricate teen, with a backstory heavy on growing up in the village of El Chilar, Mexico. What about love interests? “He has love in his past and in his future,” Lobdell says, “and will have a healthy relationship life as all the other characters in the book.” But, he admits, the Titans all have obstacles that come in the way of dating: “They’re on the run from a trans-global organizational out to kill them.”