NEW YORK - Superman came out of phone booths. Marvel Comics' Northstar comes out of the closet.
Northstar's revelation that he is a homosexual is depicted in the latest issue of Marvel's "Alpha Flight" series.
The plot is a little complicated, but very politically correct. Northstar adopts an orphaned baby who tests HIV positive. There's an outpouring of sympathy for her, until someone bursts into the baby's hospital room and threatens to kill her.
"What could that innocent child have done to you?" Northstar demands as he flings the man away from the baby.
"My son Michael was a victim of AIDS as well," the stranger says as they tussle. "But he was gay, so people didn't afford him the luxury of being innocent. There were no press conferences, no fund raisers, no nightly news updates. He was just one of thousands who died of AIDS last year."
Northstar responds: "Do not presume to lecture me on the hardships homosexuals must bear. No one knows them better than I. For while I am not inclined to discuss my sexuality with people for whom it is none of their business - I am gay!"
Northstar, who has been in the series since 1982, isn't the first mainstream comic-book superhero to be identified as gay. Last spring, the Pied Piper, a character in DC Comics' "Flash" series, announced he was homosexual.
Future issues will have the Pied Piper bring a male date to a wedding, and discuss the importance of protecting yourself from
exposure to AIDS, according to DC Comics' spokeswoman Martha Thomases.
"Out of 50 or 60 letters we got after the Pied Piper said he was gay, only three were negative," Thomases said.
The typical DC Comics reader, she added, is a young man 18 to 25 years old. "Kids reading this should feel comfortable, whoever they are," she said.