With his new role as Negative Man in DC’s Doom Patrol, Matt Bomer is bringing positive queer representation to the world of superheroes in a unique twist that deviates from the source material.
In the comics, Bomer’s character, Larry Trainor, is exposed to radiation during a military test flight and develops the power to project a negatively charged energy being from his body. Disfigured beyond recognition, Trainor renames himself Negative Man and goes on to found the Doom Patrol along with Robotman and Elastigirl.
Trainor’s live-action debut is remarkably comic book accurate for the most part, right down to those tattered bandages and his signature sunglasses. However, there’s one key difference in the show’s portrayal of Negative Man and it’s all to do with his sexuality.
When Trainor’s origin story was revealed during the pilot episode of Doom Patrol, audiences were surprised to learn the character had been seeing a male lover secretly on base, even though he had a wife and two boys waiting for him back home.
The source material tells a somewhat different story. For the first few decades or so, there was no hint that Trainor could be gay in the comics. It wasn’t until Doom Patrol was revamped for mature audiences in the 80s that sexuality of any kind became integral to his character, and not in the way you might think.
After years of inactivity, the energy being that resides in Trainor suddenly revealed itself to be sentient and merged with both Trainor and a woman named Dr. Eleanor Poole. Together, the three combined to become one intersex entity called Rebis who would later go on to mate with itself somehow because, comics.
So far, it doesn’t look like Doom Patrol will head in that direction, but then again, the first episode featured farting donkeys and killer blobs, so anything’s possible at this point.
At an advance press screening for Episode 3, Bomer explained that Negative Man’s revamped sexuality was a huge draw: “What I love most about the character is that even though it’s a huge struggle internally for him, it’s not the sole thing that defines who he is, he’s such a multifaceted character.”
While we’re only a few episodes in, it’s easy to see what Bomer means. Even though his face is hidden behind bandages, Negative Man is still one of the most relatable characters in Doom Patrol thus far, and his sexuality is just one small aspect of that. What’s even more impressive is how Bomer’s own queerness further legitimizes his character’s struggle, imbuing the role with a rare authenticity that’s still hard to come by in the superhero genre.
Back in 2010, Bomer revealed that he was almost cast as Superman in Bryan Singer’s ill-received reboot and fans have regularly campaigned for him to take on the role ever since. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and now Bomer is happy to admit that Negative Man is “just as, if not more, interesting” than the Man of Steel. After all, it’s not every day that such an absurd, and yet likable, character can resonate with fans while paving the way for LGBTQ representation, too.
Arrowverse shows like Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow are breaking new ground for the LGBTQ community on the small screen, providing queer people with some much-needed role models. In terms of viewership, Doom Patrol might not be up there with these CW programs just yet, but it’s still incredible to see a character like Negative Man help normalize queerness with such uncharacteristic positivity.
Doom Patrol is now streaming on DC Universe.