Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pride: Marvel's Gay Super-Heroes

MARVEL COMICS made history in 1992 when they were the first mainstream comic-book company to have an openly gay character. Northstar, a Canadian super-hero member of the group Alpha Flight,  made his debut in UNCANNY X-MEN #106 in 1979. However, he did not announce to the world that he was gay until ALPHA FLIGHT #106, thirteen years later.

After that, he didn't do much of anything. I was in Japan at this time, but still had access to ordering comics. So I had heard about his "coming out" and when it was announced that he would have his own mini-series in 1994, I ordered it.

It was terrible, and had nothing to do with his sexuality. Maybe I should reverse that; either way, it was awful. MARVEL openly marketed the book as his first solo appearance, hoping to take advantage of customers like me who were intrigued by the "controversy." Then they didn't have him do anything at all romantic or prevocative or even exciting! I seriously don't remember anything about the book at all.

The exact same thing happened nearly ten years later when MARVEL announced that one of its leading characters was going to be outed in his own limited series; it turned out to be cowboy hero RAWHIDE KID, who pranced (almost literally) through a comedic romp through the Old West. He made off-hand comments about camping with Texas Rangers and not wanting any women along; that was the extent of his "homosexuality."

Then in 2005 YOUNG AVENGERS appeared with four characters that appeared to have some connection to founding Avengers Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk. Actually, they were related to different characters, but the hook was there. Two of the members, Hulkling and Wiccan (originally called Asgardian) were boy-friends. However, even with their obvious openness in being gay, it took MARVEL seven years before the kids were allowed to be shown kissing. This scenes is from CHILDREN'S CRUSADE #9, from March 2012. Seven years, people.

And now MARVEL is selling comics' first gay wedding in the pages of ASTONISHING X-MEN #51, on sale this month. Guess who is back!? Northstar proposed to his civilian boy-friend last year, and now with New York allowing gay marriages, they are going to have a ceremony in Central Park, with all their X-Men friends present. I hope they are going to kiss....

Doing research for this article, I found a few mentions of other gay characters, but the only one I have ever heard of was Mystique. You know her; she was the blue mutant (Rebecca Romjin)who walked around nearly naked in three of the XMEN movies. I couldn't find that she was anything in particular label-wise, other than the fact that she is over 100 years old. You would guess she had experienced much in that time.

Part of this is all "much ado about nothing." The average comic-book reader's age is probably closer to 30 than 13, so the "corrupting the youth of our country" argument is probably wrong. Actual comic-book readers are more likely to happen upon manga, filled with much more vivid hetereo-sex or ultra violence. And for some reason, violence has always been more "okay" than sex. Now THAT is a crazy concept.

Some boys like other boys. Some girls like other girls. Love is love.

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