It’s been a busy week for Marvel Comics! This past weekend new Marvel editor-in-chief CB Cebulski apologized for using the pseudonym Akira Yoshida in a piece for The Atlantic. Since then, many revelations about the future of the Marvel line have come to light.
A wave of cancellation announcements have been made since CB has taken over the reigns as well. Titles including Guardians of the Galaxy, U.S. Avengers, Royals, Uncanny Avengers,Iceman, Jean Grey, Hawkeye, Unbelievable Gwenpool, Like Cage, Secret Warriors and Generation X are all confirmed as canceled. All but confirmed as canceled include America, and Defenders, though Defenders could be on hiatus because of Bendis’ recent health issue. His leaving the company could end up putting the book to bed either way.Another book, Captain Marvel, appears to be going on hiatus for an unconfirmed amount of time as they appear to be changing editorial direction while keeping the creative team in tact.
These are the sort of big changes one may expect from a comics publisher bringing in a new editor-in-chief. It’s hardly the first time we’ve seen major shake ups like this and it will not be the last. While it’s disappointing to see a number of comics cancelled that prominently feature underrepresented communities with creative teams also representing those communities, it is important to note that all of those characters still exist in the Marvel Universe and will hopefully be heavily featured in other titles soon as well as giving other more diverse characters the chance to have the spotlight.
We wish Marvel the best during this transitional phase and most importantly we look forward to reading the new Marvel Comics that will be announced in the New Year.
Now then, if you aren’t familiar with Sina Grace I’m here to help change that. Especially since Sina has a few new comics hitting the shelves on Wednesday.
He’s someone entirely unique in comics. He’s worn nearly every hat you can in comics as a self-publisher, imprint editor, writer, and artist. His skills have graced most of the comics publishers here in the States that you can name, he’s edited The Walking Dead, put out deeply personal memoir comics, and is most recently taking on Iceman over at Marvel… but more on that later.
I first got into Sina Grace’s work as an artist with The Li’l Depressed Boy, written, colored and lettered by S. Steven Struble. He happened to be in Manhattan signing at Carmine Street Comics in 2014 just after my birthday so I picked up the first two volumes. He was incredibly sweet and welcoming. I even got a sketch of Jem (as in Jem and the Holograms) from him, which he seemed to look up reference for on his phone, but I like to think he could have done from memory. Fun fact about me; I prefer this version of the Jem theme song that basically everyone else hates.
Sorry, I’m getting sidetracked. Anyway, The Li’l Depressed Boy is a surrealist take on unreqited love with an indie film aesthetic filled with music and youth. It’s the kind of comic that checks a lot of boxes for me in terms of what I like, so it both was a comic I enjoyed and something that put Sina on my radar.
Self-Obsessed is a deeply person memoir. Prior to this, Sina had put out another memoir, Not My Bag, back in 2012. Whereas Not My Bag dealt with Sina’s personal struggles working retail, Self-Obsessed cuts deeper. It’s filled with comics, essays, photos, and interviews. It’s an incredibly blunt, raw, and unapologetic reflection on life. It’s a brave graphic novel and I have a great deal of respect for Sina putting this out. If you like memoir comics and the kind of books you see over at the likes of Top Shelf and First Second and you haven’t checked out Self-Obsessed yet, then you need to add it to your list. Seriously. Do it.
Sina Grace was back in New York for NYCC in 2015 to promote Self-Obsessed. Needless to say, I picked up a copy then and read it on the train home after. Self-Obsessed went on to become a web series starring not only Sina but Amber Benson, Colleen Green and more. It’s currently two seasons in.
I’m stressing how much I enjoy Self-Obsessed not only in the hopes that maybe you’ll go pick it up but because his new graphic memoir, Nothing Lasts Forever, is one of his new books hitting the shelves Wednesday and may turn out to be even more personal than his other memoirs. A lot has happened fairly recently in Sina’s life and he’s gonna lay it all out for us. I’ll be picking it up on Wednesday, and I hope you do the same.
One of the other books with Sina’s name on it coming at us on Wednesday is Iceman #1. This book is part of Marvel’s X-Men ResurrXion reboot. Now, I made my feelings clear the other month based on the first book in the series, X-Men Gold #1. TL:DR, I wasn’t a fan. X-Men Blue #1 was better, but still not quite there for me. And I’ll be honest, I picked Jean Grey #1 off the rack at a shop and skimmed through it only to find that in the first issue they are already talking about the Phoenix force so I’m gonna hard pass that one. No offense to the creative team, really, but the idea of dealing with the Phoenix force again is just too exhausting and a wasted opportunity to make Jean Grey something more. Because of all that, I’m relying on Iceman to restore my excitement in the X franchise.
Seriously though, this book has a lot going for it. Though editor Daniel Ketchum has been let go from Marvel, this is certainly in part his baby. I got to talk to Daniel briefly back at NYCC 2015 about Iceman and my reservations to how the character had been handled in All-New X-Men. Daniel told me to stick it out and see where the character was going. This book is where it was all going. Between Daniel Ketchum editing, Sina Grace writing, and Kevin Wanda doing the cover, we have three queer men of color working on a queer superhero. That’s really huge and means the world to me. Many of you familiar with my column know I bitch about diversity and inclusion here a lot, and Iceman is the kind of book I’ve been demanding over at that big two. Please, if diversity in comics is important to you, or if the X-Men are important to you, pick up this book. We all need Iceman to succeed.
No pressure, Sina!
Finally, Sina also did a pride variant cover for the latest issue of The Walking Dead and it’s gorgeous! Image is doing pride variants for multiple titles, and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Human Rights Campaign. Considering the kind of rollbacks in LGBT rights we see happening all across the country, this is an important stand for a comic company to be making and I applaud Image for taking a stand against bigotry.
This Wednesday, comic shops will be stocking up on three different projects that Sina Grace has poured his heart into. When you hit up your local comic shop tomorrow, go out and take some of those home with you.
I got around to reading this comic a few hours after picking it up, and it really was a good, fun time. We follow the sci-fi adventures of racer Domino Swift as she fights biker gangs and the world around her of both legitimate and illegal racing is fleshed out before us. Other than perhaps getting a little lost reading one or two of the action sequences, it was a smooth and enjoyable read.
There is one thing about the book that stands out to me though.
No one attached to the book is black. The entire creative team and the editor, Jeanine Schaefer, are white. The letterer, Aditya Bidikar, is Indian which is important as we don’t have enough Indian voices in Western comics. This does, however, leave the book without a single black voice attached.
Is that important?
It can be for a few reasons, one of which is related to how comics compares to other media. In prose, you’re often dealing with an author and an editor so you have little room to add more voices. When it comes to television and film, you have much larger groups of people working on them and the characters are played by real people. Maybe the creators are all white, but if the characters are black, they’re played by real people who can be admired and idolized who can benefit from that in their careers and inspire other people to be actors. In comics, particularly mainstream American comics, you can easily end up with teams of between four and a half dozen or more working on a single story. If a team that isn’t black is making a comic with a black protagonist you have a situation where only non-black creators are making financial and professional gains from a book while many black and other marginalized creators aren’t getting the same levels of press and encouragement.
Is that what we want? It’s worth pondering.
Also worth considering: this team in particular is the same team that was involved in the horrifyingly transphobic and misguided Batgirl #37. That issue is so infamous to me I didn’t even have to look up the issue number; I just know it. The team created a terrible villain using dated trans tropes that disgusted me to the point where I didn’t read anymore of that Batgirl run until issue #45 to read Alysia’ Yeohs wedding – and that wasn’t enough to bring me back in. The damage was done.
The team apologized for the events of issue #37 and the collected edition was edited to remove some of the most damning content. Do I believe we have to chase every creative team out of comics who make big mistakes like this? Absolutely not. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to trust that creative team with handling certain characters outside of their own experiences. Sometimes it’s important to have a team with people from a community you want to do a comic about to avoid a Batgirl #37 situation.
To a lesser extent, but with more consistency, we saw this happen with Iceman in different X-Men comics the last couple of years. I’ve been critical of how Iceman has been handled by Bendis as well as Lemire and Hopeless. Now Marvel is moving in a new direction with Sina Grace, a queer man, at the helm on the new Iceman solo series. Though the series isn’t out yet, I’m familiar with Sina’s other comics works and this seems like a step in the right direction.
There are also examples of comics that do have representation on the teams that have been wildly successful. Another title at Image, Bitch Planet, has been a big hit. Though Kelly Sue DeConnick is mostly writing women of color, her co-creator is Valentine De Landro, a black creator whom I’ve been a big fan of since his tenure on Peter David’s X-Factor, and the two of them together pulling from their own knowledge and experiences have crafted a brilliant comic that towers above most of what you’ll find one the shelves and spinner racks. Without a black voice behind Bitch Planet we might be getting a very different book that could easily be missing those high notes.
While I do believe it is important to have at least some representation in your comic of the people you’re writing about, it’s still possible to put out a good comic without that. Motor Crush #1 is a fun read and is worth considering. If supporting black characters in comics is important to you, definitely give this a chance. If supporting women in comics is important to you, Babs Tarr and Jeanine Schaefer are worth supporting. If supporting creators of color is important to you, you’re gonna have to look elsewhere.
I started writing a weekly column here at ComicMix a year ago today. The past year I’ve given my thoughts on a number of issues focusing in particular on diversity in comics. Those issues have often involved LGBTQ representation. I’m going use this column to highlight some of the topics I’ve covered, see if anything has changed or if any predictions I had made turned out to be true and maybe add in an anecdote or two.
The second column I wrote for ComicMix was about Coagula, DC Comics first and only trans superhero. A lot has happened this past year as far as Coagula is concerned. She went from being an obscure character created by Rachel Pollack from a still uncollected run of Doom Patrol, a long cancelled series with seemingly little hope of being brought back as a monthly comic to being the flagship title for Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint. Additionally, Gerard Way has stated he wants to bring Coagula back in his run. I can’t stress to all of you enough how great it’s been see this series of events unfold.
Another early column was regarding Alysia Yeoh, Barbara Gordon’s trans friend, getting married. Though there was a lot of press around that and Alysia Yeoh seemed to be gaining some interest from fans the character, one of the incredibly few trans characters that DC Comics has, faded into obscurity.
I spent no less than twocolumns discussing my displeasure with Iceman being outed. It’s been a long time since I discussed it so I thought I’d follow up on that. It took until All-New X-Men #13 for Iceman to pursue men and not just talk about coming out to someone. He embarrasses himself in a gay bar, runs out and runs into a guy named Romeo (I’m not kidding) who happens to be an Inhuman. I guess they wanted to make sure that character was named Romeo to make sure you’d get that Marvel is borrowing from Shakespeare here. The poor handling of Iceman being gay would almost be funny if it wasn’t so sad. It’s somehow managed to be worse than I even thought it was going to be, and I came in with low expectations.
Bi-erasure came up a few times discussing characters like Constantine who was being portrayed as straight in the now-cancelled NBC series and Marvel’s Hercules being portrayed as straight despite the character’s history of bisexuality. Bi-erasure came up again as Harley Quinn was portrayed as straight in the Suicide Squad movie and most recently with Gal Gadot confirming that Wonder Woman would be portrayed as straight for the 2017 film. If you want a bisexual Wonder Woman, stick with Greg Rucka for now.
I still don’t think Poe and Finn from Star Wars: The Force Awakens are in love with each other.
When David Bowie passed away early in the morning of January 11th, I had tossed out my previously planned column (with editor Mike Gold’s permission) and wrote about how much David Bowie had meant to me over the years. One story I had forgotten to include was the one and only time I was in the same room as David Bowie. I was seeing a Nine Inch Nails at Hammerstein Ballroom here in New York with my friend Jake back in 2005 with the Dresden Dolls opening. After they opened up in VIP balcony seating above us came out Chris Rock, Marilyn Manson, and David Bowie. The standing room crowd started chanting just being in Bowie’s presence. It got so loud and disruptive that he opted to get up and leave until the house lights went off so as not to draw attention away from Nine Inch Nails. Real classy guy. If you’re unfamiliar, give his album Station to Station a try.
Back in June, AfterShock Comics announced a new series, Alters, written by Paul Jenkins with art by Leila Leiz. The principle character, Chalice, is a trans woman and the hook for the series is “She can only be herself when she’s not herself.” I wrote about my reservations and the red flags I saw from reading the write ups. Paul Jenkins reached out to me and we conducted an interview for the following week. I want to stress that Paul was very polite and agreed to all the questions asked without any hesitation. Now that issue #1 is out we’ve seen the comic be met with mixed reviews, many of which unfortunately reaffirm my reservations based on the initial announcements. Paul Jenkins has done some incredible work including his Marvel Knights run on Inhumans which I can’t recommend highly enough, but the missteps in Alters would be hard to make a course correction on at this point, at least as far as I can tell.
Oh, and I took issue with Simon Pegg making Sulu gay in Star Trek Beyond against George Takei’s wishes even after asking George Takei first. It sounded like a cheap publicity stunt for some free marketing that backfired. Now that the movie is out, it happens that Sulu didn’t even get to kiss his husband in this movie who’s already barely in the film so it turns out I was right to be cynical about it. That column led to the liveliest discussion I’ve had on Facebook about anything I’ve written for ComicMix. Even more than that time I said we don’t need Iron Fist.
That about sums up my summing up of my first year as a columnist here at ComicMix. I’d like to thank Martha Thomases for suggesting me as columnist in the first place, Mike Gold for going with that suggestion, having faith in me to deliver on a weekly basis and for acting as a sounding board and mentor over the past year, and everyone else at ComicMix for being welcoming and supportive over the past year. Most of all, I’d like to thank everyone who’s been reading this column over the past year for your time and support.
I hope you’re as excited for what the next year will bring as I am.
Today I’m going to diverge a bit from my usual spiel, but not by much. Oh, who the hell am I kidding? This is pretty much par for the course at this point.
Last week millions of us bore witness to the Republican National Convention, a subsidiary of Trump. One of the points that was made throughout the convention was how they had speakers of all different backgrounds at one point or another, despite the overall representation being very white. Since representation is something I’ve dedicated a lot of my time and energy into for this column, I feel that I should address this and how it parallels representation in comics and other media.
Starting on July 18th and going through the 21st, overlapping with San Diego Comic Con, the Republican National Convention rolled out many women speakers, Hispanics, black men, and even a gay man. Sure, Peter Thiel is a cis white billionaire who was outed against his will, but he’s still queer so that’s something, I guess. Republicans then used these speakers to make the claim that they’re the party of diversity and promptly patted themselves on the back for it.
Sound like something I’ve said before? You probably read what I wrote about Star Trek Beyond, Marvel’s handling of Iceman (I know, I’ve referenced that Iceman piece a lot lately), and more. These all fall under diversity being added for positive press hits. And similar to the Republican National Convention, highlighting efforts of diversity in comics and movies tend to come from straight cis white guys downplaying how dominated their industries are by other straight cis white guys.
Now I’m not comparing the likes of Simon Pegg to Donald J. Trump. Though diversity for good press in the entertainment biz isn’t without harm, it’s certainly not on the same level as what Donald Trump has done and can do.
There is an assumption that tends to come with being inclusive. The assumption being that you must support X fully and without hesitation if you give X any level of positive or even neutral representation. We see this all the time in comics and movies like with the representation mentioned earlier. We have also seen this in politics. And yes, Democrats can be guilty of this too, but the Republican National Convention this time around was exceptional.
Many speakers at the convention made it a point to condemn PC culture. They made sure to have non-white speakers like Ben Carson to stress this point too so as to show it is not just the rhetoric of a shrinking voting block. Similarly, they found about as many black men as they could find to say either Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. The intention of which was to make it okay to say those things because black men also say them, despite the disparity between how many people in a particular community feel about an issue like that.
Watching that display at the convention brought back the recent memories of the team on Star Trek Beyond having Zachary Quinto speak on George Takei’s disapproval of Sulu being gay now since Zachary Quinto himself is gay so of course his opinion is right. Or how Axel Alonso defended Marvel’s hip hop covers campaign using the fact that since they have radically diverse editors on staff that they are right. Paul Jenkins in my interview with him a few weeks ago stated how he had trans consultants on the script for Alters with the implications that he’s justified in approaching this comic the way he is. Often PC culture is blamed here as well.
It’s important to keep in mind that people like Zachary Quinto, Axel Alonso, and Paul Jenkins in these particular instances aren’t inherently wrong because they found people that agree with them from the communities that would be the most skeptical. The Republican Party isn’t inherently wrong for the same reason.
Minority communities are not monoliths. We are all individuals with minds of our own and different sets of experiences that shape our outlooks. And all of these communities are large enough where you can find nearly every opinion under the sun in them. So please, whether it’s in politics, movies, comics or elsewhere, don’t ever assume that a couple of people from one group expressing an opinion represents the entire group.
Over the last week or so, we’ve seen two positive affirmations of the greater queer community at two of the biggest comic franchises. Over at Archie Comics, Jughead is officially asexual. Down at Marvel, the pansexual Deadpool crushed box office records for an R rated movie at the box office. Will these queer portrayals in comic culture start a push for better and more complex looks into the sexualities of the characters we read and watch, or are we in for more of the same?
Let’s start with Archie. For years, Archie Comics has been slowly reinventing itself. With the help of creators like Dan Parent, the openly gay Kevin Keller has been a breakout student down in Riverdale. Following some years later, Chip Zdarsky has Jughead officially come out as asexual. I think it was an interesting choice having Kevin Keller be the one to use the word asexual in conversation with Jughead, rather than Jughead use the word himself, as a way of seeming to carry the tradition on from one character on the queer spectrum to another. And the way the conversation went did so without taking away from Jughead’s agency, unlike Marvel’s poor handling of Iceman being outed in All-New X-Men nearly a year ago.
I applaud Archie Comics and Chip Zdarksy for expanding its representation to this sexual orientation minority. Asexuality is something that both inside and outside the queer community has been argued over and is often misunderstood. Asexuality manifests in different ways for different people. For Jughead, he also identifies himself as aromantic, which is perfectly fine. Not all asexuals are aromantic. Asexuals don’t necessarily have an entirely non-existent sex drive. They may just have a low sex drive. They may end up in a monogamous relationship with an opposite sex or same sex partner where they may engage in sexual activity. That doesn’t mean they aren’t asexual. Just like when a bisexual person is in a monogamous relationship, that doesn’t suddenly mean they aren’t attracted to the opposite gender of their partner. And no, it is never, ever, ever your job to try to help them see that sex is great and they’re missing out. Ever. Never ever. Please always remember that.
This isn’t something I immediately knew and understood at a young age. It took time. I remember as a teenager on the internet in the late 90s to early 2000s checking out sites like the now defunct xy.com and chatting with a few men who identified as asexual. At the time, I thought if they weren’t sexually attracted to the same sex they wouldn’t be here, and that they were repressed and looking for someone to help them come to terms with their sexuality. That was wrong of me and I understand that now.
Some of the arguments and tension towards the asexual segment of the queer community comes not only from some of the misunderstandings, but it also comes from asexual treatment in our society and laws versus treatment of people in the LGBT community. The asexual community hasn’t necessarily in the minds of other people been affected the same way by our laws. That’s not entirely true in that an asexual who is not also aromantic could have potentially been denied the ability to marry who they wanted until recently, as well as being affected by other homophobic or transphobic laws on the books.
Asexuals also have to deal with societal pressures like most people in the queer community do. I certainly can relate to being in uncomfortable conversations with people that were aggressively heterosexual in nature when I was younger, either not out or not as confident at the time and not being sure how to handle the situation. Not to mention the conversations about how you need to have hetero sex before you can rule it out. Again, please don’t tell people they need to have sex to understand themselves and especially never imply to people that you are the one they should be having sex with in that scenario.
Moving on to Deadpool, I’ve mentioned in at least a few of my previous columns that although Deadpool is being billed as the first pansexual superhero in a major motion picture, that we have to wait and see how that ends up being handled. My fear was that most of Deadpool’s behavior that falls outside of the heteronormative would end up being joke fodder. I was at least partially right.
This isn’t really a spoiler for anything major in the movie, but if you’re avoiding anything regarding details in the Deadpool movie (or want to avoid the kind of vulgar subject matter that conspires in the movie) you may wanna skip the next paragraph.
Now that we got that out of the way, here’s the deal. We do see Deadpool engage in some behavior that’s considered outside the norm. He’s confident in himself, his sexuality, and it doesn’t make him any less of a powerful and threatening character. However, most of the instances when he’s doing something outside the heteronormative, it’s a joke. When he’s with his girlfriend they have a montage of different holidays they have sex on. For International Women’s Day, she ends up pegging him. It’s played for laughs. Other instances including kissing a pizza delivery boy on the cheek after threatening him, and complimenting his male taxi driver. This doesn’t necessarily help all that much in terms in pansexual representation.
If sexuality outside the norm is played purely for laughs, it’s just a joke and it’s not about being inclusive. That’s not also to say that we shouldn’t have any fun with sex and sexuality either. And I will give Deadpool credit in that it’s good to see more heroes who have less traditional sexualities and can help combat the dated and offensive notion that queer people are somehow weaker and can’t be taken seriously. More and more characters in nerd culture like Doctor Who’s Captain Jack Harkness have been coming out and combating this for years now, but stereotypes are damaging and linger.
Between Jughead and Deadpool in this last week, I feel that it was one of the best weeks for greater queer representation in comics and comic culture. Sexuality is not black and white, and I think these characters and the stories being told with them in comic culture are helping to show that sexuality is complicated, fluid, and can’t truly be encompassed by a single word.
Oh, and it can be profitable at the box office too.
Uncanny X-Men #600 has come and gone, leaving us with a newly out present day Iceman, joining his time travelled past version in being out. I already wrote up my feelings on this here last month. Since then, we’ve seen three issues of Extraordinary X-Men featuring the present day Iceman, and one issue of All New X-Men featuring the past Iceman. If you haven’t read them yet, you may be thinking that surely in at least one of those four issues that have come out that at least one mention of Iceman’s sexuality would have come up.
SPOILER ALERT: It hasn’t. Not even once.
I was hoping we’d see something right away. Even if it was a quick scene. As I was reading the first issue of Extraordinary X-Men, I’m picturing Iceman coming into Storm’s office to talk to her about it, which seems the most logical choice to me. Or seeing Iceman trying out a gay bar or club for the first time. Even just makes a throwaway comment about how he just started using one of those dating/hook up apps and how that’s going for him.
None of that happens.
I figure that Extraordinary X-Men is a number one issue so they wanted to set the status quo for the book which would naturally include Iceman’s newly revealed sexuality. Apparently that wasn’t important, despite the fact that according to the powers that be at Marvel the Iceman decision was about a year in the making. And with all the press Iceman coming out received, you’d think that Marvel would have more of an interest in furthering Iceman’s story in the new X titles.
Okay, so if it wasn’t in the first issue of Extraordinary X-Men, surely it would be brought up in issue two. It wasn’t. I was growing increasingly displeased. As I finished the third issue it became harder and harder to not feel that Marvel used Iceman coming out as a cynical marketing gimmick with no intentions of an immediate follow through.
One hope still remained; All New X-Men. I was trying to make excuses for Marvel in my head. Maybe Jeff Lemire, writer of Extraordinary X-Men, didn’t want to tackle this in his story and Dennis Hopeless, the new writer of All New X-Men, would.
Maybe they felt that the present Iceman having just recently come out would still be taking it slow. Perhaps it’s going to take a while for him to talk with his teammates about it. Past Iceman made it very clear in his conversation with his present self that he was going to live his life openly gay as well as openly mutant. It was written to be a touching moment. Present Iceman even cried an ice tear over it.
So what happened in All New X-Men #1, which has past Iceman as a key team member? Past Iceman just went about his day. Nothing in reference to his sexuality at all. He even had a page where he was making ice statues for people where they easily could have worked in a quick nod at him being openly gay now. They didn’t.
What was the point of retconning Iceman in both the past and present to being gay if we’re not even going to address it outside of a few pages in two X books? Was it for sales? Was it just to get money from guys like me that are starved for LGBTQ representation? Was it to be acknowledged for having more diversity in their comics without actually being more diverse?
Unfortunately, it looks like the answer is currently yes, and I’m very disappointed by this. Instead of delving into Iceman’s newly discovered sexuality in Extraordinary X-Men, they’re delving into the awkwardness of two former lovers, Jean Grey and Wolverine. Finding different versions of the other still alive, one of which is now much younger and the other significantly older, they need to decide if they’re going to join together and help the X-Men. I don’t know if they intended for this to be as creepy as it reads, but man is it creepy for me to read.
I may also be taking this hard because Jeff Lemire is one of my favorite writers in comics right now. Please go out and pick up Descender if you haven’t yet. It’s great. Also Plutona. Or if you didn’t get around to Sweet Tooth when that was coming out, pick up the trades.
Want a book that is absolutely killing it in terms of how to write a gay superhero right in every possible way? Read Steve Orlando on Midnighter. Issue seven came out last week, and every single one of his issues have addressed Midnighter as being gay in some way or another while not distracting from the main plot of Midnighter needing to kick ass and take names. If you aren’t already reading Midnighter, please pick it up. This book deserves the support of every single reader that wants to see an LGBTQ character in a comic done right.
I’ve only been writing this column for a month now, and if you’ve been reading you might have guessed that the next opportunity I’d have I’d write about Iceman coming out in Uncanny X-Men #600. Well, congratulations! You were right. I’ll try to be less predictable in the future, but I make no promises.
As you may have heard, last week the present day Iceman came out to his past self, thus confirming that Iceman is gay in both past and present. This move has gotten a great deal of praise, with many highlighting that this now makes him the highest profile gay superhero in comics. Though I’m a big fan of the X-Men in addition to being gay, I honestly did not care much for how Iceman coming out was handled.
Now, before anyone reading this starts either rolling their eyes thinking I’m gearing up for a rant on how Brian Bendis and Axel Alonso must be homophobes or don’t understand diversity for not handling this how I would have liked, or are gearing up to rally with me on that point, I’m going to stop you there. Bendis himself is Jewish, and two of his three daughters are adopted, one African-American and the other Ethiopian. He co-created Miles Morales, the half African-American, half Hispanic Spider-Man that has since become a major hit at Marvel. Axel Alonso himself was editor on Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Force/X-Statix run that introduced three queer X characters. The issue I have here is not personal and I acknowledge that they have made great decisions regarding diversity in the past. It’s about the handling of Iceman’s coming out and how that affects LGBTQ representation at Marvel. Now let’s get into it.
First off, Jean Grey is here for seemingly little reason as past Iceman has his talk with present Iceman. She was my and many other people’s point of contention when this was first brought up in All New X-Men #40, when she outed him. Some people don’t feel that she outed him, but having read it, that’s the conclusion I came to myself. Telling someone what their sexuality is when they’re questioning it can be damaging. I know when I was a teenager and had people in my life telling me I wasn’t gay, that it did hurt me and took time to get over. When Jean did this, it took away from Iceman’s agency. Rather than a coming out story, we got a “Jean told us we’re gay, so we are now,” story, and that’s significantly less compelling. I wish I had the time to go into how troubling the bi-erasure was in this story as well, but I’ll talk about bi-erasure in mainstream comics next week.
Second, starting with the “You’re going to be a mutant and gay. Wow,” line that present Iceman says to past Iceman, and going into how he put all of his effort into the X-Men over his own happiness, I was just completely taken aback. This made no sense at all.
How can present Iceman talk about putting all his effort into the team when he has never led the X-Men, and he left the team to go to college for a bit, and he had a fairly long relationship with Opal Tanaka that he put his all into, going as far as heading to Japan with Jean Grey (funny, right?) to save her from Cyber Samurai, and he tried to ruin Polaris’ wedding to Havok because he was still into her, and has seen several other X-Men over the years come out around him even as mutant numbers dwindled… and that’s just to name a few things. Not to mention how Cyclops, Storm, Professor X, even Magneto all made time for their own happiness and had a much more important role in the world than Iceman ever did. It would be one thing if this was because present Iceman was being selfish, but he’s making it out like he stayed in the closet because he’s selfless, and that doesn’t quite hold up here.
Building on that point, Iceman being a blonde hair, blue eyed, young, white, attractive, able-bodied, cisgender man with a six-pack complaining about how hard it is to come out was disappointing. Look, everyone has problems and hardships, even young attractive white guys, and I understand and acknowledge that. However, this is a fictional world where Iceman has been on life and death missions, gone through space, time, fought aliens, vampires, deities… and coming out was harder than all of that?
If this was the 80s, I’d totally get that. Even the 90s. It’s 2015, and that coupled with living in such a fantastical world makes this too hard for me to swallow. Not to mention how many of his teammates and fellow mutants are not nearly as privileged as he is. I’d dare even say that Nightcrawler and Beast might have a harder time being straight than Iceman would have being gay.
Finally, on the last page of this scene young Iceman asks present Iceman if he thinks Angel is hot and they agree and have a good time about it. If you’re going to make the next LGBTQ X-Men character a young, attractive, blonde hair, blue eyed, able-bodied, cisgender white man with a six pack, can we at very least have him talk about being attracted to someone who isn’t also all of those things? It just feeds into so many of the negatives in the LGBTQ community that are trying to be addressed. It was a way to wrap up the scene that was clearly intended to be sweet that left me feeling sour.
I’m not trying to be ungrateful about having more representation in mainstream comics. However, we should be holding ourselves to a higher standard and demand more, better, and thoroughly thought out LGBTQ representation.
I do want to end on a positive note. Bendis has updated Iceman in a way that will give future writers something new to explore with the character and I’m thankful to him for that, and despite how I may have come across, I am eager to see what other writers will do with him. Hopefully an LGBTQ creator or an ally like Peter David or Kieron Gillen who handle queer characters respectfully will get to tackle him, and maybe I’ll soon be reading the greatest Iceman story ever told.
I’ve been spending time reading a lot of blogs lately. Reading the comments section on any website is always a dubious and risky venture. People are so willing to put anything out into the Internet without any regard for who might see it. It seems that most people believe there is anonymity in a username.
We are in a very different age of computers. Now, anything said by anyone can be heard around the world instantly. And yes, I know you’ve heard that a million times over. So, why does it seem like people keep forgetting that everything is accessible to everyone?
The police aren’t the only ones who need to be aware of everyone with a smartphone watching them. Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner “joking” about Black Widow in an interview last week; did they really forget once more that this was worldwide? Yes. Yes they did. Just like Marvel forgot that those Iceman pages could be outed before the issue went on sale, or that Disney’s industry-only Avengers toy list wasn’t going to be rehashed on the web.
We are watching the world figure out how to exist in a place where we are all constantly under watch, even if we don’t realize it. These celebrities and companies need to remember that they are being “Big Brothered” all of the time. It’s not fair either. People always want a chance to relax and be themselves.
Us regular people would do well to remember that too. Every time we put a piece of ourselves on the web, there is a chance that it will be seen around the world. I’ve written things quoted in Malaysia (which is a trippy experience) and I’m small fry. Others have been quoted from Twitter on late night TV. And those crappy, derogatory comments on the Internet might just come back to bite you back.
Gone are the days of complaining to your friends about something a celebrity said or what a comic did. Now, we can all complain together worldwide. Complaining comes with a cost now. You can be a target too now. And always remember, the Big Brother Internet is always watching.