Tagged: Northstar

Joe Corallo: Comics’ Queer Year?

star wars finn and poe

If you celebrate Christmas, merry belated Christmas. And a happy early New Year.

Now that I got that out of the way, the New Year coming up has me reflecting on this past year. We’ve seen some interesting things diversity wise. We saw at least a couple of firsts in comics, we saw some steps forward as well as some steps backward, and overall we may have ended up not too far from where we started. But I do like to think we did get a little further than we did in 2014.

I don’t want to go over every little thing that happened in detail, as I’ve already covered most of those in my other columns the past few months. So here are just the highlights.

We saw an increase in bi visibility with DC Comics clarifying that Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman are all bisexual. We saw bi erasure with Constantine being portrayed as straight in his NBC series and Marvel’s Hercules being straight in his current iteration.

We’ve seen two different Icemans come out as gay over at Marvel, and Midnighter get his own series at DC as an openly gay superhero. We also saw Northstar and Batwoman fade into the background, and still haven’t heard too much from Rictor and Shatterstar, or Hulkling and Wiccan. I know Hulkling and Wiccan are in New Avengers, but that only came out toward the end of this year and they don’t have the same of attention they did in Young Avengers and the book has been met with mixed reviews.

We also saw the first trans woman get married in a mainstream comic without actually having a single active trans superhero.

One of the more interesting phenomena towards the end of this year has been fans projecting queer relationships into franchises where they just don’t exist. Yes, Marvel’s Jessica Jones did have a lesbian relationship in it, but it wasn’t with Jessica Jones. Despite that, some fans were projecting that notion on Jessica Jones, as seen in this opinion piece.

The most recent example of this, just making the cut off for this year, has been the outpouring of online hopes and rumors that in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the real love story is with Finn and Poe. Here is just one of the many pieces speculating that they will be lovers. Personally, this frustrates me.

There is absolutely no indication in the movie that this happens. Yes, they hug each other. They’re polite to each other. Hell, they even care about each other. None of that indicates a desire to have a sexual relationship.

Finn also makes it very clear he’s interested in Rey. He’s not only being protective of her from moments after he meets her, he lies to make himself sound more impressive to her, and he flat out asks her if she has a boyfriend. How does all of that somehow invalidate his clear interest in her? Yes, Finn could be bisexual. However, he doesn’t express any interest in anyone outside of Rey, including Poe.

It makes me wonder if some of the same people that watched this also watched Star Wars: A New Hope. Luke and Han have their disagreements, but they also compliment each other, hug, and clearly care about each more through the movie. Han even saves Luke’s life at the end of the A New Hope. How’s that for romance?

Yes, I know that the Han and Leia relationship wasn’t really fleshed out until The Empire Strikes Back. I get that. However, they did lay the groundwork in A New Hope. They lay it on you really think. Han even speculates about it with Luke. And I almost forgot the part where Han asks Luke to run away with him on the Millennium Falcon right before the Death Star trench run. When you think about it that way, nothing in The Force Awakens between Finn and Poe even comes close to the romantic implications between Han and Luke, huh?

All of this is indicative of at least two larger problems. The first of which I mentioned before when discussing Jessica Jones. Many people are absolutely starved for LGBTQ representation. Gay, straight, and everyone in between are looking for it. People are so starved for it, they’re inventing elaborate, implausible theories just to reach the level of representation they feel we should have. Sure, we can point to slash fiction as the start, or one of the starts, of the contemporary push for this. However, slash fiction was never the topic of discussion in the same way as the examples I’ve just mentioned.

The second part of this larger problem is the culture that’s been cultivated. Up until very recently, queer characters have had to be hidden in pop culture. Nothing too overt. The comics code authority didn’t even allow openly queer characters until the very end of the 80s. Characters like Mystique and Northstar could only have hints at their sexualities. Never anything open. Between rules and regulations like that, and TV and movies in many ways taking even longer to catch up, that we cultivated a culture that overanalyzes characters and their actions to unveil hidden queerness. Even though we no longer need to hide queerness to get stories out there, people still look long and hard to find any semblance of it around a story because we’ve been trained to and many of us are starved for it.

And even though we’re starved for it, publishers, networks, and movie studios are more often than not dragging their feet to put queerness out there. Don’t get me wrong, we’re way better off than we were even ten years ago. That said, the powers that be are still reluctant to change things too drastically. You would think Star Wars would be a natural place to explore queerness. Why would all of these different races and cultures that have never even met us mimic our heteronormative customs? Why would they have marriage? Why wouldn’t they have something else?

Science fiction has had this problem for a very long time. Star Wars didn’t cause this, but it could help end this if it wanted to. Though I think that many people are reading too deeply into Finn and Poe’s relationship, it does give me hope for the future of queer representation. My new hope is that all this clamoring for queer representation in a franchise like Star Wars will help move us all in that direction, and that our lack of queer diversity in comics and science fiction will soon be a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.


Joe Corallo: Batgirl and that Wedding

Batgirl 45

As many of you may know, last week was the release of Batgirl #45, the issue in which Barbara’s former roommate/good friend Alysia Yeoh gets married to her lover, Jo. The resulting wedding was the first time in mainstream comics that a transgender woman got married. Googling this will lead you to a slew of articles and blog posts covering the groundbreaking nature of this issue. How important is this event though, and will this have any impact on mainstream comics? I picked up a copy so I could try to figure that out.

Like many a comic book wedding before it, it’s a filler issue. It’s about Batgirl at this wedding. This is an important point. It’s about Batgirl. It’s not primarily about Alysia and Jo. They’re the B plot of the issue. With the way the wedding has been hyped this past week, the cover for this issue, and thinking back not too long ago to Northstar’s wedding in Astonishing X-Men #51, it’d be easy to see how one might think that Alysia and Jo would be in the A plot. So if you haven’t read it yet and that’s what you were anticipating, I hope I helped you to avoid going into it with that mindset.

The fact that they weren’t the A plot shouldn’t be a bad thing. Yes, it would be great for diversity in comics if they were. However, the book is still about Batgirl, and not Alysia. Batgirl #45 is a twenty-page story. Six of those pages feature Alysia, and she has six word balloons throughout the comic. Her partner, Jo, is featured on three of those pages and has one line of dialogue, which is “And I love you.” Batgirl has ten times the dialogue that Alysia has, and the story is mostly about Batgirl and her relationships with Luke Fox and Grayson with the wedding as a backdrop.

None of that takes away from the fact that Alysia Yeoh is a long overdue representation in comics, and that she had an important moment in her life that Barbara got to be a part of. Current trans representation in mainstream comics is nearly nonexistent outside of Alysia. We do need trans representation outside of the heroes themselves as part of having a world more reflective of our own, and Alysia has been a step towards that. It’s not ideal, but this is where we are.

I encourage everyone who wants to see more and better representation to pick up this book if they haven’t yet at their LCS. If it’s sold out, ask them about ordering more. If we can show that trans representation can help sell comics, we will get more of it. That’s just how it works.

At the end of the day, both DC and Marvel, and nearly every other comics publisher for that matter, is a business first and foremost. They may be willing to occasionally take a risk, but when all is said and done they need books that sell. We could have a discussion about how we don’t necessarily know some of the sales potential more trans representation could have over time, and how maybe expanding that quicker could lead to great things for the publishers and the readers, but if we don’t buy and support the offerings they’re already trying to give us, than they’ll just stop where they are and potentially take years to try again.

This does not mean you can’t also demand more and demand better. Social media alone isn’t going to necessarily bring about the kind of characters and story lines you want, but it does have power. Earlier in this Batgirl run, as I mentioned last week, the same team that worked on the first trans wedding in comics wrote an issue with a story and dialogue that was considered transphobic. It was public outcry through social media that got us an apology and changes in the reprints of that issue.

People and companies can learn and adapt to changing demands from their customers. By both buying comics with queer characters like Batgirl and Midnighter, and speaking up through social media and other outlets available about these issues and what can be improved upon, we can assure a bright future for mainstream queer comics.