The Marvel Now initiative was launched with the specific aim of re-launching their entire line bringing fresh ideas and voices to familiar titles.
Part of this was to bring diversity and address the inequality balance in the line. Traditionally the core audience for American main stream comics has been an adolescent white male; however the popularity of Manga and the success of the films over the years have seen a subtle shift in the audience. Comics are no longer the exclusive domain on the geek. Alongside the publicity from the X-Men same-sex marriage and the boycott from Christian Group “one million moms’”, Comics are now increasingly geared towards LGBT readers and Marvel Now has embraced this across the line.
The company has published Young Avengers since 2005. The concept of the team are teenagers picking up the legacy of established characters. Hulking and Wiccan have been front and centre of the team since its inception and gradually introduced as a couple. They have continued to function on the team and forming a core part of the team being portrayed as any other couple in a mainstream comic book. The series received a revamp as part of Marvel Now and a new teammate Prodigy joined the team. He was a character previously part of an X-Men offshoot title.
Since appearing in Young Avengers he has kissed Hulking during a moment where they both thought they were going to die saying that “he has always wanted to do that” and coming out as bisexual in the next issue. This revelation is a big step for a number of reasons. Traditionally any LGBT characters on teams have been in the minority, by the end of the current series almost all of the team had either stated that they were not straight, had experimented or were curious.
FF is a series that follows a replacement team for the Fantastic Four while the traditional team are on a voyage across time and space. The Team are teachers in an academy for students mainly consisting of children inspired by villains. There are a collection of moleoid children, minions of the mole man. In a recent issue one of the children, Tong, revealed to his brothers that he was in fact transgender and wished to be referred to in that way. She now wears a dress over her FF uniform to mark her identity. The only reaction from this was from team leader Antman, when he was told what was happening he remarked “oh, good for her” and returned to his conversation.
As part of the remit for Marvel Now task was to introduce more female led books. She-Hulk, Black Widow and Captain Marvel all feature in their own series and Fearless Defenders charts the rise of established character Valkyrie trying to put together a team of “shield maidens” to defend Asgard.
The start of the series introduced Dr. Annabelle Riggs, an archaeologist from a Viking dig. Annabelle kissed Valkyrie during battle and made it clear that she was attracted to her. As the story unfolded Annabelle died but found herself sharing a body with Valkyrie. The outcome from this is that we have a lesbian character not only as part of a team of women but co-leading them. Before the series ended a new character was introduced as a love interest for Annabelle.
The Spider-Man series has long since been known for its supporting cast as well as its main character. The main series feature Peter Parker working in a think tank of geniuses. His boss Max Modell was featured in a time travel storyline, where his watch was a key part. They took the opportunity of Max showing his watch to Peter and remarking that his partner Hector gave it him as an anniversary present. What I liked about this is that it was so subtle that I missed it the first time round. Hector has since appeared as a solicitor representing Max through the series and into “Superior Spider-Man”.
Marvel is taking great strides at the moment in introducing LGBT characters; the step seems to have been taken to represent sexuality as part of a character and not just a gimmick to boost sales. Other established characters such as Northstar, Karma, Rictor and Shatterstar continue to keep their roles within the X-Men line of books which have long since carried a metaphor about being different and “hated and feared” by society.
However it is noticeable that Marvel does not carry a solo title featuring a gay character. DC comics have “Batwoman” which has been a commercial and critical success. Marvel series to feature LGBT characters have been restricted to limited series for Quasar and the poorly conceived “comedy” Rawhide kid.
I believe that the next step would be for Marvel to introduce a “Northstar” title. Being part of the X-Men universe and the main stream media attention from his weddings mean that he is already known to a large section of fans and recognition from non-comic book readers.
Aside from being the first gay hero, he is a strong, confident, sometimes arrogant-gay man. He is a celebrity within the Marvel universe already thanks to a previous sports career and public image. He is happily married which is somewhat of a departure from both comic book marriages. Of course the storyline needs to be stronger than the fact that he is a gay mutant, perhaps for someone who usually works as part of a team, it may be interesting to focus on him now being solo and the fact that he does not hide behind a mask.
The creative team is key, as with the Carol Danvers’, “Captain Marvel” series, the writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is a talented and brilliant female writer for the flagship female character. They care about the character and have been able to build a strong and loyal fan base within the female audience.
If the gay comic book community were to embrace the series it could certainly build a good solid audience.
And yes, I’m available
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