X-men the gay metaphor.

This month sees the release of “The Wolverine”. Marking the 6th time that Hugh Jackman has portrayed the character on screen. His portrayal of the physically unbreakable muscle bear obviously has attracted a huge gay fan base, but this is not uncommon for the characters from Marvel’s Mighty Mutants.

The X-men series actually debuted back in 1963, unlike other heroes at the time who were human and gained their powers through radiation, the X-Men were a different species that carried the “X” gene that granted their powers. They were born that way baby.

The series initially focused on five straight white American teenagers who attended the “Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters”. The team would operate in costume to conceal their real identities, in day to day life they would take lengths to conceal their unique abilities for fear of being outed as mutants. Most of their parents were even unaware of the true purpose of the Xavier School, thinking it was just a finishing school. It was a series about diversity and tolerances as long as you were willing to look and act like a “regular” person.

All of this changed in 1975 with Giant Size x-men #1. The team became an international collection of Mutants. Wolverine, a yellow-cla Canadian secret agent was introduced to the team, alongside a Nightcrawler, a German who had the appearance of a devil, a Russian Strongman, a Native American and Storm, the first black female super hero in main stream comics. The X-Men now truly represented diversity. The team was at odds with itself as much as the rest of the world.

As the Series continued, Nightcrawler refused to mask himself in public and appear human. He was proud of whom and what he was and was no longer prepared to hide anymore. In the classic “Days Of Future Past” the X-Men tried to prevent a dystopian future from coming to pass. Evil robots had taken over the world and enslaved humanity. The surviving members of the team lived in a concentration camp. They were forced to wear uniforms that had the letter “M” emblazoned on them, drawing parallels with the pink triangle from Nazi Germany.

Religion was also used to illustrate the point, many Christian hate groups appeared of the classic run of the series, denouncing mutants as the devil’s children and abominations. In “God Loves, Man Kills” the X-Men are targeted by such a group who use the team founder Professor X against them. With the super powered threat defeated, the team march into a hate rally to confront the real enemy, Prejudice.

As the years went on other writers used the metaphor in different ways. In the 90s the legacy virus was introduced. It was a virus that only affected mutants to begin with. At the time it was comparable to HIV/ AIDS. However as the story continued, one of the X-Men allies who had been working on a cure became the first human to be diagnosed. Northstar, a mutant who had debuted in X-Men, also became Marvel’s first open Gay Superhero. He joined the team for a brief stint and later became a fixture.

More recently, the X-Men relocated their base of operations to San Francisco and refused to be closeted or hid away anymore. In stark contrast they courted the media by working directly with the mayor’s office and their own PR firm. Northstar also wed his partner Kyle in 2012, a move that led to online Christian groups calling for a boycott from Toys R US selling X-Men comics.

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The comics industry has changed so much in many ways since the X-Men’s debut 60 years ago. Many other series across the different publishers have portrayed LGBT characters and storylines, but the X-Men will always be important to me. As a teenager I could relate strongly to the characters and the prejudice they face. Rather than become bitter or resentful they used their abilities to fight for a better world and defend those that hate and fear them. It’s a powerful draw to many LGBT teenagers, to see a group of people who stand together, support each other and dream of acceptance. Of course it doesn’t help that Hugh Jackman is buff and easy on the eye but that won’t be the only reason I’ll be watching “The Wolverine”


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About the author: Barry Heap

Back, back back again!

Fatter, more ginger and gayer than ever. Enjoying stints as a burlesque performer and stand up comedian, I bring a well travelled perspective.

I like video games, axifi, budget travel and cheap wine

Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.