I wrote yesterday about the news that DC Comics is preparing to have a major male character in their stable, previously assumed to be straight, come out of the closet. Today the news comes that rival comics giant Marvel, already ahead of DC in the movie business is one-upping DC once again when it comes to depictions of gay characters: Canadian superhero Northstar will propose to his non-superpowered boyfriend in an arc that will lead to the first superhero comics wedding between two men. Archie Comics got there months ago with the wedding of Kevin Keller and his boyfriend (the two met during their military service), but it’s still a big deal to see a superhero, a masculine ideal if there ever was one, marry a man, to show the superhero community standing up and celebrating that couple. Whether you live within the story or experience it from outside, that’s some heavy hitters to have in your corner. And the way Marvel’s talking about the arc is great:
“The story of Northstar and Kyle is universal, and at the core of everything I write: a powerful love between two people who have to fight for it against all odds,” said comic writer Marjorie Liu in a statement. “This is the quintessential Marvel story, one that blends the modern world with the fantasy of superheroes in order to tell an exciting story that begins with a wedding and continues in ways you can’t imagine.”
Although Northstar’s story marks Marvel’s first gay wedding, the X-Men comics are known for tackling civil rights — including gay, lesbian and transgender issues — in their panels. Much has been made of the parallels between the mutant outsiders of the comics and gay youngsters grappling with identity and stigma. Other gay and bisexual Marvel characters include Mystique, Colossus (the Ultimate version), Destiny, Karma and Graymalkin.
“The Marvel Universe has always reflected the world outside your window, so we strive to make sure our characters, relationships and stories are grounded in that reality,” Marvel’s editor in chief, Axel Alonso, said in a statement.
I said this about Jay-Z and I think it’s true here, too. Presenting stories about gay people and gay couples as if they are the status quo, and as if they’re consistent with your stated values, and putting people who disagree in the position of shaking you off that ground is one of the most powerful ways to change the tenor of gay rights debate. And when it comes to narrative, doing more than simply announcing someone’s gay is critical: giving them a full, rich lived experience and insisting that ought to be the norm because it’s good storytelling is one of the best way art can fight for equality and reconfigure the terms of our conversations and assumptions.