On Gay (LGBT) Superheroes

Andrew Garfield, star of the recent Amazing Spider-Man reboot, caused a furor a few weeks ago with his comments regarding the possibility of portraying a gay Peter Parker. The furor is interesting and, honestly, not unique when it comes to comic books. Arguments about LGBT themes and characters in comics are not rare. Nor are arguments about race, gender, and culture.

Comics are in a very precarious position right now. As a business, it needs new readers and fans in order to expand. But at the same time, publishers don’t want to alienate long time fans. (I think this only refers to Marvel, DC, and those smaller publishers that publish corporate owned properties.) A lot of new fans (and old fans) want an increase in the level of diversity in the various heroes and villains that Marvel and DC put out. More women, more people of color, more LGBT, etc.  But there is also a strong contingent that argues against diversity, though they may couch those arguments to mask their true motivations. And what of the politics of those fans who don’t frequent comics websites? While the industry is moving in the right direction, there is a strong conservatism within the industry.

Would I like to see Peter Parker explore his sexuality? Hell yes, I think it would be interesting (and hot) for Spider-Man to be written as bisexual (rather than gay, which raises a whole ‘nother can o’ worms).  Peter Parker is meant to represent the underdog, the poor kid who struggles to make good. So writing him as bisexual, or Latino, or African American, or all three would be very interesting. But how can it be done?

And that, I think is the question I want fans, particularly those in the pro diversity camp (myself included), to think about. In what media do you want this to happen in? Marvel 616? Ultimate Marvel (where this happened with Miguel Martinez)? Cartoons? Cinematic?

Let’s say I succeed Dan Slott as the next writer of Spider-Man (what ever title that may be). And, for argument’s sake, Joe Quesada and my immediate editor approve a story line that explores Spidey’s sexuality. What then? Would the cinematic Spidey be bisexual, too? Is that, perhaps, the end goal? A LGBT cinematic action hero?

Personally, when it comes to increasing diversity in comics, I’m strongly in favor of introducing new characters. Rather than writing or rewriting a character, create new characters.

But there is a problem.  A (potentially) fatal problem.

It takes years for some characters to come to the heights of popularity that Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, etc. have.  I want to see Northstar get elevated. And Wiccan and Hulkling. And Karolina Dean.  I could go on. But those characters will take years (if ever) for them to attain those storied heights.

But it is not impossible. A great miniseries or ongoing staring Northstar might be the first push (or maybe just focusing more on him in whatever team book he appears in).  Though, is that the endgame?

Because Batwoman has achieved that. She has her own ongoing series, often praised as the second best of the Batman family after Snyder’s Batman). But she has, yet, to attain the levels of popularity that Wonder Woman has.

Perhaps the way to go is not to wish Wonder Woman or Spider-Man as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, but rather to promote Batwoman and Northstar into similar positions.

Maybe they won’t get a movie on their own. But maybe with enough attention, they could have supporting roles in their respective franchises? (I’d love to see the Bat family expand in the movies, but the X-Men franchise is a mess- really needs a reboot).

The more I think about this, the more I wonder if the issue may not be comics after all but the adaptations spawned by those comics. Is this really about the comics or the movies?

Because, the more I think about it, a bisexual Spider-Man means that Northstar (or Wiccan and Hulkling) aren’t getting that attention.  And they are the ones who need it.

 

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Posted on July 25, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. The problem with promoting new characters is it’s virtually impossible. People simply don’t want to read about any character created since around 1980. All the most popular characters were created in the ’60s or ’70s. DC seems to have better luck than Marvel when it comes to more recent characters.

    But for Marvel, they’re in a situation where, at this point, the only way they can have a prominent LGBT character is to take a character who’s already prominent and use them to explore LGBT issues. If Spider-Man starts exploring his sexuality, people will still read Spider-Man. But no one’s going to read something with Northstar or Karma, despite them being awesome, criminally underused characters. There’s just no way for them to make people give a damn about Julie Power, because Julie Power wasn’t made in the ’60s, and the only characters that most Marvel fans care about are the ones from the ’60s, along with the All-New All-Different X-Men.

    • You’re absolutely right. As much as I wish it weren’t. One of my issues with superhero comics published by the Big Two.
      The flip side though is that Marvel will (probably) never allow a writer to explore Spider-Man’s sexuality. But it would be fun to speculate on how it could happen!
      So, what can be done to improve the stature of LGBT superheroes? I really don’t know.

      • I guess the only thing that can be done is for writers on top-selling titles – Avengers, Justice League, assorted X-Men titles – to try to bring in gay couples. Hickman could make the new Smasher LGBT, or add Living Lightning to the cast. Sam Humphries in Uncanny X-Force has had Psylocke sorta exploring her sexuality, he could continue that, and Wood could carry that over to adjectiveless X-Men. Jason Aaron will be using Northstar in Amazing X-Men. I’d say Remender could do something in UA, but expecting any sort of diversity from Remender is probably a lost cause at this point – the villains are the only ones he cares to make diverse.

        • I think so, too. Though I wonder how much attention Northstar will get. Anole hasn’t had much in WatX.
          And, of course, there is Kieron Gillen’s Young Avengers.

          • None of the students who would’ve required Aaron read anything have gotten attention in WatXM. Seriously, all the students he’s used in that book required he read about 20 issues combined for research.

            Young Avengers has had fairly low sales. It was never going to be a top-selling book. It’s got a dedicated fanbase, but not a large one. The hope is for the big titles to start using gay characters. Amazing X-Men might be a high seller, given WatXM has done pretty well.

          • Young Avengers breaks my heart. I wanted to really like it, but the writing has been really underwhelming. And I dropped it after issue 2. The artwork is great, though.

          • You only dislike it because you’re wrong. It’s OK, happens to everyone. Except me.

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