It has been a few months since the younger time displaced version of Bobby Drake/ Iceman was outed in the pages of All New X-Men. The resulting controversy is notable not so much for the fact that Iceman is gay (even though there was and is some of that) but the handling of Iceman’s outing. I wrote about this issue briefly in my last post, but I’ve decided to expand on some points. The important thing, though, is that I still have problems with how Iceman’s outing was handled.
There are two main problems at the moment regarding Bobby Drake’s outing (besides Jean Grey’s involvement): One, the lack of a parallel narrative regarding the elder Iceman. Two, the abruptness of the younger Iceman’s outing.
It is important to remember that LGBT people come out at every age. (Having come out at seventeen, it is something I myself often forget. See my issue with Mark Matthews’s coming out in Coming Out on Top for an example). Iceman comes from (if my memory is right) a very conservative background. It would not be surprising that he would be closeted and in denial for a significant part of his life. This is equally true of many other gay and lesbian superheroes and supervillains who have come out like Obsidian and Rictor.
Personally, I feel that the elder Iceman should start the realization process (if not the coming out process) concurrently to the younger Iceman’s journey. Yes, the elder “straight” character confronted by his “younger” gay self is an interesting story. But it is also fraught with narrative danger. Especially given the general abruptness of the storyline.
Again, Iceman’s outing should either have been foreshadowed or explored in more depth as a subplot. This is one of the biggest frustrations when it comes to LGBT characters in comics. Creators who genuinely want to diversify their casts tend to out with little buildup or fall out. Characters come out. They don’t start the realization process or build the courage to accept themselves and come out. LGBT characters also rarely get to be explored after acceptance when the weight of the closet has been lifted.
The abruptness of declaring or outing a character as gay with little buildup or fall out leads, I think, to a general trend of pushing LGBT characters to the background. Has Bendis done anything interesting with Benjamin Deeds yet? Has Anole been featured more besides a recent oneshot? Has Striker appeared recently? (I could also ask where the hell the Young Avengers are).
Maybe I’m being too harsh here, I can admit that. Perhaps the push to the background has more to do with which characters the creative teams wish to work with. Maybe no one wants to work with those characters? Maybe in the future a creative team will? (Thinking back to my own Teen Titans idea, I would have favored Gear pretty hard. And I would have raged if I had to use Superboy or Bart Allen’s Kid Flash).
Another problem may be the fact that Marvel, favoring team books, has a general problem characterizing all of the cast members in the various titles. Especially given the nature of contemporary comic book writing.
Regardless, it is ultimately the choice of the creative team to decide who they write about. The buck stops with them and the editors.
I just hope Iceman’s story doesn’t fall to the background. Given the events of All New X-Men 41, I don’t hold out much hope.