Comics, Critique, LGBTQ, Masculinity, Opinion

Sorry Marvel, Hercules Is Bi in Every Universe

Marvel chief Axel Alonso has spoken: Hercules is not bisexual in Marvel’s 616 universe. That time Hercules and Wolverine were in love? Alternate dimension. A uniquely queer dimension where hypermasculine hardbodies could be queer and in a loving, long term relationship.

HERCULES IS STRAIGHT, he shouted from the rooftop of Marvel’s New York office. Our Hercules didn’t abandon Jason and the Argonauts because his boyfriend Hylas died. He just wanted to go to the beach. And Iolaus? Yeah, he loved the guy — but no homo — they were just friends.

HERCULES IS STRAIGHT, he said with a sneer. In our uniquely straight 616 universe, he only pines for women, not Northstar, or Logan, or other male Canadian hotties. I mean, obviously. Don’t be ridiculous. Also, please stop asking about Deadpool. He’s not BI bi — just experimenting.

So Marvel’s Hercules is straight. Well, fine. (She said angrily.) I’m sure many a straight reader is relieved to have reclaimed this good time bro, this goofy bit player from the Bisexual Agenda. Straight Hercules, after all, was the default characterization of Marvel’s interpretation of the classical Greek hero for decades. Years more of Straight Hercules would have gone down without sugar, had Marvel not dangled positive bisexual representation in front of us and then snatched it away like a cruel prank. Had Axel Alonso not felt the need to reassure straight male readers that — no homo guys — there will be no homo in the new Hercules ongoing.

A statement had to be made: HERCULES IS STRAIGHT. Don’t get your hopes up, queer fans. Let no expectations be raised — this one is ours.

But yet, Hercules is ours, Marvel. You and Disney and Kevin Sorbo and starched-up men possessed of the most fragile sense of masculinity, took him from us.

[pullquote]It’s a wonderful thing, being able to look into the past and find yourself represented in ancient tales, and the Western heroic tradition, so often trawled for comic book inspiration, is full of queer and non-binary people, fictional and real.[/pullquote] It’s a wonderful thing, being able to look into the past and find yourself represented in ancient tales, and the Western heroic tradition, so often trawled for comic book inspiration, is full of queer and non-binary people, fictional and real. But you wouldn’t know that, for all the blinding straightness (and for that matter, whiteness) that gets passed down to us through children’s tales, so concerned with modeling a WASPy, straight masculinity.

Classical Hercules, patron god of both virility and young children, strength and hard-earned wisdom, lover of women and men, was an enduring and popular figure. So too has he been a popular subject of modern adaptation, but so often straightwashed: a one-note strong man with family problems and a love of wrestling wild animals.

In Hercules the Legendary Journeys his relationship with Iolaus is strictly platonic. Too racy for the Sunday afternoon crowd, I guess, though Xena and Gabrielle eventually got their kiss.

In Jason and the Argonauts, his lover Hylas still dies and Hercules is still overcome by grief, but there is no homo in this 1953 film, just brotherhood.

In 2014’s Hercules, with Dwayne Johnson, we had a rare non-white Hercules, but still straight, still serially monogamous.

In 2013, Marvel Comics garnered some good press for revealing that firstly, Hercules was bisexual (Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1) and had been with Northstar, and that secondly, in at least one universe, he was in a long term relationship with Wolverine (X-Treme X-Men).

hercules memorial

Do you know how delightful this was? Marvel’s Hercules is a particularly fun and accessible interpretation of the character: adventurer, philanderer, lover, and friend. Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s The Incredible Hercules (2008-2010), followed by Hercules: Fall of An Avenger and Prince of Power, brought him in from the cold, back into mainline Marvel stories. The series was funny and sweet and action-packed, its Hercules is friend and mentor, trusted comrade and sweetheart, and oh, bisexual. YES.

wovlerine and hercules kiss, x-treme x-men, 2014, rick remender

But two years later, in 2015, Marvel’s Hercules is once again straight. Maybe a bi Hercules would be a harder sell in one of Marvel Studios increasingly paint-by-numbers big screen adaptations. Maybe bi Hercules, like Black Widow, just “wouldn’t sell” in toy form. I can’t quite parse logic of this big announcement; only corporate defensiveness comes through clearly.

As, Marvel and DC, and increasingly Image, compete for “diversity dollars” with their rainbow avatars, hip hop covers, and heavily publicized new LGBTQ and PoC characters, we are blessed with a comics landscape that’s more diverse than ever before — on the surface. The comics industry is still run by the same spandex boys club whose sincerity I can’t help but question. Well, how long will Sam Wilson last as Captain America? How long was Batwoman able to keep up an engagement to her girlfriend before it was overturned by editorial fiat? How many LGBTQ power players are there in comics publishing and distribution? Will Marvel ever hire a black woman for a creative role? I mean, damn. How can I believe in the goodwill of these companies when every good thing eked out from their agenda can be snatched back on a whim? These decisions speak of convenience, not committment.

“You had your time with bi Hercules. Now we want him back.”

Hercules is straight? Hell no he’s not, Marvel, not in your universe or any others.

hercules, prince of power, greg park and fred van lente

  1. Lucia

    August 3, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    *sigh*

    Well, that’s it for me. Enjoy your echo chamber.

    1. Megan Purdy

      August 4, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Thanks, I will.

    2. Claire Napier

      August 4, 2015 at 10:39 am

      Luuucia
      (cia)
      (cia)
      (cia)

      LUUUUUCIA
      (LUCIA!)
      (CIA!)
      (CIAaaaa)

  2. MagicTouch

    August 3, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    One moment they’re doing it right, the next they’re screwing it up. I learned not to get my hopes up.
    And it was funny how they talk about diversity yet its clear they’ll never include any LGBT in their movies.

    1. G-SANtos

      August 5, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      I wonder if they are doing this so they can sell in China, which apparently bans any thing that depicts LGBTQ.

  3. Dante

    August 4, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Hercules was Roman, Heracles was Greek. There were some tales of Hercules that were distinctly Roman.

    1. Megan Purdy

      August 4, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Yes, I know.

  4. RazzleMonkey

    August 4, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    “…the need to reassure straight male readers”

    “…starched-up men possessed of the most fragile sense of masculinity”

    The way people often refer to bigoted behavior as a province of “dudes” you’d think that men were the only homophobes around. Yet unfortunately, there are a great many bigoted ladies out there too.

    Give women the credit they deserve. They can be just as awful as men.

    And yes, Marvel is stupid for this.

    1. Micah

      August 22, 2015 at 3:54 am

      Yes but that wasn’t really the point of this article?
      It’s an entirely meaningless, impertinent statement to jab “women can be awful too” but unless I missed something, women weren’t the ones committing erasure here.

      And let’s not forget that the comic industry and fandoms are male dominated and catered. Yes women are entirely capable of homophobia and erasure, but no, which gender is more capable of bigotry wasn’t the point here. It’s not implicit that criticizing men for maintaining their heteronormative spaces erases women as potential culprits unless you’re derailing and pretentious.

  5. DMaster

    August 4, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Would it REALLY have been so hard to just leave it up in the air, if you didn’t want that pushed right now? I’m no fan of queerbaiting, but it’s still better than this.

    Axel Alonso? Go to Tartarus, you turd. Spend some time with him, Kevin Feige; you’re not much better.

  6. Rene Jackson

    August 28, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Great article. I have one major point of disagreement, though: I agree that X-Treme X-Men Herc’s unabashed appreciation of Governor-General Howelett’s charms was delightful. The 616 “reveal”, however, was skittish, tittering, juvenile horseshit, wherein Herc’s bisexuality was never more than a joke and Northstar’s queerness was the punchline (again!). I can despise Marvel for being spineless enough to walk back the possibility of Herc being LGBT (and then follow it up with that insulting “read the book; maybe the new writer will throw you a bone” sales pitch!), but Pak and Van Lente’s hinting around had so much deniability built into it that I can’t even be very upset about Herc being made officially straight because I never felt the writing/editorial team deserved much credit for their portrayal of him as LGBT to start with.

  7. Mernt

    May 28, 2016 at 12:10 am

    It reminds me of bodybuilding which is also homosexual in origin since it was homosexual Greek men who invented it, but straightwashing also affected bodybuilding which today is totally promoted as a heterosexual activity.

    Heterosexual people have stolen a lot of the oldest forms of gay culture.

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