Comics, LGBTQ, News, Sexuality

Mighty Marvel Monday: More Queer For Your Buck.

Welcome back to another Mighty Marvel Monday! I know I wrote about queer issues last week, but look! There’s more! So I need to write about them again.

Let’s start with the good, because there is actually some good queer news coming out of Marvel this week. No, I don’t mean Bobby, and I’ll get to that in a second.

I don’t have a lot of feelings about Deadpool if I can help it, but I have weighed in on the importance of a queer Deadpool and so has our fearless EIC, and I think we were both surprised to read this interview with Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller basically throwing rocks at Marvel from the Fox-side of the MCU and insisting Deadpool is pansexual.

Can you talk about the tantalizing fireside photo that you guys put out. Does this mean it will be a very hypersexualized Deadpool?

Miller: Pansexual! I want that quoted. Pansexual Deadpool.

What I love most about this quote is that the guy was asking about this photo and not actually about Deadpool’s sexuality.

deadpool-first-look-hd

But Miller really wanted to talk about Deadpool as being pansexual, which I am totally cool with.

Why should you care that Fox’s movie Deadpool is pansexual according to the director? Well, for one thing, it creates a different context for the homophobic lines and situations that were criticized in the trailer. Queer coding a villain or antagonist–which Deadpool has been, despite his earlier and current status as ‘hero’–is abhorrent (see this excellent tumblr post about the history of queer coding and its context, and this excellent post on Panels also briefly mentions why queer coding is problematic). See, if Deadpool is actually queer, that’s a horse of a different color, and can be viewed as a queer reclamation of queer coding.

It’s also important, because so far Marvel has had zero queer characters on the big screen. There’s a new gay guy on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season, and I also just recently wrote about Carrie-Anne Moss’s character on Jessica Jones, but that’s television, technically. When it comes to the MCU proper: two phases, 12 movies, zero queer characters, even inconsequential ones.

A queer title character for Marvel, even when it’s not it’s not actually under the MCU, is a huge thing for Marvel in terms of queer representation, because as I just mentioned, they’re not doing so great in the MCU, on the big or small screen. They’re not doing so great on the comics side either. They’re doing so not-great that even when they have a queer title character they say that they’re not queer while at the same time declaring other previously queer characters straight and previously straight characters queer.

That brings us to Bobby.

Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman is Marvel’s newest queer character. Again.

Previous to this arc, Bobby was written as straight, making his second coming out a kind of retcon, and wibbly wobbly, timey whimey, since it was a younger Bobby and not the adult Bobby who was invasively outed by Jean Grey. For awhile, it was speculated that Adult!Bobby would remain straight while Baby!Bobby was gay, which would have been weird, so at least they are creating continuity with that.

06iceman-web-superJumbo

But the thing is…I’m still unclear about why Marvel is focusing on Bobby to begin with, and especially in this way. Yes, there are still people who are closeted today, who go their whole lives closeted for reasons that nobody has the right to judge. If Marvel was trying to create a closeted superhero in order to normalize being closeted, why on earth would you have Jean Grey confront and out Bobby in such a disrespectful way? This was ham-fisted work.

It also takes the already bad situation with Marvel’s non-declaration of Angela’s sexuality in Angela of Hel, which I wrote about last week, and makes it worse, because there’s now two examples in as many months of male superheroes having their sexuality clearly labeled and delineated while Angela’s sexuality as a queer woman is nebulous and unconfirmed using a bullshit “we leave that up to the readers” justification. Read: “you, straight dude, can still totally fantasize about this female character even though she’s totally romantically involved with another chick. That only makes her hotter, amirite?”

This is not a good double-standard to have. Ever.

Last week I read this article, which also brings up some really good points re: Marvel’s handling of Angela that I would like to re-emphasize (and has a link to another great article about Bobby’s forced coming out by Jean Grey in terms of bisexual erasure), and the idea that fans do not need creator approval in order to headcanon characters as whatever sexuality they want in their fanworks is something I wholeheartedly support as a fangirl.

But I also want Marvel to be better.

So, how can I call myself a Marvel fan when I’m criticizing what they do? Why do I say critical things about Marvel if I want them to send me press releases and review copies, neither of which they do right now? Why don’t I just walk away from Marvel until they do better? I want to add that I don’t blame people from walking away from Marvel at all. It’s one of the smartest things you can do as a fan and considering the number of really good comics out there, a fiscally responsible one, because who can afford to buy comics they don’t wholeheartedly support?

But walking away from something I love is hard for me. It takes a lot. I still watch Supernatural, even if I don’t watch it with the same enthusiasm and love that I did in 2008. There are different types of fans out there, and I am the type of fan who is endlessly optimistic that the media I love can be better, even if I accept that there are sometimes larger forces preventing that media from being as good as its creators wanted it to be.

But that’s not the issue with Marvel. There is no sinister parent company looming and preparing to kill anything that’s remotely progressive. Marvel clearly wants to be progressive, but they’re doing it badly right now. They’re not being Marvel.

One of the reasons I became a Marvel fan back in 2005 when I had previously only read DC was because Marvel had characters I related to more than the characters at DC. While DC was doing Crisis of Infinite Earths and killing off my favorite characters, Marvel was introducing the first queer teenage superheroes in Allan Heinberg’s Young Avengers and a plus sized superhero in Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways.

After Crisis of Infinite Earths, DC Nu52 which erased even more of my favorite characters from existence, several of which have yet to return to the main continuity, although they made brief appearances in the Convergence event, which basically undid Crisis of Infinite Earths, if I’m understanding my event continuity right.

And this is exactly what Marvel is doing now: “streamlining” their universes and condensing the universes into one, and then rebooting with brand new series #1s, erasing queer characters in the process. Yes, Bobby, one of the founding members of the X-Men is now gay. But why was it handled so poorly? Why is Marvel treating men and women differently when it comes to statements about their sexualities? Where are all the other queer characters who have gone missing? Where are the queer characters in the MCU?

I want to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt. But there’s a part of me that wonders if maybe they’re anti-marketing to a certain subset of fandom that they find unacceptable for the Marvel brand. I can only hope I’m very wrong.

ICYMI

Mark Ruffalo is becoming my favorite Marvel “Dad” on social media. In between the environmental activism and obligatory press junket posts are some adorable gems, like these two from the past week or so:

Awww.

  1. Desiree Rodriguez

    November 9, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    I suppose it *could* be argued that Justin Hammer is MCU’s one queer character in the films, but he is like THE definition of villainous queer coding/queer stereotype that’s just gross so.

    1. Kate Tanski

      November 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      Yeah, I totally don’t count him for that reason. <3

      1. Desiree Rodriguez

        November 9, 2015 at 11:01 pm

        Yeah like I don’t want to give Marvel/Disney a pass on that, cause it was awful and gross. The whole “prison gay” thing is just terrible on so many levels, and since Justin Hammer was already evilly queer coded (especially next to oh-so-nerd-manly Tony Stark) just makes it worse. Then there’s the non-con kiss between Peggy and Dotty on Agent Carter, the fact AoS killed two canon lesbian characters (Izzy and Victoria Hand) without even acknowledging them being lesbians OR their relationship (because, I quote, they “didn’t want to be known as the show that killed two lesbians”) and then dropped the queer subextual moment of Fitz thinking Mack was hot. Sigh, Marvel just has such a bad track record in both their movies and TV shows it’s really frustrating. So I hope Deadpool is openly pansexual in the movie like the director seems to be pushing for.

        1. Kate Tanski

          November 9, 2015 at 11:21 pm

          All of these instances are important because I think it also highlights how queer coding, queer acts (including things like non-romantic kissing in the example of Peggy & Dotty, queer subtext (even things like Fitz thinking Mack is attractive), and queerness-after-the-fact a la J.K. Rowling and Dumbledore are often used by people either as support for reasons why X is progressive or why X is horrible, depending on your personal beliefs. I am of the belief that queer coding, queer acts, and queer subtext do not queer characters make–but they also don’t necessarily negate the queerness of a character, and I appreciate the space and potentiality that pushes against heteronormative assumptions. Queer characters are like Schrödinger’s cat in media sometimes, which is frustrating, but I’m also old enough to remember that this is progress compared to what we used to get, so I’ll take it. Also, I didn’t say this in the article, because the article was critical enough and we don’t know either way yet, but if Deadpool is NOT pansexual like Miller claims, it could be very very bad :\

  2. Ginnis Tonik

    November 10, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Love this column so much, it’s pop culture academic nerdiness in the best way!

    1. Kate Tanski

      November 10, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      You are the sweetest <3

  3. Marta

    November 10, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    LOVE!!! I too feel frustration at times with Marvel because I want them to clobber everybody else. I love the characters and their full stories. And that love is what keeps me in it. I think those of us with that kind of love have to keep holding Marvel’s feet to the fire to keep them honest. They are still leaps and bounds ahead of most of the pack after all and I know that’s largely due to their fan base telling them that they want Marvel to give them characters that are relatable and reflective of our time. I’m far more optimistic than discouraged over all.

    But they will piss me off if they play around with Black Panther cause that storyline is precious to me.

    1. Kate Tanski

      November 10, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      I do consider it my responsibility as a fan to tell Marvel when they need to be better. And they used to be the more progressive of the Big Two, which I think is why Marvel fans (like me) are so upset to see this weird backsliding. And IDK what they’re going to do with the movie, but I am so excited for the new Black Panther written by Ta-Nehisi Coates next year!!

  4. DMaster

    November 15, 2015 at 11:53 am

    I will never understand why this is so hard. Never. Even with the bizarre number of bigots left standing in the U.S., even with the bigoted broadcast standards in a number of countries that the U.S. exports to and therefore queerness needs to be handled deftly (read: erased) to accommodate for, even with centuries of stupidity setting a precedent, I just. do not. GET. why it is so hard to not be a dick. I just don’t get it.

    Gods I hate the Iceman thing. What anyone was thinking there, with outing him of all people, with the way it was done, how out of nowhere it was at that point in the series…I am not fond of Bendis.

    I’m with you on the Angela thing. Even if she is officially a lesbian or demisexual, since when does that kind of thing stop anyone from fantasizing about a character? Even from a douchebro standpoint it makes no sense to be this way.

    Good article…but factual error on event comics. The DC multiverse crash of the 00’s was Infinite Crisis, not Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was in 1986.

    1. Kate Tanski

      November 15, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      Oh my gosh you’re right. Dammit, DC, and your multitude of crises! Thanks for your other comments too. I want to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt re: Bobby, because an older character who has been closeted his whole life coming out is an important story to be represented and absolutely relevant–it was just handled so, so badly because of the forced outing by Jean and the bisexual erasure. But I do agree with you that since people can fantasize about whoever they want, regardless of the sexuality of the character–and, I would argue, regardless of their own sexuality–these kind of mandates make zero sense for anyone, so the “OMG think of the straights!” defense doesn’t work. 😉

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