Gal Pals: Bigoted Company Marvel Tries to Erase Lesbian Heroes
I could have a career just writing about the times Marvel misunderstood, insulted, offended, or attacked marginalized people. However, even I was shocked seeing this article go up at Marvel (it has since been edited). Marvel’s history with LGBT+ people isn’t exactly positive but I never expected an article that would read as such a power play. The article in question is about “a few of the Marvel Universe’s most notable female friendships” calling them “friends and teammates.” On paper wow, awesome, it’s what we are all about; woman power, friends, and being awesome together. However, the context is the largest scale official straight washing I’ve ever seen.
One year ago, Marvel announced it was canceling Angela Queen of Hel. I had been celebrating #TransComicMonth and singing the praises of Queen of Hel as one of the most powerful bits of trans representation in comics. Not so long ago I wrote an article talking about why Sera, an amazing lesbian trans character of color in the book, mattered so much to me. And today I’m reading this article that says Angela and Sera are not partners but gal pals.
The article says “we consider them one of Marvel’s true ‘power couples.’” Power couples being in quotes invalidates their queer identity and their identity as a couple. It’s utterly baffling when you consider they lived together for over 7 years raising a kid, they have kissed over 8 times in 7 issues, they refer to each other romantically, and Angela talked about eating Sera out.
That’s not all, though. the article also says “their relationship began with a deep respect for one another, and a companionship that grew as they traveled together.” Companionship! That is like the least romantic term used to describe a couple. That description is in stark contrast of Angela Queen of Hel #2 where Sera says “I’m the Gabrielle to her Xena, except we make out more.” It’s in contrast to many, many lines in the series, because Queen of Hel and to a lesser extent Angela 1602 were pretty clear on Angela and Sera being in a romantic relationship.
It shouldn’t surprise me when Axel Alonso, Marvel Editor-in-Chief, famously said in response to CBR question that specifically refers to Angela and Sera as a couple: “We’re not looking to put labels on the character or the series.”
Angela and Sera weren’t the only victims in this article, though, not even close. Ayo and Aneka the stars of Marvel’s heavily promoted Black Panther: World Of Wakanda were also on it as gal pals. The book is freaking written by a queer woman — Roxane Gay — and was promoted explicitly as a queer book after the company was criticized for having no queer titles. Shockingly, Marvel didn’t submit the book to GLADD for nomination, opting instead to submit Black Panther, Hellcat, and a freaking X-Men book.
Then, the opening line to America Chavez and Kate Bishop’s section is “What’s not to love about Amerikate?” using the fan name of the America/Kate ship. This would be shocking if not for Senior Communications Manager at Marvel, Joe Taraborrelli’s comment that “all of our heroes are allies,” in response to criticism that the image they used to honor victims of the pulse shooting only featured cis/het characters. When Marvel won’t even support us, when even bigots are pretending to give a shit about us, then I can’t be too shocked they would grossly appropriate one of the most popular ships in Marvel history for a “gal pal” listicle. The article also talks about a lot of other female friendships — Agents of G.I.R.L, The Mary Janes, and Force — that many people want to be queer, and there is so much queer coding in Unstoppable Wasp you would have to be a bigoted editor not to notice it.
Rumors and whispers speak of Marvel having some rule against queer leading characters outside of whatever limited section of “gay” books they want to have. These rumors attach very neatly to a lot of these characters on the list where censoring of queer characters may have taken place. Add Hellcat and you got all all the rumored ladies that aren’t gay because Marvel said no to their creators.
Marvel released this article one day before releasing Guardians of the Galaxy issue 18 and Ms. Marvel 16, both books that have massive problems in how they handle queer issues and characters. Guardians has Angela returning home to Sera, only to find that she has vanished. This felt insulting to fans like me who engaged Bendis when Angela returned to his run of Guardians, and were told to wait and see on Sera. In Ms. Marvel, lesbian character Zoe was forcibly outed. The issue went on to have Kamala stumble over an award worthy I’m not gay speech and Kamala’s friend Nokia, who Zoe had a crush on, reject her. (Because we can’t have queer Muslim representation?)
Honestly, that’s just two comics, I’m scared that if I dove into more I’d find there was even more incidents in one week.
Writing this article was hard; I feel actively hurt by Marvel at this point. I have stopped buying their comics just recently but I still care so much about their characters. It very honestly feels like Marvel is deliberately making their comics as bigot-friendly as possible. America Chavez helped make me proud of my queerness. Angela and Sera made me feel like my love could be powerful when I needed hope. So many of Marvel’s queer characters did stuff for me when the chips were down. Now Marvel seems uninterested in leaving a happy legacy; unwilling to leave the people who fell in love with these characters some joy, or to allow future readers to fall in love with these stories.
This erasure is disgusting and I can only hope that Marvel suffers financially for it. David F Walker, prominent Marvel writer (Nighthawk), did say all they care about is money. So let’s deny them any dollars and let them know why. Today it was Angela, Sera, Ayo, and Aneka but tomorrow it could be Wiccan, Hulking, Kyle, Northstar, America Chavez or whatever other few not already straight-washed characters that are left. Marvel needs to stop. Now.