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.
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.
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).
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.
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.