Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, Bride-to-Be Rebecca Henely and her Maid of Honor Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the… um, tuxedos? And more importantl… why did (or didn’t) the marriage last? Today we cover the wedding of Northstar and Kyle.
Rebecca: Well, since I declared heterosexuality dead in our discussion of Black Canary and Green Arrow’s marriage, it’s only natural we take a look at one of the two major m/m superhero marriages in comics: Northstar and Kyle Jindadu.
This is actually my first real introduction to Northstar, much less Kyle. His status as Marvel’s first major gay superhero meant I knew him by reputation — even relatively apolitical comics messageboards in the 1990s would put up pictures of Northstar with the Pride Flag whenever a significant pro-LGBT piece of legislation got passed — but other than the X-Men animated series episode with Alpha Flight I don’t think I’ve ever read any major stories with him.
Kayleigh: Northstar is criminally underappreciated despite being a groundbreaking character with that sweet, sweet Claremont/Byrne pedigree. He’s an Olympic athlete, one of the few mutant celebrities, and bristles at being a team player (despite being on two superteams). He’s a really entertaining character when writers aren’t treating him ham-fistedly or stereotypically. It’s a shame that there haven’t been any major Northstar storylines in the years since this was published, and with Iceman possibly jeopardizing his “most prominent gay X-Man” ranking, we’ll see if this opens up new storytelling possibilities for him or just sticks him back in the box.
Rebecca: When this issue was released in 2012, it was heralded as an “event” comic, and was broadcast to the press in a probable effort to draw in new readers. So it’s a bit surprising how unfriendly this comic is to those new readers. Astonishing X-Men #51 takes place in the middle of a story where Karma has been forcibly turned against her teammates by the sewer-dwelling Morlocks, and resolves a cliffhanger from the previous issue where Kyle was mind-controlled to attack Northstar. They break the control, but without freeing Karma. While being patched up, Kyle accepts Jean-Paul’s proposal that he previously rejected, saying that “life is too short” despite the dangers of being married to a superhero. They marry in Central Park, although Karma returns at the end of the issue to attack Wolverine.
I understand on an economic level the reason for doing this. I think the creators knew they would be drawing in people who were just coming for the wedding and wanted them to buy the comics published before and after. Still, this issue came off as pretty underwhelming to me because of that. The wedding obviously feels like this bump in the road before the book can get back to the “real” story, even though I’m more interested in said wedding.
Kayleigh: I do wish this issue was a full bells and whistles wedding special like Scott and Jean’s, as all the non-Northstar/Kyle stuff (especially the cliffhanger) felt jarring. And since they don’t have as much page-time as some of the bigger-name couples we’ve covered, more scenes of them together would have been appreciated. Still, Northstar, Karma, and now Iceman–Marjorie Liu’s Astonishing X-Men had three gay main characters, which is pretty cool.
Rebecca: The wedding itself is pretty nice — especially after the vows when Kyle and Northstar float into the air. Jean-Paul and his twin sister Jeanne-Marie talking before the ceremony and her giving him his something old, new and borrowed (Beast was their “blue”) was cute. And seeing Rogue wish her mothers — i.e. Mystique and Destiny — would have gotten to marry was a nice acknowledgement of a plot point that often got buried under Marvel’s self-censorship. Plus, I like it when the X-Men just get to hang out — it’s one of the reasons I liked the Jean/Scott wedding so much.
On the other hand, I wish I got a bit more of a sense of what makes Northstar and Kyle unique as a couple, or even a little more about Kyle as a character. He seems kind and brave, but I don’t know much more about him from this. Jean-Paul does have to deal with his impulsiveness, but Kyle doesn’t have too much of an arc.
Kayleigh: Kyle is a fairly minor X-Men supporting character, but Marjorie Liu succeeds making him and Northstar feel like a serious, loving couple about to take that Next Big Step together. He has a lot of untapped potential as a character–as a human newly married to an X-Man, he could be a great PoV character for new readers, especially since the X-Books have very few human allies anymore. Secret Wars Journal #4 has a short story where Kyle goes on a rescue mission to free Northstar in the “Days of Future Past” universe, and that at least was a welcome reversal of “captured human love interest” superhero stories.
Rebecca: So, for the most part the X-Men are all very accepting of Northstar’s wedding, but there’s one part where Warbird (the Shi’ar Warrior Ava’Dara Naganadini — not the Carol Danvers version) says she can’t attend the wedding because she doesn’t believe in it. Northstar gently begs her to stay, but she apologizes and walks off. I mean…I’m the straight person here but I couldn’t help but find Northstar’s reaction a bit uncharacteristic given his temper and found the whole exchange frustrating. Do you think this is a good depiction of how to deal with close-minded family/friends, or a scene that lets homophobia off the hook as long as it’s not outwardly hateful?
Kayleigh: Hoo boy, Warbird. I don’t think Liu is trying to let homophobia off the hook so much as acknowledge the reality that not everyone approves of same-sex marriage. But the scene lands like an anvil. Why would an alien care about a human marriage? (Warbird’s constant sexual harassment of Iceman in Wolverine and The X-Men also looks even worse now.) We also see Puck and Havok having the straight dude “I’m a progressive guy and all, but…” conversation so this scene feels unnecessary.
Rebecca: Anyway, as we promised…time to talk about the tuxes! I’m actually not in love with Mike Perkins’ art in general. A lot of his faces look incredibly awkward or have rictus-like smiles. Still, his fashion choices are nice and subdued — maybe a bit too ordinary — but I’ll take matching black tuxes over the loud blue and brown suits of weddings past. I did like flourishes such as the Northstar logo on Jean-Paul’s lapel instead of a flower. Jeanne-Marie’s black-and-white dress suggesting her Aurora costume was also nice.
Kayleigh: Kyle’s first appearance was drawn by Greg Land, so I will gladly take Mike Perkins. I really like the panels where Kyle accepts Northstar’s proposal; the way they pull each other close and Kyle whispers in his ear feels genuine and intimate. I wish more had been done to personalize their tuxes–they’re both black with what looks like the same cut/style–but the Northstar pin is a nice touch.
Rebecca: So, even in the fast-moving world of comics, five years isn’t a particularly long time. Northstar and Kyle have stayed together since their milestone-to-Marvel marriage, but even before the issue where they said “I do” critics worried the marriage would limit the character or be callously undone by another writer hungry for drama. I’ve always chafed at the idea that considering a married character means they’re less interesting or hampered in some way, whether they’re gay or straight. Still, I think it’s hard to know the future, and this sort of underwhelming issue makes it hard for me to determine whether they’re going to be here to stay in the years to come.
Kayleigh: If there’s a plus side to Northstar and Kyle being underused, it’s may be that it’s less likely that Marvel will use death or divorce as an excuse for drama. (Could anything top that time Marvel killed Northstar three times in one month?) It’s a bit frustrating that Marvel used their first same sex marriage for publicity and then did very little with the characters afterward. But I like Northstar and Kyle together, and hope that future creators will give them the stories they deserve.