Where are they now?

This is about comics superheroes, and the first thing you need to know is that I am not a Superhero Person. Occasionally, something from the comics, from animations, or from the movies comes by me, for one reason or another, but basically I’m an utter outsider who occasionally is moved to glance into this world. If you’re a fan, I respect your enthusiasms, but I don’t share them. Nevertheless, your worlds are a significant element in the popular culture that surrounds me, so I might want to have some awareness of them.

The second thing you need to know is that I’m looking at a report (about the mutant superhero Iceman) from the past — from nearly 7 years ago, in the New York Times on 12/24/15, when I noted it down for posting on, but then never got around to it. Now I wonder what’s happened to Iceman and his kind since then.

The third thing you need to know — which you will already know if you’re a reader of this blog — is that I’m a gay man with a lifetime of activism and of research and writing on the organization of LGBT+ life and the place of LGBT+ people in our culture. Which is why I am now curious about the fictional Iceman and his / our kind.

From the NYT story, “Diversity Comes to Superheroes: Creators explore gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender narratives” by George Gene Gustines:

In Marvel Comics’ Issue No. 600 of “Uncanny X-Men,” Iceman has a conversation with his younger self and reveals that he is gay

When the mutant superhero Iceman came out last month — thanks to a one-two punch of his prying telepathic teammate and a time-travel visit from his younger self — he immediately became the most prominent gay comic book character. But his revelation was far from the only story line involving gay, lesbian and transgender characters in the fast-evolving world of comic-book narratives.

In October, Alysia Yeoh, a transgender friend of Batgirl, and her girlfriend Jo were married in a simple ceremony unmarred by super-villainy; Peter Parker, perhaps better known as Spider-Man, attended the wedding of Max Modell, his scientific mentor and gay colleague; and Wiccan and Hulkling, a superpowered gay couple, joined a division of the Avengers along with Hawkeye and Songbird. In August, Wonder Woman officiated a lesbian wedding, and since June, fans have been treated to the monthly adventures of Midnighter, who is out about his heroic identity and his sexual orientation. That month also saw the first issue of “Stripling Warrior,” which features superheroes that are gay and lesbian — and Mormon.

The growing depiction of L.G.B.T. characters comes at a crossroads of passionate fandom and concentrated efforts by publishers to attract broader audiences. Gay fans have long admired the impossibly perfect bodies and chiseled features of their heroes and felt a kinship with some like the X-Men, who fought for acceptance in a world that feared and hated them simply for being mutants.

And publishers, in an attempt to reflect modern times, have introduced a plethora of champions who are no longer primarily straight, white and male under their masks. They include the teenage Muslim Ms. Marvel, the female Thor, a lesbian Batwoman, a Mexican-American Blue Beetle and many more.

This quest for diversity has not gone without some missteps. Last December, the creative team of Batgirl apologized for how it revealed that a villain impersonating the heroine was male. Some readers found the depiction, and Batgirl’s reaction, transphobic. Reprints of the story have softened her dialogue.

In July, there was a dust-up concerning the sexuality of the Marvel hero Hercules. Some fans believe he is bisexual and were put off when it was not confirmed. (Hercules had a relationship with Wolverine in an alternate-reality story; there was also some innuendo about a dalliance with Northstar, the mutant hero who came out in 1992.)

And now? What’s happened to Iceman and his / our kind? In the United States over the past 7 years there’s been an enormous upwelling of hostility, openly anti-LGBT+ rhetoric, and violence, including mass shootings in settings that were designed to provide safe spaces. How have publishers responded?

One Response to “Where are they now?”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Chuk Craig on Facebook on 2/2/23:

    Both DC and Marvel now have yearly Pride compilation comics with stories featuring LGBT characters and/or creators.

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