On June 20th Marvel are moving with the times with a wedding that has already stolen headlines. Rumoured for months the X-Man known, as Northstar (AKA Jean-Paul Beaubier) will be marrying his boyfriend in what is the publishers most high profile endorsement of LGBT rights. It is a boon for Marvel’s image as a company that reflects the outside world.
In the past decade Marvel have become much more in tune with the changing face of society as it has produced a plethora of well received LGBT characters. Hulkling and Wiccan, introduced as a stable same-sex relationship, have become fan favourites. The critically acclaimed Runaways included Karolina Dean, who had a realistic journey exploring her emerging attraction to girls and became romantically involved with Xavin, a shape shifting alien who is perhaps Marvel’s first attempt at a transgender character. But the announcement of Canadian Jean-Paul Beaubier marrying boyfriend Kyle Jinadu is a different beast entirely.
For one it is in a high profile top tier X-Men title and therefore it will reach more people. That isn’t to say the other LGBT characters Marvel has haven’t got their fan base, but they populate comics that are either on the fringe of the publishers radar or not being published right now. This is an X-Men book and Marvel have pulled out all the stops to make sure the industry and the wider world know about it. ABC chat show The View was the stage for the official announcement, which had Whoopi Goldberg say “That’s kind of amazing” in response to the news. Granted the cynics in us will see the connection between ABC and Marvel, both under the rule of Disney, but it is still a high profile announcement.
Obviously this news comes in the wake of President Obama’s positive stance on same-sex marriage, which almost makes the White House backing seem like a green light for Marvel to move forward with the story. But it caps of a few months of overt choices by Marvel to highlight LGBT characters. Hulkling and Wiccan kissed for the first time and the teenage hero in training Striker had a frank conversation about his sexuality with Lightspeed (who is one of a few bisexual characters the company has) in the pages of Avengers Academy. With these moments there does seem to be a positive move towards exploring these issues within the Marvel Universe.
Not to be outdone DC Comics also announced this week that they will reintroduce one of their iconic male characters as gay. It does seem that they are playing catch up with Marvel, even though they announced their news days before Marvel’s official announcement. But the whole idea of changing an iconic character’s sexuality seems more like a stunt than Marvel allowing a character who came out in 1992 to marry his boyfriend who first appeared in 2009. But DC’s news has set the geek world alight with speculation. The character in question will be revealed in June, but there is already a list of candidates forming due to fan speculation. An early front-runner is Wally West, the original Kid Flash who took over the mantle of Flash when the original died in the 80s. But others that have been suggested include Superboy, Plastic Man and even The Joker. However we will find out very soon who it is and DC have promised that this character will be a prominent presence in the company, who already have another high profile LGBT character in Batwoman.
Whatever the outcome of these choices and events, the fact that these issues are getting more exposure in mainstream superhero comics is a good thing. Granted Archie Comics beat Marvel to the punch by having a same-sex marriage at the beginning of the year and this isn’t the first superhero marriage (Apollo and Midnighter from The Authority tied the knot in 2002), but it does signal a step forward for the Marvel. It is also somewhat fitting that it happens within the pages of an X-Men comic, as it has always been the franchise that has stayed relevant due to its nature of posing mutants as a minority. As superheroes have reached an all time high in the public consciousness it is a warming thought that Marvel and DC are utilizing this popularity in a positive way, showing that same-sex marriages and gay characters are something to celebrate and accept. Hopefully these heroes will inspire such acceptance in our own world.