This morning, the ladies of The View confirmed a long-rumored wedding announcement: An openly gay member of the X-Men will propose to his partner, with the marriage scheduled to take place in Astonishing X-Men #51. The French Canadian superhero Northstar became Marvel’s first openly homosexual superhero in 1992, and although it took nearly two decades for the guy to get a boyfriend, give Marvel credit for diving headfirst into the gay marriage debate, even at the risk of a stern blog post by Bristol Palin. The ladies of The View had a relatively subdued reaction. Avowed comic book fan Whoopi Goldberg loved it. Joy Behar noted that X-Men is “a cutting-edge comic strip,” which is inaccurate in just so many ways, but also joked: “You think Batman and Robin could come out of the closet?”
Maybe so. In an interesting development Northstar isn’t the only gay superhero in the news today. According to the Daily Mail, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio revealed that one of his company’s heroes will reveal that they are, in fact, gay. DiDio didn’t specify who or when, but Courtney Simmons of DC told ABC News, “One of the major iconic DC characters will reveal that he is gay in a storyline in June.”(DC already has one of the most prominent lesbian characters in mainstream comics: Batwoman, a.k.a. Kate Kane, who headlined one of the coolest books of the ’00s.)
It’s interesting that both major comic book companies are developing major gay-themed storylines so soon after President Obama and Uncle Biden went on the record with their support of marriage equality. But it’s more likely that both storylines are really the echo boom of New York’s Marriage Equality Act, which passed just about a year ago on June 15, 2011. (Both DC and Marvel are headquartered in Manhattan.)
On one hand, Northstar is hardly a major character in the X-Men mythos — a cynic would say that he was the “safe” choice for a storyline like this. And although DiDio promised that the superhero coming out of the closet would be a prominent DC character, it’s easy money that the character won’t be a big-brand heavy hitter.
But let’s be honest. This is a huge deal. Geekery as a subculture has always skewed towards heterosexual male dominance — note how many female characters there were in Avengers — which is what happens when most of the people creating and reading mainstream comics are straight dudes. Usually, this just manifests itself in aesthetic adolescent douchebaggery — see the Barbie-like dimensions of every female character in comics. But the dominance of that single demographic can also create a sense that mainstream geekdom is hermetically sealed. (Note the outcry, however minor, over the possibility of gay relationships in Mass Effect 3.)
Give DC and Marvel credit for challenging the status quo. At this point, the important question is: Which DC character will be coming out? My money’s on Firestorm, with Cyborg as a possible spoiler. (Or maybe Guy Gardner? That would be a twist.)
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