Yesterday, Ray Sonne at Loser City levied hefty accusations at Marvel staff. In an interview with CBR, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso angered fans when he crushed longstanding implications that the Greek mythological-inspired character Hercules is bi-sexual.
Also, a lot of fans have been curious if the character’s sexuality — it’s been strongly suggested Hercules is bisexual, and in “X-Treme X-Men” an alternate Hercules was in a relationship with Wolverine — will play a part in the series. Is there any insight you can provide at this point?
Alonso: Hercules and James Howlett’s relationship in “X-Treme X-Men” took place in a unique alternate universe, similar to how Colossus was gay in the Ultimate Universe, but is straight in the 616. Same goes for Hercules here.
[Editor’s note: Marvel declined a follow-up question on this subject.]
After public outcry against the editorial decision, Alonso, Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, and others at the House of Ideas doubled down on their move, actively pushing against public opinion by retweeting images and debasing critics by arguing that they lack respect for the “dust and sweat and blood” creators put into their products. It’s an argument we’ve heard countless times before, and frankly, it’s not getting any easier to swallow.
Critics play a valuable role in the development of every artistic medium. They can often be crass, cruel, or even make baseless statements, but for every armchair warrior yelling about the “death of comics” on the internet, there’s another raising legitimate concerns over the way that a change in media may affect change in society.
One common argument defending Alonso’s move has been that Hercules is rarely, if ever, implied to have homosexual encounters. True enough, Sonne and others have mostly been citing X-Treme X-Men and Fall of an Avenger #1 as examples of Hercules’ overt or implied encounters with other men. However, a dearth of examples is not the same as a total absence of examples, and over time, bi-sexual comics readers have latched onto Hercules as a symbol of representation in a field which often speaks of diversity but rarely acts upon its words.
Indeed, the fact that queer readers in search of representation are boxed into heralding characters whose sexuality is mostly subtextual is indicative of the sad state of affairs mainstream comics still exists in. I can’t pretend to have a major stake in this fight– I consider myself a straight cis-gendered male. However, I also consider myself an ally and as a minority, I do understand what it feels like to lack role models in popular media.
Unlike many comics readers, I don’t really care about continuity. I’m all for editors and content creators changing characters’ backstories to better suit the stories that they want to tell. That said, comics industry professionals need to have a stronger understanding of what their audiences need when they make polarizing decisions such as this one.
Dan Slott has since apologized for his comments and Alonso deleted a retweet that satirizes his editorial decision, but Marvel has not made any public statement about the issue since CBR published their interview last Friday.
Personally, I don’t think the decision makers at Marvel are homophobic or intentionally trying to commit an act of bi-erasure. However, we live in a particularly sensitive time where issues of bisexuality, queer rights, and related issues are coming to the forefront. Many who were too afraid to speak finally have the courage to make themselves heard, and our media should respect their voices. I hate to say they need to be “thrown a bone” as that trivializes the issue, but Marvel could have allowed Hercules to keep his bi-sexuality, if only on an implied level, to show some sort of dedication to the “All-New All-Different,” more diverse direction they’re touting. They really should have– and they need to do more.
Alex is the Managing Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at Papercutz. He is your go-to fella for creator interviews, conversations about comic book structure, and general DC Comics nerding. Currently geeking out over movies, too.