Recent developments in the handling of gay characters at Marvel and DC is a topic that deserves all of our attention, and we haven’t had time to give it the investigation it deserves. Lame but true. Luckily, Andy Mangels has put together
In and Out: A Brief History of Marvel’s 2006 Gay Policies which gives a timeline and everything.

While Marvel has not reverted to Jim Shooter’s “No Gays in the Marvel Universe” policy of the 1980s, the fortunes of Marvel’s gay characters have taken a serious downturn in the last ten months. With multiple gay characters killed, maimed, and tortured, the latest twist is Marvel reversing Rawhide Kid’s orientation and making him heterosexual again.

But it’s not just the characters who are suffering. Editor in Chief Joe Quesada has publicly discussed Marvel’s policy about labeling books starring gay characters, stating that it exists, then later no longer exists after discussion. Following that, a Marvel PR flak says that all of Quesada’s direct quotes were “out of context” and the policy never existed.

And within weeks of the interviews, the newly touted Marvel gay character was dead, and almost every other gay character was in for a very rough time.

We don’t mind the Rawhide Kid back into the closet, as the reasons for him coming out were so flimsy to begin with. A pattern of confusion does begin to emerge at Marvel, however.


  1. It’s sort of weird to talk about the fact that gay characters are getting the crap kicked out of them, or even getting killed. I mean, if you are in a comic book then you are probably getting the crap kicked out of you. That’s pretty much why a character appears in a comic book. To get the crap kicked out of them. If we start criticizing comic book companies for the way they brutalize characters versus their identity we are in for some very boring comics.

    I mean, are we all going to freak out because the first major death in Civil War was a black character?

    They are never going to kill Northstar. Northstar is too old and significant. If some new, minor, character comes along and is gay, he’s fair game when the writer decides he needs to really put the hurt on. Until some gay characters prove to have staying power, they are going to enter the gruesome grist mill that is comic book violence, because the lower you rank on the totem pole, the more likely you are to get wrecked.

    Newness makes characters pretty low on the totem pole, so if there weren’t gay characters before, all of the ones that come along will have to be new.

    Though, it stands to reason that a lot of existing characters could be outed.

  2. In fact, some website should start a poll of characters that everyone thinks are really in the closet. Who do I think is in the closet?
    I definitely think Iron Fist is closeted. I also think Nomad is. In fact, I think that girl he used to run around with might be, too. What’s her name? Vagabond. Totally closeted. Wouldn’t that be ironic? They were both in this completely fake relationship and hiding their real identities. Great story.
    Ultraman is way in the closet, though I don’t think the gay community would want him.
    That chick from the Serpent Squad with the whips? Closeted. No question.
    What about some major closet cases, though?
    Hmmm…. I could see Cable being closeted. Or at least questioning.
    What if Franklin Richards turned out to be gay? That would be huge.
    That werewolf chick from the new mutants… I think she needs to admit her true feelings about Magma. yeah. Definitely.

  3. I haven’t followed Marvel closely for some time, but, um, didn’t they already kill Northstar?

    What’s interesting to me about Goliath’s death (again, haven’t been reading Civil War) is that Marvel didn’t just kill off a black character, they killed off the oldest “regular” black character in the Marvel U. (He started out as Hank Pym’s lab assistant back when Stan was writing the Avengers, I think.) Not that it means anything, I’m just curious why no one’s brought that up in all the CW discussions I’ve seen.

  4. I don’t think you can neccesarily discount systematic “violence” in comics when it’s directed towards a certain group — the whole “to get to a male character, torture a female he lvoes, to get to a female, just torture her” maxim seems to run through a lot of comics — I am not really sure if there’s much evidence for Marvel’s Gay Witchhunt. I know the whole “no lead character who is gay” edict looks pretty bad, but when you look at Marvel’s track record for putting gay characters in prominent roles in ensemble casts, they’ve had lots of exposure under Quesada’s Marvel: Runaways, Young Avengers, X-Statix, Mike Carey’s X-Men, Ultimate X-Men and GLA. I’d argue this is in fact pretty far away from Shooter’s old edict.

    I’m really not sure how the fortunes of Marvel’s gay characters have taken “a downturn” in the past ten months. Freedom Ring first appeared less than ten months ago, and yes he ended up dying, and I don’t know the circumstances since I haven’t been following Marvel Team-Up. Maybe his death scene was a particularly egregious “THIS IS WHAT HOMOSEXUALS GET” sort of death, but I doubt that.

    Meanwhile Northstar “died” and was resurrected by the Hand and is now back in the X-Men. His “death”/”rebirth” was exactly the same process Marvel Franchise Player Wolverine went through a few issues previously, as well as Elektra, so again I don’t really see this as some sort of gay bullying.

    And the kidnapping and “torture” of the gay teens in Young Avengers/Runaways has a storyline-explicated reasoning that both Hulkling and Karolina (and her shapeshifting and therefore apparently not GBLT lover) are all alien beings, and therefore under the purview of some sadistic scientist guy who hates aliens. They’re almost certainly going to break free and do superhero stuff, much like all the straight heroes do when they are captured by dastardly villains. The fact that they’re being featured (with their relationships as part of the plotline) in a crossover with Marvel’s huge Event in Seven Parts suggests that their fortunes are in fact on the upswing, as is the announcement that TV’s Joss Whedon will soon be writing Runaways.

    The thing I find more interesting is DC’s LGBT wing of its Diversity Initiative, which thus far has involved having as many chicks making out as possible in as many books as possible. Since the One Year Later jump, I am reasonably sure that the only male homosexual characters we’ve seen are a talking gorilla and his disembodied Nazi Brain lover. Meanwhile they’ve worked in two girls making out into at least four different titles. Which is totally cool, although one questions if a sensitive portrayal of diversity is the primary motive for this.

  5. I’d dropped out of comics for a while. I didn’t even know Northstar was getting airplay, let alone going through a death and resurrection. Wow, the things you learn.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how icked out I am that DC has a “Diversity Initiative.” Yuck. Talk about stifling the creative process. Intentionally recruit non-majority talent: fine. Force in characters of different idenities? Yuck.

    Is Black Goliath really the oldest? Even older than the Panther???

    Who knew?

  6. Hi there,

    I read this post, was interested, and checked the Prism links. Interesting stuff. I was a reader of Marvel Team-Up, and was saddened by the death of Freedom Ring, especially in light of Joe Q. talking him up so soon before that.

    Anyway, it started bugging me, so I went onto the Image Boards and asked Kirkman about it. I will admit that I am a fan of his work, and buy (I think) all his current books (among many many others). I posted and he’d replied within 2 hours. As I’d sort of suspected, he says he didn’t mean any harm by it (and in fact had pretty decent intentions) he just didn’t think out the full implications.

    Read it all a here.

  7. Thanks for the link, Jordan, that was interesting.
    It does seem like most things that happened to gay Marvel characters recently weren’t done with any homophobic intent.
    But we’ve got to question what’s (or what’s not) in the mind of so many well-intentioned people who all get results going in the same way.
    Maybe it’s just the zeitgeist, but that doesn’t excuse it, far from it.

  8. Is Black Goliath really the oldest? Even older than the Panther???

    You’re right, Brady, but just barely. Black Panther was introduced in FF #52 in July of 1966, whereas Bill Foster first appeared in Avengers 32 in September of 1966. I stand corrected; he was the second regular black character in the Marvel Universe, by about two months. He was the first African American though.