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.

From CBR:

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.

from Loser City.  He later apologized for his comments.

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.



  1. FWIW, Hercules has never been known in the Marvel universe as anything but straight. We are currently going through Secret Wars, which shows different riffs on different characters; certainly a riff on an alternate Hercules COULD be bisexual as the mythological one. The one of Marvel’s past hasn’t been, so let’s not act like they rewrote their own character.

  2. To clarify, Chris, my opinion is that Marvel didn’t set out to hurt anyone when they made the editorial change, but they should have been more aware of how fans would react to this change before they made it. Then, when they heard the fans lashing out, Alonso and comapny reacted by trivializing the fanbase’s concerns, escalating a misunderstanding into an argument. That latter bit, ultimately, is where Marvel err’d.

  3. what editorial change? hercules in the 616 MU has always been straight and still is. man, marvel cannot win. they change the color or gender of a character, they get shit over it, they keep a character that’s always been straight, straight, and they get shit over that. does every character have to become someone else to what they were, and if not , there’s hell to pay? does every character have to stay the same and if not, there’s hell to pay? alonzo & co. were just as insensitive to fans that were pissed about a female thor as they are to fans that are pissed about not having a bi-hercules. but i guess depending on which side you’re on, you may or may not have a problem with who they’re being jerks to. by the way this “all-new , all-different” nonsense this just that, nonsense. except for spider-man and maybe a few other characters starting from scratch, every character is picking up right where they left off before secret wars and we’re catching up to them eight months later. just a lot of characters being shuffled around onto different teams, settings, etc. this is not a “new52” type reboot. it’s just the illusion of being an “all-new, all-different” reboot.

  4. Speaking as someone who actually does have a horse in the race, abc, the difference comes down to which group is in a position of power. The mainline Thor whose adventures we will be following is a woman now? Great! Chalk one up for representing women readers searching for more heroes they can relate to. And hey, Odinson’s still out there, so fan’s of the *character* can still follow his brave deeds aplenty, and moreover, look kids! Reprints! Collections and catalogues full of thousands upon thousands of pages all sorts of manly Thor-ness across many a title over many a year!

    Meanwhile, who do I, as a bi-male reader have in the Marvel U? Alright, Loki, could be inter — oh, wait. That pretty much just came up in interviews and didn’t really get explored in the title. Also, there’s that whole “trickster” stereotype that causes complications if he’s going to be the only rep for bi pride out there. Okay… Ah! How about that Herc guy? As the author stated, most of the Marvel U version of Hercules’ implied bisexuality was invented in years past on the readers’ part due to his connections to the Hercules of Greek mythology. Enter Pak & Van Lente, who bring this just a little bit into subtext in the book itself very slowly over the course of their run. Cool! Maybe this is something we can run with, right? Oh, and there was that cool alt-universe stuff going on between him and alt-universe Wolverine in that X-Men book that about twelve people read? Hey, in-story precedent! Cool!

    But…wait…Mr. Alonso? What’s that? Not even a “Wait and see” or “This isn’t a road we’re going to explore at this time…? Just a…”No, you’re all wrong?” Well, that’s… That’s just… What’s the word for that? Oh yeah, it hurts. Bloody smack in the face the way he said it (and not the fun kind).

    Before Secret Wars, I was picking up about a dozen Marvel books a month and a fair share of collected editions, anywhere from $100-$300 worth per. I dropped the monthlies during the big event, while I waited for some other favorite creator-centric runs to wrap up, but after this? Bye, Marvel. Already cancelled pulls of titles I would have been picking up; my money’s already where my mouth is. I’m sure you won’t miss it, but it’s all I can do. Sometimes I love you guys at the House of Ideas, but this is ugly disdain.

  5. Oh man, my grammar is atrocious when I’m angry. Spot an error? I probably already did and am secretly ashamed, weeping at the lack of an “edit” feature.

  6. Thom, seriously, if you’re willing to drop Marvel over this, they won’t miss your dollars. The character has always been depicted as heavily straight, so why should they change it to accommodate a tiny handful of readers? Guarantee you it would piss off a lot more readers than it would please if Marvel decided to go this route. Many would view it as a publicity stunt, since homosexual rights and transgender issues are the hot topic at the moment. Marvel is a business so they’d be more willing to lose their one to two percent of bisexual readers rather than the the 30 to 40 percent(estimate) of the fanbase that would probably not be down with this idea/storyline.

  7. “The character has always been depicted as heavily straight, so why should they change it to accommodate a tiny handful of readers?”

    Because there aren’t enough gay and bi characters represented in comics and this one with his already existing historical background would be pretty much perfect.

    “Guarantee you it would piss off a lot more readers than it would please if Marvel decided to go this route.”

    I’m sure it would. Maybe that would be a good thing. If you really think 30-40% of the readers would have a problem with Hercules being bisexual you have a very low opinion of those people.

  8. “Marvel is a business so they’d be more willing to lose their one to two percent of bisexual readers rather than the the 30 to 40 percent(estimate) of the fanbase that would probably not be down with this idea/storyline.”

    Wait… Marvel’s “Hercules” has a “fanbase”? Because, like, as a retailer a see a character that was d-list at best, until Marvel (nearly) literally *forced* “Incredible Hulk” readers to buy his book with a character/title swap that kept the underlying series code in every retailer’s database. Which, as I recall, did nothing but shed readers month-by-month, and held on to the schedule largely because of crossover tie-ins and the spikes they brought. So, maybe profile raised to c-list?

    You’d kind of HAVE to do something radical with the character (er, not that bi-sexuality itself is radical, but having sexuality be anything but a prop for a one-dimensional character like Herc, now that would be a radical thing in Marvel comics) to get retailers to order enough copies to be able to launch an ongoing… and succeed. My native order for a non-superstar team on a Herc book would be like maybe 15-20 copies, max? Less than half of what I’d order for the B-List characters, and twice that for the A-List. That way leads to cancellation. If it were the “All-New, All-Bi Herc #1”, dunno, I am in San Francisco so maybe that would move it from C-level to B-level orders for curiosity seekers, but even if I was some place more conservative I’d probably split the difference because there’s nothing inherently commercial about the Marvel version of the character.

    (which is why you haven’t had a Herc comic any time lately)

    So, yeah, as a retailer, I think the market would very much reject your math — a “controversial” Herc comic would sell better than a “boycotted by partisans” one.


  9. I find the invocation of “power” ironic, since it’s pretty clear who has the power in these situations. Hint – who found a more receptive audience online, the people who complained about making Rawhide Kid gay or the ones complaining about restoring Hercules’ heterosexuality.

    And just to be clear, I’m talking about the initial, prepublication reaction. Once they actually saw the all-new, all-gay Rawhide Kid, I would guess the reaction was largely unanimous across all sorts of lines.


  10. Hey, why doesn’t somebody go pester Matt Wagner to finish up his series about an all gay futuristic society, which ran for a few installments, all the way back in the late 80s (in Dark Horse Present) .. as I remember, that storyline was actually not inane or otherwise (ponderously) silly.

  11. I agree with both Hibbs and Boyer here. I prefer more developed portrayals of a how a character’s sexuality makes them who they are (like Batwoman) instead of the sort of the half-heartened references Marvel has used with Namor and Hercules. It seems like a foolish marketing move not to embrace such portrayals.

    Based on previous sales, this book makes no publishing sense. I can only think this is going to used as one of those comics as movie pitches we get sometimes.

  12. Snarky, I know you’re trolling me about how little Marvel will miss me personally, and you kind of miss my point as to why I have said goodbye. It’s the disdain behind this E-I-C’s comments. If that’s how he’s going to respond publicly to criticism about the books he’s responsible for spearheading, then what kind of self-respect would I have if I were to continue giving him my money. And I already admitted, pretty wholeheartedly I may add, that I’m aware my dollars won’t be missed. A public apology of some sort would probably sway my thinking personally, as it would a great many people. Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, et al. in the wake of the Batgirl kerfuffle? Class acts, all the way, and that *should be* the template for how these weird little internet explosions are handled. It’s not up to a person who offends someone else, willingly or not, to decide whether or not the person or group on the receiving end of a remark has a right to be offended.

    And you’re right! Even if other folk who identify themselves in that middle blur of the Kinsey scale followed suit and jumped ship, Marvel still wouldn’t take much of a hit. But then, say, a couple months down the road he makes a remark to upset trans readers, some time after that another higher up says something to alienate the new Muslim fan base that’s been latching on to Ms. Marvel, then feminists, then Born-Again Christians, then Asians…? You see how “minorities” add up? It’s irresponsible and ultimately *really* bad for business.

    And the esteemed Mr. Hibbs (love your columns, incidentally) is right on the money. This book would have flown completely under my radar, even as some someone who actually read and enjoyed the Pak / Van Lente post-Hulk book right up to the conclusion, thanks to its playfulness, supporting cast, and well-constructed long-form plotting. But now, if I want my superhero / Greek mythology fix, I can go to Wonder Woman (well…back issues and Sensation Comics, anyway…bleh, Finches); I want my Dan Abnett fix, I’ll pick up original work of his on Wild’s End with the phenomenal I. N. J. Culbard. This Herc book? It’s not interesting without a hook to draw me in personally. And Alonso just torpedoed it.

    Also, Ian Boothby, thank you for having faith in humanity. :)

  13. I could have given Alonso the benefit of the doubt and assumed that he’d forgotten there were ever any allusions to 616 Herc being bi, as the “evidence” amounts to one hint and a handful of jokes meant to give the writers deniability. His follow-up, though, was juvenile and just plain mean-spirited, so I can’t be sorry that Marvel’s supposed commitment to diversity just got another pie in the face.

    As for the book itself, I’m on the same wavelength with Mr. Hibbs and Thom in that confirming Herc’s bisexuality beyond authorial intent on social media would have been the only thing that would have made me curious about this book (and even then it wouldn’t have been a definite sale, since I thought the previous hints and innuendos were quite badly done). There is a lot of good stuff out of Image, IDW, Oni, Dark Horse and Comixology Submit right now and in the coming months, and there’s not a lot of room in my budget for same-old, same-old.

  14. Well I for one am fed up with straight characters being turned gay and every book having to have gay characters.

    In the past I have bought books with prominent gay characters, but crucially I really don’t have any interest in reading about gay characters. In fact the actions of the big two are actually beginning to make me hate and resent gay characters to extent I’m now dropping books with gay characters whereas previously I had no problem with gay characters. DC being the worst example.

  15. I’m a gay guy, who hears much gossip about which celebs are gay, which athletes, which delivery guy, which barista—you get the picture. It’s almost like a straight guy can’t possibly be good looking.

    So naturally there’s lots of speculation and lots of crushes on ideals like Superman, Wolverine, Mystique, Captain America, not to mention TV characters like Sam and Dean, all of which are personified by good-looking actors.

    Still, despite all the fan fiction and fan art suggesting their penchant for the same sex, I’m not waiting for Chris Evans to drop by in a black ’67 Impala yelling, “Roadtrip!”

    Because neither Superman, Henry Cavill, nor the UPS man is going to smoke my pole no matter how much I daydream or demand, anymore than than I’ll be playing tongue snake tonight with the big V if cajoled nicely.

    Instead of pouting over how disingenuous it is for Marvel to have Zeus, raper of Ganymede, throw Herc into Tartarus for loving his bud, gays can support ground-breaking books like The Aerialist and publishers like Class Comics. Get on Patreon to support excellent artists who do sexy gay art, like nobody’s business.

    An overlooked fact about freedom of the press is you only get it if you can afford a press. Businesses afford presses by selling what customers demand most. Minorities define some, not most, no matter how much a fearful mind demands to inhabit a gays-only ghetto.

    If the industry’s adage that manly man-love frightens fanboys proves false, it’ll experiment to attract new readers. And if that doesn’t sell, then it’s, “Boy, was I drunk last night,” and back to the successful formula. Still, publishers are smart to remember that, as with experiments in their frat days, it costs nothing to be kind when saying no.

  16. I hate the alternate universe, a great place to hide the mistakes Marvel makes. Well at least its not a dream sequence.

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