Just two months after she first appeared in Iceman #4, this new Marvel character is officially here to stay. On Wednesday, writer Sina Grace revealed via an essay on PopSugar that his original X-Men character, the drag queen formerly known as Shade, will make another appearance in Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End, which hits shelves in March. Grace also provided some history of the character’s creation and revealed her new name: Darkveil.
“There was no cinematic beauty to my conceiving Shade,” Grace admitted, noting that he made a last-minute decision to write her into the issue where she first appeared. “I always toyed with the idea of a drag queen who becomes a reluctant hero, and I had an unused character in a Generation X proposal that never saw the light of day: a young girl named Shade who could create pocket voids (all for the “throwing shade” pun).”
Building on this idea, Grace sent Iceman artist Nathan Stockman a sketch of the character, “a drag queen of color who had bold curves and a penchant for incorporating X-Men visual motifs into her ‘lewk.’ She’d have green hair like Polaris, the X emblem on any corner of her body, and more pouches than every ’90s X-character combined.”
Although Shade appeared in just one scene, as the emcee at a Mutant Pride parade, she quickly became a fan favorite. Grace admitted that no one at Marvel — including him — predicted the massive fan response.
“Considering we were tackling stories that dealt with a survivor of conversion therapy, and used the underground Morlocks as subtext for the trans-slash-non-binary community, none of us spent much time thinking about the impact a visibly queer drag queen mutant would have on the audience,” Grace wrote.
Although Grace also noted the success of shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Pose, he clearly didn’t understand the impact of creating such a visibly queer character of color. Although Grace noted the significant impact of drag queens and ball culture on the LGBTQ community and our history, as well as the current mainstream pop culture lexicon, he seemingly didn’t dig too far into that history when creating Shade, now known as Darkveil. In his essay, Grace also used several terms with roots in AAVE, gesturing to a larger problem of non-black LGBTQ people co-opting language that doesn’t belong to us. While it’s great that he created this character, paying dues to the real-life drag queens who made that possible in more than just vague terms should have been a priority.
“Instead of shying away from the ardor, Marvel Comics requested that if we do this character, we do her right,” he continued. Doing it right would imply involving actual drag queens of color in her creation — so why doesn’t Grace mention any by name in his piece? Apparently, doing her right means that Grace will “[m]ake her a real Marvel hero, with a fresh name and compelling backstory to match. After some back and forth, the drag queen formerly known as Shade would like to be known from here on out as simply Darkveil. If Kitty Pryde can have multiple aliases like Shadowcat and Spryte, so can Darnell Wade aka Darkveil.”
She is now to be called DARKVEIL
— Sina Grace (@SinaGrace) February 27, 2019
When Grace tweeted about Darkveil on Wednesday, fans immediately responded with supporting comments, thanking him for her creation. Many expressed a desire for an ongoing series starring Darkveil and Dazzler. And while we celebrate Darkveil’s creation, it’s also important to note that if Marvel truly wants to delve into the complexities of drag culture, it’s important to bring in members of the drag community for that process, not just appreciative audience members like Grace.
Darkveil’s reception also points to a need for more and better LGBTQ representation in mainstream comics. Hopefully, her continuation in the Marvel universe will open the floor for a more nuanced conversation about gender presentation and race, involving people whose lived experiences can make an impact on how authentically these stories are told.