In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
What character would you like to see depicted as queer?
Anya Corazon has already had an impact on the comic book industry. She’s Hispanic, she was raised by a single dad, she’s a young woman who’s had her own title twice, she has an in-character Twitter. If I were in charge at Marvel/Disney I would be green-lighting her movie (starring Selena Gomez) so fast it would probably be hastened and mishandled (I watch a lot of Disney Channel, I know of what I speak. But you know what? Even a sub-par Spider-Girl Disney Channel movie would be one of the best things to ever happen to girl comics AND the Disney Channel. Or put it on ABC Family and you have new fans with their own babysitting money to spend.) Anya doesn’t need to be gay to secure her place in history and there is a school of thought that claims adding it would be diminishing the impact of any of her reasons to be “special”. But let’s set aside politics and literary/historical significance. Let’s talk about Anya.
Anya is young. She’s fiercely independent and wants to make an impact on her world. But she wants to fit in and be accepted just as much as she wants to stand out and be respected. Hey, she’s a teenage girl. She’s had two significant mentors, Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel. And she loves her best friend, Rikki. It would be very easy to believe she is in love with her best friend, Rikki.
At the end of the day it probably would be political for Anya to come out. But it wouldn’t diminish her any more than it diminished Santana on Glee (and wouldn’t that be a great jumping off point? An in-character discussion of the impact of fictional characters, and specifically young women, being revealed as queer!). It would just be another layer of Anya’s wonderfully layered character. It’d be another reason to celebrate her diversity, and to support her title, and to give her her movie.
Rebecca Barnes aka Rikki Barnes aka Nomad aka The Girl from Another World. Created as part of the ‘90s Onslaught crossover, Rikki has been charmingly reinvented in a series of comics written by Sean McKeever: the Nomad miniseries, Young Allies, the current Onslaught Unleashed mini, and a series of backups in the Captain America backups.
Rikki is a traditional Marvel teen hero in every sense: brave, smart, determined, and earnest, a perfect addition to the Captain America family. She’s even a legacy hero, taking on the identity of Nomad (after serving as an alternate universe Bucky in her original books). Also in the fine tradition of teen heroes, Rikki struggles with questions about her identity. Who is she? Where does she fit in? Admittedly Rikki’s questions are more literal than those of your average teen — that’s the way it goes when your entire universe blinks out of existence, and you find yourself trying to fit into a new one that’s familiar-but-different. Then again, that feeling isn’t so different from what a lot of teenagers (and adults) experience on a regular basis.
It’s precisely Rikki’s traditionality — her ability to stand in for “every teen” — that makes me want her relationship with Anya (see Anika’s answer above) to be depicted as a romance. It would fit the characters, it would depict a step that’s a part of life for many teens and families, and plus they’re just so damn cute together. Put Rikki in a tux and Anya a suitably eccentric dress (you’ve seen some of her outfits, right?), and send them to prom together. It would rock.
For a queer character to really make an impact on the foundational makeup of a superhero universe, he or she needs to be a character who has been around for a long time, has some amount of popular name recognition, and has a somewhat important role in the universe. Unfortunately, because of the massive number of stories that have been told about every character who fits that description, and because many of those stories feature romances with the opposite sex, it’s hard to envision a character who could believably be revealed as having been gay all along. There are characters who could be revealed to be bisexual, and I wish the comic book companies would take that route more often than they do, but it’s important for characters to exist all along the spectrum of human sexuality, and that includes characters who are 100% gay.
So my search, then, is for a superhero with enough history to make an impact — in the Marvel Universe, we’re talking a character from the 1960s — who doesn’t have a ton of heterosexual backstory and who isn’t such a household name that Marvel would never make them queer for fear of marketing repercussions. (I fully believe that Wolverine has had dalliances with people of both genders, for instance, but I’m not holding my breath for that to actually happen.) And the character who fits this description best, when all is said and done, is original X-Men Bobby Drake — Iceman.
Bobby Drake has only had a handful of romantic relationships on panel: teenage flings with a civilian named Zelda and with Lorna Dane, who he canonically never slept with; his X-Factor-era relationship with Opal Tanaka; and relationships with Cloud, a gender-switching sentient nebula, and the shapeshifting Mystique. Since his debut in 1963, the Bobby Drake of the 616 Marvel universe has only definitely slept with one woman who couldn’t turn herself into a man.
Meanwhile, almost all of his character development has focused on his lack of self-knowledge and self-confidence, his fear of using his powers to the fullest possible extent, and his uncertainty about his place in the world. A story in which he comes to terms with his sexuality would be part and parcel with everything that’s come before, taking his internal conflict to the next level. Even in the X-Men movies, where Bobby had an entirely different personality, it was his mutant “coming out” that Bryan Singer used as a deliberate gay metaphor. And, as Caroline has pointed out before, he’s the only “straight” guy in the X-Men who Northstar has canonically had a crush on. Why couldn’t that be reciprocated?
In X-Men comics right now, Bobby Drake is single, plotless, and living just outside of San Francisco. I can’t think of a better time and place for him to come out, and retroactively become one of the oldest gay superheroes in comic book history.
I want to see Dick Grayson come out as bisexual. Men who are bi are largely invisible in our culture, even more so than women. Yet it is a long-standing fan in-joke that Dick Grayson is considered attractive by nearly everyone he meets. He has dated a number of women and also had a number of close male friendships, particularly during his Teen Titan years. I can easily believe that Grayson, at some point, finds that his feelings toward his male friends have deepened into something more romantic.
Yet that’s not all of why I want Grayson to come out. As a second-tier legacy character, his queering would have an impact on the DCU. It would be difficult to wave his queering away or ignore it.
Besides. Everyone in the DCU thinks Dick is pretty.
So what about you? What character would you like to see depicted as queer?