Marvel has recently revealed that the latest issue of All New X-Men will shake up the status quo for its band of merry mutants. The Iceman cometh…out of the closet. That’s right, Bobby Drake -one of the original five X-Men- is gay.
We’ve Come A Long Way
Twenty years ago the number of gay characters in mainstream comic books could probably be counted on one hand. Narrow it down to mutants and you’ve pretty much just got Northstar of Alpha Flight. In fact for a long time Mainstream comics had a habit of under-representing most minorities. There were bright spots to be sure, Neal Adams creating Green Lantern John Stewart in the ’70s – DC’s first black superhero – but they were few and far between. Usually when a comic company wanted to diversify their ranks you ended up with someone like Power Man. Sure Luke Cage is awesome now and is even getting his own sure-to-be-a-hit miniseries on Netflix but when he first came out he was a victim of the blaxploitation movement popular in the ’70s and…well…Sweet Christmas, just look at his original outfit! And we won’t even get into the unrealistic requirements to be a female superhero, the skimpy costumes and gravity defying anatomy have been well documented elsewhere.
Thankfully within the last decade both Marvel and DC have realized that horny straight white males aren’t the only ones reading their comics. Iceman coming out in X-Men is just the latest in a long list of overhauls that both companies have been making to the way they do comics. From DC giving Batgirl a much more functional and therefore much less skimpy costume to Marvel having Miles Morales a young man of both black and Latino heritage take over for Peter Parker in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man both publishers are developing more inclusive and diverse universes. Even comic book movies are starting to catch on with the new Fantastic 4 – I’m sorry I meant Fant4stic– featuring an African American Human Torch, a character who has been traditionally Caucasian in the comics.
You Can’t Please Everyone
This progress isn’t without it’s detractors of course. Some fans feel that changing established characters like Iceman and The Human torch from their decades old regular selves into the new and improved politically correct versions is nothing but a cheap ploy to appease all of the SJW’s on tumblr and get some easy publicity. These are fans that are fine with Thor being turned into a frog, but a woman? That’s just crazy!
He Doesn’t Look A Day Over 30
Honestly though comic book characters go through constant and jarring changes on the regular, it’s part of the fun and frustration of comics. Iceman has been around for 52 years. It only makes sense that his character isn’t going to be the same one in 2015 that it was in 1963 when X-Men #1 came out. First Bobby Drake was covered in snow, then ice, then he could become ice, now he just happens to like guys. What’s weirder, a character who has had nothing but unsuccessful relationships with women finally realizing that it’s because his heart really wasn’t in it, or a guy having every single molecule of his body become frozen water?
Seriously, Jean Grey Dies A Lot
Embracing minorities in superhero comics and in the X-Men especially, makes perfect sense. The X-Men have long been a catch-all metaphor for society’s misfits, those that don’t fit in with the “normals”. Mutants face hatred and fear from everyday people that mimics the bigotry and homophobia faced by many minorities in the past, and sadly some still today. Comics as a whole has always been a medium for misfits. Never as respected as film or print but instead a bastard offspring of both, comic books have fought long and hard for the acceptance that they now enjoy. Comic books may be mainstream now thanks to their popularity in Hollywood but it wasn’t that long ago that reading one would earn you the disapproval of your parents and teachers and up your punchability factor in the eyes of the schoolyard bully. That’s why comic books are the perfect place for LGBT characters, black characters, empowered women and anyone else that sits on the fringes of mainstream society. If there is room in comics for talking Raccoons, men dressed as bats, Martians and sentient robots then there is certainly room for bisexual magicians (John Constantine), gender less immortals (Desire of the Endless), and African princes (Black Panther).
And there’s definitely room in the X-Men for a gay Iceman. Seriously, Jean Grey will be dead again any day now he can have her spot.