Treading on Thin Icemen: A (Mostly) Queer Roundtable

Welcome to POMEmag’s very first (Mostly) Queer Roundtable Discussion. We noticed that a lot of conversation about All New X-Men #40 (AKA the issue where we find out that Iceman is gay) has been between straight allies and haters. We wanted to get a bit more discussion going about this major moment in comics history. As All New X-Men #41 comes out next week, POME assembled a crack team of queer nerds (and also David) to throw down some serious feels about this comic. 

 


 

POME: First prompt – what is your name?

Ashley Gallagher: I’m Ashley. I am bisexual. I really care about comics and queers in comics and that’s my deal.

Jorge Barrera Vasquez: Hi, I’m Jorge. I guess if we’re going by the comic, I’m “full gay”? I’m really into comics.

Zoe Zell: I’m Zoe. On the 0 to 6 Kinsey scale, I’d probably identify as a 4.5, so that’s more gay than your average Joe. I like comics. I read what [David] gives me, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge.

David Gimnich: I am David. I am a male, straight, white –

ZZ: – Republican.

DG: Just to be fair, I am super not Republican. I’m not really a Democrat either, just as far as you can get from Republican. I guess I’m a Democrat, I vote Democrat. Whatever. I have been a comic book aficionado since I was 7 or 8 years old and I have a podcast with Vincent. I talk about comic books not as a living, but as part of my living.

ZZ: Just to be clear, David’s been a comic book aficionado since before I was born.

DG: That’s true.

POME: For the record, Zoe is the baby of this group. So our next question – talk about your history with X-Men and your history with comics.

DG: I’ve been reading X-Men specifically since the mid ‘90s, maybe 1995. I guess that’s when it got serious. I’m super into comics, super into X-Men specifically, and super super into Iceman super super specifically.

ZZ: Wow. I’m gonna sound really lame coming after David, because I know absolutely nothing. I have read about three comics, and David has given them all to me.

JBV: Let’s see. I read comics on and off, I usually read big story arcs and then I just listen to what others have to say about comics. But I have been watching most of the X-Men cartoons since I was a kid. I usually read indie comics more.

AG: I got into comics as a kid through Disney comics, like DuckTales and stuff like that. In my adolescent years I went straight to manga, ‘cause that’s just what was available to me. And then I really started getting into a wider comics scene in my college years. I’ve been reading X-Men for a few years, I love X-Men, I have a tattoo of the symbol of my favorite X-Man on my arm, which is Kid Omega, AKA Quentin Quire.

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AG: One of my favorite hobbies is head-cannoning my favorite X-Men characters as queer and Quentin Quire definitely falls into that umbrella. That’s my deal.

POME: Which queer characters in comics really stand out to you? Which ones do you follow, do you relate to, do you think were poorly handled? This is really just an open-ended question to get your feelings out there.

DG: I’ll get it started. One that I really like is the second Question, in DC comics, Renee Montoya. I really like it because there was really very little, I felt, emphasis on her being gay. There are a lot of other comics, like Batwoman, where DC Comics  really seemed to be emphasizing “This is the lesbian Batwoman.” It was almost like they could have had that byline, like it could have been “Batwoman, AKA The Lesbian.”

AG: I’m glad you brought up Renee Montoya and Batwoman. I tend to take an opposite tack. I really do enjoy following characters who are really clearly queer identified because I think representation is crazy important, and I think sometimes more importantly, on the creator side as well.

DG: I guess my problem is specifically, outside of that community,  I think it’s a question of “queer superheroes like Batwoman” versus “Batwoman is a queer superhero.” I guess there was something about that that was just–

ZZ: Beaten to death, sort of?

AG: I don’t think something can be beaten to death when it’s so rare.

DG: And maybe that’s something I need to kind of take to heart. I just don’t want anyone to be identified by one specific trait, but in an industry where there’s nothing else like that, maybe it is like that.

AG: Yeah! I definitely think so. I don’t speak for all queer people, obviously, but I do speak for myself when I say that claiming a queer identity and being really out and loud about it is really important, not just to my identity, but also my survival, and my mental health. So I really value when I see characters who also reflect that. But like I said before, I enjoy head-cannoning characters as queer.

JBV: I think my favorite queer characters that I’ve read are from Scott Pilgrim. Stephen Stills and Wallace Wells, those two. The whole time I was reading, I felt like, “Oh Stephen. Please, Stephen.” And in the last book I was like “YES! OH MY GOD, YES!”  There’s hints, there’s definitely hints, but people didn’t know. And Wallace’s character, I think, was handled really well and I loved him throughout the comic. He was very sassy. “I’m here, you can’t ignore me.” I really liked that point of view, especially back then.

ZZ: From an outsider’s perspective, the only gay couple I was ever aware of and I don’t really know their names, but I know Northstar was one of them but I don’t know who he married.

AG: A regular human. Not a superhero.

ZZ: I remember switching on “The View” one morning and seeing Whoopi Goldberg just loving that this gay couple is on the front of a comic book and they’re holding hands and in one picture they’re even kissing and it was like oh my god, this is opening up the world a little bit and I was just like, you go, comic book world.

DG: And a little bit of an addition to that, sadly, we can’t remember his name.

ZZ: I’m glad it wasn’t just me!

AG: He’s not a superhero character, he’s just a guy. 

POME: Let’s go through what happened in this comic with Iceman.

DG: We are talking about issue of All New X-Men #40. So in the current 616 universe, there are two Icemen. There is Current Future Bobby, and Past Young Bobby. Current Future Bobby, who has historically always been written as mostly straight, has dated multiple women in the Marvel Universe, and then 14-year-old Bobby Drake has been transported to the present, along with the other original X-Men. In the current comics, Past Bobby Drake has been making comments about another teacher being hot –

AG: – who is a woman.

DG: Yes, Magick. So Young Past Bobby Drake makes a comment about her being hot and Young Past Jean Grey, who traveled through time with him and is telekinetic and telepathic, read his mind and then says out loud, “Why do you say that stuff? Bobby, you know, you’re gay. Why do you say that?” and he gets very defensive like, “Well I’m not gay.” It’s a longer conversation but he says “Well maybe I’m bi” and she says, specifically, “No, I think you’re full gay.” And then the conversation kind of ends with a loose acceptance on Bobby Drake’s end of like “maybe I’m gay, I need to think about this” and Jean Grey kind of feeling kinda good about, you know, outing him.

AG: There’s a lot of hugging. 

POME: We’re just going to go around in a circle and get started. Do you think this was handled well, yes or no?

ZZ: Well, I think given that the context is – how old are they, 14? 16?

DG: Bobby is 14 and Jean Grey is maybe 15 or 16.

ZZ: I think that loose acceptance is pretty much as good as it was gonna get, because I don’t think their small, teen brains allowed for much more processing of that news. I think she did well in that they were isolated from the other people and she was very much supportive of the fact that maybe he wanted to keep it to himself for a while. I think his reaction was normal as well. “What, no, why are you reading my mind, you creepy, nosy bitch, etcetera.” No huge surprises.

DG: So you felt like it was a good example?

ZZ: I felt like it was handled as well as it could have been handled in that context, of them being young and him being probably confused.

JBV: OK. So I have opinions. I do agree that I feel like Jean Grey taking him away from the group and talking about it was a good way to do it. In that sense, I don’t think he was fully outed, because it was just to her. It’s up to him now to tell the other people or not. It also felt a little intrusive, because I feel since she’s the psychic and she’s reading people’s minds constantly in the previous issues, I think it’s just for her to be able to accept Bobby.  I also have mixed feelings about the whole “full gay” thing. My friends who read comics are now like “Hey Jorge, so you’re full gay” and then the jokes started coming and it’s like “Oh, I was expecting this sooner or later.” Do you say “full straight” now?

DG: I know I do!

JBV: But it’s just that also, the scene right after they come out and she says “full gay,” and he says, “I know,” the first thing they talk about is how hot Angel is. And it’s always portrayed as, “You’ve come out as a gay, so we can talk about the same sex.” It’s either a female and a male, and the male is gay, or the female is a lesbian and there’s a guy so they talk about how hot a certain person is and like “oh, it would be perfect if they were gay or if he was gay but he’s not.” But also, they’re teenagers, so I guess I can see that also happening, but I kind of hoped it would be handled differently. 

POME: So would you say you are pro, con, or 50/50?

JBV: I would go with 50/50.

POME: Are you “full-pro” on this?

JBV: I’m half-pro, half-con.

AG: Everyone’s a little half.

DG: You’re bi-pro.

JBV: Totally bi-pro. 

POME: Everything you do for the next week, you should be like, “Are you hungry, or are you full hungry?”

JBV: I’m bi-hungry.

ZZ: I just wanted to mention that understanding it from her perspective, I can see why she would want to kind of relieve him of his anguish. I feel like she really saw him struggling and obviously if his thoughts are privy to you, I would personally tap into something like that if I saw a friend struggling.

AG: I also have a lot of feelings. I just want to say right out of the gate that I think having an original X-Men character who is gay is a huge fucking deal and that rules, representation-wise. I also wish it could have been handled a little better. The whole issue of Jean outing him – obviously, I feel very strongly about consent, and I don’t think that’s something that’s necessarily cool to do. Like “I know you’re gay, dude, I knowwwwwwwwww you’re gay.” But it is, I feel, in line with how she’s been characterized throughout this series where she is crossing those lines and people are constantly putting her in her place like “Yo don’t read my mind, that is a violation.” I wish it had been a little more clear that that’s not an OK thing to do. But you know, if wishes were fishes, blah blah blah. I thought the dialogue was a little stilted and felt very obviously written by a straight dude, like the line where it was like “Maybe he couldn’t handle being mutant and gay in a society that had issues with both?” and it’s like, OK girl, thanks for the…I don’t know…armchair psychoanalysis 101.

DG: Exposition? 

POME: Straight-splaining?

[Group agrees.]

AG: The “maybe I’m bi” thing, something that didn’t get specifically mentioned before the “full gay” comment, Jean says, “they say everybody is.” Obviously aside from the “full gay” thing, being bi isn’t like being half-gay, or gay-lite. It’s like being bi, which is its own special, magical thing, and a line like “they say everybody is” kind of feels like a really subtle bi-erasure, where it’s like, if you’re not a 1 or a 6 on the Kinsey scale, you’re just “a little bit gay.” It’s very much disrespectful of the fact that sexuality is a spectrum, that for a lot of people, sexuality is fluid, and whatever. And then the line where Jean says “I don’t think anyone here cares, not like back then.” 

POME: Oh yeah! They’re from the 60s!

DG: That’s a big question, too, to clarify. Are they from the 60s?

AG: I think it’s supposed to be a hat-tip to the fact that they originally appeared in comic books in the 60s. Continuity-wise, it’s a little more blurry because people don’t age in real time in comics. But I also take issue to that because, just because we have made certain steps forward doesn’t mean that life is necessarily easy or easier for all queer or gay people. It kind of erases the complexities and the true dangers of being part of queer communities in this day and age, and I thought that was a little glib and unfair.

DG: Whether or not this was handled well, my emotions have drastically changed. When I first heard about this, I guess there was a leak about it online. I went ahead and read about it on CNN. I was super vehemently pissed, and a big part of that was that so little information was out about it at the time. I thought they had said that Past Young Bobby Drake was being outed as gay but Future Bobby Drake was straight and they were saying it was a separation or dividing line and that they were two alternate ones. As I read a little bit more about what Bendis is trying to say, I admit I am finding myself more softened to the idea. Ultimately, the way that I kinda feel as a straight, cis, white male –

ZZ: – not Republican –

DG: – not Republican, I just enjoyed the fact that they are trying to add more diversity to the universe. I support it because I want there to be queer characters. I want Iceman to be gay, or “full gay,” or whatever they wanna call it. However gay he wants to be.

JBV: I know there’s a level, that’s like in terms of how much you like men and not how flamboyant you are. And that’s one of the things that might get thrown around a lot, like, he’s really gay, all the way. But people might think that he’s super flamboyant, and that’s totally two different things. So just to be clear, it means he likes dudes this much, not “he’s this flamboyant.”

POME: So, the next question is – do you think this makes sense in-universe? Did you see this coming, or did you think this was kind of an ass-pull?

JBV: To be honest, it’s more like I wished he was? It’s kind of like Ashley was saying you were doing your own “ship” in your head where he was gay? I really want Bobby to be gay, a lot. Like, “you don’t need to be with Kitty Pryde, stop that” in my head. It was a nice surprise that he is, but as a pulling-it-out-of-thin-air…maybe? I don’t know a lot about Iceman other than he’s part of the team and he’s awesome.

ZZ: So my background comes from this article that David printed for me called “Knowledge Waits: The Possible Hints Over The Years That Iceman Is Gay.” And I was very excited to read this article and I’ve read it, and then I looked at the title again to make sure that I was reading the same article because I personally did not see any hints along the way that he was gay, just based off these apparently very “gay” moments in Iceman’s history over the years. Even when other guys were hitting on him, he seemed kind of like a douchebag. Yes, his father seems like a bigot and an asshole, but he didn’t appear gay except with the exception of one panel. They drastically changed his appearance in this one panel, right there.

 

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ZZ: It was pulled out of context, and I’m being stereotypical, but I would have said “yes, he kind of looks gay there.” But even just based on appearance and artist and writing, I never noticed or thought, it never crossed my mind, even after reading this article, that he was gay. I think the fact that the writers never intended to write him as gay speaks a lot for his character.

AG: In terms of continuity of this run of Bendis’ All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men which overlap with each other, I definitely wasn’t expecting it. I don’t think they really set up anything in this particular run for Young Bobby to come out, or Old Bobby to come out, so that came out of left field for me. I’m not hugely familiar with Bobby in older continuity, but I did read that same article and my BFF is also a huge X-Men fan and he’s also like an encyclopedia of continuity, so we had kind of a long conversation about it.  He said that he remembered reading a run where Northstar had a big crush on Bobby and feeling that Bobby might come out. A lot of people felt that way during that run, from what I’ve gathered. So I don’t think it comes completely out of left field and like I said, I’m very guilty, proudly guilty of head-cannoning supposedly straight characters as queer. I think it’s cool when something like that gets canonized. I think that can feel really validating for a lot of people who have secretly wished for that or held that belief for a long time.

DG: I’ve read this article, I’ve been reading X-Men and Iceman particularly for a long time, and while no, I did not expect Iceman to be gay, I also wasn’t shocked in the same sense that this long article that shows all of this evidence of Iceman being gay, you could literally create the same thing for every single character. I am not joking about this at all. Bobby, for a very brief period of time, has a thing for an a-gender, sexually…how would you describe it?

ZZ: Ambiguous?

AG: Gender-fluid? Or gender queer?

DG: Yeah, an asexual and gender-fluid, gender queer… gas being. It’s a gas being from space who comes down to Earth.

AG: Talk about your stereotypes.

DG: Yeah, those sentient gas clouds, they’re confusing everyone. But I was just as surprised as I would have been if you had identified Cyclops, or Beast, or Jean Grey.

AG: … Jean Grey I’m kinda feeling.

DG: I’m just not surprised, since these characters have existed since the 60s. There’s gonna be so much work that anyone can pull at straws and say “this was super gay” or “this was super straight” or “this was super bi.” But I’m also not upset. I think it’s super awesome.

AG: I do think there’s something that can be said for fan-faves coming from queer communities, where there’s a large minority of people who feel this same way about this same character, because it’s kind of like having your own little internal gaydar for this character. I think those things do have a kind of validity, like, if a lot of us are on the same page as “this character just reads as super queer as fuck to me,” there’s something to be said for that.

DG: So would you say that the fan input is super important in the creation of this character?

AG: Definitely. I definitely think Bobby was carefully chosen in that way, in the sense that it could have been anyone.

DG: Like, it could have been Angel.

AG: Yeah! It could have been Angel, it could have been Cyclops, it could have been Jean.

JBV: Not Cyclops.

AG: Yeah, no one wants Cyclops. But technically yes, it could have been anyone, but I do think Bobby was chosen because it was a long standing fan-fave and those feelings are important to consider because we have those feelings for a reason.

DG: And I will say real quick, out of the original X-Men, he was the one who’s been written so amorphously over the years. Cyclops, Jean Gray, Angel and Beast have very distinct identities and personalities. Iceman for the most part doesn’t. You’re right, I think he was carefully chosen because of that.

AG: And as kind of a closing remark on this, while I don’t speak for all the queer people, but in general, those of us who are queer and really love whatever media we love, whether it be comics, film, TV, whatever, we have a history and life-long practice of reading subtext and using that subtext to read characters as queer because sometimes that’s all we get, so I think that’s another important thing to consider. This is kind of something we’re used to doing in terms of kind of reading between the lines and pulling these queer narratives out of it because we fucking have to.

[Group collectively claps appreciatively.]

POME: Do you think that Bobby came out, or was outed?

JBV: I don’t think he came out. He was more outed by Jean to himself just so he can accept it. Him outing himself would be him then going back to the group and saying, “this is how I feel, straight up,” or whenever he talks to them individually and he’s like, “this is how I feel about this person.”

ZZ: He was invaded by Jean. But you’re right, he did accept that he was gay which is a step, because there are those who desperately try and repress their sexuality but obviously don’t feel comfortable enough to bring it up to their peers.

AG: Important to note, Bendis does say that specifically the ramifications for Older Current Present Day Iceman are going to come up in Uncanny X-Men, so it sounds like the Icemen are going to have that conversation with each other, hopefully, and hopefully it’s a good conversation. 

POME: Jorge, you look really not into that.

JBV: I am really not into that.

AG: Yeah, again, my friends and I were talking about how basically this implies that Older Iceman is just a fucking tragic lifelong closet case, which is fucking sad.

ZZ: That’s sort of what it looks like, with his poor relationships with women, or whatever amorphous whatever he’s trying to date.

AG: Yeah, so we’ll cross that creaky rope bridge when we get to it. But yeah, I do definitely feel that Jean invaded Bobby’s privacy and there is an argument to be made about how she’s sort of saving him from himself, or from his tragic closeted future, but that’s not really her prerogative. It’s one thing to be like “Hey, I’ve kind of been picking up this vibe from you, how do you feel about it? I’m here for you if you want to talk about it” rather than being like “Hey man, I know you’re gay.” “No I’m not.” “But I know you are.” That’s kind of a shitty thing to do. I wouldn’t say he necessarily “came out” because so far it’s only him and Jean who know about it and who’s to say what’ll happen in the future. He might come out to anyone and that’s the future status quo for X-Men forever, or in the impending event where the universes are going to collide and shitloads of people are gonna die, he might have just had a brief moment of self-love and then be exterminated from continuity forever. Who’s to say? At least we’ll get a lot of really good fanfiction out of it.

JBV: I don’t know… it’s gonna be treading on thin ice. Especially depending on who’s writing it.

[Group devolves into puns for 5 minutes.]

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JBV: Yeah, the whole tragic story of being in the closet your entire life is just gonna really… ugh… ugh….

AG: I don’t really trust Bendis to be writing that.

JBV: Is he gonna be writing that?

[Ashley nods.]

JBV: Ah, really. Well we’ll see how that happens. I’m just really worried about it. It could go really terribly, or he could just deny the whole thing. Or he could come to accept it and suddenly just cry and be in tears and be this suddenly depressed Bobby. And then you’re like “….god …what do I do with this??” They could do it that way because it’s mostly written like, in tragedy, like queerness is tragedy. Which, I hope they don’t and he learns to be like, “I’m glad for you,” and then go forward from there. Cause he’s still young, right?

DG: Older Bobby’s still…

AG: 20s or 30s.

JBV: OK, cool.

DG: We’re averaging 30.

JBV: Well he still has like the rest of his life. Some people don’t come out til way later in life. If he learns to accept himself, that would be amazing.

ZZ: Big character development there. Lot of potential.

JBV: But if they write him as this tragic queer character, we’re done.

DG: Two things super quick: with people in the universe that are telepathic, does that change the concept of how people do or don’t come out? And the second thing, as Jorge was talking about how people come out later in life. I think that we need to acknowledge characters like Iceman who might be in their 30s, or 40s, or 50s, or whatever, they can come out too, even though they’ve had these long, meaningful relationships with women. And that’s a big commentary that people have had, in the comments on IGN, on Comic Book Resources, and all that stuff like “does this invalidate all the relationships that Bobby has had” because it’s like, fuck no. It is a fluid process. You now recognize that you are gay, or queer, or however you want to identify yourself as, whether you’re 14 or 30.

AG: Yeah, to touch on the most recent thing first of all, I would say very few people have what’s called in the queer community a “gold star,” AKA, the full gay.

ZZ: The full full gay. The fullest gay.

AG: Not having a “gold star” doesn’t invalidate your identity. Your identity is what you say it is and it’s an important part of respecting one another to accept that. As far as telepathy affecting how people come out in-universe and yadda yadda, I don’t really think it should. First of all, a person’s thoughts aren’t necessarily reflective of their identity. Second of all, even if we’re not considering powers like telepathy, a regular, normal person can still have cues and information which may lead them to suspect something about someone else’s sexuality. Just because you’re privy to that information, whatever the source of that information may be, doesn’t mean you have a right to decide someone else’s identity for them.

ZZ: Reading this, I sort of saw my own coming out story, which was kind of sad. I was in high school and I was going through a lot of shit and one of my friends actually talked to my parents and said “I think Zoe might be…” and I was like, are you kidding me? I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing or who I was fooling around with or whatever, but I wasn’t prepared for it, my parents approached me, they did their best, I give them credit, but I feel like the whole situation just started in the wrong light. I was probably like 15, 16, so I sort of see the whole Jean Grey situation where her age and her maturity wasn’t what it could have been at her full potential. But I was definitely outed and it didn’t help the current situation I was in so I feel for him on that level of being uncomfortable. I have to give him a lot of credit for at least accepting that because at the time I was like, “I guess I’m… bi…. curious,” the gentlest term I could use.

DG: [Sarcastically] You were half-gay.

ZZ: Quarter gay.

[Group laughs.]

ZZ: So I just wanted to show the parallel there. So it’s like, you’re sort of excited to out someone, you’ve got it! You’re right! But you’ve gotta be careful and consider the other person before it happens, which I don’t think was done.

AG: Yeah, and fortunately, you’re still here and alive, and some people can’t come out safely and we have to respect that, because it’s not our prerogative to put someone in danger.

[Group agrees.]

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POME: How do you think that this comic – comics in general, media in general – when you have a queer character that is now identified as queer where they have history as not being identified as queer… do you think this is a fair assessment of Bobby’s sexuality, or do you think this is… uh… lazy straight guy writing? It’s kind of a leading question, I guess. Let’s talk about full gay.

ZZ: I don’t disagree with how it was handled, and I do think this is an example of bi-erasure, and demeaning bi people. I think it needs to be taken in an overall perspective and overall I think the situation was handled pretty well, again, especially considering this is coming from a straight writer and out of the mouths of teenagers.

JBV: I guess I did have problems with it… of course I have problems with it. I guess I wasn’t ready or not looking forward to the use of it in real life. And people who don’t identify as “full gay.” The whole bi-erasure stuff.

AG: Well, I guess I want to clarify my position. I think the language is troublesome, like, positioning bi and full gay as sort of opposed. Like I said before, being bisexual isn’t like being full or half or semi-gay, it’s just its own thing and needs to be respected as such. I don’t think that Bobby’s self-identifying as gay is problematic, also like I said before, not everyone who’s gay-identified has a gold star and that’s ok. Do I wish there were more positive representations of bisexual people in popular media? Yes. Do I think the reason that they’re not is that the frequently straight writers who are writing them are taking aren’t considering that bisexuality or pansexuality or queer are real and valid sexual orientations? Yes. But, that aside, when you take it as a case-by-case basis, I think it’s great that Bobby, for now, tentatively, identifies as gay. I just wish that the writers had taken a little more care with the language. I understand that the “full gay” thing was probably intended as a joke or a wink, but I also think that coming from a straight writer, it doesn’t really super feel right.

ZZ: It is hard to avoid offending anyone. And I think, for the most part, they did a good job of gently skirting around all the possible things that they could have throwing in there with the exception of that one.

AG: And I’m not even saying that I’m offended, I’m just saying that I think that if you’re writing about an experience that you don’t personally have, like as a straight writer writing a queer character, or a white writer writing a character of color, you have to take extra care about whether or not that language is really useful for the characterization and the story, and overall, I don’t think that was necessarily the case. 

POME: So we’re talking about a world where there is time travel, and the whole deal with the mutants in general, with multi-universes, where the same person can have dozens of different identities within the Marvel canon, i.e. 616, Ultimates, etc. You have a million different canons. What do you think the importance of identity is, when the same person can have many different identities and what do you think that importance should be?

DG: I don’t know if everyone’s super familiar with Nick Fury, but in the 616 universe, Nick Fury is white, but in the Ultimate universe and the Marvel cinematic universe, he’s black, as played by Samuel L Jackson. We’ve got characters who’ve appeared as male or female in different iteration, Sasquatch, for example appears as male or female in different universes. We’re dealing with gender and race as being almost a mutable concept, and can we, or should we allow sexual identity the same level of mutability?

ZZ: It’s …science …fiction. In my point of view, when you can do all these crazy things, all these mutations, all these super powers, queer characters should technically be the furthest thing from being weird. Yet in our society, that’s what we’re surprised by. But that strikes me as sort of odd because I am more enthralled that people are blue and have all these weird abilities, can freeze people, but the fact that one of them’s gay, well, that represents a tenth of the population, that’s accurate, one in ten characters should actually be gay, or one in three should be black. I mean, I’m looking for an accurate representation.

JBV: I feel like it should be more of a, let the character be who they are. You don’t have to say their sexuality, they can just be with whoever they want. Especially in this sci-fi version where everything is weird. They can be like “oh, I’m dating this character” and they can just have this interaction with this character and be flirting with this character because that’s how they feel.

ZZ: Well I think one day we might get to that point but right now it’s too much of a shock. Hopefully one day.

AG: I’m definitely the kind of person where I kind of want things to be better, and I want it now. And that’s just who I am, that’s whatever. But I do think mainstream comics, the publishers themselves and their large fandoms, can be a little too boxed in. I’m not reading any DC comics right now, except for maybe Gotham Academy…

DG: Real quick, why are you not reading DC?

ZZ: It’s not a real quick answer, David.

DG: Five words.

AG: Five words? Um…

JBV: Convergence.

AG: Can I do seven words?

DG: Seven words is fine.

AG: They. Don’t. Give. A. Fuck. About. Me.

[Group claps.]

AG: And it’s not it’s necessarily just me, they don’t give a fuck about people who are way more marginalized than me, they just don’t give a fuck. And I don’t think necessarily that everyone at Marvel gives a fuck but some people do, and at least they’re trying, and at least they’re putting shit out there, even if it’s not as much as I would like.

DG: I wholeheartedly agree. I just wanted to know.

AG: So, I do think that these are universes in which characters have historically been really interchangeable. You have a couple of Captain Americas, now you have a couple of different Thors. My point is that these are universes in which there’s a whole lot of opportunity for play, and that includes identity play, and I think that mainstream publishers and editors should be way more open to that. And I think that if they were, they would find that that stuff, aside from being kind of what I feel a moral imperative, it sells books. People want that. I’m very interested to see where Secret Wars goes because I’m very aware of the non-canonical. It’s kind of cool that it was created as kind of the grounds for playing with crazier concepts, but until basically Miles Morales came around, it didn’t even really work that way. Some characters were like “dark” versions of themselves.

DG: Dark Beast.

AG: Meaning like, evil or whatever, Dark Reed Richards, and I have… issues with that. Anyway, I think that sometimes when you set up these multiple universes and one is set aside for more experimental grounds, it can gain that kind of second-class citizenship sort of thing? And I think that is sort of iffy?

DG: Evil Reed Richards is cool, but he’s not the real Reed Richards.

AG: Exactly.

DG: Miles Morales is cool, but he’s not the real Spider-Man.

AG: Except people were still upset enough to be like “I still think Spider-Man is Peter Parker” and it’s like, you still have 5 or 6 white ass Peter Parker books, so what are you fucking complaining about. 

POME: [interjecting] Yeah, you have three white Peter Parkers…you have Peter Parker, Ben Reilly, and Jessica Drew.

AG: Yeah, you have those Spider-Men where there’s a white Spider-Man so why are you complaining about this one.

ZZ: I think maybe the way that the readership has reacted to this gay character reflects the way that society reacts to gay characters and it does reflect how society feels, you know? Only 56% of Americans are on the pro-gay-marriage side of things and I think that is sort of reflective in the response to this comic. Again, it’s a societal thought, we want things to be the way they are and we don’t like things being changed.

AG: Definitely, on that basic principle I completely agree.

DG: And I wonder, is it kind of a separation between sexual identity and race and gender? I think a lot of the stuff that I read online is very much, “I am a hardcore comic book nerd, I don’t want anything to change from anything ever, goddamnit.”

[Moderator can no longer help not getting drawn in, in a terrible example of group facilitation.]

POME: Yeah, gender identity representation across universes should follow real life a lot more than it does, and I think that part of it is that “we don’t want anything to change.” But in comics and also, in society, what’s normal is white, straight guys. When you say “people,” it’s usually referring to that group of people and it doesn’t matter if on the planet there are many more people who are not white , straight males, it’s… a position of privilege, being like, “I don’t want this to change, I want this to be just normal,” but what is normal? I think comics as an industry is freaking out right now because it’s like, “we have to listen to the gays, and the women and all these people who aren’t white? What?”

ZZ: Yeah, and the new Ms. Marvel, I’m sure she shook the world when she appeared, that must have been a shock.

AG: Yeah, I think you’re right in that “I don’t want things to change” does come from a place of privilege and being used to seeing yourself represented everywhere, that when you see a different kind of person represented, it feels like an invasion of yourself.

ZZ: But it’s also like what David was talking about, you stick to a series for 10, 20 years, I’d be unnerved by a drastic change like this. It wouldn’t bother me and I wouldn’t be talking to people about how upset I was, but I’d still be like, something changed. I guess it would make me uncomfortable before I acclimated.

DG: Yeah, it’s not upsetting, it’s just jarring.

AG: Yeah… I guess I’m a little more judgmental in the sense that I’m like…

ZZ: “Get over yourself”?

AG: Yeah.

[Group laughs.]

JBV: I think that’s one of the problems in ongoing comics, that if you’re gonna make this drastic change, it’s gonna come directly like this, not in a well thought out passage, or a well thought out progression of story arcs. It’s a major clash of opinions, which is something I don’t think can happen in the major stories in Marvel comics or DC comics in all of those.

AG: Like when Batwoman got engaged and they were like “you’re not gonna write this anymore, byeeeee”. 

POME: So I’d like to do our conclusion… do you have any final thoughts that you would like to express in under a minute?

DG: The only thing I would say is for me, I need to see how this plays out. How Bendis, how Marvel specifically deals with this is what I am most interested in to see how this plays out.

ZZ: Overall I think they did a good job and I am eager to see where this goes and what they decide to do with Iceman.

JBV: I’m really glad that Bobby’s gay. I’m happy for that point, but they still need to address the other issues.

AG: Despite my general curmudgeonly disposition and my feeling that this could have been handled a little better, I’m still super psyched about it, and I know that not everyone and everything is perfect. I’m so glad that Bobby is queer, however that plays out, I hope it plays out in a positive way, not a tragic way. I think this is a good moment to call for more representation and better representation.

[Group cheers and claps and tries to unfreeze legs.]

Pomegranate Magazine

Pomegranate Magazine

POMEmag is the internet’s premier pastel, macabre feminist dork publication. Or at least, a very pastel, macabre feminist dork publication that is leaning into that identity pretty hard.
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