Over the past few years, Marvel’s comic roster has steadily become more and more diverse, as their comics star a range of heroes of different genders and ethnicities. This is great. But these successes make the publisher’s glaring absence of LGBT protagonists even more noticeable than ever before.
Image Credit: America #1 cover by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson/Uncanny X-Men #600 interior art by Sara Pichelli, Mahmud Asrar, Stuart Immonen, Kris Anka, Chris Bachalo, David Marquez and Frazer Irving
Currently, not a single one of the 76 ongoing series at Marvel comics features an openly LGBT primary character. Back in July, when Marvel announced the 60 new and continuing series that would take the current line-up’s place as “Marvel Now!” this spring, I was gutted to see that none of the new series revealed featured LGBT leads, either.
In fact, Marvel has had only one comic series in 2016 with an LGBT lead character, namely Angela: Queen of Hel, which was cancelled in March. Before that, the company faced sharp criticism for its handling of LGBT issues through blunders such as its erasure of demigod Hercules’ bisexuality ahead of his own ongoing series last year, or the controversial way in which original X-Man Iceman was forcefully outed by his teammate Jean Grey. For a long while, Marvel has slowly but surely cut down on the roles and visibility of LGBT characters, consigning them to background support of team books, and never the lead.
That’s not to say Marvel doesn’t have any LGBT characters at the moment. Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat, features gay supporting characters; All-New X-Men features the young Iceman getting to grips with his sexuality; Black Panther prominently features two former Dora Milaje members in a relationship that will soon be highlighted in a spinoff series. But none of these characters headline a series, and the total lack of leads that could fill the void of LGBT representation was upsetting, especially so for a publisher that often boastfully prides itself on presenting a diverse array of characters and creators.
After the outcry over the total absence of LGBT main characters in Marvel’s 60 series Marvel Now announcement, the publisher has declared just this month that America Chavez and Iceman, both homosexual characters, would be headlining their own titles soon. While it’s a step in the right direction, it still means fans looking for LGBT leads at Marvel are being told to wait until next year. More upsettingly, it also still means that Marvel didn’t see the lack of LGBT characters as a problem to address in its first wave of Marvel Now! series, or even its second.
Image Credit: Young Avengers #15, art by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson
On top of that, neither America or Iceman have revealed their creative teams, making their announcements feel like throwaway attempts to stop fans complaining about the lack of LGBT representation at the company, rather than an earnest attempt to improve their current lack of LGBT leads — which is a shame considering they represent positive steps in the right direction for correcting Marvel’s LGBT diversity issues.
As one of the biggest publishers in the industry, Marvel has to do better. They cannot currently claim to be a company that prides itself on diversity while being so thoroughly lacking in this regard — especially when their largest competitor, DC Comics, is telling frank and compelling stories featuring major LGBT characters in the likes of Midnighter and Apollo, Hellblazer and Detective Comics (even though it’s a team book, Batwoman is arguably the lead) or in the upcoming Batwoman solo series.
It is unfathomable that Marvel has considered its current output in regards to LGBT characters as acceptable. The company can do so much better, and we know this for a fact, because of the fantastic strides it’s made in their representation of female heroes and people of colour.
So why do LGBT fans wanting to see heroes like themselves in the pages of Marvel comics keep being told to wait for their time to come?