Marvel Comics Needs To Do Way Better With Its LGBT Representation

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?


Comments

    As a gay man I understand the dismay that one might acquire, when gazing at the lack of role models in pop culture. However the solution is not to bash the creative teams verbally, until they create the content we want.

    I would love a sweet, regular hero who just happens to be gay, or a character who uses their powers to help and change, those who would seek to destroy them. However, if there is one thing that I have learnt from previous attempts at this, it is that the best characters who are gay, are the ones written from the will of the creative teams producing them naturally.

    For example, if you were to look at the Iron Bull or Dorian, or even Sera in Dragon Age Inquisition. They all represent people who have differing sexual proclivities, but because they were created day dot to be a character first and gay later, they were believable and very likable.

    They are a perfect example of how one should attempt to create such representations in our media. Screaming at marvel will only inspire annoyance and a creative team that feels threatened by every step they take. That in my opinion is not how I want to see LGBTQ characters created.

      Very well put. As I see it Marvel are making strides but we have to remember that these are superheroes and unless they have super sexual powers then their sexuality isn't a primary defining factor of who they are as a hero. Many people, myself included, are happy to see a character who is a super hero and also happens to be attracted to members of their own sex. This can be reflected throughout the interactions the character partakes in. What we don't want is a guy throwing on a rainbow cape and calling himself "SuperGayMan". That's not progress, that's parody.

      It's good to tell Marvel that we are happy with more LGBTQ characters. It's not so good to demand that they make more in the name of progress.

    Ultimate Colossus was a well written character with his sexuality being a minor issue I the overall of things. Hulkling and Wiccan were in the Young Avengers comic and both were standouts amongst the group. Why MARVEL doesn't take these two openly gay characters and give them their own mini series is beyond me.

    MARVEL should focus on their already existing list of LGBT characters and spend more time on them. I understand the article is about lead characters, but as long as the LGBT community is being represented, isn't that the main thing?

    Over at DC, Batwoman had her own series during the New 52, which was sadly cancelled because of what reason?! I highly enjoyed that series and the twisted art style on offer. However people saying MARVEL needs to bring more characters to the front that are LGBT, well that to me sounds like MARVEL will just force a sexuality change to appease the fans crying for it.

    I for one just want a well written character. No matter the race, gender or sexuality. If you give me a black transsexual superhero who moonlights as an attack helicopter, and the series is well written and compelling, I'll read it.

    You're about to get 2 books that feature LGBT characters as the headliners. LGBT characters are becoming more and more common in comic books in general. This whole article screams entitlement (I want it NOW!! I want MORE of this NOW!!)

    Comic books are created months before they are published, they are planned years ahead of that. The reason this wasn't something that was tackled in the last two Marvel reboots is because at the time it was all planned, the culture of the world at the time wasn't so militant about LGBT characters being in ALL media like it is today. Not everything is instant so stop bitching about something that was decided in the past.

    Hmm I'm not sure why the writer acts as though representation was some sort of owed thing that is reprehensible if omitted? Why does everything and everybody have to be represented? And who is he to judge the "right amount" of representation? Why is "only 2" LGBT headliners too little? Where are my Hispanic headliners? I don't see any Mormons. Only one catholic who's never had his own book and only one Indian? How come not a single character even secondary from Azerbaijan? Should I start throwing around accusations of discrimination just because the levels of representation of any given band within the spectrum of humanity is not as high as I personally would prefer? Wouldn't such entitled attitude conduce to tokenism if catered to?

    So many questions.

    Last edited 26/10/16 10:47 pm

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