I can’t believe I missed this one
I go on vacation for one week, and I miss a major gay comics story! Such is life.
(On the off chance anyone besides me here is behind on Marvel Comics’ “X-Factor,” stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers for X-Factor #45.)
Rictor and Shatterstar are two characters in the Marvel Comics universe who writers have long implied are (or were) a couple. Over a decade ago, well before gay characters were even approaching normalcy, we got gems like this narrative bubble about a female character and Rictor both seeing people off:
“She has lost Warpath. He has lost Rictor. Both see these missing teammates as ‘friends’. Both too stubborn to admit they may mean more than that.”
Subtle, huh? The Advocate gives a decent summary of the kiss and its meaning for the uninitiated, but the really good stuff is the back-and-forth over on Comic Book Resources between X-Factor writer Peter David and artist/writer/etc. Rob Liefeld, the latter of whom has his share of detractors (as you can find with a quick search). Liefeld has said he “can’t wait to undo” the development, while David says the kiss was neither detrimental nor untrue to the characters. The comments on the CBR story make for some great reading, but here are a few gems:
First the CBR article quotes Liefeld from his own message board:
“… I have nothing against gays, I have gay family, nuthin’ but love here,” he wrote on his message board (registration required). “Ditto gay characters if that’s what their true origins are.
“As the guy that created, designed and wrote his first dozen appearances, Shatterstar is not gay. Sorry. Can’t wait to someday undo this. Seems totally contrived.”
Peter David responds via a comment on the story:
I understand that some parents have the same reaction. They were responsible for their children’s first appearances and, when informed of their sexual persuasion, firmly declare it’s impossible, they can’t be gay.
I find particularly distressing Rob’s contention that Shatterstar can’t possibly be gay because he’s a warrior. That might come as a bit of a shock to Alexander the Great. For that matter, among his assortment of gay friends, I suppose Rob has none in the military since of course gays aren’t allowed to serve unless they keep their mouths shut. Perhaps Rob would like to see “don’t ask, don’t tell” implemented in the Marvel universe.
It keeps going from there.
This all goes beyond the nitty-gritty details of the ludicrously complicated Marvel universe. A relationship which could only be hinted at over scores of issues in the ’90s is now confirmed. This speaks to a newfound openness about gay characters both at Marvel and the world that reads their work, and while it comes as no surprise that the U.S. is more accepting of two men in love than it was 15 years ago, shifts in social norms take a particularly long time to hit comic books. (Almost all characters are straight and white, women are often weak or insane and invariably wear very revealing clothing; racial minority characters are frequently based on stereotypes, etc.)
But I’m not going to lie—politics and worldviews aside, the comic nerd part is thrilled with this development. Rictor and Shatterstar aren’t the first gay couple in the Marvel universe (and just because they kissed doesn’t mean they’re together), but even my favorite comics couple, the well-established twosome Wiccan and Hulkling, haven’t kissed yet. It’s not really a glass ceiling that’s been broken, but maybe we can say the panel has been opened?