With the legalization of homosexual marriage in New York City, one character in Marvel comics is finally able to fulfill a dream. Northstar, a mutant on Marvel’s Alpha Flight and X-men teams will marry his partner Kyle Jinadu in Astonishing X-men #51 this month. Northstar has long been open about his sexuality and been able to maintain his status as an X-man. However, that status has never been as a first string character. In fact, his wedding is the most notable attention Northstar has received since a short segment during the X-men’s exodus to Utopia. This wedding shows a unification of the Marvel universe in two ways; first, it unites a super-powered character with a human partner, and second, it happens when the X-men are struggling through a shift in ideals that has split them into two teams. Is the unity promoted in this issue evidence that GLBT characters are now going to receive more recognition in the industry? It’s possible.
DC Comics has also recently given some attention to the GLBT demographic as it restructured its universe for the New 52. Before the launch, DC execs assured readers that an “iconic” character would be re-written as gay. GLBT fans were excited to see a major character come out for the world, but the excitement fizzled a bit last month. The iconic character turned out to be Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern. Many reader balked at the character’s life change; some did so because they couldn’t believe DC would make the formerly straight character gay, others because he is not nearly what they expected when they were assured that it would be an iconic character. DC has explained that the change was made because Scott’s son, a gay character, would be written out of existence with the shift to the New 52, but they didn’t want it to look like they were trying to purge their titles of gay characters. Scott, like Northstar, is not a first string character and has lost a lot of attention with mainstream crowds who only recognize members of the Green Lantern Corps like Hal Jordan and John Stewart.
The comics industry has long been a medium where diversity is welcome. Giant Sized X-men #1 featured a new team of X-men with members from Germany, Russia, Ireland, Africa, the Apache Nation, Canada, and America back in 1975. This was a leap toward globalization long before the term was even coined. Questions have come up whether the rise of characters like Scott and Northstar is really newsworthy. Some have wondered how — in our modern world — it makes a difference whether a character is gay or straight. Some have questioned whether it is right to promote gay characters in a medium read by children (though these are likely arguments coming from someone who hasn’t been in a comic chop lately where almost the entire demographic is adult males).
The real issue is about acceptance, something that the X-men have fought for since their creation. Marvel is showing the world their devotion to portraying GLBT characters as mainstream and no longer a group to be kept on the back burner with its move to devote the entire issue of Astonishing X-men to Northstar’s wedding. Comic books are a place where heroes unite amidst their differences, and with the popularity of GLBT characters increasing, it looks like differences are being overlooked in more than just nationalistic circles. Heroes are rising that are breaking down the stereotypes of the last millennia and creating room for stories with all kinds of protagonists.
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