The other week, I went to Steel City Con, the Pittsburgh Area’s valiant attempt at a comic con. Lots of vendors, bunch of B- and C-list TV celebs, usually two or three A-listers (last year I got autographs from Shannen Doherty AND Holly Marie Combs!!!), and of course: tons of passionate, weird, lovable pop culture junkies, God love ’em. As I went through through my loot, I realized I had had a gay ol’ time. My two biggest gems? Action figures of Willow and Tara, and All New X-Men #17: aka newly-out Iceman’s first, big (I’m talking full-page panel) gay kiss. This is exceptional, you guys: Iceman has been part of the X-Verse since its very beginnings in 1963, one of the original five X-Men. So how did we get to this place fifty-four years later? It’s the long line of the quirkiest comic team family expanding its inherent diversity. Let’s take a look.
This is the most awesome trailer I’ve seen in ages. I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that I haven’t been this excited for a strictly X-Men movie in a while now, especially one that has Wolverine as the main character. But this? This is all I have ever wanted in a new X-Men movie, and it sets things up for hopefully diverse X-Men movies in the future.
When used well, allegory is a powerful tool for satire and critique. It can make complex subjects easier to understand, or foreign concepts more relatable. Of course, when used poorly, you end up with mixed messages and weak positions. Worse yet, bad allegory can send the entirely wrong message, and creators should know how to avoid that minefield.
It’s often hard to be religious and queer. At least, depending on the religion. Many segments of Christianity as well as other mainstream religious schools of thought put queerness firmly into the realm of “abomination”, to some degree or another. A popular mentality in many conservative Christian sects is that queerness goes against the natural order set into place by God when He created Adam and Eve as partners, making same-sex attraction “disordered”. This often translates to an understanding of queerness as either a mental illness, which could be healed with prayer, or a vice that, like a desire to gamble or steal, can be resisted through faith-based strength of character. While this attitude is not representative of all religion, nor, in Christianity’s case, true to Christ’s actual teachings, the fact remains: it’s damn hard to be religious and queer.
And while it remains hard to find good representation of queer characters, and good representation of religious characters, you’re more likely to catch a Mewtwo at your local grocery store than you are to find a meaningful and balanced representation of someone who ticks both boxes.
Instead, we often see religious characters in genre fiction who, while part of a societal out-group that could stand as a metaphor for queerness, are not actually queer themselves. Furthermore, they often believe or have been taught to believe that this otherness is, yes, an abomination, leading them to make terrible choices based on their internalized hatred of themselves or others like themselves. Perhaps God has singled them out as martyrs, challenging them to live a godly life in spite of their inherent (ungodly) differentness. Unfortunately, these portrayals do nothing but serve the tired stereotype that closeted individuals are often responsible for anti-queer hate crimes, rather than dealing with the more realistic issues surrounding internalized religious homophobia.
Trigger warning for discussions of self-harm and suicide after the cut.
I always loved Gambit. The smooth talking Cajun, desperately in love with Rogue despite not being able to touch her, was certainly one of my favorite characters growing up. He was a little bit of an arrogant asshole, but he had a good heart. Gambit was also a big fanservice character. He was one of the few male characters drawn more for female comic readers, and furthermore, there was always the hint that Gambit’s sexuality might be more fluid than the comics led us to believe. However, despite everything that could be inferred from the comic, Gambit was never explicitly stated to be a queer character. That seems to be a big trend in comics right now. Despite the fact that Marvel in particular has been doing a lot better with having more diversity in their comics, there is still a significant lack of queer characters.
Recently, a friend and I were talking about writing a story together, and since we’re both very into fantasy, we decided to write something with magical characters. However, we quickly ran into a problem: there are… way too many stories with magical elements out there. (As you might know from this column.) So what was the best way to build a world that had magic, but wasn’t cliché or boring? And if you’re building a magical system from scratch, what was the best way to set limits for your magical characters? I looked at some of my own favorite genre stories to get an idea of what I was getting into. Some appeared to have pretty concrete magical worldbuilding, and some appeared to have more nebulous worldbuilding. Both worked, but which was better?
When I was in grad school I had a Biblical Studies instructor who was from Romania. He was a member of the Romanian Orthodox Church, but he seemed to have a great love of Judaism and was an active advocate against anti-Semitism. I remember him sadly telling us how he was sometimes uncomfortable when he went back to Europe to visit family because he claimed that anti-Semitism was once again on the rise. That was three years ago. Now it seems like I can’t go a day without reading about how anti-Semitism is on the rise not just in Europe but in the U.S. as well. And sadly we can see this attitude reflected in our own geek culture. Today I am going to specifically talk about the anti-Semitism in the X-Men/Marvel Movie Universe.
For reasons that should be obvious, Storm is one of my favorite X-Men and favorite Marvel characters besides. However, there is one reason that stands out above all the others: she is unapologetic. Going through Ororo Munroe’s publication history, all the way back to her 1973 origin story, one finds few examples where Storm caves to feeling sorry for any part of her identity. Storm is unapologetically Black, unapologetically African, unapologetically a woman and a leader, and unapologetically powerful.
While she lacks a well-developed rogues’ gallery as an individual, she stands out among the female X-Men as largely not having been portrayed as some kind of embarrassing stereotype. She is not Jean Grey, constantly out of control, shuttled back and forth between men who have no idea how to treat women, and dying every other week. She is not Psylocke, characterized by her crippling identity issues. Beyond other comparisons, she never guilts herself for her childhood trauma, which includes a near-rape and a jet plane crashing into her home and happening to orphan her, by the by, or the pursuant claustrophobia she was left with.
Storm’s entire persona is very Riot Grrrl. She’s here, the elements marshal their infinite might at her command, get used to it. As with the Riot Grrrl movement of the 90s and the female punk and post-punk musicians of the 70s and 80s that preceded it, Storm comes and an ethos of Black female power and expression follow in her wake. What better personification of this than 80s Storm?
December 8th was Pansexual Pride Day and as a proud pansexual myself, I wanted to mark the occasion by talking about pansexuality in geekdom. Except… there isn’t much pansexual representation in geekdom, and I’ve already written about the few characters who have been identified as pansexual. Gay and lesbian characters are still barely represented in all of pop culture, and bisexual and transgender characters rarely, if ever, grace our sphere of geekdom. So while it’s not much of a surprise that other lesser known sexualities are not represented, it’s always nice to dream of a day when more queer characters will exist in our media. Today, I decided to pick five characters that I would love to see come out as pansexual. Just to clarify, these are characters I wish would end up being pansexual. This does not mean that I think they necessarily are pansexual or are presented as pansexual.
Without further ado, here, in no particular order, are five characters I wish were pansexual.
You guys, I am so excited about my topic for this post. For today’s Throwback Thursday, I am throwing it way back, about thirty years, to be precise. Join me as I turn back the clock. The year: 1983. The place: Charles Xavier’s mansion in Westchester County, New York. That’s right, the home of… The New Mutants! Did you think I was going to talk about the X-Men again? Not quite; today I will be talking about the original New Mutants, the first spin-off X-title. The new students were the second group of inexperienced teenagers to make their home at the X-Mansion after the original class aged into adulthood and had been joined by even more adult members. It is my duty and my pleasure to make sure everyone knows about this greatly overlooked and under-appreciated team.