Nearly two years ago I made a post on Tumblr proposing that snarky young superhero Kate Bishop, a member of the Young Avengers and Clint Barton’s protégé, was a trans woman. Even upon this most social justice-y of websites, the response was a mixed bag, but the most notable opposition was a version of the classic “ermagerd why does everyone have to be queer?!” argument, with a heaping scoop of “I’m not transphobic tho” for some added zest. Now, in this case I had a little tiny crumb of actual contextual evidence that could possibly suggest that Kate is trans, but the really delightful thing about trans headcanons is that nearly any character in any media could be trans, and ain’t nobody gotta prove nothin’.
The toxic masculinity at the heart of nerd culture has been exposed—most noisily through Gamergate, but via plenty of other incidents as well. While sexism has been the most obvious motivator for these reactionaries, spillover into racism, homophobia, and transphobia are par for the course. At a fundamental level, this burst of nastiness is a reaction to the first real challenge to the privileged position of white men in nerd culture.
Things have degenerated into something of a civil war in nerd culture, and while it rages on, it is becoming abundantly clear that the good guys are going to win this one. I’m not so optimistic as to say that hatred and oppression will disappear, in nerd culture or anywhere else, but there is at least a growing consensus that those things are wrong, and deserving of criticism.
The doors are open, and white men no can longer dominate. But this change comes only after generations of being told that those stories are universal and vitally important. For years, white men never needed to share the stage, and the tales of others were pushed away. As we finally start to knock down the worldview that so deeply privileges one identity, it becomes imperative to reconstruct whiteness and masculinity as something new. Before, the construction of these identities was deeply rooted in claiming entitlement to a supreme position. Now, we need a construction which both rejects that entitlement and recognizes what enormous privilege remains.
Terrorist organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan, forced Reconstruction to end in the American South before its time, leading to an enormous and destructive backslide for civil rights. White men in nerd culture are now threatening or executing political violence for the same purposes. We need reconstruction to make sure they do not succeed. Comics, so long at the forefront of everything toxic about nerd masculinity and exclusivity, have taken up the call, and are finally white, male characters into new roles which fit in a diverse world. With any luck, these are not just changing stories, they’re going to be changing readers.
Okay, if you’re a comics fan, or a sci-fi/fantasy fan in general, you’re probably pretty comfortable with time being less of a straight line, and more a mixed-up ball of timey-wimey… stuff. That said, it probably threw you a little bit to see All-New Hawkeye launch negative six weeks after the conclusion of its predecessor, Matt Fraction’s beloved Hawkeye. Oh well; Book One’s use of flashbacks helps you take the odd ordering in stride.
In any case, the adventures of Clint & Kate are now in the hands of Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez, under the editorial guidance of superstar Sana Amanat. Amanat—now Marvel’s Director of Content & Character Development—headed up Fraction’s Hawkeye, and her portfolio includes Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel, Daredevil, and of course, Marvel’s emerging flagship, Ms. Marvel herself, Kamala Khan.
The floorboards are thudding with the vibration when Kate steps into Clint’s hallway. Okay, the floors are vinyl tile, who knows if there are boards under there, Kate doesn’t have a degree in construction, but—poetic license. “If the building’s rocking, don’t come knocking?” she says dubiously as she turns the doorknob.
As soon as she opens the door, booming vocals spill into like hallway like they’re surfing the crest of a pop-punk tsunami. “AND THAT’S ABOUT THE TIME SHE WALKED AWAY FROM ME, NOBODY LIKES YOU WHEN YOU’RE 23—”
Clint Barton is standing in the middle of the living room in his boxers and a t-shirt, half-heartedly moshing while he feeds Lucky a slice of pizza. It’s 11AM, so that’s gotta be cold. Kate sighs and shuts the door behind her. It takes a minute for Clint to notice she’s there, which is exactly how Clint gets his ass 95% killed all of the time. “Hey,” he mouthes under the thudding bass, then does a head-tilt, finger-flick: What’s up?
You are embarrassing me, Kate signs back. What is this, your old man music?
Clint rolls his eyes. You want me to put on H-A-N-N-A-H Montana? He does the two-M mountain sign for the state instead of abbreviating to MT. Good thing Kate’s been working on her geography vocabulary.
I don’t know you, Kate says.
Lucky barks. Clint surrenders another slice of cold pizza.
B-W wants to party at noon, Kate says. You got pants for that?
Generally when I turn to fanfiction, I’m looking for my fix of a particular ship. In this case, I was looking for Marvel fanfic of the America Chavez/Kate Bishop variety, and while I found a small hoard of good stories, my personal favorite discovery turned out to only feature the pairing for a paragraph or two.
Somewhere in the dark, shadowy, and very wide valley between “body positivity” and “objectification”, there’s a herd of lost, confused people stumbling about blindly and shouting that feminism is some contradictory bullshit. Lest those poor souls waste away down there, I think it’s time we illustrate just how big and treacherous and sexy that valley is.
Thanks to movements like Escher Girls and The Hawkeye Initiative, which bring attention to objectification through humor, the geek community is becoming more vocal about the problematic ways that women are depicted in certain comics, manga, and video games. The problem, of course, isn’t unique to illustrated or computer-generated media, but because artists aren’t limited by trifling little things like biology or the laws of physics, they can pull off fascinating maneuvers like the boob sleeve:
Some of the saddest comics-related news I heard at the end of last year was that Marvel’s most recent Young Avengers run was going to be coming to an end with issue #15. Well, I finally got my hands on the final issue of the run, and, while the story definitely got a satisfying conclusion, it’s still sad to see it go.
I can’t speak to how different Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s take on the Young Avengers was from the original Young Avengers series by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, as I haven’t read the original. What I did know about this series when it came out was that 1) it was set a few years after the original series, and 2) it was going to be a very diverse group of young adult-age superheroes doing awesome superhero things, and that was really all the hook I needed.
Pretty much everyone who has read fanfiction has an OTP—a One True Pairing that they ship harder than anything else. But what about the couples that are just awesome buds, and who you like together as friends but not romantically? Well the recently coined term ‘brotp’ is there for you. And since Valentine’s Day puts and unnecessary emphasis on being in a romantic relationship, I figured I’d take this post to give a shout-out to some of the awesomest platonic friendships out there.