Comics and religion don’t often mix, and that’s why it was so surprising when the new Ms. Marvel burst onto the scene and became such a smash hit. Kamala Khan (i.e., the current Ms. Marvel) and her Muslim family and friends provide a respectful, realistic portrayal of a family of faith that anyone from a religious background—especially one grounded in a strong family and ethnic tradition—can relate to. Of course such a story could have been written about any religious family, because the same thing could have come across if the Khans had been Greek Orthodox Christians like my family, or Polish Catholics, or Orthodox Jews, or Indian Hindus, etc. etc. But it’s extremely important that the series instead chooses to normalize a family of darker-skinned Muslims, as they have been such a persecuted group in the Western world lately. Realizing that a group different from your own is, in fact, simply human Just Like You is the first step in encouraging empathy and in changing attitudes, and Ms. Marvel does a great job with that. Now, I’m not Muslim, nor do I know an awful lot about Islam. I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian with a priest for a father, and I grew up hearing some very Islamophobic opinions from him. It took me a long time to get over that, but it wasn’t until reading Ms. Marvel that I realized that Orthodox Christians and Muslims might actually have a lot more in common than I thought. It’s also just lovely to have representation of a religious character in comics, in which faith is organically woven into the story without being preachy or just surface-level!
Note that I’ve only read through the latest trade paperback of the series (Volume 6, up to issue #12 of the current run). But Saika tells me these points still hold for the latest issues. Mild spoilers up to my current stopping point below!
Let’s face it, 2016 was tough, and 2017 doesn’t look to be much easier. So let’s delve into some of our favorite geeky romantic pairings to help us cope! Yep, it’s Valentine’s Day, that sickeningly sweet holiday when our authors nominate and then vote on ships for our Top 20 Romantic Couples in Geekdom (10 Canon/10 Fanon) list. It is now my duty to present to you the super cute and sexy ships of 2017!
I love it when any piece of pop culture incorporates some kind of religion that isn’t Christianity, because despite the fact that Christian themes are everywhere in Western media, not everyone is Christian. It’s nice to see media embrace themes from other faiths and show more religious diversity. However, sadly this tends to be a very exotified, watered down, and often inaccurate depiction, especially when it comes to Eastern religions.
Marvel’s latest hit, Doctor Strange, is based on a comic that relies heavily on Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism. However, the orientalism displayed in the comics, as well as the culturally appropriative nature of the comics in general, means that the portrayal of Buddhism in the movie tends to be a rather problematic one.
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.
Trickster gods may seem like a strange thing to some people. After all, why would you believe in a deity who would mess with you for laughs? Pagan trickster gods may occasionally seem malevolent, but they actually serve an important role. In pop culture, trickster gods are often used to critique the powers that be and question the status quo.
Coping mechanisms are an essential part of life for everyone, whether you have any sort of a disability or not. Humans have learned to try and cope with various things that can be harmful or upsetting to them. For example, I tend to internalize every negative thing that someone says to me and make every little comment into something about what a worthless person I am, which greatly contributes to my low self-esteem. This is not healthy, and it is why I see a therapist, who attempts to help me develop a healthy coping mechanism to deal with my negative self-image. Good coping mechanisms are essential to living a healthy life. However, coping mechanisms can also be bad. For example, drinking to deal with depression is a bad coping mechanism because it is ultimately harmful to your health and well being.
Comics, unfortunately, tend to show characters coping in harmful ways, like having Batman deal with his grief by having him beat up on other mentally ill people. Other characters are shown just powering through their issues by sheer force of will and totally overcoming them by the next comic. This is not only a false representation of how to cope with trauma or other issues, but it’s also an extremely dangerous one, because it can convince people who could benefit from counseling that they should be able to overcome things by themselves. Deadpool, however, is not one of those characters. The recent Deadpool movie really shone in its portrayal of trauma and mental illness. We see both Deadpool and Vanessa trying to cope with grief, trauma, and mental and terminal illness by using humor as a coping mechanism.
Spoilers for the Deadpool movie below, and trigger warnings for rape and abuse.
Probably the biggest thing I have been stressing in my past reviews of Deadpoolis the character’s pansexuality and whether or not the movie would portray him accurately. I was extremely dubious that any hint of Deadpool being queer would make it into the movie, but to my pleasant surprise, his sexuality was at least hinted at—though I wouldn’t exactly call this movie a win for queer comic book fans.