By Joe Glass
[*SPOILERS for All-New X-Men #40 below!]
In today's All New X-Men #40, Brian Michael Bendis gives us a Wednesday Bomb Drop: Iceman is gay.
But this is the young Iceman, not the Iceman we all have followed for years. But wait, he's 'our' Iceman's younger self, so the original Iceman is gay? Wait, haven't we seen him date women all these years?
Well, all of those particular nuances are actually touched on in the context of the comic. Young Iceman theorises that Bobby Drake couldn't handle being both gay and a mutant, when both are hated and feared by society at large. So he repressed one – namely, his sexuality.
Whilst one could raise concerns that this implies that repressing one's sexuality is apparently easier than repressing one's super powers, it kind of does happen. The sexuality bit, not the superpowers – though now I do wonder…
Anyway, in the real world around us, people have historically, and it is even still true, that they repress their true natures all the time, for a variety of reasons, but what it all stems down to is this: generally, in society, homosexuality is viewed with disdain, fear and even hatred…so if you can pretend to 'fit in' with the general consensus sexuality; if you can bury your true self so deep in yourself to make life 'easier', wouldn't you?
Many do. There are those who pretend to be straight, even going so far as to marry and have children, due to negative views on homosexuality from their upbringing, their peers or their community. Some do it to stay alive in societies where being gay gets you killed (and yes, that still happens). Some see their lives made so difficult just for being themselves that they'll put themselves through tortuous 'therapies' to 'cure' what they are…and nearly all wind up unhappy, or worse.
But wait? Isn't Iceman, adult Iceman, happy? He's the bouncy, joking, laugh a minute doofus of the X-Men. If he's been repressing his true nature all these years, wouldn't he be miserable? Simple answer to that one: maybe he is.
Our outward portrayals can be as much a mask for what is really going on with us than a true representation of our inner state of being. It could explain Iceman's continuous disastrous relationships with women. In fact, a gay man dating, or marrying a woman, actually has a term in some circles…it's known as using a 'beard'. Beards because it's both a signifier of masculinity (which for decades was considered a mutually exclusive concept from homosexuality) and a classic disguise technique. It was common with people of status and actors…it still is. So why not a superhero?
The issue with all this is that really, to completely put to bed any unfortunate readings that homosexuality is a 'choice' and not just who you are, it needs to be addressed with the adult Bobby. I hope this happens, because otherwise these disastrous and negative readings could be made-and we'd be really missing out on something which really opens up a HUGE amount of potential emotional storytelling with the character.
And also, it's kind of important. The difficulty with adding new LGBTQ characters in comics is that often, sadly, new characters don't carry much weight, or find it hard to take off. Marvel, at the moment, need to play catch up a little here, as DC has been addressing this pretty well so far, with making Alan Scott (Green Lantern) gay and revealing Catwoman as canonically bisexual (though really, it would be really awesome if one of the Trinity were canonically LGBTQ, Wonder Woman being an obvious choice). Iceman is one of the ORIGINAL X-MEN. People know him. Including non-comic readers. To have a character of that status be gay would be AMAZING for LGBTQ fans.
They have kind of tried it once before, back with a plot line with Beast saying he was gay to hurt Trish Tilby's feelings (long story), but this was quickly swept under the rug (a new green haired girlfriend really helped with that). And it's not like the character hasn't had his sexuality questioned outside of comics for some time – this is actually a really well done meta piece of storytelling from Bendis here, and it worked before for Marvel with Shatterstar and Rictor, who for years had fans wondering about their sexuality and trying to find evidence for it, only to have it become canon a few years ago.
Of course, again, we should see this addressed with the adult Bobby Drake…but is there much time? There's a lot Bendis has to wrap up in his X-Men run now, and not many issues to do it in. And then there's Secret Wars and no one knows what Marvel will look like after that…so will we be getting this gay original X-Man for long? I hope so.
Joe Glass is a Bleeding Cool contributor, and creator/writer of LGBTQ superhero team comic The Pride, which is available on Comixology and at The Pride Store. He is also a co-writer on Welsh horror-comedy series, Stiffs, which can be bought at the Stiffs Store and is now also available on Comixology. You can follow him on twitter and tumblr.