By Joe Glass
Oh, Axel Alonso….why couldn't you just say 'Yes'?
Axel and Marvel have come under fire a fair bit in the last few months, given repeated attempts to skirt the topic of if/when Marvel would have a lead queer character book, or even outright saying they don't believe the time is right, to closeting a bisexual character (Hercules), albeit without realizing it, and then skirting whether this will now be touched on at all once they realized that yes, Herc was confirmed as bi on panel in a comic.
This week, Marvel released Angela: Queen of Hel #1 and it featured a kiss between protagonist Angela and Sera, her sidekick/partner who has been by her side since the beginning, and whom fans had been pairing since early on the the pre-Secret Wars series. It wasn't a hidden kiss, so it's not like Axel could have missed this one really. I mean, it looks like this
And yet, in his regular conversation with CBR this week, Axel is asked outright about Angela perhaps being Marvel's first major gay or bi lead book in Marvel's All New, All Different line (a line supposedly aiming for diversity, but so far coming up quite short in the LGBTQ+ respect), and this is his response:
That's a question for readers to ponder and answer for themselves. We're not looking to put labels on the character or the series. We'd prefer that the story Marguerite, Kim and Stephanie are telling — all aspects of it — speak for itself.
As a gay man, a part of the LGBTQ+ community; as a writer and advocate of LGBTQ+ representation in the medium; as an LGBTQ+ creator who makes an LGBTQ+ book, I cannot help but release a massive sigh.
I'm getting sick of this shit. Pardon my language, but this is really starting to go beyond the pale, and I cannot stress how annoyed I am getting with Marvel about this whole thing.
The right answer from Axel here was 'Yes'. Simply, distinctly, and emphatically, 'Yes'. Labeling Angela as being a gay/bi character does not in any way derail the story that Marguerite Bennett, Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans are telling. Frankly, it helps give color and diversity to Marvel's lineup it is thus far lacking in.
It's offensive even. 'We'd not looking to put labels on the character or the series' reads as 'we don't want people to call this 'the gay book". Because that is somehow wrong or bad. Because this would somehow affect its sales? Because, perhaps, Marvel are afraid of what some people in audience may think about a queer character or a queer book in the companies lineup…or perhaps, what certain CEOs may think?
What's more, fearing labeling the book or characters as LGBTQ+ is ridiculous.
Angela has long been portrayed as being bisexual, or at least sexually fluid. From before she was brought into the Marvel Universe and was part of Spawn, it was alluded that the character had relationships with other angels too, who in Spawn are all women. Sera is a trans woman. This book already has a fair amount of queerness about it, and its not been viewed negatively at all.
It almost feels like Marvel and Axel Alonso are trying to pander towards the audience who would have an issue with it more than they are the audience who wouldn't…or to put it bluntly, that marketing and assuring the bigot buck is way more important than courting the pink dollar.
And as for being afraid of the book being labeled as an LGBTQ+ book – why? I make one, and you know what, for a small press indie title it does INCREDIBLY well. When I talk to new audience at comic cons, I see their eyes light up when I say 'LGBTQ superhero team'. And what's more, these readers are not all LGBTQ+ themselves – many are straight, but recognize that there is a need for that! So what is Marvel afraid of here exactly?
On the other side of the divide, DC have SEVERAL queer lead books, and several with queer supporting cast, including Midnighter, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Bombshells, Hellblazer, Batgirl, Doomed, Teen Titans – I actually feel like there are more I'm missing here, and THAT is an amazing feeling to have.
Marvel, so far, have so far in their All New, All Different line up only two confirmed LGBTQ+ characters…and they are in fact two versions of the same damn character (Iceman). We are promised there will be more, but I'm sorry, you need to start showing us this mythical, promised 'more' LGBTQ+ diversity, Marvel, 'cause right now, I don't believe you.
You're not even willing to call a queer book/character a queer book/character even after printing a great big queer kiss in the damn comic.
Joe Glass is a Bleeding Cool reporter and comics creator. He's the creator and writer of The Pride, a comic about a team of LGBTQ+ superheroes who fight for diversity and representation and was one of the Top 25 Top Selling Comixology Submit Titles of 2014. He also co-writes a horror comedy set in the Welsh valleys about a monkey who kills the undead, called Stiffs.