The comics do everything the Marvel and DC movies aren’t for queer representation
TThe news broke on the day of National Coming Out, in the form of a DC Comics blog post: Superman is bisexual. In a new comic set to be released on November 9, the superhero will fall in love with a journalist named Jay Nakamura and fall in love with a journalist. The announcement came with a cartoon of Superman kissing his new love.
It generated a flurry of headlines, and rightly so: Advances in queer representation in comics and their film adaptations have often been frustratingly slow. So seeing a character in Superman’s trademark costume kissing her boyfriend is no small thing. And that’s a sign that the comics have managed to progress at a faster rate than their cinematic counterparts, and with more success.
Still, some nuance is needed here. The Superman in the DC ad is Jon Kent, son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. This is what Glen Weldon of NPR called “kind of dump valve”: “It means they can say the valve thing (“ Superman comes out! ”), And pointing to those very important asterisks.
With that in mind, Weldon acknowledges that “some progress is being made here” and that “in terms of performance, of course, it’s a good thing with no mixture.” Writer Tom Taylor, who worked on the new Superman series with artist John Timms, said The New York Times that “replacing Clark Kent with another straight white savior was a missed opportunity.” In other words: there was a chance to shape Superman’s legacy in a meaningful way, and DC seized on it. It’s a “yes, and”: yes, it’s a step in the right direction, and there is still work to be done.
DC’s announcement is also a more direct form of queer representation than we’ve seen on the big screen so far. On the Marvel side, too, the comics have ventured into where the movies refused to go. Homosexual superhero kisses have so far been immortalized in ink, not pixels. If you are looking for transgender characters, you will need to look to comics, too much.
Progress has been made on large and small screens. In June of this year, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki officially acknowledged his bisexuality in an episode of the hit Disney + series dedicated to – and named after – his character. Director Kate Herron thoughtfully acknowledged the moment on Twitter: “From the moment I joined @LokiOfficial, it was very important to me, and my goal, to recognize that Loki was bisexual. It’s part of who he is and who I am too. I know it’s a small step but I’m happy, and my heart is so full, to say it’s now hot in [the MCU]. “
It was an important step, with still some way to go. “No matter how many queer Marvel fans gush with this fleeting recognition of their own existence, it’s hard to see that anything has really changed,” wrote The independentis Louis Chilton. “We haven’t seen Loki in a relationship with a man, and, if the ongoing flirtation with Sylvie is any indicator, it won’t be in her immediate future.”
It’s a situation that Marvel has encountered many times: the recognition of a character’s sexuality without its on-screen representation. Valkyrie, played in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Tessa Thompson, has long been bisexual when it comes to comics. The MCU has yet to recognize this aspect of the character’s story, although it is expected to change in the next one. Thor: Love and Thunder. “” First of all, as a king, as a new king [of Asgard], she has to find her queen, ”Thompson told Valkyrie fans at Comic-Con 2019 in San Diego. “So that will be the first order of the day.” In his head at least, Thompson has always played Valkyrie as a queer, dating back to 2017. Thor: Ragnarok. In 2018 she said The independent‘s Alexandra Pollard: “I hope we get to a space, in terms of the stories we tell, where it’s something that exists, and it doesn’t have to be remarkable.”
With the comics becoming more inclusive and more vocal in their portrayal of queer characters, it’s getting harder and harder for movies to justify their relative stagnation on that side. There is the argument that the Marvel and DC movies are inherently genderless and should be suitable for young fans as well. This notion, of course, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny: Romantic interests have always played a crucial role in the development of any male superhero. (Superman and Lois Lane, are you tempted? Spider-Man and Mary Jane?) Romance is not sex. Identity is not gender. It’s entirely possible to recognize a character’s sexual orientation and / or queer identity while still being in family-friendly territory. Maybe it’s even better that kids aren’t fed exclusively ultra-direct content! I’m just spitting here!
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DC’s announcement of Superman’s bisexuality has sparked some backlash – the basic, absurd, hateful genre that I have no desire to commit to. But that’s surely not the sentiment that should shape the future of superhero movies. How many people saw Avengers: Endgame again? Over 100 million on its first weekend, according to NPR. When you have such a large reach, you have a responsibility to do something with it. At this point, queer portrayal in superhero movies shouldn’t be a question of “if”, but rather “when” and “how”.
There seems to be some hope on the horizon. Eternals, directed by Chloe Zhao, will feature the MCU’s first openly gay superhero. Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry, will have a husband and a child. We are getting somewhere, it seems, but we have to get there faster.