This past Wednesday one of the X-Men came out of the closet in the most off the wall way. We have Bobby Drake, aka Iceman from the X-Men series ‘All-New X-Men,’ admit to being gay or did he? See to start you have to understand ‘All-New X-Men‘, which is a series that sees the original students of Xavier’s Institute for Gifted Youngsters thrust into the modern day. The series revolves around these characters adapting to the modern day. We have a team composed of a young Cyclops, who has not yet become jaded such as his modern day counterpart. Second, there is an Angel who has yet to go through the horrors of being Death & Archangel, who is followed third by Beast who has yet to experiment on himself, still in his human form. The last two are Jean Grey, who has to deal with not only her own fate and multiple deaths but also coming face to face with her would-be reincarnation found in Hope Summers. Finally there is Iceman, who has to deal with the fact Kitty Pryde dumped his older self for Peter Quill.
So now that we know the premise of the book, we can jump ahead to issue 40. At one point, Hope is inadvertently scanning the surface thoughts of the temporal displaced Bobby Drake. Jean has gleamed that Bobby might actually harbor homosexual thoughts. As he denies the accusation, she begins to berate him into agreeing with her. The thing is, like Bobby points out, is this a case of the elephant in the room? Where when someone points and screams “Pink Elephant!” one cannot but help look and see or think of pink elephants? This Bobby Drake is young and very well could be questioning his sexuality but does that automatically make him gay? At no point are we ever privy to Bobby’s thoughts so we’re left to take Jean’s word for this. This is something I personally do not like and would almost consider a botched and insulting way of having a character emerge from the closet.
Now this story broke earlier this week with some leaked scans of the pages 6 to 11. As usual the internet was an uproar. I picked up the book to read Tuesday night which had a Wednesday release this week. Life, as well as the need for the angers of many to subside, prompted me to write this a bit after the fact. It also allowed time for the creative team to fire off a rebuttal. This move raises a few questions, one such being does sexual orientation in comics even matter? Personally I don’t see how being straight, gay or bi-sexual would have helped the X-Men cure the Legacy Virus or the Avengers avert the Kree-Skrull War. It doesn’t seem as an important motivator unlike perhaps race or gender which even then has it’s own pros and cons. This doesn’t mean a gay character can’t work in comics, it just means why waste it on shock value and not something else? To make an existing character homosexual who has spent a good amount of his time being a womanizer seems like an out of left-field attempt to generator news buzz.
Then again, characters who have been created for the sole purpose of being gay have not fared well in the least. Books like DC’s Vibe were cut after 10 issues. The change for Alan Scott had done more continuity damage for fans and held a huge backlash for it; it deprived us of Jade and Obsidian, Alan’s children and since DC decided to make him a younger man, there was no real hope that he could have fathered these two paternal twins before indulging into his new found homosexual lifestyle. Also, if you read ‘Earth 2’ or ‘Earth 2:Worlds End’ you’ll see that Alan has been distanced from his homosexuality showing that the big change back in 2012 was all for ink and press. Unlike books such as Batwoman where her sexuality becomes woven into her story, her relationships become part of the story and drives it forward. Mind you all these aspects is one of the reasons DC had it on the chopping block as they said “No” to a Kathy Kane wedding so even then they show no confidence to follow through on something so well-done and I say well-done because of fan reactions to Batwoman’s book. So it does work on occasion. The other factor is, people forget and stop caring. Look at Northstar in Alpha Flight #105 back in the 90s. Northstar had a very tasteful coming out story which saw three printings and once had the first printing going for nearly $60. Today you can easily find that book in a dollar bin or a five dollar box. Hell, that story wasn’t even relevant until Northstar’s marriage in Astonishing X-Men #51 back in 2012.
The other part of this torrid tale is the fact Brian Michael Bendis and Axel Alonso came out on Twitter and expressed their disappointment of fans for how this story has been perceived. As Bendis stated on his personal Twitter account:
I will say I’m super bummed that some people are reading any sort of bi erasure and biphobia into the interaction between Bobby and Jean. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Nobody involved in this feels anything like that. And if anybody reading the horribly scanned leaked pages even thought that for a second, please free your mind of that. It’s not there.
This is a very unique story because one character, from a different time and a somewhat limited worldview, is reading another character’s mind. This is in no way the traditional ‘coming-out’ story if there even is one. There is also this big chunk of time travel weirdness involved.
None of this is a statement about all things to all people, but it does give us a unique perspective that I thought was worth approaching. This is Bobby’s story. Nobody else’s. Some will find connection to it, others might not…
and this is just the first part of a larger story. See the upcoming giant size Uncanny 600.
The part, “…if there even is one” is a bit perplexing. This leaves a question in mind: is this the real 616 Marvel Universe Bobby Drake? Are these the real 616 early Xavier students? Even Bobby asks how can he be gay if his older self isn’t. The usual answer here is time travel but what if their Twitter comments are some face saving word spew as it would seem and everyone will be fooled by what’s to come next in Uncanny X-Men 600, the final X-Men book before Marvel’s Secret Wars event. Who knows, perhaps Secret Wars will undo even this?