Entertainment media is slowly introducing LGBTQ+ characters into television and films. While LGBTQ+ characters mostly have recurring roles in television shows, the inclusion of these kinds of characters into entertainment media is definitely a start into having a much more progressive entertainment outlet.
Marvel, an American publisher of comic books, has revealed that one of their primary characters named Bobby Drake—otherwise known as the popular Iceman—has recently identified as homosexual. In the articleMarvel’s Iceman Cometh Out, an article in the New York Times published by George Gene Gustines, readers get to marvel at the decision made by Axel Alonso to feature Iceman as a homosexual character. While Gustines certainly does a great job of praising Marvel Comics, he appeals to readers using pathos in order to demonstrate the importance of including LGBTQ+ characters in the comic book universe.
Iceman made his debut in the first issue of “The X-Men” in 1963. Written by Stan Lee, The X-Men follows a group of mutant superheroes who defend Earth and its inhabitants from villains while trying to spread a message of acceptance amongst non-mutants. While sexual orientation was not something that was touched upon in the comics, in the comic “Uncanny X-Men” No. 600, readers were surprised to see Iceman being revealed as gay.
While it came as a surprise to many, Axel Alonso(editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics) stated that the decision to make Iceman gay was presented to him by critically acclaimed and former writer of The X-Men, Brian Michael Brandis. Brandis, following his departure from Marvel Comics, wrote a powerful statement in the afterword of the issue expressing, “I am Jewish. I am the father of a multiracial household. I have felt the pain and struggle of being judged and shunned for being different.” By providing a quote from The X-Men’s former writer, Gustines is able to effectively establish an empathetic stance. Brandis’ decision to portray Iceman as a gay character further exemplifies The X-Men’s message of acceptance and tolerance.
Gustines brings to light the issue of Iceman’s revelation. Readers were exposed to Iceman’s sexual orientation through the help of Jean Grey, a telepathic mutant who can read minds and travel through time. The story follows a younger Bobby Drake speaking to the older Bobby Drake and helping him accept his identity not only as a hero but also as a homosexual. Gustines cites an essay from Comics Alliance, an online comic book community, that raises the confusion many readers felt regarding Iceman’s sexuality. Gustines specifies, “If they were the same and the older Iceman remained straight, it would send a dangerous message that ‘a gay teenager can grow up to be straight.’”
Gustines was referring not only to the storyline’s impending future but to the possibility of someone denying their identity and what can result from that. This issue helps appeal to LGBTQ+ readers who may have struggled with accepting their sexual orientation in the past. By acknowledging this issue, Gustines brings awareness to a problem that LGBTQ+ youth constantly struggle with: whether or not it is acceptable in society to be one’s true self. Gustines further emphasizes this problem by providing an image of a conversation between the young and old Bobby Drake. In the image, readers see that the old Bobby Drake says, “Can I just have one part of my life that I am not being persecuted for?” By providing this image, not only does Gustines effectively demonstrate how repressing one’s identity poses an issue, but it allows readers to see and read what an LGBTQ+ character or youth faces as a result of intolerance in a community.
Additionally, Gustines demonstrates how important it is to include LGBTQ+ characters into comic books and potentially other forms of entertainment media. In his article, Gustines includes the positive feedback that Marvel has gotten because of its decision. Gustines quotes Alonso in saying, “[T]he feedback has been largely positive. On one side are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender readers ‘who are looking to see their reflection in our characters.’” Other gay characters that have been introduced into the Marvel universe include Northstar, who came out in 1992. The decision to include a gay character at the time received praise and was even acknowledged in an editorial in The New York Times! The editorial quotes:
“Comics have often explored new terrain, conferring hero status on groups that society in general had stereotyped in peripheral roles.”
While Gustines lacks a logical and ethical appeal, he definitely makes up for it by appealing to the readers’ emotions. Gustines effectively supports his claim of introducing more LGBTQ+ characters into comic books by revering Iceman and his newfound sense of self acceptance. George Gustines not only voices his appraisal of Marvel’s decision to make Iceman gay, but he does so in a manner that appeals to his entire audience—but more specifically his LGBTQ+ members.
1. Gustines, George. “Marvel’s Iceman Cometh Out.” Arts. The New York Times. Published Nov. 05,2015. Date accessed: September 28, 2016
2.Wheeler, Andrew. “‘All New X-Men’ Reveals Longtime Iceman as Gay.“Comics Alliance. Published April 21, 2015. Date accessed: September 28, 2016