In comic news, two characters were recently outed as gay characters in Peter David’s X-Factor series, thus providing the first same-sex kiss in a mainstream Marvel comic. The two characters, Shatterstar and Rictor, have long had very subtle hints of their affection since the early 90s in the original X-Force series, but Peter David is proving to make an enjoyable arc as a natural progression and further development. Mr. David said in Change.org:
“I have much more fun tweaking the fans than actually spelling anything out. I certainly don’t think we could say at this point that Rictor is definitively gay. I think we could make the argument that he’s bi, but I don’t see the point at this juncture in spelling it out — not because of any sense of homophobia or anything like that but out of a sense that I think it’s more entertaining and more thought-provoking if we keep it ambiguous in a some sort of bisexual relationship.”
But as Peter David and his editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada, stick with their decisions, original creator Rob Liefield is sparking controversy denouncing his orientation and plans to remove it when he writes the character again (his comments will be posted and found in Joe‘s interview below). I have faith in Peter David as he is an extraordinary writer that rivals Joss Whedon. Besides, the characters are for more interesting with this storyline than anything that any writer in the 90s could think of. So go, ahead, Peter David, I salute you.
As a side note, here’s Mr. Quesada’s interview from his Cup o’ Joe column:
Reporter Kiel Phegley: The other big Marvel news of the past week or so was Peter David’s outing of Shatterstar and Rictor as gay, in the pages of “X-Factor.” Although Marvel’s dealt with the rollout of gay characters in the past — from the high-profile MAX take on Rawhide Kid to the relatively low-key creation of Robert Kirkman’s Freedom Ring character – fan reaction to this story was pretty big. There’s a ROBOT 6 story on this that’s already pushed on to around 250 comments. What was your reaction when you first learned of Peter David’s plans for “X-Factor?”
Joe Quesada: I thought it was totally cool. As long as it works within the story and it makes for a good story and character development, I have no issues whatsoever.
Kiel Phegley: Did you know about the history of hints between the characters that past X-writers had played with, or did you talk to PAD about some of that as the story was being written?
Joe Quesada: I didn’t speak to Peter directly about it but I don’t understand why people make such a big deal about it? There are all these myths about “Oh my God! A character’s Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual!” so we run around Marvel like it’s a five-alarm fire. No. It’s just another story. It’s not even anything people need to bring to my desk and say, “Is this Okay?” Sure, way back in the day before we took steps like this it was something that had to be discussed internally, but even back then it felt stupid to me. So, ultimately, I don’t understand why it’s a big deal? And more importantly, don’t understand why people want to make it into a big deal. It’s just silly.
Kiel Phegley: Phase two of this controversy comes from Rob Liefeld, logged on to Twitter and “As the guy that created, designed and wrote his first dozen appearances, Shatterstar is not gay. Sorry. Can’t wait to someday undo this. Seems totally contrived.” As the Editor-in-Chief, how do you respond to that? It’s one thing to have disagreements internally at Marvel creative summits, but do matters change when those internal debates become public?
Joe Quesada: I’ve got to be honest with you, this is the first I’ve heard about Rob’s comments, so I can only react to what you’re telling me here, but there really isn’t much I can say about it except scratch my head. I like Rob, but Peter is the creator who’s writing the book, and ultimately while Rob is one of the guys who created Shatterstar, Shatterstar is a Marvel character and not a Rob Liefeld character. If this was done to a character in “Youngblood,” then Rob has every right to do what he wants to with it.
I hate to be that cold-blooded about it, but I’ve created characters for Marvel as well and at the end of the day, they’re Marvel’s and not mine. What Marvel wants to do with them is what Marvel wants to do with them. That’s my clear understanding of how things work when I do work-for-hire, to claim otherwise would be silly. It is work-for-hire. The characters are Marvel’s, and if that’s the way the characters are written, then that’s the way the character is. If Rob wants to publicly disagree with that, that’s his right, and I respect that. But if Rob is intending on flipping what Peter has written, he will have to wait to discuss that with the next Editor-in-Chief.
And additionally, here’s Peter David’s quick response to Mr. Liefeld’s anti-gay remark:
Let’s say I had an assurance from Joe Q himself. And if five years from now, Joe Q has moved on to bigger and better things and Rob is EIC of Marvel, well, so much for Joe’s promise. As for how Rictor was presented in the first 1/19th of his existence, well… a lot’s happened with him since then. I don’t know if Rob was reading any of it, but I’ll simply say this: a guy from another dimension running around with swords on his back? That’s contrived. People exploring their sexuality? Not so much.
And if you’re nostalgic for gay comic role models, check out this blog link of Ten Gay Superheroes Who Brok New Ground. It’s awesome.