Flame on, Iceman!

By | April 25, 2015

top-gun-iceman

I’m not going to choose my words carefully, so if this offends you, use your superpower of free will to stop reading. This week, in All-New X-Men issue #40, Bobby “Iceman” Drake was revealed to be gay – cue Internet outrage – cue George Takei waving the issue like a rainbow flag – cue…my skepticism.

When the news first broke my initial thought was: Why is this news? The gay pride parade has been marching steadily for a long time now; I get it, homosexuals exist. Newsflash: Homosexuals, super-powered or not, have been portrayed in comics for a long time now. So what’s the big deal with Iceman coming out of the freezer?

Iceman has been in Marvel Comics for approximately fifty-years and is one of the original members of the X-Men. During Iceman’s fifty-years of fighting crime, he has never been revealed to be homosexual. In fact, Iceman came across as heterosexual because he pursued romantic relationships with female characters like Kitty Pryde and Mystic (to name a few). Up until this week, I don’t remember reading any issues that ever dealt with Iceman questioning his sexuality; therefore, the reasonable assumption, based on what I read and saw, was that Iceman liked women.

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I’ve been reading comics for over twenty-years and consider myself a comic geek. Comic geeks, like myself, like to know everything there is about their favorite characters, storylines, etc. We are a regimented group who, at times, become outraged over change because it disrupts a knowledge that we’ve acquired by investing a lot of time and money. If an established character has been written gay, straight, transgender, etc. then so be it. Is there really a need to change their established sexual orientation?

I can already hear the Internet trolls sharpening their keypads because I’m not “changing with the times.” I know I’m headed down a slippery slop because either view I take opens me up for criticism. Regardless, I’m going to try and navigate this topic without stepping on anyone’s cape. Impossible you say with such a polarizing topic? Well, I’m up for a good challenge, so here goes.

On the one hand, I find the decision to be reckless for the potential to garner praise, create diversity, and maybe increase sales. You’re changing an established fifty-year old straight character to now be homosexual. And if it’s not for recognition, then why the abrupt change? Marvel can create a gay character with a snap of their fingers if they want to have more diversity. Marvel doesn’t have to change a character’s sexuality to accomplish more diversity.

Let me be clear, I am not against gay comic book characters. Again, let me be clear, I am not against gay comic book characters. What I am against is changing who a character is just because. And that is what this move feels like.

Now I know that straight people can have a realization at some point and end up changing their sexuality. But, from what I’ve come to understand is that people who go through that transformation don’t overnight. It’s not like they go to bed straight and wake up the next morning homosexual. To me, that’s what this Iceman situation feels like; however, there is a twist to all this.

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The Iceman that was outed is a younger version of Bobby Drake. Currently, the younger version of Bobby inhabits the same time as the older one (the character we grew up knowing) due to a time travel scenario. Michael Bendis who penned the outing said that the situation of young Bobby confronting old Bobby about his sexuality is going to occur in issue #600 (on sale soon). I’m assuming that in that issue we will know if older Bobby has hide his true sexuality, as suggested in issue #40, for all these years. Bendis went on to confirm that young Bobby is not bisexual and is “full gay” as indicated in the comic.

So why the sudden change made to appear as if Iceman has been gay all along? To me, it appears to be a stunt and here’s why. Celebrities, athletes, and others grab headlines when they come out of the closet, and guess what, so do comic book characters. Maybe I’m being too cynical, but I don’t believe that the pages just happened to “leak” the day before the issue was to be sold without a motive – a motive to sell more comics. Major news networks picked up the story and celebrities took to social media about it. I’m sure that the hype helped move more issues than usual.

With Secret Wars approaching that looks more and more like a reboot of the Marvel Universe, only time will tell if this storyline will continue. I just hope that this doesn’t become a trend because what’s next – a transgender Wolverine? In my opinion, comics have been doing a better job to be more diverse. And if Marvel believes that more diversity is need, that’s fine with me, but don’t mess with established characters, create new ones that fit the diversity needed.

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7 thoughts on “Flame on, Iceman!

  1. tpcsufian Post author

    I agree with u. Im a gay man but even i know this whole Iceman “realization” is stupid. Hes a bit of a womanizer but he has a good heart. So why reinvent him to fit the diversity more open about homosexuality? I would be pissed if wolverine ended up transgender. That would totally alter his persona. It wouldn’t make him look any weaker. Just that it wouldn’t be the same wolverine we all learned to love.

    Reply
  2. Joe Post author

    If you’re a comic geek like you say, you’d know it’s Mystique not Mystic..

    Reply
  3. Consume. Review.Repeat. Post author

    Thanks for the catch, Joe. Hopefully my typo doesn’t distract from the content.

    Reply
  4. Davey Post author

    Speaking as a gay guy, I’ll say that your post does not strike me as bigoted in any regard. (And it’s always a good idea to clarify this explicitly when broaching such a sensitive subject.) So I respect this.

    However, this post did strike me as small-minded opinions of someone completely lacking in imagination. Your point is that you don’t want comic characters to stray from their established characters. Tough cookies. More than perhaps any other fictional characters, comic heroes change all the time. They gain new powers, lose them, travel forward and backward in time, discover alternate versions of themselves. They die and come back.

    And we accept these characters existing in a constant state of change. Why? Maybe it’s how we tell myths now. Or maybe that’s what being a hero has become – these characters have tremendously traumatic things done to them, they face constant challenges, and no matter how it changes them they strive to always emerge with their core values intact. Maybe Spider-Man is going to don the black costume next month, or go insane, or grow wings. Whatever it it, he will struggle to return to the singlemost important aspect of his character – a guy who feels obligated to do good because he has the power to do so.

    This version of Bobby being gay is another instance of this, and because it’s being handled by one of the most brilliant comic character writers of our generation I think we have a great story ahead. I think Bendis will tell this tale with humor and humility, and we will see the Iceman character grow stronger for it.

    If you don’t like it…sorry. But that’s comics, modern myths that tell tales of the things that go bump in the night creeping out of the closet and turning our world upside down. We love these stories because they help us cope with the real villains of our world – car accidents, cancer, Michael Bay movies. If Iceman being gay struck a chord in you where you can’t accept it and embrace the story, then I’d suggest that’s proof it’s a relevant tale and there’s something in you that needs this story. I’m not saying you’re homophobic, but if in a book about teens not being accepted because of who they are a character makes an announcement about who he is and your gut reaction is you don’t want to accept him, that means something.

    Reply
    1. Consume.Review.Repeat. Post author

      Davey, no matter how many trials and tribulations our beloved characters go through, and ultimately overcome, they almost always revert back to their core self. I’d argue that one’s sexuality is a part of that core self, and therefore it matters how writers handle a character’s core, especially those characters that are well established.

      Currently, Superman has been stripped of his powers and none of us are naive enough to think that it will last. Out of it might come some great stories but eventually he will return to status quo. I’d hope that responsible writers understand that altering a character’s sexuality shouldn’t be done whimsically like the changing of a character’s fictional powers (that will ultimately return).

      I wonder how the homosexual community would view Northstar, a well established gay X-Men, changing his sexuality from gay to “full straight.” I’m sure there would be opposition to the idea. Why? Because that’s who Northstar is. It’s a characteristic that goes deeper than fictional powers.

      I don’t think it’s a lack of my imagination that’s the problem here, if anything, it’s the lack of Bendis’ imagination/storytelling. Bendis wrote, in my opinion, a jump-the-shark sequence that had zero story development. For fifty years Iceman has been straight, and within a blink of an eye, he’s gay. Huh? Wha?

      I know I’m not going to change your mind and I’m not trying to. I think the appeal of characters goes deeper than a single ideal. I like Spider-Man not just because he’s a guy who feels obligated to do good. I like him because of all of his core characteristics including his relatable heterosexual lifestyle, which is part of what makes him who he’s been since the beginning. Maybe you’d be cool with Northstar going straight, but I think it would take something away from what defines him, and it would be a disservice to the character. Now swap Northstar with Iceman and maybe you can see that I’m not being simple-minded. Changing a character’s sexuality is a big deal, maybe, bigger than any other fictional situation thrown at our heroes that we care so much about.

      Thanks for checking out the site and for taking the time to share your opinion.

      Reply
  5. Chris Post author

    “Now I know that straight people can have a realization at some point and end up changing their sexuality. But, from what I’ve come to understand is that people who go through that transformation don’t overnight. It’s not like they go to bed straight and wake up the next morning homosexual.”

    “So why the sudden change made to appear as if Iceman has been gay all along?”

    As a gay man I don’t find your request that existing characters maintain their identity bigoted or anti-gay. I do however take umbrage at your misconceptions of the nature of sexuality. Straight people can’t actually have a realisation and change their sexuality. Sexuality is immutable. Due to the pervasive homophobia of only a couple of decades ago many in older generations were so far in the closet and in denial that they themselves barely recognised their own sexuality. Only now can these married women and men with children come out publicly where in previous generations they would have taken the knowledge to the grave. People including Iceman could only be straight all along or gay all along. That is not the surprising part.

    Reply
  6. olufemi Post author

    I agree with the writer – create new characters to cater for the diversity need. Leave the old ones intact.

    Reply

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