Flame On, Iceman!

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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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