This past year, Marvel had teenage Bobby Drake/Iceman (boy?) from the past, come out, in present day, with the “assistance” of past teen Jean Grey. The internet reacted, and, in general, the fans weren’t happy. This seemed like a move designed to garner gay money without actually having a gay character/storyline, especially since it could be easily changed back. Not too long ago, DC got into some hot water with fans due to not allowing Batwoman (who is a lesbian) to have a wedding, though DC has issued their own reaction to that. There’s been a rise in mainstream gay comic characters, and an explosion in the indie and online market. So, with New York Comic Con here, it seemed a great place and time to talk to some of the creators about where we stand with queer representation in the comic industry.
One of my first stops was to meet with Brooke Allen and Shannon Watters, artist and editor (respectively) of Lumberjanes. Lumberjanes has been lauded as a female centered comic, and has won two Eisner awards, and been nominated for GLAAD’s Media Award for Outstanding Book. Both Allen and Watters said they have had mostly good interactions with fans and positive experiences getting published. Waters said she’s been monitoring the reactions on social media and hasn’t seen much negativity.
One of the highlights of the con was being able to chat a bit with Peter David. His run on X-Factor included the first depiction of a same sex kiss in a mainstream Marvel publication. He was quick to point out that, for him, the kiss between Rictor and Shatterstar wasn’t a big deal. There had already been a groundwork laid for many fans to interpret those two characters in that way, and just decided it made sense, and so put it in, but was clear that it wasn’t done in a splashy way. Just a simple panel in the middle of the page. According to David, the internet exploded, for 24 hours, after that happened, especially once Rob Liefeld, the creator of Shatterstar, got wind of it, and tweeted that there’s no way Shatterstar is gay, because he’s like a Greek warrior. Of course, the internet took that and ran with it.
At the TimesOut Gay Geek Culture panel, author Damon Suede brought up that we need more people with or aware of queer voices in the higher, decision making processes. When asked about how to get there, he said that we have to buy the things we want to see. Simple enough, right?
Probably the most hard hitting panel was the Culturally Queer panel, moderated by Geeks Out co-founder and president, Joey Stern. The panel included cosplayer Jay Justice, Annie Ishii of Massive Goods (dealing in gay manga and yaoi), Jennie Wood, Jennifer Camper, Phil Jimenez, and editor Daniel Ketchum. One major issue that was discussed was representation, at all levels. Having queer voices in the decision making process helps get queer stories and characters off the ground. Having queer voices in the editing process makes sure that they are done well, and having lots of queer characters means we can have diverse and real characters, without having to worry about the one example becoming problematic for a whole host of reasons.
Of course, the problem is how to get there. After the panel, I spoke with Daniel Ketchum, who said that social media is a great place to talk about these things, echoing what Shannon Waters said about Lumberjanes, and how social media is monitored by the artists, writers, and editors.
In terms of representation, the queer community has come a long way. Even in terms of the panels, we’ve gone from having 3-4 last year, to enough, this year, that I couldn’t make all of them. Everyone at the con seemed incredibly positive about a variety of expressions of sexuality and gender-identity, and I got the impression that things are certainly moving in a positive direction, if slowly. So, check out the artists mentioned here. Check out the work of queer writers and editors. Talk about them on social media. Check out some queer rising artists and writers, spread the word, and spend some cash on some good comics!