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When Marvel Entertainment first announced its All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative, diversity was one of the new line’s selling points. “Marvel Comics’ driving philosophy dating back to Stan Lee is to reflect the world outside your window, and the world outside your window has changed since the early ‘60s,” editor-in-chief Axel Alonso told the Los Angeles Times at the time. “We’re following that mantra. Our new stories reflect the world outside your window in all its diversity.” Unfortunately, that turns out not to be exactly the case.
Of the 51 officially announced All-New, All-Different Marvel series so far — Marvel has promised 55-60 new launches as part of the initiative, which will run for a number of months starting in October — there are none that feature a confirmed, out LGBTQ solo lead. There are ensemble titles featuring LGBTQ characters, including All-New X-Men, Ultimates and New Avengers, but every single series spotlighting a solo character is based around a character who is heterosexual or, in the sole case of Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, intentionally ambiguous. That last part is important, with the company currently dealing with fan backlash over “straightwashing” another hero of ambiguous sexuality.
Last week, Marvel announced a new solo series for its version of Hercules. Although in mythological roots, the character is openly bisexual, the Marvel version’s status is more uncertain — although an alternate universe version was shown to be lovers with Wolverine — the “core” timeline version had been heavily implied to have had a relationship with the X-Men hero Northstar at some point. However, an interview with editor-in-chief Alonso last week firmly put the character back in the closet.
“Hercules and James Howlett’s relationship in X-Treme X-Men took place in a unique alternate universe, similar to how Colossus was gay in the Ultimate Universe, but is straight in the 616,” Alonso said, referencing the inside-fan term for Marvel’s main timeline. “Same goes for Hercules here.” (The interview made a point of noting that Marvel refused to accept a follow-up question on the subject.)
The explanation has seen Marvel accused of “erasing” Hercules’ bisexuality and the subject of questions regarding its “problem” with queer superheroes by LGBTQ news sites, while comic news sites point to it as a sign that Marvel’s view of diversity is accidentally limited or, worse, purposefully so. Throughout it all, Marvel and its representatives have stayed remarkably quiet, with the exception of some social media posts; a request for comment from THR went unanswered.
The furor over lack of representation at Marvel comes at a time when its biggest competitor, DC Entertainment, has a record number of solo series featuring LGBTQ leads. Of its current line-up, Midnighter, Catwoman, Constantine and Harley Quinn all feature queer leads, with Batgirl, Secret Six and the digital series Bombshells including prominent LGBTQ characters in ensemble casts. The audience is ready and, as reaction to Marvel’s absence of non-cis, non-straight leads demonstrates, waiting. The question is, when will Marvel recognize that the world outside its window includes many heroes that aren’t straight?
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