If someone made me choose which Queer as Folk character I would be, no question in my mind that I’d say Michael. On their day off, most people will spend it with friends at the beach or walking around town getting fresh air. Me? Often enough, I am aimlessly cruising the Marvel superhero database that is Wikipedia, researching their previous story angles, and familiarizing myself with new heroes and villains in between rounds of Mortal Kombat. Under “Occupation” on Facebook, my job title is listed as an instructor at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
I’m a geek, proud of it.
Something so incredibly nerdy and awesome has happened this week, and it’s been getting lots of media attention worldwide. Astonishing X-Men #51 is an especially groundbreaking issue of the long-running series originally started by Joss Whedon (creator and writer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer), because X-Man Jean-Paul Beaubier, better known as Northstar, and his long-time partner, Kyle Jinadu, are exchanging vows in New York City.
Northstar originally debuted in Uncanny X-Men #120 in April of 1979 as a member of the Canadian task force Alpha Flight. Creator John Byrne was asked to push the group into the forefront in the 80’s, but wasn’t too hot on the idea because the characters weren’t all that interesting. They more or less had been created as a team that would go up against Wolverine. He started brainstorming and claims that the Northstar character was always intended to be gay. Due to a strict policy against homosexual superheroes in Marvel Comics, Byrne had to backburner the idea. It wasn’t until 1992 that writer Scott Lobdell was given the green light to have Northstar finally say the words, “I am gay.”
Little was said about it after that, and his character sort of fizzled out for a while. In 2002, he was made an official member of the X-Men, and the writers were a lot less shy about putting his sexuality out on the table. In 2009, Kyle was introduced and the couple’s relationship has been a prominent story arc for the series. It was only natural when gay marriage was legalized in New York that the writers pushed them down the aisle, especially since most of the Marvel characters reside somewhere in New York State.
No strangers to controversial topics in their storylines, Marvel likes to keep a constant running commentary on what is happening in current events. The idea of taking a gay superhero and having him put a ring on it has become a celebrated event for the gay community. However, extreme right-wing organization One Million Moms surprised absolutely no one when they publically condemned both Marvel and DC Comics for exposing children to homosexuality in the form of a hero, as opposed to some kind of villain. Their stance is simple: Children idolize superheroes and are constantly emulating their actions and appearance. They think it’s wrong to encourage the idea that homosexuality is a heroic thing.
No one cares what they think, though. Right, JC Penney?
I digress. The upcoming nuptials are sure to create really interesting developments in the X-Men universe. Extensive work has gone into making Kyle, an African-American human who possesses no extraordinary powers, more of a fleshed out character. It’s been seen before. Human characters married to superheroes often lead their own lives as the spouse of a police officer or a soldier might. They stay back while the other is off fighting a never-ending battle against evildoers. They are stuck wondering what could happen to the person they love while they are off in dangerous situations with almost no notice. Granted, superheroes are battling giant robot creatures and dastardly mutant bad guys, but the theme stays the same.
For Kyle and Northstar, the road into Marriedland is just beginning. But naturally, there will be opposition to it. Some of the X-Men are flat-out refusing to attend the wedding as well as not giving their vows any validity, which makes for future confrontations. The trust level on the team could be compromised due to these actions, creating a very interesting dynamic. It’s a story that gay people hear every day. At least one person in every gay’s life doesn’t agree with the lifestyle choice and stands up against it. It’s no different in the realm of the extraordinary.
Northstar isn’t the only gay comic book character getting a push. Beloved DC hero Green Lantern has recently come out of the closet (which would be AWESOME if Ryan Reynolds signs on for a sequel to the blockbuster film of last summer). The latest incarnation of Kate Kane, better known as Batwoman, is of Jewish descent and is a lesbian, both in attempts to further diversify the DC Universe.
Strides are being made towards complete public acceptance for the gay community. The comic book world has always been such an untapped platform upon which we as gays could get our voices out, until now. The 21st century has much further advancement to come for our people, and I don’t just mean with superheroes. But it’s a damn good place to start.
Congratulations to Jean-Paul and Kyle, or as I like to refer to them, Mr. and Mr. Northstar.
You can pick up a copy at either Casablanca Comics or Coast City Comics, both on the peninsula.