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Fairytale gay wedding vs gay marriage

Yesterday, amongst some media attention, Marvel announced an impending gay wedding. I can’t help but notice that there are no fairytales that begin with the main characters’ wedding. When there are weddings, they are the payoff, the money shot, and definitely the grand finale of the fairytale. No one wants to read a fairytale that begins with a wedding, because then it would be about domestic tedium, heated discussions about whose turn it is to fold the laundry or change the diapers. Weddings are how fairytales end. The exciting part of the story is how we get there, how people meet and surmount obstacles. No fairytales begin with the line “and they lived happily ever after”, because that is not as interesting as all the parts before they settle down. The wedding is the clear sign to the reader to stop paying attention because the story is over.

In comic books, I find the interesting couples are the ones in teams, the ones who are already part of a larger group dynamic, with all of the associated problems and issues that working with other people engender. The side issues of their relationship only serve to spice up the larger team dramas, and readers are rarely asked to care about the tedium of the intimate aspects of their relationship. In the distant past, the Avengers had some great examples of this, with the complicated interactions of Ant-Man and the Wasp, or the Scarlet Witch and her robotic husband The Vision to reveal all sorts of potential problems to contend with, and the ways in which their teammates support them (and vice verse.)

The difference between something like the above, and a comic book event wedding between a superhero like Peter Parker and his non-heroic girlfriend; Mary Jane is that this is an example of the heroes personal lives which has no place in the comic book about superheroes. (Which now, did not actually happen, but at the time it was a decent example of a similarly grandiose event wedding to this current public relations exercise over Northstar and Kyle’s upcoming wedding.) I have as little interest in reading about a gay superheroes wedding as I do in reading about a straight superheroes wedding, and that is none. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer might as well have been named “The Fantastic Four Plan a Wedding” for all the interest half of it had for me. I also don’t need to see the special issue of the comic book in which they go to the bathroom, go shopping for deodorant, mail some letters, or have dinner with an old friend. This stuff is a side issue which, acceptably within the format of a superhero comic book, a writer and artist could choose to show a couple of panels of. It is something the hero is doing outside of the business of being a hero, which is all that really ought to be focused on within the confines of a superhero comic book.

Truly, if Marvel and DC really want us to believe that they care about making gay marriage seem mundane and ”normal” then they need to show us two established, gay, married superheroes who work together to fight evil. They need to depict a same-sex marriage between working heroes, not as being some kind of unique, magical, unicorn of an event that merits ludicrous and totally unseemly announcements on The View. And let’s just ask for a moment; Why the View? Are Marvel hoping that all of those soccermom viewers will start buying comic books because there’s a wedding in it? First of all, I find the idea that all women want to read about is weddings, and second, sticking a wedding into a superhero comic book doesn’t make it automatically female-friendly. Once again, we’re confronted with the convoluted genius marketing strategies of big comic book publishers that mere mortals can never hope to understand. But I’m getting off the point here…

Showing a gay wedding in a comic book does not indicate that comic books are supportive of homosexual people getting the same rights as heterosexual people. What it indicates is that mainstream comic book publishers want to be seen to support equal rights and think they can make some money out of it. If they actually wanted us to believe in more than the fairytale and accept the reality of gay marriage then they would show us a gay marriage between equal superheroes who we could watch in action every issue, not a wedding which will be as insignificant to the ongoing title as any power and non-powers relationship. A story with superheroes who are working together would allow for a much more concrete example of intimacy.

Having said all of this, I am incredibly glad that two men are going to marry in comic books, just as I was very glad when a Hispanic/black kid became Spider-Man (even if it is just in the Ultimates universe and is riddled with cultural stereotypes.) It is important to me that mainstream media depict committed gay marriage as a facet of life and I’m very happy that this is happening. This is how capitalism works I suppose; nothing changes until big businesses believe that they’ll make a lot of money out of it. Unfortunately, this is just another example of a superhero marrying a member of the public and it just doesn’t carry the weight and importance of a relationship between heroes because it will never be the focus of the comic book (quite reasonably of course, because domesticity is not the stuff of superhero comic books.) If Marvel and DC are to truly embrace same-sex marriage, then instead of focusing on an obviously irrelevant event wedding, they need to give us a same-sex couple of heroes, who we get to see interact every day (and please don’t assume I’m talking about Batman and Robin, I personally think the age difference would make that much too divisive and creepy.)

Showing a wedding and telling us that this is an example of the acceptance of gay marriage is childish. What makes a relationship seem normal and mundane is seeing it day-in and day-out, which can only happen if they create a same-sex superhero marriage. I personally don’t really care what they do with the wedding, they can have them get married in between the panels as far as I’m concerned, but I want to see how they make their lives work.

All of the coverage in the mainstream media that I’ve read has talked about Northstar proposing to his boyfriend, Kyle. No one mentioned that his boyfriend is a black man. Years ago this would have been hugely divisive in America, but now suddenly we’re only worried about the contents of these men’s pants, not about the color of their skin. I hope this indicates that in another decade, this will be just as much of a non-issue, but part of me wishes that having a pasty-faced French Canadian marrying a black man was as much of a marketing coup for Marvel. Why can’t we all get super excited about that too? I guess that aspect of marriage just didn’t offer as many opportunities for the marketing department to milk anymore.

31 Comments

Wow. I disagree with a lot of this.

Even the most basic premise… superhero comics WITHOUT the personal lives of characters or otherwise showing strong characterization are boring.

Yes… gay marriage needs to be normal, not an event. But you can’t get to normal without it being unusual first. Period.

Your final paragraph hits the right point without you realizing it, it seems. It is a VERY GOOD THING that nobody mentions that one of the couple is black and one is white, but it took a long time to get there. Gay marriage WILL get there, and this is a good first step.

“Truly, if Marvel and DC really want us to believe that they care about making gay marriage seem mundane and ‘normal’ then they need to show us two established, gay, married superheroes who work together to fight evil.”

I believe the term you are looking for is “marriage”, not “gay marriage”. I’m not gay married to my gay husband. We did not have a gay wedding (except in that weddings are pretty gay already).

Using this term to make a distinction between normal couples and same sex couples is a much worse problem than any comic characters making life long commitments.

What Rusty said.

I happen to like seeing the humanity that happens in an otherwise “super” life. We can identify with them more, they’re accessible. That’s why I prefer Spider-Man to a lot of other supes, because he started off as a normal guy, and he still acts like a normal guy. His sense of humor and humanity are part of why he’s so popular.

It’s exactly why the TV show Heroes was the top network drama series for its first season. It was when the show started relying on comic book types of whizbangboom storylines that the ratings fell.

To compare a marriage of any kind to buying deodorant and folding laundry is insulting to the couple, and to what they’re trying to accomplish here, which is not entirely to make a bunch of money off a wedding issue. You’ve missed the point.

And… what Rusty said.

The only thing I’d add to Rusty’s comment is to address the implication that Marvel hasn’t been developing the relationship for a couple of years now because they have. Sure, Northstar is a secondary character and his boyfriend is a tertiary one at best, but there has been development. They didn’t show up last month just in time to get married.

And while we’re at it, the idea that marriage is the end of anything being interesting about a relationship is, well, it’s depressing that someone would see it that way. A relationship continues to evolve and develop beyond a marriage, if it doesn’t then it won’t last.

Whether it will ‘get there’ or not is moot to the complaint that caught my eye, which is ‘why now?’

I read the Alpha mini-to-a-series-to-a-truncated-mini and that was the first I’d heard of Kyle. Does he have any backstory? Was he created because someone in editorial went “Crap, we have Jean-Paul gay and not dating, we can’t have that!” To use another couple, Rictor and Shatterstar are established characters, who have history and backgrounds. Neither was created so the other would be ‘dating someone.’

I don’t mind characters having relationships. Even with ‘background characters’ (Lee Forrester, I’m looking at you). That’s realistic, that not everyone in tights has a love who also wears spandex. Heck, Jean-Paul’s former teammate Snowbird had a perfectly normal mortal husband and son, and Heather wasn’t a superhero until *after* James died. (More on that below)

Even if you don’t agree with SSM (I prefer domestic partnerships) there are a lot of subplots that come from a dating a hero when you’re mortal.

* Jean Paul’s identity is, IIRC, public. In addition to the gay bashing, there’s also the ‘target the superhero’s family’ schtick. We’ve already seen the Master of the World do this.
*Domestic bliss when you’re partner is off world/on the other side of the world. How do you handle that?
*Domestic violence. Not that I want to see Jean Paul beat Kyle, but what happens if they get into a fight? Men of steel, men of Kleenex?

Jean Paul’s history also brings others.
* He is a (former) terrorist, how will that play in post 9/11 New York?
* His sister (well one of the personalities) is a devout Catholic. How does she react? (Her reaction to his coming out was an aborted storyline in the original Alpha Flight)
* Hurdles in citizenship.

But it looks like Marvel is going “We’re hip and cool!” rather than exploring the story potential.

One thing I enjoyed about the Alphans was the sense of family. James and Heather, Walter and Jean Marie, Madison and Lil, Madison basically being a foster dad to Kara. Kara adopting Laura and Goblyn like sisters. In that universe, Jean Paul settling down doesn’t bother me, political overtones aside. This just feels forced, a marriage for headlines, rather than the growth of the characters.

omg Marvel just released a cover where I can draw whoever I want getting married I’m getting it and drawing me and my partner and framing it

(for real)

can’t believe this type of marketing works for me

Wow. I don’t think I agree with a word of this article.

For starters, I disagree entirely that the personal lives of these heroes have no place in a comic book. On the contrary, I think that without those deeper personal connections in their own books, our heroes cease to truly be “real” people that we can identify with or understand or connect with in an emotional way. As much as I enjoy the “team books….the true narrative of each individual player isn’t going to be found only interacting with the other heroes. These heroes have supporting family casts for a REASON and that reason is because each hero has to have their own worldview and perspective. For SOME of these heroes, that includes love and marriage.

I also think it’s a very dangerous road to only paint hero romances as being worthy of time in these books. I think they work sometimes depending on the character. However, I also think the value of a hero being romantically involved with and involved with a civilian is often paramount to their character development and to the overall message of their narrative.

Frankly, from a feminist perspective, I don’t think you are doing women any favors by writing off women who are civilians and who aren’t costumed heroes as being less worthy of being “equals” to these male heroes. In fact, I think that viewpoint is actually dangerously sexist because it often leads to the assumption that in order for women to have truly equality with men that they have to shed their own womanhood and, instead, take on primarily male traits.

It’s also a major insult to all the couples, particularly in the military and other service oriented professions, where one spouse is a civilian and one spouse is either called to Active Duty or serving as a firefighter or police offier etc. Are you under the impression that the spouses of the men and women who gave their lives on September 11th were less WORTHY of being married to those real life heroes if they were in a different profession?

Mary Jane Watson didn’t have to be a costumed her to be Peter Parker’s equal and it’s wrong to imply that she did. It implies that the only way for women to achieve equal strength and agency in a narrative is to be written as a physical equal to a man with powers as opposed to recognizing that our strength and value comes from the inside out.

By implying that women must be costumed heroes in order to be equals and then applying that rationale to GAY characters you are essentially doing the same thing. You are implying that the only way a gay character could be the equal of another hero is if they were also a costumed hero. It’s very disturbing thinking.

Finally, I think your perceptions of what it means to have a “marriage” are also skewed. While I think it’s ok for it not be your cup of tea to read about I think it’s dangerous to assume that your viewpoint is some kind of absolute stance.

While I think it’s correct that our pop culture often puts marriage at the END of a story—I also think it’s a mistake to not recognize how truly damaging that can be. Marriage is not an end. It’s also not always a fairytale. It’s two people every single day, doing their best to make it work against all odds.

Personally, I don’t want to see a story END with a wedding. I’m thrilled to see a story show us that a wedding is not the END and that there is life after you say “I Do”–life full of loves, challenges and new beginnings and that that “new beginning” comes equally whether you are straight or gay.

I may have read this wrong, but the point seems to be that a marriage between two superheroes has more value than a marriage between a superhero and a civilian. That they can’t be equals unless they do the exact same job and have the same amount of physical power.

I have to disagree with that. I like hero-hero relationships, and agree that we should have a married same-sex superhero team, but I disagree that Kyle and Jean-Paul are inherently less valuable because Kyle is not a costumed, superpowered adventurer.

I’d also disagree that domesticity is not the realm of comics. While many writers seem to be avoiding it right now, love interests have been a vital part of the superhero genre since early in the Golden-Age, and if there were to be a Northstar solo book launched, Kyle would most certainly be just as important as if he were a member of the X-men.

///////And while we’re at it, the idea that marriage is the end of anything being interesting about a relationship is, well, it’s depressing that someone would see it that way. A relationship continues to evolve and develop beyond a marriage, if it doesn’t then it won’t last.//////

@ Jeremy, I agree that it’s depressing. I think that, unfortunately, that is the way pop culture has taught people to view marriage and it’s a viewpoint that both Marvel and DC has sadly endorsed as of late which is very, very sad.

DC Comics used the excuse of marriage being a sort of “end” when they destroyed the Supermarriage earlier this year. Which frankly, I thought was a lot of crap. Marriage is not an end. And if people can’t understand why that is….then I think it’s more a reflection on a lack of understanding about the ways in which life goes on throughout many stages of life in GOOD and interesting ways than the concept of it.

Look, marriage not for everyone. It’s not.

But marriage IS for some people. Not all marriages end in divorce. Not all marriages are unhappy. Many of them SUCCEED. Many of them are HAPPY. Many of them are comprised of two very different people with different backgrounds and different missions in life who come together because they love each other in spite of these differences and want to make it work.

The way in which this entire genre basically implies that marriage is “boring” or “an end” or not worthy of page time is just very sad. It’s also not representative of the millions of people—both straight and GAY—-who are doing their best every day to make it work.

Dave Robinson (@dcrwrites)

May 23, 2012 at 11:22 am

You mean they need to show something like the Apollo/Midnighter marriage.

I’m with Rusty. Just because Kyle isn’t a superhero doesn’t mean his relationship with Jean-Paul can’t be interesting, or relevant to the plot, or presented in a mature way that readers will connect with.

I’ll remind the Alpha Flight fans in the audience that Heather Hudson didn’t start out as a superhero either. She was an under-age former secretary with a high-school education, and she more or less blackmailed Mac into marrying her so she wouldn’t be forced to testify against him in court. Yet over the years she evolved into a hero in her own right (albeit with her husband dead for most of that time).

Marrying Kyle into the superhero elite gives Marvel lots of opportunities to give him a larger role later on — maybe not as a hero, but as a strong supporting character, which was John Byrne’s original intent for Heather before he left the Alpha Flight title. (He says he never intended to make her into a costumed character, but he did plan on making her leader of the team.) Maybe Kyle is going to be the Rick Jones of the 2010s. We’ll have to see what happens next.

////I’m with Rusty. Just because Kyle isn’t a superhero doesn’t mean his relationship with Jean-Paul can’t be interesting, or relevant to the plot, or presented in a mature way that readers will connect with.////

Truthfully, I find the implication that only superheroes in the traditional sense are worthy of being seen as true “equals” to be a really damaging thing to say.

The entire point of these stories is to inspire us (hopefully) to hope and to believe in heroism. What is the point of that if we aren’t seeing the heroic qualities in civilian characters? What is the point if we are implying that you have to actually put on a costume and physically beat people up in order to be truly seen as an “equal?” It’s a very faulty viewpoint.

@Audrey I agree. The value of the character comes from the characterization, not the costume. I didn’t want to imply that civilian characters aren’t equal.

This is a really bizarre set of complaints.

Most fairy tales that feature a wicked stepmother are implicitly starting with a (second) marriage (presenting, usually, a situation that cannot have been going on very long without coming to the head that the story itself is…)

This author is clearly homophobic or he would not have made such a big deal about it. Homosexuality is 100% normal and healthy sexual orientation. Gay marriage is real, it’s occurring every day and will be legal nationwide within a year. Take your bigotry and STFU.

I’m another one who disagrees with almost everything you said. I like seeing lots of emphasis on the heroes private lives. One of the things I hate about Marvel in the last decade or two is that most of the characters seem to be full-time professional heroes with no civilian life to speak of. One of the things I love about Spider-Man is that his personal life has always been given as much attention over the years as his crime-fighting.

And I do love weddings. Although, I have to admit that comic-book wedding stories haven’t always been so good. I think the best wedding issue I’ve ever read was Scott and Jean in X-Men #30, even though the series itself wasn’t so great at that time (but it’s often been worse).

As for moving a social idea forward, many years ago (1994), Marvel had Hulk dealing with a friend dying of AIDS. It was quite a moving story and received lots of press. Just like with this story. Opening the door a crack lets light in and gives these ideas exposure.

Daytime soap operas and comic books have always been the movers and shakers in terms of introducing controversial and different lifestyles into public discourse.

While I dig your analysis of the dullness of the comic book ‘Wedding Issue’ I can’t disagree more with your contention that this is a publicity hungry money grab. I was born in Brooklyn and have a good NYC liberal bias for Gay Marriage, but I’m now living in western NY and a lot of folk consider homosexuals an abomination against God. I think it a brave statement: a case where the ‘Artist’ decides over the corporate bottom line for something worth believing in. The New 52 & A Vs X are the corp. whore events that has caused me to stop buying any of the Big Two.

@Thomas Alex:

Are you referring to Sonia Harris when you say the author is homophobic?

If so, I really don’t think that’s the case. I disagree with the article, but I don’t see any evidence of homophobia here, or in any of her past articles. Did you miss the part where she wrote: “Having said all of this, I am incredibly glad that two men are going to marry in comic books.”

She’s to be objecting to the marriage on the grounds of whether or not it closes down the possibility of good future stories for Northstar, not because he’s gay but because of comics’ track record with married characters. (And to a lesser extent, because she sees it as a stunt rather than as an indication of progressive leanings on Marvel’s part, if I read her correctly.)

Again, I really disagree with a lot of what she says here. But there’s a similar article by Andrew Wheeler over at Comics Aliiance, makes more or less the same argument. Wheeler’s a gay man, and says he hopes to get married someday, so I’d guess he isn’t being homophobic there either:
http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/05/23/northstar-gay-marriage-comics/

“Having dinner with an old friend” could be a perfectly interesting issue of a superhero comic. Saying that “mundane” events such as that don’t belong in superhero comics indicates a certain literary immaturity. Like, what do you want, issues and issues of people punching each other? This isn’t the ’60s anymore, kid.

Eh, what I think Sonia was saying, was that she has no interest in just a wedding issue.

Also, that it’s just a big headline grab publicity stunt. If Marvel wanted to really show advocacy for equal marriage rights, they would have characters prominently featured in samesex marriage as central players or the focus of a continuing series. As we are talking about superhero books, having them both be crimefighters would ensure adequate time is spent observing them as a couple.

It sounds like Sonia’s finding the whole thing a little disingenuous, which is fine. I haven’t read the books this is affecting, so I don’t know if this is a culmination to a long running sub-plot, or if it’s just like “BAM- Northstar is gettin’ married!”

If it’s the latter opposed to the former, then yeah, seems like just a big ‘ole stunt.

Finally, as a married person I can say that marriage is a valid and fulfilling lifestyle choice that I believe all people should be allowed to make. I don’t like it when superhero marriages are nixed because they aren’t as interesting as the single life. My marriage is a helluva lot more interesting than my bachelorhood; trust me.

This raises interesting issues, but the lack of reference to Apollo and Mighnighter, and Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass weakens the arguments made.

But damn, i am sick of the phrase ‘gay marriage’ along with other posters im gay and married. But i would never say ‘My gay husband and I got gay married and went on a gay honeymoon’. My marriage is just marriage. Time for the rest of the world to catch up with reality and treat us no different from anyone else.

Uh, Sonia? Big problem with your logic early on in this column–without the aspects of the character’s personal life in the story, a comic would live up to the stereotype posed by animated cartoons of a book showing a character doing NOTHING but fighting bad guys all the time. Is there a gas leak over your desk? Better yet, to quote the incomparable Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar: “Ex-squeeze me, uh baking powder?”

[...] the following words from Sonia Harris from Comics Should be Good at Comic Book Resources.  Click here for the full article: Showing a wedding and telling us that this is an example of the acceptance [...]

I agree that a same-sex marriage shouldn’t be a media event, but not being any more important than buying deodorant? That sounds like the opinion of someone who is not married nor wants to ever be married. For the majority of us, marriage is a big deal. That’s exactly why the LGBT community is fighting so hard for it: it is a life-changing event and it means EVERYTHING.

Also, I got to disagree that the more dynamic comic book marriages are between two “supers.” I think my favorite married couple in comics right now if Buddy and Ellen Baker in “Animal Man.” But really it just depends. Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman — yes, great dynamic. Vision and Scarlet Which — never did anything for me.

Why does CBR continue wasting space on this column? Every week another lifeless self-absorbed pedantic insightless monologue that has no resonance to anyone other than the author. DO NOT WANT.

Let me point that Marvel has done EXACTLY what you were asking for before as well….
“If Marvel and DC are to truly embrace same-sex marriage, then instead of focusing on an obviously irrelevant event wedding, they need to give us a same-sex couple of heroes, who we get to see interact every day”

If you did ANY basic research, you’d know that Wiccan and Hulkling were the main characters of The Young Avengers, and they were in fact a homosexual couple.

Wiccan and Hulkling were great. Did they get married?

A bit of criticism from me.

This article is a rant, when you point repeatedly one argument: gay superheroes should marry other gay superheroes. Your article should have been much shorter and you also could put some more interesting examples to illustrate your view. Maybe your next article will be better. Keep improving.

Solid stuff Sonia, I agree with you 100%. It’s not a coincidence that Marvel ‘came out’ with this news days after Obama spoke in support of Gays.. I remember a time when Obama appeared on an issue of Spiderman.. which didn’t make much sense.. I’m hoping DC rolls out a normal super hero from the past that has been harboring the secret, and build from there, as his personal life creates stress for his hero life. The struggle between the two is what creates for interesting stories. Nightwing always did a good job of juggling between his girlfriend of the week and Villain of the week, it’d be interesting to see a relation woven in like they do for that series. . . But having some grand wedding for a character that’s barely in the mix anymore.. is pretty lame. But power to them for spreading the word in the media to support Obama. Nobody ever said a Comicbook publisher can’t be political… right?
(long live DC)
~N

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