When I was browsing my newsfeed this morning, I came across an article that I was pretty sure was clickbait: “The Internet’s Freaking Out Over Marvel Making Wolverine Gay.” Another article that came up was from Vice: “Wolverine Might Be a Sexually Fluid Mutant in a Throuple – Deal with It.”
I did more research, and yeah, Marvel definitely has made some insinuations that Wolverine is gay or bisexual and is possibly in a relationship with Jean Grey and Scott Summers. Also, apparently in an alternate universe Wolverine and Hercules had a thing? I don’t think I read that one, but that happened.
While some people are welcoming this change, there’s also a large group of people who are very opposed to it. A lot of the articles I’ve found are in favor of making Wolverine gay or are applauding Marvel for being “woke”, and I wanted to share a different opinion to voice some of the problems that die-hard comic book fans experience with Marvel’s changes like this one.
First, and most importantly, it’s incredibly unfair for these news sources (or for anyone, for that matter) to call anyone that is unhappy with this new change “homophobes and bigots” (quoted from the first article I linked to). It’s okay to have discussions about sensitive topics without resorting to calling anyone that disagrees with you a bigot.
A quick note: Both Marvel and DC have focused a lot on diversity over the past several years. This article, however, will focus entirely on Marvel. First, because it was prompted by the Wolverine controversy; and second, because 90% of the comic books I read are published by Marvel.
I love and support diversity. America is full of so many people with different religions, races, and sexuality, and it’s amazing! As a die-hard comic book fan, I want more diversity in comic books.
Yes, traditionally, a high percentage of comic book characters are white, straight men. However, over time that has changed. In 1966 Marvel created Black Panther; in 1979 Northstar, the first openly gay mutant, made his debut. Marvel is not new to diversity: we have disability rep with Daredevil and Xavier; religious diversity with Kitty Pryde and Magneto; superheroes from all over the world, like Sunfire, Storm (one of my personal favorites), Brother Voodoo, Warpath, Thunderbird, and Nightcrawler. Is there room for more diversity? Absolutely, and I welcome it!
There are a lot of problems that I have with Marvel’s recent decision making, however. I understand that they want to attract more people to their comic books, this just isn’t how to do it. And here are the reasons why not:
Instead of retconning existing characters, and making an established heterosexual character (like Wolverine) gay, make awesome new characters! I’ve read Marvel comics that have been published from the 60s to recent times, and 90% of the time, the story is made up of essentially all the same characters. Marvel needs fresh, exciting characters to breathe some new life into their stories, which might help them boost sales.
It alienates existing fans.
As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, I got upset at the articles I was reading that labeled anyone upset at Wolverine’s very sudden change a homophobe or bigot. That’s not what is going on here.
Here’s an example of this kind of controversy that happened a few years ago concerning the MCU. Iron Fist. Iron Fist was created in 1974. His origin story is as follows: Danny Rand, a white, rich kid from NYC, is in a plane crash with his parents over the Himalayas. Both of his parents die, and Danny is raised by a group of monks who rescue him. After becoming the Iron Fist, having completed a series of challenges, he goes back to New York and fights crime and such.
He’s a character completely out of place in the Himalayas, but the monks take him on and train him as one of their own. He’s a great character, with a lot of growth. For people who are life-long Iron Fist fans, it’s difficult when people attack the character for not being Asian and doing martial arts. When the series was released on Netflix, there was a lot of yelling about Danny Rand’s race. Here’s one quote that always sticks out to me, from Keith Chow:
Instead of a white man appropriating the qualities of Asian mysticism, it could have been a story of an Asian-American going back to his parents’ homeland as a way of reconnecting with them — a feeling that many second-generation Asian-Americans can relate to.
It does change the character and the story. I’m not going to broach the topic of cultural appropriation in the article. Comic book fans take canon seriously, just like other fandoms do. These backstories are important to a lot of fans, and they define who the character is and where they come from, why they are the way they are.
One of the reasons that people are upset that Marvel is insinuating that Wolverine is gay or bisexual is that his character, from his first introduction in 1974, has been that he is a heterosexual, cigar-smoking, tough guy with a lot of snark and the hots for Jean Grey. And Mariko Yashida. And Rogue. And Storm. And Domino. And Lady Deathstrike. And Maureen Logan. The list continues on and on.
This ties in a bit with my first point that Marvel is just being lazy and not making the effort to create new characters. I can’t speak for everyone, obviously, but do we really want diversity in the form of slapping a new sexuality, religion, or skin color onto an old character? That’s not how diversity works. This is another reason why Marvel and DC should focus on creating new characters instead of just changing existing ones.
The personalities and storylines are taking a back seat to labels.
As I’ve mentioned several times in this article, I love diversity and want more of it in comic books. I’d especially love to see more fat and disabled characters. However, many newer stories and plotlines that Marvel has come out with seem to equate race or sexuality with a personality trait. A personality trait is being short-tempered or giddy. It’s not the same thing, and focusing so much of their storylines on the diversity of their characters makes them feel one dimensional. We are all so much more than a label, and that should apply to well-rounded fictional characters as well.
I’m aware that not everyone is going to agree with me. My goal here is to make people aware that different viewpoints exist, and that jumping to calling people that disagree with you bigots just fuels the anger and divisions that are springing up everywhere. Diversity in literature (including comic books) is important and we need to have these discussions. We just need to look at how we’re getting that diversity and what can be done to best represent the cultures that have been in the background.