Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The X-Men’s Iceman Isn’t Gay, Until He Is

Apparently in a recent X-Men comic, Iceman – a character who has been around since the 1960s – was revealed to be gay. My first reaction was, ‘That’s silly - Iceman isn’t gay’. But why did I think that?

Iceman, a.k.a. Bobby Drake, has been in several heterosexual relationships over the years. Truthfully the thought of him being gay has never crossed my mind. That may have been part of the point of the reveal, which I will get back to later. Hence the news of Iceman being gay struck me in a similar way that any sudden revelation that seemingly goes against a character’s long-established traits would do – as a ‘shock’ whose primary purpose was to gain attention, if not sales.

Some commentators, like the writer who made the reveal (Brian Michael Bendis), have suggested that this was not entirely out of the blue. One issue in particular that has been used to support the case that there were previous hints about Bobby’s sexuality is Uncanny X-Men #319. In that issue, Iceman and Rogue travel to the house of Bobby’s parents, and his dad makes some bigoted comments. I read this as nothing more than Bobby’s dad disliking that his son was a mutant, but others have apparently read it as more than that, with Rogue acting as Iceman’s ‘beard’ by accompanying him back to meet his parents. Though as is often the case with the allegorical nature of the X-Men, and their being despised for being different, the story could act as an allegory for a son dealing with his dad’s disapproval of his sexuality, even if that was not what the story was explicitly about.

Further, returning to my point from before, perhaps part of the reason why Iceman was revealed to be gay is because he has had girlfriends, and some readers would not have suspected it, hence forcing them to confront their assumptions. Still fifty years of continuity is a lot to overturn. I would have found the revelation more believable with a more recent character, and one that writers had not so clearly written as ‘straight’ in the past. In the end though, most long-time comic characters have gone through some major tweaks, and if the character is strong enough it generally does not make too much difference to how they are written. But if any long-time X-Man was revealed to be gay I would have put my money on the Beast   

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