Saturday, March 18, 2006

Wiccan and Hulkling

So much has changed since Northstar became the first openly gay superhero in 1992. Back then, it was pretty hard to find a copy of his coming out, since a lot of retailers pulled the comic from the stands :(. A friend of mine was telling me about Young Avengers, Marvel's answer to DC's popular Teen Titans. It debuted maybe about 8 months ago? I've been out of the comic loop for a while now, so I was surprised to learn that Young Avengers features a gay teen couple!

Wiccan (formerly Asgardian)


After coming out to Wiccan's family

From the wiki article on Young Avengers:

Exchanges between Asgardian and Hulkling (and the latter's character design) have led some readers to speculate that the two young men have a much more intimate bond than mere friendship. Allan Heinberg confirmed this speculation at a San Diego convention panel, stating that his intent was to reveal the relationship in issue #12, and he was surprised that his subtle clues were picked up on so quickly.

Since Young Avengers #2, each issue's letters page has seen the exchange of opinions between people who support and people who are against the portrayal of homosexual superheroes. Many readers praise the addition of a gay couple in a comic, while others have cited their disdain for the relationship. In #6, Kate advises that Asgardian should change his name to avoid the obvious puns when the press discovers that he's in a relationship with Hulkling, implying that the others already know the two are gay.

In Young Avengers Special, the team agrees to give an interview to Kat Farrell, and Jessica Jones warns Billy and Teddy that Farrell will probably ask if the rumors about them are true. After some deliberation, the two decide to tell her, with Teddy adding, "Why should Northstar have all the fun?"

And here's a review from Broken Frontier:

Homosexuality really shouldn’t be more of an issue than any other aspect of characterization in comics, but, unfortunately, it is. I started with this aspect of Young Avengers because issue #7’s most interesting page—the letters page—is totally devoted to it. Somehow aliens, gods, zombies, vampires, magicians, and some of the most vile characters to be found in any storytelling format are readily accepted in comics, sometimes as heroes, but a concrete reality like homosexuality—not poverty, racism, sexism, or an ill-thought out war—causes more controversy than all of those real world issues combined.

Would Young Avengers be a better book without the gay relationship between Hulkling and Wiccan? It doesn’t matter to me, because, like The Authority, Young Avengers would be a fine comic regardless. But perhaps it matters to some young kid out there who loves superhero comics but has trouble coming to grips with his own sexuality. If a comic book could help him and do whatever small part it can to show him how to live with and acceptable himself as Hulking and Wiccan do, then what matters to me is irrelevant, because it becomes something more important than merely a well-written, entertaining comic.

Allan Heinberg’s script, very aptly entitled "Secret Identities," is about just that—acceptance and adjustment during that difficult time between being a kid and becoming an adult. The secret identity isn’t just the alter ego a hero has when not fighting evil, but the true person she or he is when no one is looking, not even himself. We are what we acknowledge about ourselves, but we also are what we hide, even from ourselves, and in this way, we all have, indeed need, secret identities. Heinberg hits this note well a number of times throughout the issue. Spider-Man talking about becoming a hero at the age of 16. The choice of the new villain. The depiction of Wiccan and Hulkling coming out. Revealing the deeper, darker secret that burdens Patriot. How Stature deals with her parents’ disparaging remarks about the possibility that she could be a superhero. The reader sees and feels the awkwardness of adolescence, but to Heinberg’s credit, he doesn’t hit the reader over the head with the idea that the Young Avengers are mature enough to be superheroes. Rather, he leaves the question open, so much so that one finishes Young Avengers #7 wondering if Captain America isn’t right after all. Maybe "Young" and "Avengers" are two words that just don’t go well together at all. If Heinberg can keep this tension going, Young Avengers will take its place beside Runaways as the best titles about young people that Marvel has published in years.

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