Diversity in superhero cinema and television has become a hot-button issue lately, with way too many lead characters in superhero films being straight, white males. Marvel Studios is making some strides towards diversity for sure, with both the African hero Black Panther and the female Captain Marvel getting their own films soon. But what about LGBT characters? Not long ago, the folks at Slashfilm asked Marvel studio chief Kevin Feige just when they would start bringing in LGBT characters into their films, and this is what he had to say on the subject:
“The answer is, there is no reason why that can’t happen any time soon. You know, we pull the characters from the comics, for the most part, and they’ve been forging new ground for decades in the comics. They’ve been very progressive in the comics. And even more recently in a very important and progressive way. And we keep track of all of those things and are inspired by all of those things, so I’d love it to find an organic, meaningful and natural way for that to happen at some point in the not so distant future.”
Forget the “not so distant future”: how about just step up and do it now? The only organic way to bring them in is to just bring them in, and not make excuses and waiting for other movie franchises to take that big step before you do. And goodness knows there are enough characters who would work in live action at Marvel who could make the jump to live-action film and television tomorrow if need be. Here are but eight of them.
Introduced ten years ago in the first issue of Young Avengers, teenager Billy Kaplan was a user of “Chaos Magic” in the vein of the longtime Avenger Scarlet Witch, whom he idolized (because of course the teenage gay boy is gonna hero-worship the fiercest diva on the team.) Billy gets his powers when, upon a chance meeting with his idol, she activates a portion of his own magical power within him, and he become a superhero himself. Originally going by the name “Asgardian.” Billy eventually changed it to Wiccan, because who needs those stupid gay jokes about how his name sounds like “Ass Guardian” hurled his way constantly.
Although Billy Kaplan’s origins in the comics ended up being more complicated in the long run (turns out that he’s really the reincarnated soul of one of the Scarlet Witch and Vision’s twin children, who were really lost portions of the demon Mephisto’s fragmented soul and blahblahblah comics.) Just stick to his original origin story for the cinematic universe. Avengers: Infinity War is sure to have a cast of thousands, so why not introduce him there and eventually spin him off into a Young Avengers movie (or Netflix series?)
Where one finds Wiccan, one can usually find Hulkling, his longtime boyfriend. Both characters were introduced in Young Avengers #1, and although teen hero Teddy Altman looked like another member of the Banner/Walters gamma irradiated Hulk clan, who could turn into a giant green ass kicker when needed, he actually wasn’t human at all. Turns out that Teddy is an alien, half Skrull, hence the shape changing and the green shade, and half Kree (supposedly the original Captain Mar-Vell is his father.)
He’s taken to Earth as a baby and lives most of his life as a cute blonde twink, until discovering his shape shifting abilities, which he uses to become big, green and Hulk like. He enters into a relationship with fellow gay teammate Wiccan, and the two become the Marvel Universe’s gay power couple. Although Young Avengers are no more as a title, the duo are slated to star together in the New Avengers comics series coming this fall from Marvel.
So how would Hulkling work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? His origin would have to be somewhat altered, as Marvel Studios don’t have the rights to the Skrulls. But as viewers of Guardians of the Galaxy know, they do own the Kree, so they could introduce that aspect of his heritage at least. I say just make him a Kree with augmented abilites and call it a day. He could easily be introduced alongside Wiccan in Avengers: Infinity War before going on to bigger and better things, like a Young Avengers movie or television series.
3. Miss America Chavez
Another member of the Young Avengers team, America Chavez is a relatively new addition to the Marvel Universe. First appearing back in 2011, America Chavez was raised in a place called “the Utopian Parallel”, a dimension that exists out of time. Here she appears to have absorbed some of her superpowers from that dimension’s ambient magical presence, including super strength, flight and interdimensional transportation.
When she was a child, the Utopian Parallel was threatened by destruction, and eventually, America ran away from her home and her responsibilities. She traveled across different dimensions, adopting the code-name of Miss America after the 1940s superheroine, and began covertly acting as a superhero. She joined the Young Avengers, then eventually the female team A-Force, and is going to be part of the new Ultimates come this fall. Miss America’s sexuality was dealt with in a super off-handed way, when she just casually tossed out that she was lesbian in a scene with her teammates.
So how could she fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Her origin is pretty complicated in the comics, but if Dr, Strange ends up dealing with alternate dimensions and magical energies, wny not have her appear in his upcoming movie? Her costume, which barely qualifies as a costume, to be honest, could make the jump from page to screen with few alterations at all.
Poor Hercules. Ever since he was introduced as a Marvel character in the sixties, he’s more or less been the poor man’s Thor. Whenever Thor is too busy (or temporarily dead) in his own comic to lend a hand as an Avenger, then Herc comes in as the replacement god. In fact, the fact that he comes off as a bargain-basement Thor has kept the character from ever flourishing in his own title, but he still has managed to be a Marvel Universe mainstay for decades.
As for his sexuality, well, first off, there’s an alternate universe version of Herc that is in a relationship with Wolverine, as shown a few years back in X-Treme X-Men, so he is clearly at least bisexual in that universe. HOWEVER, when regular Marvel Universe Herc was thought dead a few years back, many of the ladies of the Marvel U were lamenting the loss of their great lover. Also among the mourners was openly gay hero Northstar, who did everything but openly admit that he too had slept with the son of Zeus. One could just say that was the writers having fun, but considering that in Greek mythology (you know, the actual source material) Hercules is indeed bisexual, you’d think Marvel would embrace this fact in 2015. Turns out, not so much.
Hercules was very recently announced as getting a new ongoing series as part of “All-New, All-Different” Marvel, and fans wondered if Marvel, who have gone on record as saying they are going to be making is a big commitment to diversity of all sorts lately, would finally have Herc totally come out of the closet as bi. Then, in a recent interview, Marvel EIC Axel Alonso refused to do so, saying that Herc was 100% hetero, despite all evidence to the contrary. Marvel is totally squandering an opportunity to give voice to the second least visible part of the LGBT community in comics, the bisexual male (the first is easily the trans community). Not so “all new, all different” after all.
Well, if Marvel comics won’t lead the way, how about Marvel Studios? If not in movies, then maybe the new Netflix Defenders series? That show is likely to be set in New York City, where a bisexual bear-hunk in thigh-high sandals would fit right on in.
5. Karolina Dean
Another relatively recent addition to the Marvel Universe, created by Brian K. Vaughn for his critically acclaimed series Runaways back in 2003. Like every member of the original Runaways, she is the daughter of evil super-powered criminals, who then decide to rebel agains their parents by becoming heroes themselves.
While searching through her parents’ home, Karolina inadvertently discovers that her parents were actually alien invaders from a race called the Majesdanians, a race that absorbs solar energy and reradiates it in the form of the colors of the rainbow. She originally takes the name Lucy in the Sky, but drops it when Marvel realizes they probably had a portential lawsuit on their hands. The series revealed that Karolina was a lesbian by showing that she was romantically attracted to fellow female member Nico Minoru throughout much of the book’s first volume.
So when should Karolina be introduced? Well, a Runaways movie has been rumored to be in some form of pre-production for years at Marvel Studios, and keeps getting stalled and postponed, despite rumors saying the script is actually pretty great. If the script is indeed as great as they say, then Marvel should get it going sooner rather than later, and bring Karolina and the rest of the team to life.
Here’s a character that began life as a Marvel stunt, then changed identities before finally just going away to comic book limbo. About a decade or so back, when Marvel magically “divorced” Spidey and Mary Jane, a new red-headed bombshell superheroine appeared on the scene, with the code name Jackpot. Considering the look of the character and the name (“Face it Tiger, you’ve hit the jackpot!” was the first thing MJ ever said to Peter Parker) every one assumed the woman behind the mask was Mary Jane Watson, now a superhero.
But no, it wasn’t MJ at all, but a woman named Alana Jobson, who actually had bought the name and superhero identity off of another woman named Sara Ehret, who gained her powers in an accident. Sara didn’t want to be a hero, so she sold off the rights to Alana, who it turned out, was a lesbian who had a crush on Jackpot. Sadly, Alana didn’t have powers, so she used mutant growth hormone and other shady ways of gaining abilities, and ended up dying, forcing the “real” Jackpot to take the identity again. Basically, the gay character was fridged so the straight version of Jackpot could return. Not that we’ve seen her much lately either.
So where would Jackpot show up in the MCU? Well, instead of Jackpot, how about just her civilian identity of Alana Jobson? The new rebooted Spider-Man movie is said to be all set in high school, John Hughes style, and is said to be bringing in all of Spidey’s classic supporting cast as high school students-MJ, Gwen Stacy,Flash Thompson, Betty Brant, etc. While they could make one of these previously hetero characters gay now, why not bring in an existing LGBT Spidey character and add some diversity to the Midtown High line-up?
7. The Living Lightning
Miguel Santos, aka the Living Lightning, is an electric powered hero of Latino hertiage from East Los Angeles, and one of those Avengers who never quite made it to the big leagues, but kind of just hung around on the sidelines of the West Coast Avengers during the early ’90s before disappearing into obscurity for awhile. He eventually started popping up again in various books a decade or so back, and he officially came out of the closet when applying for GLA…which he thought was the Gay Lesbian Alliance, but was actually the Great Lakes Avengers. Easy mistake.
Like Miss America, Living Lightning ticks off both the “Hispanic box” and the “LGBT box”, and has an easy enough power set to translate into live action, and not enough of an established personality (or fan following) to stop Hollywood writers from developing him almost any way they want. If Avengers: Infinity War is too crowded (and frankly, too filled with Marvel A and B lister heroes) there’s always the Defenders again.
I wanted to have a genuine transgender hero on this list, but instead, Marvel mostly just has several characters who are metaphors for being trans, in the form of shapeshifting characters like Mystique, or the eighties character Cloud, who could slip between genders at will, but they mostly still see themselves as female. They might “try on” being a man, but they basically identify as women. There really wasn’t a true transgender hero in the Marvel pantheon until very recently.
Luckily, just this year, Marvel introduced their first true trans character in the form of Sera, in the pages of Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, who is pretty much unique in the Marvel universe in that she was biologically born male and began a conscious transition towards a female identity. As she herself says in a recent issue of Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, “I was always Sera.”
So where could Sera turn up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well, Angela is the long-lost sibling of Thor and Loki, and where Angela goes, Sera goes. Thor: Ragnarok anyone?
Previously by Eric Diaz