Don’t You Forget About Me: An Ode to Flatman.

22 02 2015

2620691-gla002First things first: If you are not reading and/or thoroughly enjoying Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s incredibly delightful little book, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, please take a long hard look in the mirror and attempt to figure out where your taste in comic books veered of course.

While it’s true, and quite canon, that Squirrel Girl managed to take out Doctor Doom in her first Marvel appearance, it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that she became a (not really) household name. During that time, Doreen Green (the aforementioned squirrel whisperer) answered the desperate recruitment drive of the Great Lakes Avengers in New York City, becoming the team’s newest member.

While their unquestionable enthusiasm for heroics is palpable, the GLA’s team members’ power sets are a bit odd and useless… at least in the eyes of the world’s more seasoned superheroes. Amongst this group of well-meaning do-gooders is Dr. Val Ventura, the mutant known as Flatman. With his two-dimensional elastic body and origami shapeshifting abilities, it’s no wonder why he is the second-in-command of these Wisconsin guardians.

Val Ventura, a doctor of “stuff” (yes, his doctoral background may be more questionable than not), was first introduced in the pages of the second volume of West Coast Avengers in 1989. His uncanny knowledge of fashion (while earning his PhD, he allegedly managed to squeeze in a few fashion classes) has proven an invaluable tool when it comes to solving crimes. At one point, Dr. Ventura was not only able to identify a particular woman’s shoe, but also describe it in detail. Think Sherlock Holmes with Carrie Bradshaw’s knowledge of footwear.

Through team identity crises (Great Lakes Avengers/X-Men/Initiative/Champions?) and battles against S&M slaves and killer Christmas trees, Flatman has (not really) left his mark on the Marvel Universe for better or worse:

1050235-flatman10Flatman knows the importance of gayming: In the time leading up to the incident in Stamford that begat the superhero civil war, Squirrel Girl was romantically involved with the New Warrior, Robbie Baldwin (a.k.a. Speedball). Following the tragedy in Connecticut and Speedball’s downward spiral of self-loathing, Doreen sought out the advice of her teammates, Flatman and Mr. Immortal. What could possibly dissuade a gay superhero from discussing boy trouble with his adorable co-Avenger? Obviously, a trip to Game Stop an all-night video gaming binge!

LivlightFlatman is supportive of his fellow LGBT brothers and sisters: Prior to his own coming out moment, Val Ventura was approached by Miguel Santos (a.k.a. Living Lightning) about joining the GLA. At this point in time, the Great Lakes Avengers were in the midst of a feeble recruitment drive and dwindling numbers on their roster. Unfortunately, Living Lightning’s interest in joining the organization immediately diminished when it was brought to his attention that GLA was actually an acronym for Great Lakes Avengers and not the Gay/Lesbian Alliance.

image5Flatman’s coming out story totally got one-upped “Penelope” style: Despite a love for Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blanks, Dr. Ventura was always quite adamant about being as straight as an arrow. Following a quarrel with their brief and former teammate, Leather Boy, fellow GLA member, Doorman, questioned the connection between the Greenwich Village, S&M, and the gay community. This led to Val unleashing a verbal rant about how not all gay men are into bondage while some heterosexual couples are. The tirade culminated with Flatman coming out of the closet to his supportive co-Avengers all the while Mr. Immortal arrived at the realization that he was “homo superior,” the next step in human evolution, thus stealing the thunder from Val’s big moment.

image2Flatman represents the fangurrrl in all of us: Super villains attacking the  downtown convention center in a random Wisconsin city isn’t something that happens every day. With that said, when a new incarnation of the Ani-Men did just that, Flatman and the GLA hopped in the Avengers Quin-Jetta with the intention of saving the day. You can imagine their disappointment to find that the A-list Avengers were already on the scene. Not one to let being benched ruin his day, Val squee-ed with delight over the opportunity of watching Hawkeye do what he does best.

image6Flatman knows the importance of “leaving something to the imagination”: The GLA’s most memorable battle was against Maelstrom as the super villain attempted to destroy the universe and all of reality (aren’t they all?). Following the team’s success, Flatman was apparently pulled from Big Bertha’s arms and into the vortex that Maelstrom had created leaving the larger-than-life supermodel/hero devastated. To everyone’s relief, the destructive phenomenon only claimed Dr. Ventura’s uniform, leaving the hero in nothing but his hirsute glory. Thanks to his flattened form, Val was able to remain modest and hide his naughty bits from impressionable eyes. It was a true “won’t someone think of the children?” moment. Conservative prudes everywhere rejoiced but then remembered that Dr. V doesn’t like “the v.”

image7Flatman has been where few superheroes have been before: Always on the lookout for new members, Flatman and the GLA (now the GLI) welcomed Deadpool to their ranks, as a reserve member, following the battle with Maelstrom. Within no time, the “Merc with a Mouth” wore out his welcome, engaging enemies with a copious amount of plastic explosives, watching nothing but porn and Maude on television, and becoming infatuated with teammate, Big Bertha. Unsure of how to breach the subject of evicting Wade from the premises and the team, Flatman attempted to verbally reason with him during bath time. In the end, Deadpool was no closer to resigning from the GLI and Dr. Ventura was left wishing that his body did not share a similar width to a bath towel.

image3Flatman shares our love for New York City: In a brief moment of lucid and smart-thinking, the GLA concluded that the best place to seek out recruits for their team was good ol’ New York City. Upon the arrival of their Amtrak train at Penn Station, Val sighed his adoration for the Big Apple and corrected Doorman’s presumption that the entire island of Manhattan smells like urine. Apparently, the acrid stench is actually only confined to 7th and 31st.

image1Flatman and his fellow Great Lakes Avengers have always represented the core of what makes a super hero super. No matter how pathetic or useless you may appear to others, true heroics always stem from the good intentions of a noble heart. For as long as there are superheroes like Dr. Val Ventura and his ragtag group of bizarre rejects, the villains of the Marvel Universe will always have a force to reckon with.

For further reading, see GLA: Misassembled by Dan Slott

Follow Shaun N. on Twitter at @datura1979.

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Silk Stalkings.

6 02 2015

Silk-Spider-Gwen-850x560*Disclaimer: Unfortunately, this article has nothing to do with the wonderfully salacious 90s television series that starred Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes.*

Spider-Verse is rapidly approaching its conclusion and it will, undoubtedly, result in a final culling of the various Spiders that have banded together to battle the Inheritors. Once the dust settles and the dead are mourned, one thing is certain, the Marvel Universe will be +2 in regards to female-led titles. Notable newcomers to the Spider-Man mythos, Silk and Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy) are set to star in their own ongoing runs beginning this month.

For those readers not in the know, here is a brief origin breakdown of both characters:

Cindy Moon (a.k.a. Silk) was in high school when she happened to attend the same exhibition as Peter Parker when he was bitten by the radioactive spider that resulted in him gaining his powers. Coincidentally, after biting Peter’s hand, the same spider went on to bite Cindy’s ankle before dying. Once her powers manifested, Cindy was briefly trained by Ezekiel Sims before being locked away upon the discovery that the Inheritor, Morlun, was tracking her. Following the release of Uatu the Watcher’s secrets, Peter Parker discovered the existence of Cindy and, bearing false news of Morlun’s demise, released Cindy from the bunker.

Gwen Stacy (a.k.a. Spider-Woman, dubbed Spider-Gwen by fans and Marvel editorial) originates from Earth-65. In this reality, not only is Gwen a member of Mary Jane Watson’s band, she was also the one bitten by the radioactive spider and developed super powers. Following a failed experiment in order to become “special” like Gwen, Peter Parker mutated into a lizard-like monstrosity only to perish following a confrontation with Gwen. This would lead to Spider-Gwen being wanted by her father, the head of the NYPD, and local authorities.

With the recent loss of both She-Hulk and Elektra, perhaps these ladies can help fill the void left behind on the monthly pull list. But, what is a Strong Female Spider without a Spider Rogues Gallery. Thanks the the long history of Peter Parker and the various empowered folks that team up with him on a daily basis, Silk and Spider-Gwen may not have long to rest, after their current battle, before a Strong Female Villain comes calling.

Who deserves to be the recurring nemeses of Silk and Spider-Gwen? Here is a who’s-who dossier on some of the obvious and not-so-obvious dastardly vixens that would probably enjoy a row with one or both of our new Spider-heroines:

1703387-shriek_._amazing_spider_man_393_vFrances Louise Barrison/Sandra Deel (a.k.a. Shriek): Following years of abuse at the hands of her mother, drug use, a gunshot wound to the head, and obtaining powers of sound/emotion manipulation while trapped in Cloak’s dark dimension, it’s no wonder that Shriek’s sanity leaves a lot to be desired. Introduced during the Maximum Carnage event, Frances escaped Ravencroft mental institution with Carnage and, together with their “adopted children” (Carrion, Demogoblin, and Doppelgänger), took part in a homicidal murder spree throughout New York City. This was obviously thwarted by Spider-Man and co. Later, she attempted to force her “son”, Carrion, to kill his birth mother in order to be acknowledged as his true mother. Most recently, following a reunion with Carnage where the couple was pursued by Deadpool, Shriek was hired by Owl and Boomerang to join the ranks of the Sinister Sixteen.

1532411-ruby_thursdayThursday Rubinstein (a.k.a. Ruby Thursday): A member of a villainous team of geniuses, the Headmen, Thursday Rubinstein developed a surgical procedure to replace the head of a human with a malleable, organic computer. Her early encounters with the Defenders and She-Hulk would solidify her as a formidable foe. Later, she would survive an assassination attempt by Bullseye and battle Hellcat during the events of Civil War. At one point, Ruby was broken out of The Raft by Wolverine to assist him in taking down Romulus. This plan was foiled when Romulus threatened the life of Ruby’s daughter, forcing her to turn on Logan and impale him with the spiked tentacles which she was able to mold from her head. Her recent attempt to assist Dr. Bong in opening the multiverse was stopped by a surprisingly silent Spider-Man (laryngitis can’t keep a good hero down).

482801-ff1Elizabeth Rawson (a.k.a. Knockout), Danielle Forte (a.k.a. Mindblast), Beatta Dubiel (a.k.a. Bloodlust), and Leeann Foreman (a.k.a. Whiplash): The quartet known as the Femme Fatales’ first physical encounter with Spider-Man came when the women were hired to attack a Baltic ambassador’s plane as it arrived in New York City. Knockout’s superhuman strength coupled with Bloodlust’s feral ferocity, Mindblast’s telekinesis, and Whiplash’s retractable whips almost proved too much for Peter Parker to handle. Nevertheless, they were defeated and went on to join Superia’s Femizons in their battle against Captain America. Following the events of M-Day, Bloodlust was depowered but Mindblast retained her mutant abilities, joining Caroline Le Fay’s Doom Maidens and recently being spotted in Madripoor. The whereabouts of Whiplash and Knockout remain unknown.

202163-45888-aspCleo Nefertiti (a.k.a. Asp): The mutant villainess known as Asp has the ability to generate bioelectric energy blasts that cause both paralysis and death in her targets. As a member of the Serpent Society, Cleo has battled the likes of Alpha Flight, Captain America, and the Eternal, Sersi. During the Dark Reign era, Asp was picked by Norman Osborne to serve as part of Delaware’s Initiative team and took part in the assault against Asgard. Despite her criminal past, she has proven loyalty to her friends, namely the reformed villain, Diamondback. Her staunch opposition to the Superhero Registration Act led to her joining Captain America’s team of “Secret Avengers” during the Civil War event. All good deeds aside, Asp was most recently prevented from completing a bank heist by the mutant messiah, Hope Summers.

177788-22950-calypsoCalypso Ezili: The psychotic Haitian voodoo priestess known as Calypso gained her mind control and resurrection abilities after sacrificing her younger sister. Early appearances saw Calypso associated with Kraven the Hunter and she found sport in fueling his hatred of Spider-Man. To her dismay, this would lead to Sergei’s suicide. Later, she asserted her influence over Curt Connors, the villain known as the Lizard. Together, the duo almost successfully killed Peter Parker. Still distraught over Sergei Kravinoff’s suicide, she went on to attack his illegitimate son, Aloysha. Following her defeat at the hands of Spider-Man and the Hunter’s son, she was taken into custody by Aloysha under the guise of acquiring information about his father. Instead, the priestess was slain by Kravinoff. As she has demonstrated a regenerative ability in the past, it is likely that her demise is not permanent.

scorpiaspdrmn1Elaine Colls (a.k.a. Scorpia): While undergoing psychological treatment at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, Elaine Colls was recruited by Silverman to retrieve the cyborg, Deathlok. An enhanced suit worn by the original Scorpion was given to her and she attempted to complete the mission with Beetle and Hydro-Man. The ambush was stopped by Spider-Man despite Elaine proving herself to be quite a competent enemy. She later sought revenge against Silvermane, after her employer betrayed her, and went on to join the Sinister Six in order to prevent Peter Parker’s clone, Kaine, from killing any more of Spider-Man’s rogues. During her attack on Carnegie Hall, in order to fulfill an assassination order by a local drug cartel, Elaine was defeated by both Spider-Man and Black Cat. Her last know location was within the ranks of the Doom Maidens as they battled Valkyrie and her Fearless Defenders.

150827-44979-gypsy-mothSybil Dvorak (a.k.a. Gypsy Moth/Skein): Raised by Gypsies, the mutant known as Gypsy Moth possesses the ability to telekinetically manipulate fibers and fabrics. An actor filming a remake of Dracula in Romania wooed the young woman and brought her back to America. It wouldn’t take long before fears about her lover’s infidelity began to boil over, resulting in Sybil attacking various social gatherings in Hollywood. A confrontation with Jessica Drew at one such gathering would lead to a long-standing rivalry between Gypsy Moth and Spider-Woman. Much later she joined Hawkeye’s team of Thunderbolts. Her decision to eventually leave the group was due to her inability to seduce Songbird, a challenge that she had set for herself. Like Asp, Sybil was a member of Delaware’s Initiative team during Norman Osborne and H.A.M.M.E.R.’s time in power. As of late, she has teamed up with the White Rabbit as part of the Menagerie, a group of animal-themed super villains. Spider-Man was able to prevent the team from completing a diamond heist in Manhattan.

378072-81106-quicksandQuicksand: The Vietnamese villainess known only as Quicksand was once a scientist employed at a nuclear facility. An onsite accident granted her powers similar to Spider-Man’s nemesis, Sandman. In retaliation for her transformation, Quicksand attacked the nuclear reactor of the plant in an attempt to cause a meltdown. This disaster was prevented by the arrival of Thor when the Asgardian hurled the entire facility into another dimension. During the superhuman civil war, Quicksand was apprehended by the Thunderbolts and registers under the Superhero Registration Act. After escaping from The Raft during the Fear Itself event, fisticuffs would ensue between Quicksand and former Initiative members, Thor Girl and Cloud 9 in Philadelphia.

Regardless as to what villains emerge from their hidey holes to scrap with the new webslingers, it is certain that they will have their work cut out for them. Both Silk and Gwen have been thrown right into the proverbial deep end of the pool in the current battle against the Inheritors. Let’s see if they can keep swimming.

What baddies would you like to see make the ranks of Silk and Spider-Gwen’s rogues gallery. Feel free to voice your wishes in the comments section!

Follow Shaun N. on Twitter at @datura1979.





2014: The Year in “X”.

9 01 2015

It’s pretty easy to understand why many LGBT geeks are drawn to the X-Men and their long-standing crusade for acceptance, tolerance, and coexistence. The parallels between the plight of Marvel’s mutant characters and the LGBT community are undeniable. As an avid fan of the characters and stories, I found it fitting to ring in the new year with a reflection on 2014’s memorable exploits of the Children of the Atom. Here they are… the good, the bad, and the questionable:

Click here to visit Geeks OUT for the full article.





Strong Female Character: Lila @#$%ing Cheney!

2 10 2014
A preview of David Lopez's art for "Captain Marvel" #9 (feat. Lila Cheney).

Preview of David Lopez’s art for “Captain Marvel” #9 (feat. Lila Cheney).

In a recent interview with CBR, “80s fairy tale rock opera” were the exact words that Captain Marvel scribe, Kelly Sue DeConnick, used in reference to the title’s upcoming 9th issue.

If you are fortunate enough to remember the magical decade known as the 80s, images of punk rockers, studded belts, glitter, neon-colored jelly bracelets, leather motorcycle jackets, teased hair, ripped fishnet stockings, and smudged eyeliner should be swirling through your mind.

What Marvel character epitomizes everything that was glamorously trashy and decadent about the 80s? There is only one. She’s British… she’s an intergalactic teleporter… she’s a mutant rockstar… she’s Lila Cheney. Yes, as confirmed by Marvel’s November solicits, Sam Guthrie’s former flame is set to cross paths with the (now) spacefaring Carol Danvers.

Newer comic book readers (and others that have been living under a wet stone) may be asking “Who is Lila @#$%ing Cheney?” In preparation for November’s issue of Captain Marvel, five of Lila’s “better than everyone else in the Marvel Universe” moments have been gathered below:

Lila Cheney's first appearance ("New Mutants" Annual #1).

Lila Cheney’s first appearance (“New Mutants” Annual #1).

1) The Bill Sienkiewicz cover of New Mutants Annual #1: The world’s first glimpse of Lila was courtesy of Bill Sienkiewicz’s stunning cover artwork for New Mutants Annual #1. The cover, featuring a Siouxsie Sioux-looking Lila with Sam Guthrie (a.k.a. Cannonball) at her side, is an obvious homage to other cinematic artwork (Conan the BarbarianStar Wars). However, instead of the female appearing in the submissive role, Lila is the alpha dog and Sam has become the “damsel in distress”.

2) Meeting Mrs. Guthrie for the first time: It should be common knowledge to X-Men fans that Sam Guthrie hails from America’s heartland… the ultra-Conservative and redder- than-a-candy-apple state of Kentucky. You can imagine Sam’s mortification when Lila showed up to meet the matriarch of the Guthrie family looking like a Jem and the Holograms groupie doing the walk of shame.

Lila meets Mrs. Guthrie in "New Mutants" #42.

Meeting Mrs. Guthrie in “New Mutants” #42.

In the end, her appearance was revealed to be a ruse after she teleported away to change into a more demure ensemble. Her goal was to determine whether or not Sam would ever be ashamed of her, their relationship, or their obvious differences. The family introductions went off without a hitch and Lila would remain friendly with Mrs. Guthrie for many years to come.

(side note: Parallels to LGBT relationships can easily be made throughout this memorable scene.)

3) Dazzler tried to upstage Lila so Ms. Cheney threatened to fire her ass: Despite growing anti-mutant sentiment, the events of Dazzler: The Movie saw the disco queen “come out” as a mutant to the public. Needless to say, it ruined Alison’s career and she was forced into hiding… as a backup singer for Lila Cheney’s band. Following a concert in San Francisco, the disembodied psionic mutant, Malice, took possession of Dazzler and began to influence her behavior.

Dazzler takes over lead vocals in "Uncanny X-Men" #214.

Dazzler takes over lead vocals in “Uncanny X-Men” #214.

Some time later, as Lila’s tour was in full swing, Dazzler (Malzzler/Dazzlice) attempted to usurp the role of lead vocalist from Lila. Claiming to only be concerned for Dazzler’s safety, Lila threatened to sack the singer should she ever try shenanigans like that again. Truthfully, we all knew that Lila rightfully didn’t like sharing the spotlight.

Lila Cheney and Deathbird... badass babes with big guns ("Uncanny X-Men #276).

Lila Cheney and Deathbird… bad, beautiful babes with really big guns (“Uncanny X-Men #276).

4) That time she was recruited by Deathbird and had a really big gun: At one point, occasional Shi’ar Empress, Deathbird, elicited the help of Lila Cheney after the former witnessed Charles Xavier laying waste to planets within the Empire.

Being an intergalactic teleporter proved most useful as Lila used her powers to collect the X-Men at Deathbird’s behest. In the end, it was revealed that Xavier and his lover, Lilandra, had been replaced by Warskrulls who had seized the opportunity to attack Shi’ar alien races. The invaders were defeated and the real heroes rescued from their confinement.

It was never revealed whether or not Lila and Deathbird had raided Cable’s weapon stockpile to obtain the insane hardware that they so proudly wielded.

5) She played a flying monkey in Mojo’s production of The Wizard of Oz: Hoping for some r&r at her Malibu beach house, Lila was surprised to see that her bodyguard, Guido, had invited an amnesiac Dazzler to stay with them.

Lila Cheney... the true star of Mojo's "The Wizard of X" ("X-Men" #7).

Lila Cheney… the true star of Mojo’s “The Wizard of X” (“X-Men” #10).

The rag tag group of mutants  soon had a few more uninvited guests… first in the form of Longshot, who came seeking Dazzler’s help back in his home world, the Mojoverse. Next, came the sorceress, Spiral, in an attempt to convince Lila to teleport them all to safety. Unbeknownst to Lila, her powers had been altered, resulting in her, Longshot, and Dazzler all being sent to the Mojoverse.

The X-Men were summoned to help their teammates but soon ended up as prisoners of Mojo, themselves. With his love of televised entertainment unquenchable, Mojo produced The Wizard of X… starring the X-Men. Lila’s big, onscreen moment came when she was coerced into attacking the show’s Dorothy (Longshot).

Mojo was eventually defeated and his grip over the Mojoverse transferred to Mojo II: The Sequel.

tumblr_nakbnefdNC1rdqdhzo1_500

Carol Stardust and the Flerkins from Mars (David Lopez’s cover artwork for “Captain Marvel” #9).

Most recently, Lila had been seen in the company of David Haller, the mutant known as Legion. She assisted him in his mission to wipe mutantphobia from Great Britain (Si Spurrier’s X-Men Legacy #13-14) and has since been off-the-grid.

Details have been quite scarce as to the story behind Lila’s upcoming appearance in Captain Marvel. Judging by what Kelly Sue has done with the title, thus far, readers can be sure to expect quite a stellar ride! Afterall, it’s not every day that Carol Danvers gets done up in full Ziggy Stardust makeup!





Days of Future Past: Mystique Without a Destiny.

23 05 2014

imageFor as long as they have been in print, the plight of Marvel’s mutants has stood as a metaphor for oppressed minorities dealing with prejudice, bigotry, and hatred. The Civil Rights Movement, the Stonewall riots, the current fight for LGBT rights. Parallels to these real-life events can be found sprinkled throughout the 50+ years of X-Men history.

The X-Men, themselves, are not without their own LGBT representation. A minority within a minority, if you will. Jean-Paul Beaubier (Northstar), Xi’an Coy Manh (Karma), Victor Borkowski (Anole), Roxy Washington (Bling!), Shatterstar, Cessily Kincaid (Mercury), and David Alleyne (Prodigy) are just a few.

Perhaps the most notable bisexual character on Marvel’s LGBT roster, Raven Darkholme (Mystique) made her debut within the pages of Ms. Marvel in the 1970s. From there, she would eventually go on to lead an incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and become one of the X-Men’s most infamous adversaries. Ever morally ambiguous, the shapeshifter would also rear an adopted daughter (the future X-Man, Rogue) with her lover, the blind precognitive, Irene Adler (Destiny).

Created by Chris Claremont in 1981 and first appearing in Uncanny X-Men #141, Destiny was intended, from the beginning, to be an intimate companion for Mystique. At that time, however, probibitions against gay/lesbian depictions in comic books were in place by the Comics Code Authority and the villains’ relationship had to be presented in a very subtle manner, often labeled only as “friends”. The original plans to have Nightcrawler be a biological child to both women (with Mystique shapeshifting into a man for the conception) had to be scrapped.

tumblr_lo2r5zFj1K1qj1ajtIt wasn’t until long after Irene’s death on Muir Island, at the hands of Legion, that the true nature of her relationship with Mystique was fleshed out and fully awknowledged. At Northstar’s wedding, Rogue would even make it a point to wonder if her childhood would’ve been different had her mothers been allowed to marry.

To date, Mystique has appeared in five of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men films, portrayed by both Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence. While her questionable allegiances and motives are fairly true to her comic book counterpart, her sexuality has barely been touched upon (it was implied that she and Magneto had been schtupping).

X-Men: Days of Future Past is Bryan Singer’s return to mutant cinematic universe. Loosely based on the two-part Uncanny X-Men story of the same name, the basic premise sees Wolverine time-traveling back to the 1970s to prevent the birth of the Sentinel program by stopping the assassination of Bolivar Trask at the hands of Mystique. A glaring difference between the two depictions is that, while Mystique works alone in her attempts to murder Trask in the film, her entire Brotherhood, including Destiny, aims for the target (Sen. Robert Kelly) in the original storyline. In fact, Irene is the last member of the team to make an attempt on the Senator’s life.

While this may not seem like an enormous deal to most viewers, some fans could be left questioning whether or not Fox just fumbled a perfect opportunity to include LGBT representation into the X-Men cinematic universe.

Mystique scatters Destiny's ashes at sea. Destiny still gets the last word.

Mystique scatters Destiny’s ashes at sea. Destiny still gets the last word.

With the size of the cast already busting at the seams, it was quite clear that adding an entire Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was highly improbable from the start. Focusing on Mystique as an antagonist is not necessarily a bad idea. It helps establish a distinct development that was necessary to show how the character evolved, following the events of First Class, to become the woman we remember from X2.

With that in mind, including Irene Adler could still have easily worked in a different capacity and, with the amount of time that passed between First Class and Days of Future Past, the organic development of a relationship between Raven and Irene is not beyond the realm of plausibility. Not only would this have humanized the character of Mystique and allowed the audience to view her as more than just a mutant terrorist, it would have also added an extra layer to the motives behind her contentious actions throughout the series.

In essence, Days of Future Past, is a film about the “butterfly effect”. The slightest interactions by Wolverine and co. with the past can drastically and continuously alter the events of the future. The character of Destiny would have been an interesting liaison, of sorts, to the changes befalling the future timeline, randomly updating the characters as to their actions’ repercussions on the time stream.

1678700-brotherhood_of_evil_mutants_02Fox and the X-Men film franchise are not alone when it comes to lacking in LGBT representation. Despite a handful of gay/lesbian characters in its ranks, the Avengers have yet to really venture into that territory within their cinematic universe. Lesbian H.A.M.M.E.R./S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Victoria Hand, who was featured during Brian Michael Bendis’ tenure on Dark Avengers, appeared briefly in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series before being killed off after four episodes. Little development of the character was done before her subsequent demise and viewers would have no knowledge of her sexuality if they were unfamiliar with her comic book appearances.

With the number of LGBT comic book characters increasing, it seems, by the year, one can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the respective cinematic universes begin to follow suit. Including gay/lesbian diversity in these films is not a recipe for box office disaster and the throngs of queer fans at any number of comic book conventions can attest to that.

 





A 2013 Retrospective: Diversity Assemble!

9 01 2014
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Monet St. Croix

2013 shaped up to be quite an interesting year for diversity in mainstream comic books.  In a medium once ruled by stereotypical alpha male characters of a caucasian and heterosexual persuasion, it’s getting more difficult to shoot an optic blast without hitting at least one female, LGBT, or character of color.

Evidence of the progression that the comic book genre has made is all around. One only has to attend a comic book convention. Not only is a large percentage of visitors comprised of female geeks and LGBT readers, but any number of panels/screenings/talks are centered on numerous diversity issues that more and more fans are finding increasingly important.

Even 2013’s editorial “facepalms”  (re: DC’s Batwoman marriage scandal and the eyebrow raising “Harley Quinn Commits Suicide” art contest) could not stop the rising tide of progress that character diversity made throughout the year.

One of the most blatant examples of said progress is, inarguably, within the pages of Brian Wood’s X-Men.  The idea of an all-female team of X-Men is something that fans have been clamoring for for as long as I can remember. Not only does the current lineup of this squad boast all xx chromosomes, each member (save for Rachel Grey) is also a woman of color. Pre-Battle of the Atom teammates included Storm, Jubilee, and Psylocke… each representing Kenyan, Chinese, and Japanese ethnicities, respectively. They have since been joined by Karima Shapandar, a native of India formerly known as Omega Sentinel. Monet St. Croix, a Muslim of Algerian/Monegasque descent, first introduced in Generation X and most recently featured in Peter David’s run of X-Factor, has also been added to the roster . Each of these ladies on this team is a distinct voice and a powerhouse in her own right. Could any one of them go toe-to-toe with the likes of Captain American or Iron Man? Absolutely!

That’s not all when it comes to Mr. Wood’s book. The current villain in play is the Japanese cyborg, Lady Deathstrike. Yuriko has become a melting pot of her very own with her consciousness being uploaded into the body of Colombian heiress, Ana Cortes.

Bling! puts the moves on Jubilee.

Bling! puts the moves on Jubilee.

Let’s not forget about LGBT representation in X-Men. A secondary story is currently woven into the main plot involving the African-American/bisexual mutant, Bling!, and some Sapphic drama with fellow Jean Grey School classmate, Mercury. This recently culminated in Bling! planting a lip-lock on Jubilee in an attempt to make Mercury jealous.

While the X-books have always served as a metaphor for any number of oppressed minorities, Brian Wood should be given major credit for the fantastic work he has done on this title, thus far.

Female characters scored another success in the twelve issue (thirteen if you count the Age of Ultron tie-in… and you SHOULD) run of Cullen Bunn’s Fearless Defenders. The series was as fun and straightforward as an episode of GLOW (and, let’s face it, that’s pretty damn fun)… the good girls vs. the mean girls. The Defenders included Cheyenne Native American, Danielle Moonstar and African-American bionic badass, Misty Knight. As for the heroines who just happen to be lesbians, Annabelle Riggs and Ren Kimura had that area covered.

Shamrock tells the men where to go.

Shamrock tells the men where to go.

One of the most memorable moments from the series featured several of the Defenders’ significant others, gathering at a pub as a makeshift intervention to show the ladies the err of their ways. The world of masked heroics is just too dangerous for such fragile lasses. Having been involved in her fair share of superhero antics, the pub’s owner, eventually puts the whiny bags of testosterone in their place when it comes to sexism.

Marvel Comics has also proven, time and time again, that the books involving teenage characters both include and address diversity in a blasé manner. It is all very “matter of fact.” There’s no big “Yep, I’m gay.” speech at a news conference (sorry, Northstar). This could easily be chalked up to the fact that younger generations of people have been exposed to different cultures and ethnicities from the moment they are born. Avengers Arena and Young Avengers are two of these titles that ran through 2013 and featured a bevy of kids from all walks of life.

Cullen Bloodstone and Cammi share a moment in Murderworld.

Cullen Bloodstone and Cammi share a moment in Murderworld.

Dennis Hopeless’ Avengers Arena introduced us to Cullen Bloodstone (of the monster-hunting Bloodstones). He was one of the unlucky students from the Braddock Academy to find himself trapped in Arcade’s Murderworld. As if being pitted against fifteen other superpowered teenagers in a Battle Royale/kill-or-be-killed contest for Arcade’s sole entertainment, he also has to deal with his unrequited feelings for his (presumably) heterosexual classmate, Anachronism.

As the body count rises, there’s an interesting moment between Cullen and Cammi. She asks him about the secret feelings that he’s been harboring about one of the other gameplayers. Cammi doesn’t bat an eyelash at the revelation that Cullen has fallen for another man. Instead, she advises him against getting attached to anyone because the only way out of Murderworld is by being the sole survivor at the end of the game. The big “coming out” scene is treated casual as if it’s not a big deal. Honestly, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Superhero selfie (courtesy of the Young Avengers)

Superhero selfie (courtesy of the Young Avengers)

One really cannot speak of teenage superheroes and diversity without touching on Kieron Gillen’s SUPERB run on Young Avengers. First off, the series features one of Marvel’s longest-running gay couples, Hulkling and Wiccan. The wonderful thing about these characters is that their relationship feels organic. Readers have been able to follow its development since the days of Allen Hienberg’s run in 2005. They aren’t generic plot devices thrown into a story for the sake of having a token gay relationship.

Also joining the team is African-American depowered mutant, Prodigy. Gillen put an interesting spin on David’s previous powerset. Through the course of Young Avengers, we learn that David identifies as bisexual. He attributes this to his previous ability to mimic the knowledge from anyone’s mind that he came into contact with. This knowledge still remains within him despite being depowered on M-Day.

Team bruiser came in the shape of one Miss America Chavez. Introduced during Joe Casey’s Vengeance, the interdimensional Latina heroine proved herself to be an invaluable asset to the team… especially when it came time to putting the Norse trickster god, Loki, in his place. Speaking of Loki, the pansexual, occasionally female-bodied brother of Thor was the perfect thorn in the team’s side.

Batgirl's roommate, Alysia Yeoh

Batgirl’s roommate, Alysia Yeoh

Over on the DC Comics side of the room, champion of diversity, Gail Simone (seriously, she should list that as a “special skill” on her résumé), introduced what may be the first transgender character in mainstream comic books. Barbara Gordon’s (a.k.a. Batgirl) roommate came out as transgender to the titular character following the events of Death of the Family. The great thing about Alysia is that she is not transgender due to a latent superhero ability to shapeshift… it’s just a part of who she is as a person.

Reflecting back on the past year definitely gives one high hopes for the new year. Judging by early solicitations and news media outlets, it doesn’t appear that 2014 will disappoint.

Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel

Beginning in February, G. Willow Wilson will bring us the adventures of the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. The teenager from New Jersey styles herself as Carol Danvers’ number one fan and, after discovering her Inhuman heritage and shapeshifting abilities, takes on the classic mantle. Yes, Kamala is not the first Muslim to appear in a Marvel title. She is, however, the first Muslim to receive a solo title.

February will also see Cullen Bloodstone return as a main character in Dennis Hopeless’ Avengers Undercover while Loki receives own solo series, Loki: Agent of Asgard. Writer Al Ewing promises that the Loki’s book will address the god’s fluid sexuality and gender identity.

Comic books have always been a way to kick back and escape from reality. A way to suspend disbelief and connect with a character that does what needs to be done for the greater good of humanity. Thankfully, today, more people are able to do just that. People from different backrounds or ethnicities. People of different sexual orientations. People both male and female. The truth is, in the end, we all look the same behind a mask and cape.

 





Fearless: A Requiem for the Defenders.

18 10 2013

tumblr_mteam7F0V11qzidaoo1_1280In February of 2013, if you were to tell me that my favorite book of this year would be mainly comprised of C and D-List superheroines and villainesses, would I have believed you? Yes. Yes, I would. If you’ve had the opportunity to speak with me about my love of comic books for at least five minutes, you would quickly find out that my unwavering love for underused and underutilized female characters knows no bounds.

For those of you not in the know (yes, I hold you all mostly responsible for the book’s cancellation), Fearless Defenders  spun out of the events of Fear Itself: The Fearless, arguably the only good tie-in associated with the Fear Itself crossover event. The first issue hit store shelves just prior to Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle which, coincidentally, would be the first time that I had the priviledge of meeting the book’s scribe, Cullen Bunn. His excitement about the new book was palpable. I remember discussing Misty Knight with him and stating that she doesn’t get the love she deserves even though she’s pretty much Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown with a robot arm!

battleThe book brought together a ragtag group of female superheroes to battle the love child of Doctor Doom and Morgan Le Fay as she and her army of Doom Maidens attempt to usher in world-wide destruction. The team leadership role was split between Brunnhilde (Valkyrie) and Misty Knight. As the story progressed, the team’s ranks would expand to include a bookish archaeologist (Annabelle Riggs), a resurrected Amazonian warrior (Hippolyta) a depowered mutant (Danielle Moonstar), a snarky British monster hunter (Elsa Bloodstone), an exiled sorceress (Clea), and a newly activated Inhuman (Ren Kimura). Even with such a large and diverse cast, Bunn had no problems adding to each character’s development within the story and giving each lady her own, distinct voice.

Caroline Le Fay’s team of Doom Maidens was also made up of a veritable who’s who of “where the hell have they been?” villainesses… Ruby Thursday. Quicksand. Sylvie Lushton (The Enchantress). Titania. Scorpia. Mindblast. Shriek. When a creator pulls characters like this out of “comic book limbo”, it’s pretty safe to say that it has more to do with his/her affinity for the character and less to do with editorial mandate.

titaniaWill Sliney handled the pencilling for the series (save for issue #7 in which Stephanie Hans took the helm for Clea’s return). To say that his work was consistently enjoyable would be an understatement. His characters’ facial expressions were crisp and clearly demonstrated the appropriate emotion required for the panel (the pseudo-condescending looks and side-eye that Elsa would throw Misty were some of the most memorable). During some of the epic smackdowns and battle scenes, characters were never lost due to murky artwork which is more than some other artists on the top-tier books can boast. Sliney’s pencils, coupled with both beautiful coloring from Veronica Gandini and Mark Brook’s absolutely stunning covers, made for some unforgettable visuals.

If we have learned anything from Marvel Comics over the years, it’s that nothing this good ever lasts forever (read: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s Alpha Flight reboot, Jeff Parker’s Agents of Atlas and Atlas) It’s easy for folks to say that books that lack an A-list character like Captain America or Iron Man will never make it. I don’t necessarily believe that to be true. Books featuring these characters are going to sell, regardless, and yet they are the titles that generally receive the most promotion and the heaviest push from Marvel. It’s well beyond time that publishers give the underdogs a bit more of a boost instead of leaving them to tread water until they’ve become exhausted around issue #12. The fans and creative teams of these books deserve better.

FDWhile the fanbase of Fearless Defenders may not be as large as that which reads any one of the sixty Wolverine-centric titles that Marvel pushes out on a monthly basis, I can safely say that we are a dedicated and vocal fanbase. Perhaps my memory deceives me, but I don’t recall seeing any Savage Wolverine readers organizing a cosplay photo shoot based on the book at this year’s NYCC.

Fearless Defenders was one of those rare gems that my eyeballs eagerly gobbled up each month on the day it was released. It represented both female and queer characters in not only a positive but also a powerful light. Saying it will be greatly missed just doesn’t seem appropriate enough of a sentiment.

My hat goes off to Cullen Bunn, Will Sliney, Ellie Pyle, Stephanie Hans, Veronica Gandini, Phil Jimenez, and the entire team involved in the title. I know I speak for many others when I say “thank you.”