Martin Eden is the writer and artist of Spandex: Fast And Hard, which is available now from Titan Books for £14.99. It’s rather excellent – look out for a review in next week’s new issue of SciFiNow. Here, we asked Eden to discuss recent high-profile events involving gay characters in the comic book industry – Northstar’s marriage to his long-time boyfriend Kyle in Astonishing X-Men and the new version of Alan Scott in Earth 2, who was recently revealed as a gay character in issue two of the book:
I came up with the idea for Spandex back in 2008. In a world where pretty much every idea seems to have already been done, I thought it was a good and original idea for a comic – an all-gay superteam – and I was desperate to get the comic out there before someone else did it. And while I worked on the first Spandex issue (which took me a year!) I’d browse through every new Previews comics catalogue with an anxious feeling…
But now my Spandex book is finally out there, and in a weird twist of fate and strange timing, in the week of the Spandex book’s release, the whole superworld seems to have gone supergay. Northstar is getting married to his boyfriend! And a DC hero has come out!
So how have gay superheroes fared in comics over the past few years? Well it all seems to go back to Canadian superhero Northstar, who has been around for years. Apparently it was always obvious that he was gay in John Byrne’s Alpha Flight, but this then-14-year-old reader never spotted it! And then, infamously, in Alpha Flight 50, Jean-Paul got very ill and the writer was going to reveal he had AIDS. But in a final change-of-mind from the Powers That Be, the storyline changed. Northstar was actually a fairy who was ill because he was away from his homeworld. Oh dear.
Then the big announcement happened. In Alpha Flight 106, Northstar finally came out! It became a huge-selling issue (even though the issue itself was pretty appallingly written and drawn!). But after that, his sexuality was never really focused on – and it was a difficult thing for Marvel to deal with, since their comics were supposed to be for all ages.
In recent years though, gay characters have been cropping up quite a lot. Things started off well in The Authority when Midnighter and Apollo (basically a gay Batman and Superman) were shown in relationship and then got married – and even adopted a daughter! Recently, we’ve seen Rictor and Shatterstar in X-Factor, Hulking and Wiccan in Young Avengers, and a new lesbian Batwoman. One of my favourite relationships was between Chris Claremont’s Mystique and Destiny in his X-Men run – it was never explained or made explicit, but they were a convincing, sweet couple.
And now, of course, Northstar (who is now a much more well-rounded character) is now gettng married, and DC have turned Alan Scott gay (although I wouldn’t say he’s a major character).
It’s all good progress, and it helps show that gay relationships are just as ‘normal’ as straight ones. At first I was a bit sceptical of the Marvel and DC gay characters – they never really seemed to do much! But then again, it’s good that they are shown so naturalistically – and is it really the place of all-ages comics to deal with sex and (any) sexuality – or should they just get on with telling interesting stories with interesting characters? I think at the moment the balance is right, and it’s fun to see how it will all develop.