In issue #40 of All-New X-Men, written by Brian Michael Bendis of Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil fame, founding X-Man Bobby Drake, AKA Iceman, is outed as gay. Now, this may not seem like a problem when taken at face value, as Marvel Comics is expanding and diversifying its brand, but in reality, this is one of the most problematic reveals of recent memory.
Let’s start with the actual scene of Bobby coming out. The first thing you should know is that the characters the scene is centered on are the time-displaced younger versions of the founding X-Men. Bobby states that their new Professor, Illyana Rasputin, AKA Magik, is attractive. Right away, he is called out by Jean Grey, not because he’s turning a strong and powerful female figure into an object of desire, but because well, Bobby is gay. But hold on a minute, the Iceman we know and love isn’t gay! He’s a womanizer! The chicks dig him! Sure he’s had relationship problems, but that’s not because he’s gay! Well, no. Jean read his mind. He’s Gay. Full gay, in fact.
This invasion of privacy on Jean’s behalf is the first of many problems I want to address. This isn’t a Jean Grey who doesn’t control what she reads in people’s minds. Jean willingly has to enter someone’s mind to find out what they’re all about. This means she went into Bobby’s mind, and looked for his sexuality. Bobby had no knowledge of her digging around for his secrets. She even says that he’s thinking about how he’s gay at the moment she’s outing him. Of course Bobby takes great offense to this, which is one of the more logical moments in the scene. After this, Jean goes and makes jokes about Bobby’s struggle with his sexuality, all while he’s still grappling with this problem. Sure, this could be seen as an attempt to comfort Bobby in his time of need, but it just seems like the jokes are made in poor taste, and seem kind of homophobic.
Then Bobby and Jean’s conversation lands on the issue of present day Bobby being straight. This continuity error is one of the two major points that really confuses and frustrates me. If you had to make any incarnation of any character gay, why the hell would you make the version that’s been brought from the 1960’s gay? This creates several problems in terms of continuity. Since this Bobby from the past eventually goes back to the past, because if him and the rest of the original X-Men didn’t, than how will the X-Men continue from the 60’s? Are the rest of Bobby’s love affairs after this point just fronts? Is he only ever going to tell Jean, who, as we all know, dies (And if you didn’t know that, I’m sorry. She comes back though!)? Sure, the fact that he’s from the 60’s lets you say something about the homophobia of the era, and there is a nice little note about the character having the problem of being a gay mutant, which is really a double minority. However this point is accompanied by the total rejection of the idea that maybe Bobby is bisexual. This is what gets to me.
I myself am bisexual. I have multiple bisexual friends. The fact that Mister Bendis decided to not only ruin continuity by making Bobby Drake “Full Gay” as Jean says, but also totally killing the chance for some progress in bisexual representation in comic books. Of course, I can’t blame the lack of representation on the writer of this comic. I have only read three mainstream comic books that aren’t necessarily centered on the LGBTQA community itself, in which a character has been bisexual.
A major, well-known Marvel character being bisexual would have launched huge awareness that bisexuality isn’t just what happens when you can’t decide between if you like girls or guys. Not only that, but Jean and Bobby theorize that maybe present day Bobby chose to stop being gay. Because someone can do that. Yeah, no. You can’t do that. It needs to be known that being gay is not a choice. It’s just how someone is. The fact that this is written in a major comic book is nothing short of ignorant. To make Bobby bisexual would have given a new facet to a classic character without completely throwing continuity out the window. The best of both worlds, really. Yes, pun intended.
If I’m painfully honest, I wish that this didn’t have to happen. There were so many alternatives to changing an existing character’s pathos so that he’s gay now. A new gay X-Man could have been created, present day Iceman could have come out as gay, or he could have come out as bisexual. But the only thing that I think is worse than all the drama and outrage from people who actually read what’s in the comic, is the blind praise that Marvel will get for making an iconic and popular character gay in what is sure to be called a “bold and progressive move” from any news outlet. In reality, this isn’t progressive.