Inside the First Gay Wedding of Marvel Comics
The casual comic book connoisseur may not be able to answer the question, “Who is Northstar?” but for many gay fans he’s a superhero that’s as iconic as Spider-Man, Superman, or Captain America.
Northstar, aka Jean-Paul Beaubier, made his first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #120 (1979) as a member of the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight. However, it wouldn’t be until many years later that the future X-Man would make his biggest impact on the world of comic books. Securing his place in history as the first out superhero in mainstream comics, Northstar proudly declared, “I am gay,” in the pages of 1992’s Alpha Flight # 106 – clearing a path for the industry’s current collection LGBT characters.
Now, twenty years after super-speeding out of the closet, Northstar has made history once more. This time as the first gay superhero to marry his partner in mainstream comics in this week’s Astonishing X-Men #51. The initial announcement that Northstar would put a ring on it gained worldwide media attention and sent conservative groups like One Million Moms into a full-fledged panic. However, despite the expected controversy, the creative team behind X-Men felt the time was right for the happy couple to say “I do.”
“Northstar's storyline was part of an ongoing discussion about where to take our characters next,” Astonishing X-Men writer Marjorie Liu told the Advocate. “I find a useful way of evolving a character is through his or her defining relationships -- and what's more defining than a relationship with someone you love? Northstar and Kyle have been together for a while now, and rather than keep them in relationship limbo (or create some artificial strife) why not bring up marriage? Why not let them take that next step, which will create a far richer field for stories?
While the marriage of Northstar and Kyle will certainly create the potential for untold stories in mainstream comics, Liu admits that being the first to tackle same-sex marriage in the Marvel Universe wasn’t easy. “I feel intimidated any time I start writing a new story,” she said, “but this was a special situation given that gay marriage, whatever your view, is an issue that affects a huge number of people in the United States and elsewhere.”
LGBT characters in comics have become more visible in recent years. In addition to Northstar, high-profile superheroes such as DC Comics’ lesbian Batwoman and the newly-out Green Lantern Alan Scott have grabbed headlines as well. Nevertheless, while she applauds efforts to become more diverse, Liu feels the comics industry still has a long way to go in its representation of queer characters. “The country is becoming more tolerant than comic book companies give it credit for being,” She said. “Which isn't to say there aren't still tremendous problems, (from bullying to a lack of social services, to outright crazy bigotry), but those vocal minorities that attack any representations of queerness have skewed how much the country has changed -- and is continuing to change. We see gays and lesbians on television all the time, but television has come out of the closet in ways that comics haven't and that’s a shame because comics used to be the front-line of diversity. For example, we had a black female leader in the X-Men a long time before that was represented anywhere else.”
However, Astonishing X-Men Associate Editor Daniel Ketchum feels that the inclusion of characters like Northstar in one of Marvel’s most iconic superhero teams is changing the industry for the better. “I think that Astonishing X-Men is a great platform for telling Northstar’s story,” he said. “I get the feeling he really shines most when he’s in the context of a team like the X-Men…you can see how his story and his experiences affect other characters around him.”
Ketchum admits he has a soft-spot for Marvel’s first gay mutant and hopes the wedding will elevate Northstar’s profile enough to warrant a solo series. When asked if he’d be interested in a Northstar solo project Ketchum replied, “Is that even a question? I can have a pitch ready by the end of the day. Spoiler alert: Storm and Dazzler will be recurring guest stars.”
While Northstar did enjoy a 4-issue miniseries in 1995 – which made no mention of his sexuality – an ongoing comic featuring the newlywed would be another industry first. To date, no mainstream comic book publisher has produced an ongoing monthly series starring a solo gay male superhero. However, Ketchum promises plenty of adventures await Northstar and Kyle in the pages of Astonishing X-Men. “They’re married [now]! So, in some ways, their story is just beginning,” he said. “The nature of their relationship has changed. They’ll have to figure out the extent of those changes and how to navigate that territory… all while coping with the usual X-Men-related shenanigans. Also, they’ll be faced with perhaps the most exciting and daunting fallout from their wedding: THE HONEYMOON!”
We can’t wait to see where following the Norhtstar’s bright light will lead us next.