As part of Marvel’s series of specials (following an issue celebrating diversity in general, another with a focus on Indigenous characters and creators, plus a third which put the spotlight on black characters and artists for Black History Month), Pride is the latest issue of Voices, which really does give you a great idea of how far beyond the straight white male archetype Marvel’s universe has now become. As a comic universe that always tried to reflect the real world, with the struggles of real people in recognisable cities (no Gotham or Metropolis in Marvel’s world, though of course some nations – Wakanda and Krakoa immediately spring to mind) have been created for the comics), even before now Marvel has generally been pretty good at being inclusive and diverse, at least on the comic page.
I took a look at DC’s Pride-centric comic recently and found it to be a collection of well-crafted, beautifully told and heartfelt stories. Though the stories in Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1 tend to err more on the side of characters talking about their sexuality rather than just being stories featuring LGBTQIA+ characters – which DC’s special did a great job with – it’s nonetheless still a worthy read and features an excellent short history of LGBTQIA+ characters as the opening for the issue, as well as an interview with one of Marvel’s first openly gay creators/editors (Chris Cooper) that’s a joy to read.
Additionally, there’s also a reprint of (at least part of) Alpha Flight #106 from 1992, in which Northstar comes out of the closet. Though a worthy milestone in mainstream comics, it’s a pretty awkward story by modern standards with an absolutely bizarre ‘villain’, whose determination to squish an AIDS-stricken baby – because he lost his gay son to the terrible disease – provides the motivation for Northstar to announce his sexuality to the world. The art is pretty terrible and Scott Lobdell’s writing is a collection of clichés, but it really was a powerful and fairly unprecedented move for the comics world back in its day and does deserve to be showcased. If nothing else, it really does demonstrate how far we’ve come since then, with the rest of the stories within these pages – and elsewhere – able to tell much more down to earth, relatable and normal stories than the ridiculously melodramatic superhero action that Northstar’s homosexuality is at the centre of.
It’s a shame that the issue came so late in Pride Month, though of course even beyond June there’s still a necessity – and audience – for the stories (and content) that highlight and celebrate LGBTQIA+ characters and culture.
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