Let’s Address the Queer Elephant in Marvel’s Writers’ Room


The cast of Marvel’s “Runaways”, from left to right: Ariela Barer as Gertrude Yorkes, Allegra Acosta as Molly Hayes, Rhenzy Feliz as Alex Wilder, Lyrica Okanu as Nico Minoru, Gregg Sulkin as Chase Stein, and Virginia Gardner as Karolina Dean. Image is property of Marvel Entertainment and licensed for promotional use.

Tatiana Uribe , Assistant Editor in Chief

For me, absolutely no Marvel product has been as exciting as its 2017 Hulu series: Runaways. Don’t get me wrong, it can be so cringey and reminiscent of high school drama sometimes I catch my eyes reflexively rolling to the back of my head.

It is definitely not the most perfect or even profound piece of media. However, I don’t expect that and it’s certainly not why I love the show so much.

Marvel’s Nico Minoru and Karolina Dean, respectively. Image originally featured in “Runaways” Vol. 2 #25.

I love it because Karolina Dean, basically Marvel’s superpowered version of Rainbow Brite, is SO. GAY. There’s no other way for me to say it, really.

Admittedly, there are other reasons why I appreciate this show as much as I do. But they all pale in comparison to the value of telling the story of a young woman of faith questioning and coming to terms with her sexuality.

Unfortunately, storylines revolving around openly identifying LGBTQ+ characters are not a common sight in the Marvel universe, in fact, there are almost no leading characters who are openly homosexual or bisexual. And the one that is just started headlining her own series this past year.

It was not long ago that pop culture featured no LGBTQ+ representation, or at least only that which was based on tired stereotypes.

“I think when celebrities and artists come out it makes it easier for the walls people build to shut out the gay community to come down and for changes to start happening,” said Sierra Curtis, a bisexual teen and self-proclaimed gay rights activist.

Some of the biggest changes of this close-minded view of different sexualities came through changes in popular culture and media.

When things really begin to change is when the social culture changes. I think ‘Will & Grace’ probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far,” said former Vice President Joe Biden in 2012 to NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

While many forms of media have taken a more open-minded stance when it comes to including LGBTQ+ characters in their plots, there still tends to be a gap in this progress when it comes to comic culture.

The passionate community that has dedicated themselves to comic books and the works based off of their characters has proved to be a diverse mix of backgrounds and intersecting identities time and time again. Devoted attendees of conventions, premieres, and new releases create a sea of costumed and accessorized faces with almost no status quo.

It’s no surprise. The mythology of the superhero, especially as brands like Marvel and DC sell it, is rooted in the idea of a person with abilities out of their control who is often misunderstood and alienated because of it, but who uses this to fuel good rather than evil. This trope unsurprisingly attracts readers and viewers who are often on the fringe or outcasts in their environment.

LGBTQ+ children can experience the trials and hardships of childhood at an intensity straight children wouldn’t. Stories of superheroes like Spiderman and Batman reach especially to them because they share the experience of being hated or antagonized for the things that felt natural to them.

Children who grow up with little sense of themselves or in an environment where their natural curiosities and inclinations are punished often turn to stories like these to find a hero with problems just like them.

It’s great that they have role models to relate to in sentiment. But they deserve more.

LGBTQ+ children deserve to see themselves, or at least parts of themselves, reflected in characters that they admire, even if it comes at the risk of controversy.

“The best way to change hearts and minds is through media,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president, and CEO of GLAAD, an organization dedicated to advancing LGBTQ+ acceptance in popular culture. “Ultimately, we want network TV to depict LGBT characters the same way they would straight characters – in a multidimensional way.”

This is something we see Marvel “try’ and fall short with time and time again.

Take the latest installment of the Thor series, Thor: Ragnarok for example. Leading actress Tessa Thompson confirmed in interviews that her character, an ass-kicking amazonian-esque warrior Valkyrie was in fact written to

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie for Thor: Ragnarok. The image is property of Marvel Studios and licensed for promotional use.

be bisexual.

Thompson elaborated that she did in fact pitch and end up filming a small scene for the movie where another woman slips out of Valkyrie’s bedroom the morning after what the audience can only assume was a fulfilling night together.

It would have been monumental to the Marvel universe. None of their characters has ever been so explicitly (if you can even call it that) outted on the silver screen before. Sadly, the decision to cut the scene from the final version of the film meant that viewers would only ever be told of Valkyrie’s sexual orientation, never shown through action.

While I appreciate that the writers and Thompson felt that they were doing some good by at least making the character bisexual in the description without the follow through that’s all it is in the end. A description.

Not taking that next step to say “Hey look at this character. She’s multidimensional, complex and incidentally, has a girlfriend,” not only negates the liberalism they seem to be shooting for but ultimately holds back Marvel’s potential to be seen as more progressive than its competition, something increasingly more valuable in today’s social culture.