Comics · Queer

A to Z: X-Men

The X-Men have long stood as a metaphor for the oppressed and outcast, from racial minorities to people with disabilities to, well, comic-book nerds. They work rather well as a representation of LGBT+ people, too, because of their “hidden in plain sight” quality. Some people have immediately visible mutations, like Nightcrawler with his blue skin and tail, but most don’t. Humans hate and fear them, particularly because anyone they know could be a mutant who hasn’t come out. It’s a metaphor, but it’s a purposeful and effective one, dating at least since 1982 with the story God Loves, Man Kills. It’s even in the movies, with the scene where Bobby Drake comes out to his parents as a mutant.

all-new x-men #40
An adorable conversation, of which this page is only a part.

Of course, while metaphorical representation can be valuable, it isn’t everything. Literal representation is important too, and X-Men titles have provided quite a number of openly LGBT+ characters. Northstar from letter N is an X-Man, and so are Rictor and Shatterstar, a longstanding couple who gave Marvel their first same-sex kiss. And now Bobby Drake, aka Iceman, is coming out as not just a mutant, but a gay one. He totally could’ve been my “I” if he’d come out a month sooner! This literally just happened last week, in All-New X-Men #40. He probably knew I was writing this post and didn’t want to be left out.

The X-Men movies were among the first superhero stories I really, really loved. I’ve seen X-Men more than forty times. The comics can be confusing, boring, needlessly complex, but at their best, X-Men stories are about hope. They’re about how our differences make us special, and how people from all kinds of backgrounds can work together for a better future where our differences are celebrated instead of feared. And I think that’s lovely.

Recommended Reading:

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont & Brent Anderson (reprinted 2011, ISBN 9780785157267). This is also a great choice if you’re new to the X-Men or have only seen the movies, because it’s a standalone story and was one of the sources/inspirations for the movies, so you get a lot of the same characters you already know. CN: Violent racism/homophobia, child deaths.

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14 thoughts on “A to Z: X-Men

  1. I just picked up Storm last week as part of the new “Origin” comics (the brand with the red bar at the bottom), and then her spin-off… and man! It blew me away. Not LGBT, but I really, really loved the way the stories have simplified (compared to the 90s).

    The New X-Men are on my reading list (taking advantage of a free month of Marvel Unlimited, haha) so yay! I love Iceman (was a little disturbed by some of the developments of Nightcrawler’s character from the fun-loving imp from the 90s, though.)

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    1. Cool! I’ve heard good things about that Storm series, but haven’t had a chance to read it myself.

      Heh… I can’t talk. The dark cynical Age of Apocalypse version of Nightcrawler is basically my favorite character of all time.

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      1. I don’t know what arc he was in… but he kidnapped Dazzler? I like those kinds of characters… he’s just a very different Nightcrawler than I’m used to, haha.

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  2. All New X-Men isn’t really for everyone: Bendis does tend to write a slow-burn style and focus more on characters than story, but if you’re reading it in trade, that can work in the comic’s favour. And he’s done some great character work with Jean Grey, Cyclops (both Cyclops’s actually) and a fair amount with the rest. And the Iceman coming out isn’t unprecedented; there were already rumours among X-Men fans. I’m not the biggest Iceman fan by any means, but one has to admit that it adds an extra dimension to his personality.

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    1. Thanks for the info! I’ve been reading X-Men stuff, but lagging behind. I’m in the middle of AvX tie-ins right now, and I think I’ve missed a lot of the stuff with Cyclops’ people after Schism. But I’ve enjoyed Bendis stuff before, so looking forward to it if I can get it all in an order I like.

      I’m definitely interested in seeing how they make it work, since this is the past-Bobby.

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  3. The X-men is one of my favorite comic book series (next to Runaways and Fables). And yes, the metaphor is pretty obvious, but I think it is also much needed 🙂 I just heard about Iceman too (haven’t read it yet), and I was wondering how that fits into the larger story. They have been trying from the get go to find him a romantic partner and nothing ever stuck… I was starting to feel bad for him. Maybe a guy will work better 🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

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    1. It’s a bit complicated… There’s a younger version from the past, and that’s the one who’s come out. It’s an active plot point that the future/”present” version isn’t gay, and that bothers the younger Bobby and he’s not sure what to make of it. So, I’ll be excited to find out how it goes.

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