"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
An Archie Comics collection was recently banned in Singapore because it features the marriage of gay character Kevin Keller, but Marvel’s Astonishing X-Men #51 managed to escape a similar fate and remains available.
Although that 2012 issue depicts the wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu, Singapore’s Today reports the Media Development Authority determined it was a balanced depiction of same-sex marriage.
“The issue featured characters who objected to the wedding and this offered a balanced treatment on the issue of gay marriage,” an MDA spokesman told the website. In the comic, by Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins, Warbird tells Northstar she “doesn’t recognize the validity of the ceremony vows,” and therefore won’t attend.
The MDA is tasked with both promoting and regulating Singapore’s media industries. Under the Content Guidelines for Imported Publications, those “that encourage, promote or glamourise sexually permissive and alternative lifestyles and deviant sexual practices are generally not allowed.”
When Marvel orchestrated the wedding of Northstar to his boyfriend Kyle Jindau in this summer’s Astonshing X-Men #51, it received considerable attention from the media for it forward-leaning acknowledgment of gay rights. And earlier this month at Dragon*Con, a longtime gay couple and an army of cosplayers recreated that special moment.
Professional costume maker Brian Parsley and his longtime boyfriend George Lewis recreated the moment (as Northstar and Kyle, respectively), in front of an enormous crowd of friends and fellow cosplayers. While it wasn’t an official marriage ceremony (as Georgia has a ban on same-sex marriage), the Florida-based couple said if Georgia allowed it they would have made the ceremony official. Here is a video from the event:
Declaring Marvel has “crossed the line,” a Florida fundamentalist group has launched an email campaign in an effort to convince the publisher, parent company Disney and retailers to pull from distribution Astonishing X-Men #51, the June issue that depicts the much-publicized wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu.
Asserting that the comic “asks kids to fantasize about having their own same-sex nuptials,” the Florida Family Association laments on its website “that the comic strip actually has a blank wedding that children can use to make their own same-sex wedding. Talk about propaganda.” That’s a reference to the Phil Noto variant cover (above), which depicts wedding photos of 10 heterosexual superhero couples, as well as Northstar and Kyle.
In a call to “take action,” the organization encourages supporters to send a form email to Marvel, Disney and retailers stating that it is “shameful that two companies like Marvel and Disney would deliberately create a superhero homosexual wedding for our children to embrace and mimic. These companies should show more respect to the overwhelming majority of families who do not want their children targeted with immoral social propaganda through comics.”
Publishing | Don MacPherson rails against the current numbering and renumbering practices by Marvel and DC Comics: “I realize other publishers have adopted irregular numbering schemes as well, but DC and Marvel are the ones driving things in that direction. Constant relaunches with new first issues, renumbering those relaunches to exploit a big-number milestone such as a 500th issue, half issues, zero issues, issues with decimal points, Greek letters … it’s exhausting and irritating, and I’m certain it’s frustrating for people preparing price guides and collection databases. Next I’m guessing there will be a series numbered in an alien math rooted in a fictional Kryptonian base-14 numerical system.” [Eye on Comics]
Digital comics | David Brothers articulates what the problem is with DRM: “What I realized is that DRM has a lot of benefits for the publisher, but next to none for the consumer. Blizzard can track exactly who plays Diablo III and when, which is valuable for gathering demographic data, off the top of my head. ComiXology can tell publishers exactly what contexts their comics will appear in and on what devices. DRM is about control, basically, rather than being a value-add. It’s a limiting service, rather than one focused on expansion, and the people most affected by it are consumers who actually want to consume this stuff.” And it does nothing to stop piracy, either. [4thletter!]
“The wedding of the year”–at least according to the promotional email I got yesterday–hit comic shops both virtual and real this week, as Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle tied the knot in Astonishing X-Men #51. The issue came with quite a bit of publicity for Marvel, along with the protests from anti-gay marriage factions, gay marriages in comic shops and a show of support from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (as well as an invitation to his house for a BBQ).
But once all the pomp, circumstance and hype is over with, we’re left with a comic story, one crafted by Marjorie Liu, Mike Perkins and Andrew Hennessy. Was it any good or not? Here are a few reactions from around the web to tell you what a few folks thought of it:
Andy Hunsaker, CraveOnline: “Comic book weddings are much like pro wrestling weddings – they almost always go disastrously wrong before they can ever manage to go right. However, with Astonishing X-Men #51, Marvel shows they’ve got more integrity than the WWE by actually going through with their hyped-up same-sex marriage rather than chickening out and admitting it was a publicity stunt, like WWE did with Billy & Chuck several years ago.”
Martin Gray, Too Dangerous for a Girl: “This is really rather good. Yes, Marvel has pumped this wedding for everything it’s worth in the real world, but as a special issue it holds together rather well. While the wedding party isn’t attacked by the Circus of Crime or whomever, the other tradition of gorgeous nuggets of characterisation is adhered to by writer Marjorie Liu. So we have Rogue wondering what would have happened had her two evil mothers, Oracle and Mystique, tied the knot, while Wolverine recalls the tragedy of his own wedding day, without raining on Northstar’s parade. And there’s a lovely line from Beast emphasising that the heroes of the various teams really are simply one big (occasionally) happy family.”
Taking a cue from One Million Moms, the president of the National Organization for Marriage has responded to this week’s Astonishing X-Men #51 with a fundraising message voicing concerns about “the sanctity of a comic book gay wedding.”
Brian S. Brown, whose five-year-old nonprofit group is dedicated to fighting same-sex marriage, is troubled not just by the Marvel comic depicting the wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu but by the real-life ceremony it inspired at Midtown Comics in New York City. However, Brown, whose job is to help ensure state legislatures don’t pass marriage-equality laws — or if they do, that they’re overturned by ballot measures — isn’t bothered by the wedding of two men, either fictional or real. Heck, he even wishes Midtown couple Scott Everhart and Jason Welker well, offering a not-at-all-condescending “bless him” to the former.
So it’s not that; oh, no. It’s the crass commercialization of the whole thing.
“… Something is wrong when huge companies push gay marriage into children’s literature in order to make money. Something is wrong when a comic book store decides to host a wedding, again for commercial purposes,” Brown writes in a message that ends by thanking NOM supporters for their financial contributions. “And something is really wrong when a man proposes because, well, somebody else is going to help pay for the wedding and it might mean a cool trip to New York City. Somewhere there may be some foolish man and woman getting married in a comic book store. But nobody else is paying for it and nobody in the media is covering it. Are we really supposed to believe in the ‘sanctity’ of gay comic book weddings?”
Sales charts | The American Booksellers Association has released its list of the top-selling graphic novels in indie bookstores for the eight weeks ending May 27. At first glance, it looks like it’s mostly literary graphic novels (Habibi, Are You My Mother?) with a healthy sprinkling of The Walking Dead. [Bookselling This Week, via The Beat]
Creators | Grant Morrison discusses the second issue of Batman Incorporated, which features Batman’s lover and Robin’s mom, Talia al Ghul. [USA Today]
Comics history | Could comics history have been radically different if Jerry Siegel had a different last name? Larry Tye, the author of the new Superman a biography, talks to Fresh Air about the origins of the Man of Steel and how he changed over the years: “The editors in New York over time started to exercise their editorial control. They saw this as both a character and a business. They would go down to the level of dictating just what his forelocks looked like. They could be too curly. His arms should be shorter and less ‘ape-like.’ And Joe should get rid of his hero’s ‘nice fat bottom.’ His editor told him that he worried that that made Superman look too ‘la-dee-dah.’ And they were really concerned about the image of the character.” [NPR]
Graphic novels | The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation and the American Library Association will launch the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Prize for Libraries at the ALA summer conference, held June 21-26 in Anaheim, California. Three libraries each year will be selected to receive all the books nominated for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, as well as a $2,000 voucher to buy additional graphic novels and a $1,000 stipend to hold comics-related or author events. Libraries to register to win at the ALA conference; winners will be announced June 24. [Publishers Weekly]
Graphic novels | Calvin Reid and Heidi MacDonald look at the graphic novel presence at last week’s BookExpo America. [Publishers Weekly]
Nearly lost amid all the media attention over the upcoming wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu in Astonishing X-Men #51, and the response by One Million Moms, is the revelation that the event was originally planned for another Marvel series — albeit one canceled almost five months ago.
Responding on his message board to news of the impending nuptials, former Alpha Flight artist Dale Eaglesham wrote, “This drives me absolutely crazy: Greg [Pak], Fred [Van Lente] and I do all the work of bringing the series back and they cancel it on us. Why didn’t they let US do the wedding ‘event’ which is clearly garnering attention, to stimulate readership [and] perhaps keep Alpha Flight going? This pisses me off. Oh no, let the ‘X’ books do it, as if they don’t get enough attention. Sigh. … This wedding was in the works on AF.”
Marvel has not yet responded to Robot 6’s request for comment.
In another setback to One Million Moms, the conservative Christian campaign has retreated from Facebook after a post about DC Comics’ reintroduction of Green Lantern Alan Scott as gay was inundated by comments largely supportive of the publisher’s decision.
The New Civil Rights Movement reports that moments after issuing a “warning” Friday about DC’s official announcement (see below), the page’s administrator began deleting positive comments before apparently giving up and removing the post entirely. Shortly afterward, the One Million Moms page disappeared from Facebook, certainly the initiative’s most valuable social media platform. The abrupt exodus was followed by a tweet announcing, unconvincingly, to Facebook users that, “OMM will be offline most of next week for Vacation Bible School!”
“No, because different characters require different things. This is similar to arguing that it’s unfair that Reed Richards is so smart–that works for his character, but wouldn’t work as well for, say, Ben Grimm. Different character. Also, and take this from somebody who was there as a reader and watched it happen, the marriage of Peter and MJ was absolutely as forced and sudden, probably more so. It’s just had the advantage of having been a status quo for so long that a lot of readers grew up with it and accepted it. We’ve never said that no characters should be married, the point is that Spider-Man, the most popular youth-based character in the entertainment world, probably shouldn’t be married.”
– Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, responding to a fan who asked, “Do you not think there’s hypocrisy in undoing the editorially mandated marriage of Peter and Mj and then doing something like the marriage of Storm and BP and Northstar and Kyle? The marriage of Peter and Mj felt far less forced or sudden.”
Standing in stark contrast to One Million Moms’ new effort to convince Marvel and DC Comics to immediately abandon all plans involving gay characters, a motion has been introduced in Scottish Parliament to acknowledge the wedding Northstar and to declare that “same-sex marriage should not be restricted to the world of literature and fantasy.”
Lodged Thursday by Mary Fee, a Scottish Labour Party member representing West Scotland, the motion states: “That the Parliament welcomes the news that the Marvel comic, X-Men, will feature its first same-sex marriage, which will feature Northstar, believed to be the first openly gay comic superhero; understands that, in 1992, Marvel was the first comic publisher to reveal a gay superhero; notes that Northstar is not the first gay character to have had a same-sex marriage in the comic book world, and agrees that same-sex marriage should not be restricted to the world of literature and fantasy.” It’s supported by eight other Members of the Scottish Parliament.
One Million Moms, the conservative Christian initiative that launched an unsuccessful campaign in February urging Toys “R” Us to stop selling the issue of Life with Archie depicting the wedding of gay character Kevin Keller, has now turned its attention to Marvel and DC Comics.
A project of the nonprofit American Family Association, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, One Million Moms has sounded the alarm about this week’s twin announcements that DC will reintroduce one of its “major iconic” characters as gay, and that Marvel will wed Northstar to his boyfriend Kyle Jinadu in Astonishing X-Men #51.
“Children desire to be just like superheroes,” reads the missive on the One Million Moms website. “Children mimic superhero actions and even dress up in costumes to resemble these characters as much as possible. Can you imagine little boys saying, ‘I want a boyfriend or husband like X-Men?’ This is ridiculous! Why do adult gay men need comic superheroes as role models? They don’t but do want to indoctrate [sic] impressionable young minds by placing these gay characters on pedestals in a positive light. These companies are heavily influencing our youth by using children’s superheroes to desensitize and brainwash them in thinking that a gay lifestyle choice is normal and desirable. As Christians, we know that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27).”
There’s a scene in the 1938 screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby where Cary Grant’s character discovers that Katherine Hepburn’s character has taken his clothes in an attempt to keep him from leaving her. In desperation, he puts on the only thing he can find — a sheer, pink robe of hers — and storms around the house, looking for something else to wear.
When the owner of the house arrives and demands to know who the strange man is and why he’s wearing that robe, an exasperated Grant shouts, “Because I just went GAY, all of a sudden!” punctuating the word “gay” with a leap into the air.
I’ve been thinking of that moment this week, as the mainstream superhero publishers seem to have been metaphorically running around in metaphorical ladies nightwear, metaphorically leaping in the air and shouting: DC and Marvel have gone gay — or “gay!” — all of a sudden.
Of course, the bit in Bringing Up Baby was meant to be a joke, the very sight of the virile, handsome, zenith of masculinity Cary Grant dressed in women’s nightclothes was in and of itself so ridiculous as to be funny without elaboration (although the image has since taken on some irony, given decades of speculation about Grant’s personal life, but let’s not get into that). It was also made more than 70 years ago.
This morning’s exclusive announcement on The View of the impending nuptials of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu in the pages of Astonishing X-Men probably didn’t go quite like Marvel envisioned, as a giggling Joy Behar could hardly wait for the applause to subside so she could ask, “Do you think Batman and Robin could come out of the closet now?” And Whoopi Goldberg’s more heartfelt observations about the diversity represented on the cover of Astonishing X-Men #51 were quickly forgotten so they could move on to the next item about an unfortunate typo on the sign for the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
But as awkward (and, some would suggest, over-blown) as that promotional rollout for this wedding may have been, Robot 6 contributor Graeme McMillan reminds us that it could be worse by taking us back in time to 1987 and “the tongue-in-cheek ceremony” at Shea Stadium for Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson — officiated by Stan Lee, and attended by 50,000 baseball fans. Below, you can watch Entertainment Tonight‘s coverage of the publicity stunt, as well as the bizarre and excruciatingly long preview on Good Morning America in which the interviewer asks “Spider-Man” and “Mary Jane” whether they would have “children that were like, you know, little spider-babies or would they be normal, human babies.” You can also check out the much shorter segment on The View.