It’s been over two months since I last took to this site to criticize Marvel for its handling of LGBTQ diversity (or lack thereof) in the Secret Wars: Secret Love one-shot. In that time, Marvel has announced plenty of new books as part of its All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch, and while a number feature female and/or non-white lead characters, not a single one features an LGBTQ protagonist.
It’s now all but undeniable that Marvel’s commitment to diversifying its titles, while laudable, is strictly limited to straight, cisgender female and minority characters. LGBTQ representation (aside from two versions of Iceman and a few characters from Young Avengers being used in Al Ewing’s Avengers books) is simply not a priority.
With one exception - which, unfortunately, is much less of an exception than it ought to be.
The new ongoing series Angela: Queen of Hel, which debuted earlier last week from writer Marguerite Bennett and artists Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans, finally makes explicit the long-implied queer romance between the titular character and her trans female companion Sera, on two splash pages, no less.
Axel Alonso doesn’t want you to put any labels on this image. They might just be friends!
When interviewed by leading comics news site (and, let’s be real here, frequent Marvel PR outlet) Comic Book Resources, what did Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief have to say?
I'm starting to wonder if there's an insurmountable conflict of interest between covering Marvel Comics and being an out proud gay man.— Andrew Wheeler (@Wheeler) October 30, 2015
Did he proudly trumpet the release of a book clearly featuring a queer lead character, with a plot largely driven by her romance with a trans woman, as a symbol of Marvel’s commitment to diversity?
The issue also confirmed the romantic relationship between Angela and Sera, something that had been speculated about by fans. So is it accurate to say that Angela is the first gay or bisexual lead character in the All-New, All-Different Marvel era?
Alonso: That's a question for readers to ponder and answer for themselves. We're not looking to put labels on the character or the series. We'd prefer that the story Marguerite, Kim and Stephanie are telling -- all aspects of it -- speak for itself.
A frankly ludicrous and downright offensive response; Angela is obviously at least bi, and to not come out and say so effectively amounts to closeting her. Marvel certainly hasn’t been shy about shouting its commitment to female and POC lead characters from the rooftops, and let’s not forget that Alonso himself was perfectly happy to put a label on Hercules - straight - a few months back.
I don't get why it's so ****ing hard just to say, "Oh yeah, that character is gay," or "that character is trans." What are we afraid of?— IMPALE SIMONE (@GailSimone) October 31, 2015
Simply put, in 2015, it is no longer acceptable for a company that’s made such a public commitment to diversity to so blatantly apply a different standard when that diversity involves LGBTQ characters.
when folks were upset that Axel declared Hercules straight, he had a mile-long list of rarely-featured LGBT characters he was eager to cite.— purple braaaains (@purplechrain) October 30, 2015
And over at DC, Marvel’s main competition, you only have to look at how they just handled their own storyline, in Batgirl, involving a romance between a trans woman and a cis woman: by giving interviews about it.
It’s completely unacceptable. And Marvel needs to be told that. If they don't listen, perhaps it's time to just stop buying from publishers that don't respect me and the rest of their queer readers.
You can't disrespect queer people as a publishing policy, closet LGBT representation by reducing it to an interpretation, & get my $ @Marvel— Matt SantoriGriffith (@FotoCub) October 31, 2015