Meet Marvel’s new Giant-Man - a gay South Asian man. Yes, really!
Founding Avenger Hank Pym - AKA Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, etc., and the shrinking/growing superhero aged up and played by Michael Douglas in the new Ant-Man film - is no more. After being sorta-not-quite-killed and forcibly merged with the archvillain Ultron in the recent Avengers: Rage of Ultron graphic novel (it’s complicated), his Giant-Man mantle is now up for grabs.
And it’s a refreshing surprise to report that Raz Malhotra, the seeming new Giant-Man, is neither white nor straight - and that he’s been introduced in the very Ant-Man comic coming out alongside the film of the same name.
In flashbacks in this week’s Ant-Man Annual #1, by writer Nick Spencer and artists Brent Schoonover and Ramon Rosanas, we meet Raz, an underemployed AI expert of South Asian descent currently reduced to doing Mac repairs.
After being mind-controlled into aiding “classic” supervillain Egghead in his plot to destroy the then-alive Pym and current Ant-Man Scott Lang (the protagonist of the new film, played by Paul Rudd there), Raz’ programming skills aid the heroes in ensuring Egghead’s defeat.
And in present-day scenes, Lang is inspired by Pym’s seeming death to pass on the Giant-Man mantle to a worthy successor.
But not before we see Raz’ home life in San Francisco, revealing that he lives with a male partner. (See pic above, and cue the “size queen” jokes.)
As immensely laudable as the prospect of a gay South Asian superhero from Marvel, with the iconic Giant-Man name no less, may be, I do have a few caveats. First, the rationale for Lang giving Raz the Giant-Man suit feels more than a bit forced; despite his assistance against Egghead, at no point in this story does Raz demonstrate any physical aptitude for or interest in superheroics. While this is explicitly intended to loosely parallel Scott Lang’s own origin story, Pym only passed on the Ant-Man suit and name to him after Lang proved himself by using the Ant-Man powers to save his daughter.
Secondly, I confess I find it disappointing to introduce a gay male hero as already being in a committed live-in relationship; while Spencer’s intentions are no doubt good, this all too often translates into bland, desexualized “gays are just like straight people” portrayals. Memo to writers: gay superheroes who are free to lead active romantic and sexual lives have more story potential and are generally more interesting. In the real world, that’s not mutually exclusive with being in a committed relationship, of course, but I somehow doubt that Marvel is ready to address open relationships or polyamory in a superhero comic.
Thirdly, and most importantly, there are no announced plans for Raz as a character beyond this one issue. While it’s more likely than not that we’ll see more of him in the All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch beginning this October,especially as Spencer is continuing to write the Ant-Man series, there’s still a possibility that the character could end up sidelined and neglected. (Spencer didn’t ease my concerns with an ominously worded tweet that we should “tell Marvel” if we wanted to see more of Raz, though he subsequently clarified that this didn’t mean there were no current plans.)
But I don’t mean for these qualms to overshadow the positives here. It’s all but unheard of for a gay character, let alone a gay character of color, to take up the mantle of an existing straight superhero - especially one with as much Marvel history attached to it as that of Giant-Man. And it’s even more remarkable that Raz’ introduction is given additional visibility from his debut coming alongside the film.
All in all, Raz Malhotra is an immensely promising addition to the Marvel Universe. Now let’s hope that this is just the beginning of his story..