Saturday, May 16, 2009

The GLBT Community & The X-Men

As a gay comic book nerd, you would think I would be fixated on the men of the X-Men world, right? Cyclops is a cutie when you get past his visor. And Colossus has those rippling biceps (metal or not…). Even Nightcrawler has some appeal. I mean, come on now, who hasn’t wondered about that tail of his? Alas, as hot as the X-Men are, it’s X-Women that draw in quite a few members of the gay community. There’s something about a woman who can kick butt and look fabulous at the same time. Fabulous being a relative term of course… because these days seeing Dazzler run around in metallic silver spandex body suit and roller skates isn’t quite fabulous.

On a serious note though, the gay community is drawn to these characters for various reasons. Some of us find ourselves in awe of the sheer power that some of the X-Women wield. Storm can turn a hurricane on and off in the blink of an eye. In the years after the Dark Phoenix Saga, Jean Grey was a paragon of power, able to do anything her imagination could muster. However, others are drawn to the strength of character that many of the X-Women have. Pyslocke has been through Hell and back in her life, and has persevered (through losing her original body to her constantly changing powers). Jubliee remains depowered after the hugely chronicled events of M-Day. However, she dons a set of super powered gauntlets and continues to fight the "good" fight despite her loss. And even then, some are drawn to characters who embody that grey area of morality. Emma Frost, once known as The White Queen, has been known to do what must be done regardless of its effects on others. And for a telepath of her caliber, this makes her pretty dangerous.

The X-Women have evolved quite a bit since the comic’s inception in 1963 by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. The starting line up for the X-Men included only one women – Jean Grey, known as Marvel Girl and later as Phoenix. Readers saw Jean grow in power over years, until the Dark Phoenix Saga in 1976 which culminated in Jean having the powers of a God, then committing suicide for the sake of the universe. That’s a heavy load for anyone to bear, let alone a young woman in love. In 1975 Len Wein and X-Men vet Dave Cockrum introduced us to Storm. Ororo Monroe started her tenure with the X-Men in the background, part of a large team who didn’t get to stand out very often. Nearly 34 years later, we see Storm as one of the most important members of the X-Men, having lead MULTIPLE teams over years, recruited several key members and helped battle some of the X-Men’s most savage villains time and time again. Storm even has the distinction of being the first female African American to be in a position of power in the comic book community. In a time when race was an issue Storm, as a comic book character, broke down those boundaries.

We are able to so closely identify with some of the X-Women, that it’s almost eerie sometimes. Kitty Pryde joined the X-Men in 1980 when she was 13 years old. She had the same problems that all teenagers have: her parents’ relationship was falling apart, tons of homework to deal with, boys that love her one day and not the next, fighting super powered creatures that seek to destroy the earth and trying to balance all that with being a full time X-Man. Okay… so not exactly like all of us, but still pretty similar. As readers, we watched Kitty struggle with juggling her school, her friends and still prove to Professor X that she can remain a member of the team. Then we saw her relationship with Colossus end, and some of us even shed a tear. Some of us grew up right along side Kitty over the years. We see her today as a strong, vital member of the Marvel universe, having crossed over from The X-Men to other teams.

As gay men, a lot of us tend to more closely identify with women. And as mutants, these X-Women have a secret that they can’t share with the world freely. They are disliked by the fellow man simply because of who they are. We can identify with that… those feelings are tangible to many of us. So when we see these women fighting for their lives, their friends’ lives and for the world’s safety, it almost feels like there’s a little piece of us out there with them. When they take a hit, lose a loved one or leave the lime light, we grieve with them. Like any good book, the ladies of the X-Men almost feel like extended family members at times. So here’s to another 41 years of fabulous, butt kicking women (provided that Dazzler’s silver spandex bodysuit never comes back)!


alex-ness said...

Dazzler sucks, but this article rocked! Thanks for joining the party!

kurt wilcken said...

As bad as Dazzler's original "Disco" costume was, her later one, the blue one with the lightning bolt, was just plain dull.

Ande DuLac said...

I think she was compensating for silver spandex and glittered rollerskates.

The outfit you're referring to was part of a craze in comic book characters where you put the women in skin tight spandex then a bulky, shapeless coat over it. Though Dazzler eventually lost the coat all together.