The Marvel universe is designed to be reflective of the real world, partly to make current storylines seem relevant, and partly because having President Obama give orders to the spandex set is an amazing way to grab headlines.
Whatever the reasoning, it was only a matter of time before the Marvel universe expanded to include gay characters.
As a cliffhanger in peripheral X-Men title X-Factor, two formerly lesser-known mutant characters finally put gay rumours to rest in Marvel’s first on-panel kiss between two major male characters.
“Honestly,” says X-Factor editor Jody Leheup, “we knew this was going to be a cool moment for the fans, but it hadn’t really occurred to us that it would be so important to gay — and heterosexual — comic fans as a whole.”
Marvel favourite Peter David wrote the storyline. He has a reputation for crafting realistic, scene-stealing characters whose motivations ring true.
“There was absolutely no trouble getting it approved at all,” notes David. “As for fan opinion, it was certainly the storyline that I got the most requests for. It seemed to me that the time was right.”
Rictor and Shatterstar have a long back story. Rictor is a Mexican-born mutant who can make the earth move. He featured in two major titles before a long stint in limbo. Eventually, he was cast in X-Factor when it was relaunched as a noir-styled mix of detective and superhero pulps.
It’s been implied for almost 20 years that Rictor has a lover: Shatterstar, a fighter/performer from a dimension where executives genetically manufacture heroes to tantalize audiences.
Last summer’s on-panel kiss was the first explicit confirmation of their relationship. Since neither Shatterstar nor Rictor were originally envisioned as gay, fans may wonder how long it will be before David throws a wrench in the works.
“I think it’s far too premature to speculate what Rictor would do should he and Shatterstar break up,” says David. “The more interesting dynamic will stem from the fact that Shatterstar, who spent most of his life having no interest in or concept of sexuality, is now the equivalent of a kid in a candy store. Here’s Rictor, fully prepared to commit seriously to this relationship, and there’s Shatterstar, who wants to explore all manner of possibilities and wants Rictor to be his companion and guide in that regard because he loves him and trusts him. To some degree, I’m keying his personality off Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood: swashbuckling, enthusiastic and sexually curious about anything with a pulse.”
Shatterstar’s creator, Rob Liefeld, has publicly denounced the gay subplot.
“I was saddened by it, really, because I thought it brought out all the worst possible sentiments,” says David. “First there were the Liefeld fans who believed that I ‘made’ Shatterstar gay because I was trying to somehow hurt Rob. It just goes to show you how people view someone being gay; that it’s some sort of insult.”
“I have to add that, just as a rule of thumb, if you’re going to contend that your character isn’t gay, don’t compare him to ancient Greek warriors, as Rob did, because anyone who has the slightest awareness of history is going to start laughing uncontrollably.”
For more on Rictor, Shatterstar and X-Factor check out Marvel.com.