Comics/Graphic Novels

LGBTQ Rights and the Marvel Cinematic Universe

No, not those kind of LGBTQ rights (you know, human rights).

I’m talking about Marvel’s divided film rights, and how that affects LGBTQ characters appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that’s owned by Disney.

In its current state, there are no openly LGBTQ characters in all eleven films and four seasons of television. By my count, that’s slightly over 4,300 minutes/roughly 72 hours/3 straight (rimshot) days of programming featuring only straight and cis people.

There are no prominent, openly queer characters in Asgard, the far reaches of outer space, across an international spy organization, or even, most astonishingly, Hell’s Kitchen. What kind of Nicholas Sparks-flavored hellscape is this?

That does not mean, however, that queer identities aren’t mentioned in the MCU. In the “All Hail the King” one-shot extra story of the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray/DVD, there are several references to the “prison gay” trope. In Daredevil, heavily-queer-coded character Wesley asks one Russian mob boss if his mob boss brother is missing because he’s out celebrating with “some girl—or boy.”

Queer people exist as faint whispers on the lips of snappily-dressed hitmen.

I’ve spent many moons frustrated by this universe I otherwise love, and started thinking about queer comics characters who could, one day, make the transition from page-to-screen. Unfortunately, for the MCU, there aren’t many.

20th Century Fox — The X-Men and the Fantastic Four

From both lenses of prominence and quantity of queer characters, the X-Men reign supreme. Northstar famously got married in 2012, and was largely considered Marvel’s highest-profile gay hero. Barring comic book-y complications, however, a recently-outed (and time-displaced) Iceman may have usurped that title.

Mystique is arguably the highest-profile bisexual character, though you’d never know it in the films. Psylocke is set to appear in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse movie, though her outing as bisexual was recent and likely won’t make the film. X-Men Fox Mystique

Another far-in-the-future film is an adaptation of the X-Men’s New Mutants run, which has the potential to feature Karma, Shatterstar, Rictor, and Prodigy.

Other queer mutants include Bling, Anole, and Graymalkin. So far, none of the X-Men films have included any of these characters or, in the case of Mystique, have acknowledged their identities.

Fox also maintains the rights to the Fantastic Four; this may not seem like much, as the FF are all straight, but it does affect the MCU’s access to the Skrulls—an alien race with two notable queer characters.

Hulkling is a staple Young Avengers character and boasts both Skrull and Kree lineage, though the former is highlighted much more than the latter. The MCU has access to the Kree, but mostly not to the Skrulls. Altering his heritage might be possible, but I don’t see the MCU finding him worth the trouble.

Another queer Skrull teen is Xavin, a genderfluid fan favorite of the Runaways. She is 100% Skrull, though, and much less likely to make the jump to film—especially since the comics, too, have forgotten about her.

Sony Pictures — Spider-Man

Good news: Marvel and Sony have been communicating to have Spider-Man appear in MCU films and Avengers in Sony’s Spider-Man films. Bad news: there’s little information explaining how this affects other Sony characters and, honestly, they don’t have many LGBTQ characters to begin with.

The only ones I can think of are an alternate universe Mary-Jane and the Ultimate Universe’s version of Spider-Woman. And neither are likely to appear over their straight counterparts.

Disney’s Marvel — Everyone Else

If I were a betting man, I’d say the MCU film most likely to introduce pre-existing queer characters would be Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

James Gunn, the creative force behind the original and the sequel, has hinted that the Guardians gain at least one new member (possibly two), and that member is likely female. Providing he goes by the Abnett/Lanning run from which the original is based, that leaves three candidates: Phyla-Vell, Moondragon, and Mantis.

Before the MCU got into fully gear, there were talks of a Runaways film. If that were to still materialize, Karolina Dean would no doubt be a vital member. Unfortunately, all conversations have since, well, run away.

The ultimate wildcard candidate is Wiccan, the child of Scarlet Witch and Vision. In the comics, Scarlet Witch and Vision (the robot) magically have twin boys who are later somehow killed. But that’s not it! Through magic yet again, their children were reincarnated as twin boys to another, totally unrelated couple. Comics.

If Wiccan (a relatively prominent gay comics character) were to make it to the MCU, his origin would need some streamlining. Since Scarlet Witch is very young and not-pregnant right now, maybe have her form a pseudo-adoptive relationship to twin teen boys, say, in a solo movie? As a…babysitter?

One last major candidate would be Victoria Hand, of S.H.I.E.L.D. fame. In the comics, she and her girlfriend Isabelle were the only out queer agents. Given how important S.H.I.E.L.D. is in the MCU, she’s bound to turn up sometime, right?

I feel the exact same way, Victoria.

I feel the exact same way, Victoria.

Spoiler warning for seasons one and two of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Victoria Hand was introduced in the show, but was murdered before her sexuality was ever addressed. Early in the second season, a woman named Isabelle was also murdered before her sexuality was ever addressed. And yes, the showrunners were aware these two characters were out in the comics, they just didn’t choose to address it in the show.

The MCU’s Future

If set photos are to be believed, the universal “straightout” across the MCU’s properties may finally come to an end with Netflix’s Jessica Jones series. Which is neat.

But it’s also not enough. We needed more over the past seven years, need more now, and will need more in the future.

My suggestion? Cast Moondragon and Phyla-Vell in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, reveal both Darcy Lewis and Foggy Nelson as bisexual, cast new LGBTQ characters in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and, in a Scarlet Witch solo film, have Wanda befriend and form a motherly bond with the twin brothers who live in the apartment next door to her. They’ll both be played by Michael J. Willett.

And give that Runaways movie some legs.


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