Friday, November 28, 2014

Gay Teen Romance in AMAZING X-MEN #13

I just got finished reading AMAZING X-MEN #13. This issue features Nightcrawler and Northstar as they rush to save one of their students, a young teen named Anole, from a villain named Lady Mastermind.

Anole is a young mutant who looks like a lizard. He's green. He has a forked tongue. He can regenerate severed limbs. And he can use his camouflage abilities to blend seamlessly into the background. But he's also a young gay kid, which kind of sucks because he's got one of those mutant powers that makes you look pretty darned inhuman.

It seems like Anole has been chatting online with another gay teen and arranged for a hook-up date in New York City. He told the kid that he is a mutant, but never sent him a pic because he's afraid that his date, Noam, will ditch him because he's green and scaly. So Anole hides in the corner until his date finally leaves.

That's when he gets attacked by Lady Mastermind and ultimately rescued by his two teachers. Sorry about the spoilers, but did you really think that she's prevail over these guys? I mean, they've successfully faced down Dark Phoenix, Apocalypse, and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Lady Mastermind isn't going to defeat them.

I remember when comic books could only talk about gay characters with highly implied subtext. Marvel's editorial staff banned gay character portrayals, so the company's characters would make vague swipes about Northstar's manliness and you wouldn't know unless you were clued in on the fact that he was a gay superhero.

Then Northstar came out of the closet in the early 90s in a huge way. He adopted an abandoned baby girls who was dying from AIDS and then screamed out "I am gay!" while fighting an aging Canadian hero whose son had also died from AIDS. It was all quite melodramatic. And then Northstar kind of faded into the background for over a decade.

Then a few years ago Marvel Comics started pumping out the LGBT characters: Anole, Hulkling, Wiccan, Ms. America, Bling!, Moondragon, Karma... I know there are many more. It's just gotten to the point that I've lost my ability to recall all of them.

So it's still amazing to me that you can have a story where a gay teen breaks into a monologue about how he will never be able to love or hug or kiss another because of his appearance. There is never any doubt -- going back to the earliest pages of this book -- that Anole is a young boy who is interested in dating another boy. I never imagined this type of frank portrayal of LGBT life when I was growing up back in the 80s. Never.

And then comes the big reveal at the end. Anole meets Noam and shows him his true face. And then he asks him out on a date. We've come a long way since the Hulk was nearly gang-raped in the YMCA! 30 years later and we now have tender moments of awkward romance. That's seriously real progress.

"Charm School" is written by James Tynion IV, penciled & inked by Jorge Jimenez, colored by Rachelle Rosenberg, and lettered by VC's Joe Caramagna.

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