X-Men Writer Reveals Secrets of Marvel’s Queer Subtext and Oversight

X-Men writer Jonathan Hickman opened up about the queer subtext of comic books and the editorial oversight of Marvel Comics and Disney.

Comic book writer Jonathan Hickman, who directed the x-men line through their popular relaunch over the past two years, ultimately discussed the queer subtext of the lineup and Marvel’s oversight. The past two years have seen the mutant race transform, with heroes and villains welcome to the living island of Krakoa. There, the mutants have created a new civilization – a civilization that often rejects human standards.

Mutants certainly seem to have at least rejected human patterns of relationship – but, oddly enough, this has generally been done quietly. A plan showing adjoining bedrooms suggested that Cyclops, Wolverine and Jean Gray were in a polyamorous relationship, but this was never openly discussed. Meanwhile, after years of queerbaiting, Kate Pryde has finally kissed a girl – but that scene happened in a comic published in September 2020, and the seemingly experimental kiss didn’t catch on at all. Looks like the writers at Marvel are extremely careful not to expand on this particular theme.


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Jonathan Hickman has been responsible for the current wave of X-Men books, though he now leaves that X-Men: Inferno has finished. Hickman spoke to the Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men podcast before he left and directly addressed apparent queerbaiting.

“So in terms of what we’re allowed to show on the page, obviously we serve a lot of masters — we serve Disney and Marvel, and we have our own editorial group, and we have our own group of reviewers. I like to think that we’re pushing as far as possible. I like to think that we have creators who want to tell stories that are very important to them as creators, and I think anything I can do – and I feel like the most of what i did while i was there – was, i support them wholeheartedly and if i have to talk to the bosses for them, or with them, i’m happy to do it and…i think for the most part we are moderately happy with what we have on the page and moderately happy with the process there are times when people are totally happy with how it turned out happened, that’s just life in the way of the business as far as I’m concerned. We don’t own any of that, we’re doing the best we can.”

It’s a fascinating commentary, suggesting that behind every subtle hint, every nod, and every kiss, there’s been a lot of debate involving Marvel and Disney. The key lies in Hickman’s final comment, “We don’t own any of this,” which is why companies like Marvel and Disney may be hesitant to commit to these ideas. Comics have traditionally been quite conservative, with publishers believing that there is some sort of core concept that lies at the heart of their characters and worlds. if writers change them too much, they risk doing lasting damage. This attitude has been responsible for some of Marvel’s worst mistakes, such as the controversial “One More Day” story that reset Spider-Man because editors thought his marriage took him too far from that core concept. The same logic is likely behind Marvel’s reluctance to allow its writers to engage in a polyamorous relationship between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine, for example; because once that’s happened, it can’t be removed from continuity so they can return to their old love triangle under a later writer.

There is irony in this conservatism with the X-Men, however. The mutants represented themes of diversity and tolerance; if any Marvel franchise should embrace queer, it’s the X-Men. Meanwhile, the Hickman era is predicated on such massive retcons and concept rewrites that it’s hard enough to imagine a satisfying way to bring back the old status quo. Hopefully Marvel and Disney will see the positive reception their queer subtext is getting and allow it to finally become text. And hopefully it won’t be long before Kate Pryde gets another kiss – maybe with her boyfriend. x-men Magik member, revealed to be pansexual by a similar line of dialogue that was not explored.

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