After a month of high-profile media coverage including a segment on ABC's The View, Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle Jindau will get married in this week's Astonishing X-Men #51. With same-sex weddings still relatively rare in mainstream comics, the issue — along with DC's reveal that the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, is gay in the Earth 2 series and Archie's wedding of openly gay Kevin Keller earlier this year in alternate future title Life with Archie — has created a new dialogue about gay characters in comic books.
Northstar's marriage has both inspired actual couples to get married at comic book stores, and sparked a protest from a controversial conservative Christian group. Yet despite the real world-implications, it's still a comic book story in the Marvel Universe, with members of both Cyclops and Wolverine's post-Schism X-Men teams in attendance, along with Northstar's former Alpha Flight teammates.Newsarama discussed the issue with series writer Marjorie Liu, who talked in-depth about both the fictional events of the issue and the real-world implications it's had, plus her personal feelings on same-sex marriage and what the future holds for Astonishing X-Men beyond issue #51.
Newsarama: Marjorie, Astonishing X-Men #50 has received some major mainstream media coverage over the last month. What's it like seeing a book you worked on get that kind of treatment?
Marjorie Liu: It's nice to know the book is being discussed, but it's tempered with the knowledge that this is a very serious topic, one that affects a huge number of people — both here in the United States and elsewhere, where gay rights are far less evolved. So how I could also not be very quietly humbled, and hopeful, that this is a story that now, in this place and time, we're able to tell?
Nrama: You and artist Mike Perkins were announced to be taking over Astonishing X-Men this past December, and #50 was the third issue in your run. So is it safe to assume that Northstar getting married was in the works since the onset? How big of a component was it of what you originally had planned for the book?
Liu: This storyline with Northstar has been part of an ongoing discussion that began with a simple question: Where do we take our characters next? As a writer, I find that a good way of evolving a character is through an examination of his or her defining relationships — and what's more defining than a relationship with someone you love?
Nrama: On a similar path, much has been made of the conspicuous timing of all this given current real-world events, but obviously none of that could have been foreseen while the story was originally in development. So why was now the right time for Northstar and Kyle to take this step in their relationship?
Liu: A lot of couples start talking about marriage after they've been together for a while. Not every one of them gets married, but I guarantee you the topic comes up. Why not with Northstar and Kyle? Timing is irrelevant when it comes to desire.
Nrama: In superhero comic books, there is something of a notion that a character getting married can be a creative dead-end. How much do Northstar and Kyle's married life figure into future plans for the series? And what kinds of stories can you do with a married Northstar that you can't do with a single Northstar?
Liu: This is just the beginning. By getting married a whole new direction has opened up, story-wise, for them both. Marriage isn't the end-point of a relationship. It's just a stepping stone, one aspect of a long-term evolution between two people who have, for whatever reason, decided to take a leap of faith and say, "Well, hey, this is a person who I want to *try* with for the rest of my life." Which is not a guarantee of perfection — far from it.
Certainly, the stresses haven't changed. Kyle is still a human man who has to watch his husband leave at a moment's notice to save the world, and who can't be at his side, or help protect him. In some ways he's a liability — in danger, because of his husband's "profession" as super hero. For Northstar, he has to deal with the fact that he's part of a team, a family, that will always understand what he's going through in ways that Kyle never will — and that can be very lonely when he goes home.
Nrama: Northstar has been a progressive character for Marvel throughout his history, and his upcoming marriage is the latest instance of what he represents to the company. In the vast roster of Marvel heroes, how important and unique do you see Northstar among that group?
Liu: Northstar is certainly important as a representative of the gay community within the Marvel Universe. But his value as a character is also grounded on something more than just his sexual orientation (as would be the case in real life). He's vain, arrogant, but also a man who risks his life without a thought in order to help others. You can count on his loyalty — and his quick temper — and he's been portrayed, again and again, as someone who lives life to the absolute fullest, without regrets or second-guesses. He loves, and acts on that love; he gets angry, and then acts on that anger. Northstar is no fake.
Nrama: Marvel wedding issues are almost their own sub-genere at this point, with many notable and beloved stories focusing on nuptials. Did any past Marvel wedding stories help influence either of you in approaching issue #51? And with that many X-Men in attendance — from both Wolverine and Cyclops' camps — is there any hope that it'll be a peaceful affair?
Liu: The wedding will be peaceful — more or less. Honestly, I haven't read any previous wedding issues, so my sense is that this, for the most part, is it's own thing. Certainly, the personal issues are completely unique to Northstar and Kyle.
Nrama: It's been stated that the story has nothing to do with politics, but when writing what is clearly a hot-button issue — one with implications in the real world on a larger scale, within the comic book industry and inside of Marvel's fictional universe — is it really possible to work on a story like this without letting some element of your own beliefs creep in a bit?
Liu: Of course it isn't possible. But my beliefs are my own, and not part of the corporate mainframe, which is what I always refer to when discussing the politics of this story. Marvel has no stake in this — and, on a certain level, neither do I. Except for that fact that I sympathize deeply with those who are affected by this marriage ban. My dad is Chinese and my mom is a white American, and they married only ten years after the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to ban mixed-marriages. Imagine that. Marriages between people of different races — now common and accepted — were illegal in many states up until the late Sixties. So, it's not difficult for me at all to equate gay marriage with mixed-race marriage. In fact — gender aside — I consider it to be same thing, with slightly altered prejudices.
To quote Mildred Loving, whose mixed-race marriage to Richard Loving was at the heart of that landmark Supreme Court case:Astonishing X-Men
#53 cover."My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone, they have a right to marry."
Nrama: Obviously Northstar is a major part of your series, but it remains a team book — what can you share about the near future for the Astonishing X-Men cast as a whole?
Liu: Karma's journey is just beginning, with the focus shifting to her in a dramatic way, beginning with #52. Incredibly unpleasant things have happened to her, throughout her entire life, but when has there been time to heal? It's the case with a lot of superheroes, I think — jumping from one crisis to another, suffering huge losses — but with no effort made to address the lingering trauma of those events.More from Newsarama:
- 10 Great LGBT Superheroes (And Superhero Couples)
- Marvel Inspires Real-Life Same Sex Weddings Across the US
- Gay Superheroes & Same-Sex Marriage: Why Comics? Why Now?
- Marvel's X-MEN Support Gay Marriage on ABC's The View
- Past Mutant Marriages Bode Poorly for June X-MEN Wedding