It was recently revealed that a member of the original X-Men, and a prominent figure in the universe of Marvel Comics, would be revealed as being homosexual. While this is a huge step in the fight for a more diverse representation of characters in comics, is it the right choice?
Recently, comics have seemed to be under a lot of pressure to provide more variety in their characters, whether it be more prominent characters of different races, ethnicities, genders, or sexualities. While some characters are created with this in mind (Batwing) others are updated spins on established characters (Thor, Wally West, Alan Scott), or even new characters of different backgrounds that take on the costumed identities of better known characters (Kamala Khan replaces Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel while Carol becomes Captain Marvel, Jaime Reyes replaces the dead Ted Kord as Blue Beetle, Miles Morales replaces the dead Peter Parker as the Ultimate Universe's Spider-man). Some of these changes are successful, others are not.
One example of a successful exchange are the recent events in which a woman takes up the mantle of Thor. The story is written masterfully, with a woman becoming worthy of the power, and Thor Odinson actually coexisting with this new Goddess of Thunder. The new Thor title is a testament to how readily accepting readers can be to big changes as a result of brilliant storytelling and bright ideas. An example of a change that was sort of hard to swallow was the announcement that Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, was a homosexual. Alan Scott's sudden change of sexual identity established that he was a new character, effectively retconning fan-favorite characters such as his wife, the Harlequin (not to be confused with Harley Quinn), and his children, super-people Jade and Obsidian. The differences between the two are that Thor's gender adds something to the story, while Alan Scott's sexuality takes away from 75 years of character history, not just his own, but the characters associated with him as well.
While it's amazing that Brian Michael Bendis and [Marvel](channel:932254) have taken such a large step at a much more diverse and accepting universe, it might have some unforeseen ramifications. For example, this development is less of a development and more of a rewrite. Iceman could have been revealed to be bisexual- God knows there aren't too many bisexual characters in mainstream media- but instead the decision was made to not only add his being attracted to men, but to negate a long-established attraction to women. While this is explained in the actual story to an extent, it could still alienate some fans of the character, not just because of homophobia (and honestly, who needs the people who're alienated by this) but also because of the fact that bad or careless writing could lead to not only changing the character's sexuality, but his personality and his interactions with the characters around him. By changing the character too drastically, you could lose why fans liked the character in the first place.
The big problem here is that Iceman could be another victim of an epidemic that I'll call 'rainbow-washing.' Rather than creating a new character for the writer's purpose, they instead bend an established character by revising their races, ethnicities, sexualities, and genders in order to fit the story. It can be a kind of lazy way to tell stories. The worst offenders are changing characters where the revision is pretty much unnecessary, such as Wally West. Nothing was gained by making the character a minority. The change in his race appears to have been done in order to make him more believable as a troubled youth. This seems to be sort of casually racist, especially while the rest of his family is white. While it's important to have mixed race characters, the ideology behind the decision to make that character be Wally seems flawed, and has been poorly received. But maybe an even bigger problem is how hard it is to create original characters of different backgrounds that are actually successful. For every Miles Morales there's a Static, whose book Static Shock is repeatedly cancelled. For every Batwing there is a Vibe.
Iceman's recent development seems to be along the lines of Alan Scott and Wally West, where the writers have chosen to rewrite the character rather than writing the change gradually and in addition to the character's illustrious back story. History has shown that these changes aren't so well received. However, the writing does appear to be thoughtful in light of its suddenness, more in the vein of Thor, so maybe it will all work out.
I hope it does. Because Iceman being gay could be really important in the future. With social justice being an increasingly heavy issue, it's important to have characters like this portraying people of different backgrounds in a positive light.