(Warning - the following contains some mild, likely-already-ruined-for-you-by-the-internet SPOILERS for a handful of recent X-Men comic books. Proceed with whatever level of mild, internet-laden caution that suggests is prudent...)
Now, there are few more controversial things a comic book writer can do than to change a key element of an established – and beloved – character. Whether it's to kill them off, switch their allegiance, or even change their gender, race or sexuality, there's always the risk that devoted fans will be unable (or unwilling) to accept the change – especially when the alteration seems forced or arbitrary.
That, thankfully, is very much not the response that the comic book world at large had to the recent revelation that Bobby 'Iceman' Drake – a founding member of the X-Men – is, in actual fact, gay.
Something which the teenaged version of Jean Grey pointed out to Bobby in an issue of the Brian Michael Bendis-penned All-New X-Men earlier this year (they're both members of the original X-Men, dragged into the present day in order to... be part of an awesome comic book run, mostly?).
Now, that revelation raised some problems of its own, including the burning question:
After all, Iceman has spent a decent chunk of the 50-plus years we've known him dating women, seemingly leading the whole subplot in a controversial 'nature versus nurture'-y direction.
Except, of course, the recent Uncanny X-Men #600 (also written by Bendis), recently revealed that no, Iceman actually is gay after all...
...he was just too terrified of having to deal with being both gay and a mutant to allow himself to open up about it.
Which, Brian Michael Bendis being Brian Michael Bendis, Bobby then dealt with by... not making a big deal out of it, and – in classic Iceman fashion – cracking wise.
Which, in turn, seeing as the past few decades have seen a whole lot of hinting that Iceman was, in fact, gay (it seems to have been one of those open, 'maybe don't mention it to the senior editors, though' secrets among X-Men writers), is not only awesome, but surprisingly fitting, so far as major character changes go.
There is, though, one big question still remaining:
What Does Iceman's Co-Creator, Stan Lee, Think About Iceman's Sexuality?
After all, Stan-the-man was directly responsible for Iceman coming in to being in the first place, way back in 1963's The X-Men #1, and though he stopped working on the character back in 1966, he had by then firmly established him as a wise-cracking straight dude. What, then, would the 92-year-old Lee think of Iceman coming out?
Well, as it turns out, Stan's... completely on board with it. Asked about the reveal on BBC Radio recently, he first revealed that:
"I wasn't involved in that. It may have been after I stopped writing the books...I didn't really have any gay characters, or if they were gay, I didn't play up the fact."
At which point he revealed that he wasn't actually aware of the storyline – seeing as his poor eyesight now largely prohibits him from reading comic books – asking:
"Is Iceman really gay?"
Upon having the storyline explained to him a little more, though, Stan had a pretty darned perfect response:
"I don't care what happens, as long as they tell good stories...and they do."
Which, coming as it does from a man who's been writing Marvel comic books since the 1940s, is about as glowing a validation of Marvel's new, increasingly diverse, approach to comic book making as you're ever likely to hear.
After all, as important as it is for us to have high-profile, mainstream comic book characters who just so happen to be gay, it's just as important that those characters appear in, as Stan put it, 'good stories.' All the progress in the world isn't going to mean a whole lot if no one is bothering to read the comic books it's appearing in.
It's pretty fortunate, then, that we've got the likes of Bendis (along with the whole host of Marvel, DC, Image and other independent comic book writers and artists doing similarly remarkable work) not only bringing progressive thinking to the fore, but doing so in some of the great comic books of our time.
No wonder Stan approves...
What do you think, though?