A few years back now, Marvel made a fairly major (at the time) revelation about one of its most prominent mutant characters, revealing in an issue of Brian Michael Bendis’ All New X-Men that Bobby Drake, a.k.a.. founding X-Men member Iceman, was gay. (Well, technically, a time-traveling younger version of the character came out, but that made the adult version of Iceman also reveal his long-kept-secret sexuality. Comic books!) In 2017, Marvel then proceeded to give Bobby his first solo ongoing series, with writer Sina Grace taking the character through an attempt to take stock of his superpowered life. The series was canceled in 2018, but then faced a surprise renewal a few months later, adding up to ~16 comics total in Grace’s run.
It’s not wholly surprising to know that Grace got a whole lot of shit piled on his doorstep, social media-wise, when he took on the role of writing a book about an openly gay superhero trying to figure out what that means in a world where the massive, uber-successful MCU has still yet to introduce a single major LGBTQ+ character. What’s more dispiriting, though—as revealed in a blog post he made this week, in honor of Pride Month—is how little support Grace feels like he got from the multi-million-dollar Disney-owned comics conglomerate he was writing the book for. In the post, Grace reveals that he was told not to make his Iceman “too gay,” and reveals the numerous times that his efforts to drum up interest in the book were apparently shut down or curtailed by the corporate structure. (Including, apparently, pushback after the introduction of Shade/Darkveil, a mutant character who also performs as a drag queen.)
Grace doesn’t do much in the way of naming names, but he does lay out a perceived pattern of nervousness, indifference, and active judgment from the higher-ups and PR teams at the company—one at odds with its willingness to embrace, big, public celebrations like Pride. Here’s Grace:
Marvel still treated me as someone to be contained, and the book as something to be nervous about. Do you know how hard it is to not argue with a publicist when he’s explaining the value of announcing Iceman’s revival via the Marvel homepage? Sis, that’s a burial. Instead of clapping back, I just went and got myself more press from the New York Times. From there, they tightened my leash. I had to get all opportunities pre-approved, and all interviews pre-reviewed. This would be fine if it was the standard, but I assure you: none of my straight male colleagues seek permission to go on podcasts promoting their books. What Marvel should have done is assign me a special projects editor. They should have worked with a specialty PR firm, rather than repeat a tiresome cycle of treating the book like a square peg, and getting confused when it’s a hit.
You can read the full essay here.