ComicsVerse took to Washington DC to appear in their own Awesome Con Panel in Awesome Con 2018. The CEO of ComicsVerse, Justin Alba, along with writers Nicole Herviou and Rachel Davis appeared on the panel. Alongside the showrunners were the video team behind the scenes: Abdullah Chowdhury (Chowder) and George Forchuk. During the panel at Awesome Con, ComicsVerse discussed Marvel’s LGBT superheroes and how they have evolved over the years. In this panel, they discuss Iceman, Northstar, America, and other culturally relevant LGBT superheroes.

Justin Alba: We are ComicsVerse, and if you guys haven’t heard of us, you can find us on And as for what we do, it feels kind of scholastic, but I don’t mean it to be that way. But we use comics as a platform to discuss stuff like LGBTQ+ rights, race, religion, and equality and we’re all about promoting positive social change through acceptance and tolerance. So tonight, who am I?

I’m Justin Alba, I’m the CEO of ComicsVerse. I studied convert comics, as in literature, at Carver University, I think Paul Levitz is here. He was one of my professors for American Graphic Novel. I’ve done some interviews on ComicsVerse, I’ve reviewed Emma Dumont who stars in The Gifted. Great show, if you guys haven’t watched it.

Also spoke to Annie Wersching and Angel Parker who are on The Runaways, another really great show if you guys haven’t checked that out. And I spoke to everybody from Chris Clairmont to Arthur Lender to Marv Wolfman and here now to have that discussion, I’m here with two really awesome people.

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Rachel Davis: Hi, everyone. My name is Rachel Davis. I’m an editor for independent publishers, so everyone that’s not Marvel, DC, and Image. Yeah, I’m on the Marvel Panel. Yay, me. I’ve also done a number of podcasts and interviews as well as Marv Wolfman, I’ve interviewed. I’ve also interviewed Dan Parent. Archie is my life, talk Archie to me. And a number of other people, and I’m super happy to be here with Awesome Con and all of you.

Nicole Herviou: Cool, and I’m Nicole Herviou, I’ve written for a bunch of places. Mashable, Bustle, CVR, and now ComicsVerse. I’m on the DC team, actually, so don’t hate me for that love of all the things, and all the books and all the stuff. I love writing about social issues, it’s what I’ve been doing for the last three years.

I’ve interviewed people from Gerard Way to Marjorie Bennet, to Scott Snyder, to Sina Grace, who we’ll be talking about, obviously, today. A bunch of really awesome people and though I’m an ally, I’d like to raise other people’s voices, so that’s what I’m going to try to do at Awesome Con today.

Justin Alba: Yeah, and conversations like this are so important and becoming rarer, it feels like. I have many queer friends who are millennials and sometimes they don’t necessarily know what it was like for people like me in the 90s, which doesn’t really feel like so long ago. But when I think of what I went through and what people went through before, it just makes these kinds of conversations and celebrating these marvel characters so important.

Because if I didn’t have characters like this when I was going through stuff like that, I literally don’t think that I would be here right now having this conversation. At the risk of sounding dramatic, when I was going to school I was literally, literally afraid for my life. I would go home, I would get my ass kicked during the day, I would go home. My father would find bruises all over me, hematomas from getting hit so hard, and I would lie to him and tell him I was playing some sport or something. So he had no idea.

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Marvel Publishing.

And I heard the words faggot every day, I didn’t even know myself you know, my own sexuality yet. Life was hard, for many purposes, like the X-Men, who were hated and feared for being them. I very much felt like that, kind of minus the powers or the friends or the good looks, but aside from that, I felt a kinship to that experience and I think it’s another reason that goes into why we’re discussing all this today. And the important thing to note is that I was really lucky.

You know, people who came before me, even after, their experiences were so much harder than mine and we have to do what we can to make sure those experiences are fewer and fewer for people. And I think that we’re hopefully getting to a place where that’s more so the case and I hope we get there even quicker over the next few years to come, so with that said.

Oh man, I meant to go over this before I talked about why this was important, but here we go. But first, let’s take a look at where we’ve come from in terms of LGBT superheroes representation in Marvel comics. I don’t know if there are any Hulk fans here, any Hulk fans? Not many people are Hulk comics fans, there’s one. That’s alright. Because many people don’t know about Hulk’s weakness. And Hulk’s weakness, it’s not any kind of gamma-ray anything.

It is Homosexuals. So here you see Bruce Banner, 1980 in a Marvel comic. He is in a shower, and he is I don’t know how to describe it. Two gay men are coming onto him and you can see it bothers him so much that he can’t even turn into the Hulk until after. Being hit on by a gay man was so incredibly traumatizing to him, it bypassed his ability to become the Hulk until after the entire thing took place. So I’m pretty happy to say that we’ve come quite a way since then. So I don’t know if Rachel, or Nicole, you wanted to comment on this, but.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, and I think it’s important to also point out how these two gay characters are represented in these panels. They’re I don’t even know how to, the words are escaping me right now, but they’re basically attacking him.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

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Nicole Herviou: And it’s like that idea that these people who had huge air quotes around these “perverted” ideas that they were aggressors. And that there’s so much, we know now if you’re in this community, you’re more likely to be attacked than be an attacker. And this is, I am shaking, I am so upset looking at these panels today. It makes me so upset.

Rachel Davis: And you know it’s a fact that, as you said, they conflated something being attacked, with somebody’s sexuality. If somebody is being vulnerable and attacked, that’s one thing, that could be an interesting story. But it goes back to framing and the fact that you are making these associations with someone’s sexuality as if that’s the reason that somebody’s attacking, that this is deeply problematic and truly upsetting.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah.

Justin Alba: I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like being a 14-year-old, buying Hulk this month, which I think was August, and reading this panel. I can only imagine how traumatizing it would be, so again, we’re happy that things have moved forward in the industry as a whole and in the world. So that kind of brings us to Northstar.

Alpha Flight #106, and Nicole felt and Rachel and I have a lot of feelings about this. So I thought I would start with you guys. I will say that it was 1992 when this came out, I think my poor Uncle Mike spent a good $4 grand on this comic and it’s probably worth a good $2 now, but. It still means a lot to me that I have it, it has a lot of sentimental value, but —

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Marvel Publishing.

Rachel Davis: Absolutely, there are quite a few interesting points within this comic. One’s the introduction of Northstar, the character if you don’t know. He adopts a young baby that happens to have AIDs. And so that was kind of interesting, in the story where he is coming out and the first Marvel character, one of the first few characters within Marvel you see that ever come out is also associating with AIDs at the time, it’s a little bit perpetuating the stereotypes.

On the other hand, though, the main villain, who is something Maple Leaf, because of Canada. Because Canada, of course, there’s Maple Leaf in the title. Spoilers, but the reason this character becomes antagonistic is because his son died of aids and the fact that Northstar, he’s upset that Northstar didn’t do more to help promote this, to help save his son’s life.

This is a father actively in grief, not because his son was gay, but because his son died and the world didn’t care. And that, talk about some of those feelings and it’s not good to ever hit people, it’s not good to ever attack someone because of their sexuality, but at the same time this is a very human emotion, it’s a very problematic experience. And to have that within a villain who at the very end of the comic, comes and embraces Northstar and apologizes for the death of his own child, this was a deeply humanizing comic. If somewhat problematic as far as details.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, I mean, it discusses AIDs in a different way, I think, for the times, saying that AIDs is not just a disease that effects only gay people and the LGBTQ community, but people at large and how it was so stigmatized because it hurt this one group so badly.

It addresses it, which is important but it doesn’t address it properly. And I think that’s the lens we need to look at it through now. But I think at the time, it was just being spoken about, it was revolutionary. So I think it deserves kudos for that, just again, framing. It’s all about framing. Which I think we’re definitely getting better at.

Rachel Dais: Yeah, and just to jump off of that, the fact that his teammates weren’t major parts of the story, this was Northstar’s story, this is Northstar’s coming out story and it was fully focused on him. As opposed to his teammates’ reaction to him coming out. Again, going back to framing.

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Justin Alba: It’s important to remember, this was before Ellen. Which is sort of a milestone in terms of gay representation in media, so I remember being a little kid, being in comic shops. I remember overhearing conversations, I remember hearing words like child molester used, I remember hearing words like pervert used and to think that that was just equated with a gay man in Alpha Flight, is insane.

So again, it’s good to see how far we’ve come and as Nicole mentioned, it’s definitely a framing issue, looking back with that 20/20 hindsight. But it’s kind of where here’s where we are today. And where we are today is a lot better, and we’re going to talk about this, by no means is it perfect, but by all means, should we celebrate where we are.

So three characters we’re really excited about, even more than these three, America Chavez, we read America #1 in preparation for this, we read the entire Sina Grace Iceman #1, which frankly, was too close to reality for me. And I also wanted to put in this page of Rictor and Shadowstar, who Peter David had the guts to take their kind of hinted at a relationship in the 90s and make it overt. So, yeah, I was really excited about that.

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Marvel Publishing.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, I know that Iceman is particularly important to many people, so Justin, why don’t you talk about why he’s important to you, I’m going to put you on the spot.

Justin Alba: Yeah, I mean. Iceman is really important to me for a number of reasons and I think, are we going to come to one of these pages here. Yeah. Exactly, I think we all had the same reaction when we saw this, which is here is Jean Grey outing a young, teenaged Iceman against his will by going inside of his mind. Jean Grey, my favorite character, a little obsessed with herself, not going to lie.

Not the classiest when it comes to going through people’s thoughts. That being said, and I’m so glad, Nicole that you asked me that question if this had happened to me when I was 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 25, 30, I mean, I don’t know what I would have done. It would have sent me into such a deep depression to be outed in such a way. For myself, I ended up being the closet for something like 20 years and when we talk about Iceman, here’s someone who’s been in the closet since the 60s, so he understands what that’s like as well.

And so much of Sina Grace’s comic is him coming out to his parents, something I still have to do, is him telling his best friends, which I’ve mostly done. For me, it just holds a really special place because it’s this character that I grew up with going through the same things that I’m going through now and that a community that I’m getting involved in has a lot of people going through it as well. Again, no ice powers.

But the scenes with the parents definitely make a lot of sense to me.

Rachel Davis: And the fact that he backed Long Island, like you were already a hero, Bobby Drake, but as someone who’s also from Long Island, you’re truly a hero.

Justin Alba: Westchester. Let’s just go back a little bit. Do you want to talk about Iceman a little bit?

Rachel Davis: Now you’re back on the spot, Nicole.

Nicole Herviou: Oh my gosh.

Justin Alba: I took the ball and I put it back.

Nicole Herviou: And you just gave it right back to me.

Justin Alba: Well I have a question, actually.

Nicole Herviou: Sure, hit me.

Justin Alba: So as an ally, and while you’re reading this and you’re reading what he’s going through, what kinds of emotions does that bring up for both of you?

Nicole Herviou: Specifically with Jean Grey?

Justin Alba: Oh, specifically with the Iceman one that you read.

Nicole Herviou: Oh, I mean, obviously as an ally, I’m looking at Kittie. And how she treats him and it’s not always great. And I can’t read a writer’s mind. No idea whether he was trying to show, hey this maybe isn’t the best way to talk to people and here’s why. I’m not positive, but it’s saying like, why didn’t you tell me, why did I have to hear it from this person, that person.

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Like, let people come to you maybe? On their own time? But at the end of the day, she, as his ex still completely supports him and is like, cool. We’re friends, we’re good, what do you need from me? And that’s always my question as an ally is okay, what do you need from me, what can I do? And not make it about yourself. That’s how I feel anyway.

Rachel Davis: Although with Iceman for me, a common criticism, I’m a woman of color, so I have multiple identities that would put me as that minority and a couple of checkboxes. But you often hear the argument against having diversity in comics as opposed to it just being a reality. It’s always called diversity in comics. It’s because, oh, you’re just trying to meet a checkbox.

Like you know, oh this character is just meant to fill this in, you’re just doing this to look good. You hear those criticisms of that and the great thing about this Iceman run, by Sina Grace, was that you just see Bobby not only confronting his sexuality but also with his younger self. You see him with his parents, but you also see him being a teacher, he’s not just in this one box. And that’s true for every person who has an identity. You’re not just that one identity all the time.

Nicole Herviou: Absolutely.

Rachel Davis: And seeing that portrayed, is just another rebuttal that is so satisfying to that, the way Sina Grace handles that.

Nicole Herviou: I also think, I’m sorry, it’s super important to point out that someone who is gay wrote this book.

Rachel Davis: Yes.

Nicole Herviou: And how that needs to keep happening.

Rachel Davis: Yes.

Justin Alba: And I’ll do the art for it.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah. Like I couldn’t tell that story. I have no business telling that story.

Rachel Davis: Yeah, and for most of the history of comics, that has been the case.

Nicole Herviou: Right, exactly. And that’s why it’s been so not good. So… I think that’s something we need to be happy about and demand more of.

Rachel Davis: And the same was true for America. Because Gabby Rivera identifies as a Latina woman who is queer. And to have that as well, and I mean, America was so well rounded. I mean, struggling with college, it’s like that hit a little too close to home.

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Somos Publishing.

Especially after going through midterms, that hit a little too close to home, reading America #1 all over again. But at the same time, somebody who’s so unapologetic, like I wish I had that confidence. I’m not even queer, but to have that confidence and being a woman of color at that age. Holy cow.

Justin Alba: What I loved about America was sort of the Wonder Woman Paradise Island version that she had, which was a queer paradise, a queer woman’s paradise.

Nicole Herviou: Well, I mean, hi, they are all queer on Themyscira.

Justin Alba: Oh.

Nicole Herviou: That’s why I’m here. That’s my entire, sorry.

Justin Alba: No, good to know, hey. I’m bringing the X-Men knowledge, I need someone to bring the Wonder Woman.

Nicole Herviou: It is a Marvel panel, but yeah, sorry.

Rachel Davis: I’m sorry, to have a queer Latina woman tell Steve Rogers to step aside as she punches Hitler, that’s kind of my new move. That’s my forever goal.

Nicole Herviou: Yes, yes.

Justin Alba: What did you take away from reading that issue?

Nicole Herviou: From America

Justin Alba: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: I just, I mean, I’m the kind of person who, we’ve been seeing a lot of male queer characters.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: The more female queer characters we see, the happier I’m going to be. Just because I have a lot of friends who have come out in recent years as bi and queer. And I just like to see them represented in things. So I think, and of course, a woman of color is also amazing to see more of. So I just celebrate everything I saw there.

Rachel Davis: Yes.

Justin Alba: In terms of intersectionality though in your own lives, when you’re reading a book like Iceman and you see him go through these trials and tribulations, does it bring up stuff from your own lives? That you’re like, man, that’s not exactly what I’m going through, but that resonates with me.

Nicole Herviou: Absolutely. I mean, any time anyone rejects you or has feelings about you because of who you are as a human being, something you can’t change like I’ve been through that. As a woman, obviously I’ve been through that, so I can empathize big time with it. And I think that’s something we need more of in this world, is empathy.

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So I mean, yes, I’m a big proponent of that. But yeah, I always try to see things from a different person’s perspective and seeing how Iceman’s parents, Bobby’s parents react to him. We were in a room reading it with each other and I couldn’t say these words. I was like, this is awful and things like that have been said to me, but just not because of my sexuality. Because I’m a woman. So yes, the short answer to your question is absolutely. I could ramble about it forever, but I’m not going to.

Rachel Davis: No, but also in terms of Bobby’s parents, so I’m an older college student, I’m 26, I’m graduating this spring. And the fact that I started college at 18, but I had to leave college because I became very sick for a few years.

And then having to go back as an older student, a lot of people in my family, I was a straight-A student, then for me not to finish college on time for them? I was a failure and my parents at times told me that they were disappointed in me and that I fucked up my life and that I wasted their time. Like that was all I was fundamentally good for.

We’ve come a very long way, my parents and I and at this point, now that I’m graduating, they couldn’t be happier for me. I’m getting a masters in comics, so my parents are like oh what are you reading now? We’ve really come a long way, it’s something that Bobby doesn’t get by the end of his run, unfortunately, ’cause Iceman ended at issue 11.

But the fact that those tough conversations and the parents trying to find a different route. I remember it wasn’t the same words, but the framing of that and the intent behind that very much hit close to home.

Justin Alba: …And you talk a lot about coming a long way, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in terms of LGBT superheroes representation maybe in the Hulk era, maybe in the Northstar era, to the Iceman book, and America book you read.

Nicole Herviou: So it actually hasn’t happened in the big two a lot yet.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: But I like that I’m starting to see stories about queer characters that are not about the fact that they are queer and that is it.

Rachel Davis: Yes.

Nicole Herviou: Like, yes that is part of your life, that’s part of who you are that’s going to affect you all the time, that is not your whole story. So I like seeing these stories where they’re just like queer people living and doing awesome things.

That’s what I want to see more of and I think we’re getting there. And I think that if Sina had more time on Iceman, which I think it’s criminal that he didn’t, we would have seen that. But yeah, I think we’re slowly getting there and seeing it in indies is awesome, so hopefully, we’ll just see more of it.

Rachel Davis: No, absolutely —

Rachel Davis: — No, absolutely. And especially seeing more creators of that identity. I don’t think a creator should ever just stick to the identity that they have in the characters that they create, but seeing again, more people writing about their own experiences and coming from the independent comic scene.

Like if you want to see different representations, different identities, you should really be supporting the independent comic scene, whether that’s through crowd source, or smaller publishers, ’cause those creators are there. And I mean Sina Grace originally was independently published and then Marvel was like, you’re doing great work, please tell this story. So yeah, I want to see more creators telling their stories. Especially in the big two.

Justin Alba: What have you noticed, dude?

Rachel Davis: Yeah, oh.

Nicole Herviou: I want you to start talking more.

Rachel Davis: Yeah, you’re in the middle now.

Justin Alba: Thank you. I think the biggest thing I noticed was, I mean obviously, gay people being portrayed as predators in Hulk. Is disgusting. In Alpha Flight, when I go back and I read that now, I don’t connect to it as much. Because it seems that, I mean the issue feels a little bit more educational and at the time, that was definitely needed.

But it sort of conflated all these associations of what it meant to be a gay man in 1992. Which was cool, but for me Iceman, there’s a particular page I thought I had it in here, I didn’t. And it’s the first page of issue three and I recommend everyone reads it and he calls every girlfriend he’s ever had and he calls his best friend, he calls Spiderman. He’s like, hey guys, I’m gay. And they all have their own various reaction.

I think, which one was your favorite?

Nicole Herviou: New phone, who dis?

Justin Alba: Boom — Boom — Tabitha Smith was like, new phone, who dis? Lorna Dane, Polaris, one of my favorites, of course, was like, uh, yeah, why do you think I picked Havoc? So everyone was kind of figuring it out. But there was just realness and honesty to that page that I don’t find a lot in mainstream comics. And that’s what I noticed, the minutia, the details.

Nicole Herviou: Right.

Justin Alba: And that’s what we were kind of missing before. And there are panels where you just see him react. Alessandro Vitti, who does the art, and just the emotion in Bobby’s face, reacting to his father saying something, reacting to his mother saying something, reacting to I — I — think Kittie was a great ally.

But we talked about this, that at first she kind of made it a little bit about her and I felt that people were kind of ignoring his journey. So once we kind of got back into his journey, those details are what I really need. And I think that for people who are going through these things now, like this is those details are the kind of things that are going to help them get through.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, absolutely.

Justin Alba: So should we talk a little bit more about the other iceman issues that we read? Because I kind of want to get into his relationship with Daken a little bit.

Nicole Herviou: Yes, please.

Justin Alba: First of all, great suit, Daken.

Nicole Herviou: Great — Wait what?

Justin Alba: Great suit, the suit he wore.

Nicole Herviou: Oh yes, pretty suit.

Rachel Davis: Ehh.

Nicole Herviou: It’s a nice suit.

Rachel Davis: His outfit?

Justin Alba: Yeah, you don’t remember that hot outfit he wore?

Rachel Davis: It’s a bit too flashy.

Justin Alba: Some of us were paying attention when we were reading.

Rachel Davis: Oh.

Justin Alba: No, I’m just kidding.

Rachel Davis: Okay.

Justin Alba: Just kidding. I’m just kidding, I’m just kidding. I love this girl so much.

Nicole Herviou: It was a good suit.

Justin Alba: It was a sexy suit though, I’m not going to lie. I will just say that some of us are better at judging sexy suits than others. I’m just kidding, sorry.

Rachel Davis: Okay, called out. Okay, you’re pulling a Jean Grey on me.

Nicole Herviou: I’m goin’ back to Jersey.

Justin Alba: I am, I am. I am so sorry. She is far more fashionable than I will ever be. No, it’s true. This is actually painted on me, you guys can’t tell.

Rachel Davis: I feel like his tattoo work, I mean whoever did his tattoos, like good salon work in the Marvel universe.

Justin Alba: Oh.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, that’s a good detail.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: So she is perceptive.

Nicole Herviou: Yep, you stand corrected, sir.

Justin Alba: Yeah, that’s pretty good. So, Daken, not your type.

Rachel Davis: No.

Justin Alba: Okay, good to know. So Nicole, let’s have a conversation, actually.

Nicole Herviou: Sure he’s nice to look at for a cartoon.

Justin Alba: In all honesty, I wanted to talk about their dynamic.

Nicole Herviou: Oh, it’s palpable. There’s tension and it’s palpable. And I think that’s fascinating coming from a two-dimensional image on a page, that you’re like oh my gosh I feel some things happening. Like I dunno, I thought that their dynamic was absolutely fascinating to read.

Straight up, I thought their rivalry and yet they’ve both been through some things and they could relate to each other. And there’s even maybe an attraction there. They’re workin’ through that and it’s weird and it’s great. And yes, good. There you go, those are my words. I’m really eloquent today.

Rachel Davis: No, I feel like Daken was the right villain to challenge Bobby in that first arc. ‘Cause adult Bobby, this is all new to him. His younger self, his younger self from the 1960s who just happens to be in the present to want to be like, no, yeah, I’m gay. And then Bobby has to be like, oh my god, am I gay then? Oh my god, I am gay.

And so for Bobby, that’s where Sina Grace is starting. And I think Daken is the correct villain to challenge him, because Daken, as you said, is also very broken, but he’s manipulative, too. He’s so broken to the point that he can’t be redeemed. Bobby is clearly facing a lot of heartbreak, but it’s his innate character, that goodness that you’ve seen from the beginning of X-Men #1, that saved him.

That X-Men community and also that inward like solid core of goodness that is Iceman. And Daken just doesn’t have that, clearly. The way that he’s manipulating other characters, that’s part of his power, but that’s also part of his character. That power is a reflection of his character.

Nicole Herviou: I also think it’s something I think we’ve talked about, but the idea that there’s not just one type of gay person. Or a bi person, and I think obviously we all know that. But for some reason, it’s taking representation like a minute to catch up with that notion.

So the fact that there’s not just one in the book is also cool.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Justin Alba: In ancient Rome, there were three separate terms for just gay men.

Nicole Herviou: Hmm, let’s bring it back.

Justin Alba: Fun history fact for the day. but anyway, what you were talking about before, and you were talking about storylines about gay characters not being about their orientation or sexuality, do you feel like the Daken story with Iceman achieved a sense of that? Even though, around the periphery was his sexuality?

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s very much half and half because obviously, Iceman is dealing with exploring his sexuality and dating and figuring out what he likes in a partner and what he doesn’t. And how he wants to live this life and how he wants to date and all of these things, so clearly that is part of the story, of course.

But that doesn’t affect that relationship. Except for the fact that they’re kind of into each other. But that aside, yeah, I feel like that storyline is that’s why I’m saying if Sina had more time like it would go that way, ’cause he clearly was starting to shift the narrative. So yes.

Rachel Davis: Mm-hmm, I feel like Daken’s need for controlling of other people, not only his own power but to exert that and get some kind of a relationship and force a relationship from others, in turn, was very fascinating to me.

Nicole Herviou: Totally.

Rachel Davis: There’s a lot of minutia to Daken and he tries to do a front, but there’s clearly a lot more layers to him that more rereads, I think, I really want to reread him again.

Justin Alba: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: I was going to say, I want to read more about him.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: Also, I kind of want to read about his relationship with his father.

Rachel Davis: Yeah — Wolverine — spoilers.

Nicole Herviou: It’s Wolverine. So I kind of want to know what’s up there, I don’t know if that’s been addressed.

Justin Alba: Spoiler alert, he’s coming back soon, so.

Rachel Davis: Ooh.

Justin Alba: There’s a whole storyline about it that’s been announced if you guys don’t know yet. Is it just the Return of Wolverine? I think something like that.

Rachel Davis: Oh, okay.

Justin Alba: Yeah, someone said yes. No, I imagined that.

Audience Member: ‘Cause we’ve already got the Old Man Logan.

Justin Alba: Right, so it’s Return of Wolverine, right? They’re looking for him, he’s somewhere.

Audience Member: He’s encased in adamantium. That’s why he’s technically dead because he got encased.

Justin Alba: Oh. Audience Member: Because that was the Death of Wolverine, it wasn’t that they stabbed him and killed him, but his healing factor was getting all wonky and so when they tried to renew it, put the adamantium back, he literally is encased in adamantium. So he’s actually a statue.

Rachel Davis: Wow.

Audience Member: Is there something in Infinity War book? Or is that a different thing?

Audience Member: I think that’s the Old Man Logan. Or it’s the other Wolverine.

Audience Member: The one with the space center? That may be wrong.

Audience Member: Well any of the Infinity stuff that always goes over space and time, just the whole Legacy thing, kind of didn’t make sense. ‘Cause it was a different time point, so.

Nicole Herviou: These timelines confuse the heck out of me.

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Marvel Publishing.

Justin Alba: I have a question. As X-Men and Wolverine fans out there, now that Jean Grey is back, Wolverine will be back, is anyone rooting for that relationship to start?

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: Just Chowder.

Justin Alba: Besides people that work at my company? No one? I think she should be alone, right? I think she should be alone or find a human boyfriend, chill out, be the star, I say, Jean Grey. Anyway.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Justin Alba: We’re actually going to go back to her in a second because it’s important to talk about characters who gay men can relate to. Who are not necessarily always the gay characters. I famously say that Jean Grey is the patron saint of my apartment and of my soul. And I deeply, deeply, deeply mean that.

But anyway, I digress.

Nicole Herviou: That is a digression.

Justin Alba: It is, right?

Nicole Herviou: It’s okay though, I forgive you.

Justin Alba: Yeah, but it’s awesome, because now at least we know about how we can tell you about Wolverine comics.

Nicole Herviou: What’s going on with Wolverine, yeah.

Justin Alba: What did you guys think of the Rictor and Shatterstar, just the fact that…

Nicole Herviou: Just that?

Justin Alba: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: I thought it was awesome to take a couple that was coded at the time when literally, the comics code prevented you from having gay characters in your books and clearly they were coded as being gay, but obviously it wasn’t out there, because it was against the rules. Which is awful, obviously.

But to bring them back and in a big and bold way, I believe that was the last couple panels of the book. And then the other character just being like, alright, that’s cool, basically. Well, I didn’t see that comin’ but alright. Of course, we all saw it coming, but that’s fine.

So I thought it was bold, I thought it was a good idea, I think it’s important. I mean that’s what just happened with Harley and Ivy. They’ve been clearly a couple for so long and now they are finally like, official and it’s happening and I’m crying. But she’s my soul. Harley is my, anyway — So yeah, I like seeing that happen whenever it can.

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Rachel Davis: At the risk of not getting stoned, just my feelings on it, at the risk of not getting stoned, these aren’t like top A Marvel heroes, I’m assuming, Rictor?

Justin Alba: Oh, okay, sorry. Yeah, I didn’t know what context you said stoned in.

Nicole Herviou: It’s not Captain America.

Rachel Davis: Oh, right. No, not like the A X-team, right? They’re like lesser heroes, not lesser characters.

Justin Alba: Oh. The X-Factor?

Rachel Davis: Yes.

Justin Alba: Yeah, well — Rictor is originally, well he’s originally from X Terminators and then he went on to New Mutants, and then he was part of X-Force.

Rachel Davis: Right.

Justin Alba: And then in X Force, Shatterstar joined the team. Rob Liefeld famously created him. I once interviewed Peter David and I actually I recommend everyone watch this interview that we did with Peter David.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, it was good.

Justin Alba: And I forgot what con it was at and he was talking about how Rob Liefeld — I mean no disrespect to him or anyone else — but he didn’t want the character to be gay. He just didn’t feel like it was right for him. And he was like, man, he’s not supposed to be gay.

He’s supposed to be an ancient Greek warrior. And Peter David was like I, I think that that’s kind of gay. So he’s like, I’m just going to go ahead and write it. So yeah. I think that that’s interesting to point out.

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Marvel Publishing.

Rachel Davis: No, for me what was interesting is they’re not as big as Iceman. They don’t have this history, they don’t have this fanbase, but yet Peter David felt like in the whole Marvel universe, there’s minutia. It doesn’t matter, you don’t have to be an A-lister, you don’t have to be a one issue character. This is real, just like everyone is. It just is what it is. and I figure it’s important to have characters like that who are like, nothing against X-Factor fans, but aren’t like Iceman or Jean Grey to also have that portrayal within those ranks.

Justin Alba: Jean Grey started in X-Factor when she came back to life.

Rachel Davis: I’m really going to get kicked off this panel. Between the two of these, I’m really gone.

Justin Alba: No, no one remembers that X-Factor run from 1986.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, I don’t.

Justin Alba: No, no one does.

Audience Member: I do!

Justin Alba: Do you? Wasn’t that a great run?

Audience Member: Yeah, it was great.

Justin Alba: People always say I want Jean Grey without the Phoenix, she had no Phoenix, yeah. It was great stuff.

So kind of a question I have for both of you is how is Kittie, and you kind of talked about this, how is Kittie an example of a good ally and how is this young woman an example of a bad ally in these panels, right? Isn’t that scary?

Nicole Herviou: Hi, you don’t out someone. That’s a hate crime.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: So there’s that. But I mean, even if she saw these thoughts in Bobby’s head, and was like, okay. Maybe you just go up and say hey, if you ever want to talk about anything. Know that you can trust me and I’m here for you. Let him come to you. What the heck? Also, why are you putting a label on it?

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: Like I think the most egregious part of this scene is when he’s like, well maybe I’m bi. And she’s like, no, I think you’re full gay. I’m like, my dude. You can’t do that to a person. That’s all of them. Like it’s whatever label you choose and if you don’t want a label, that’s also fine. That’s up to you, that is your decision. And to put it on someone else is I want to scream.  

Rachel Davis: And it goes back to framing, as you said before. ‘Cause you know what? If you really wanted to have Jean Grey do this horrible, horrible thing. Don’t frame it like this is okay.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah.

Rachel Davis: Have her called out. Or call out what historically is the presumed heterosexual audience reading this. Call those people, call out those readers. Don’t validate this like, oh, she’s doing him a favor. When she is not.

Nicole Herviou: The opposite actually.

Audience Member: Well, I don’t know because we all have figured out Jean Grey, this young Jean Grey. I call it Mean Jean because she’s like a mean teen.

Nicole Herviou: Mean Tean Jean.

Audience Member: When Emma Frost has to tell you to stop messing around with people’s minds, you’ve got a problem. And so her doing that, just cemented what I already thought before which is that she’s a horrible person.

And that’s what horrible telepaths do. So remember, he’s been around telepaths his entire life. And none of them, except for Emma Frost, maybe the little thing about he should go into fashion design in the 80s, she said that but she didn’t out him. Everybody else has kept his secret but her.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, I mean if that is the intent, then it worked, my friend. But I think there are people who love Jean, which there are many. I think the fact that she is a divisive character is a testament to her being a complex character.

Justin Alba: I just want to say, I don’t love Teen Jean. You know what I’m saying. It’s like, there’s a big difference between, I’m sure Rachel at 26 and Rachel at 14. You know what I’m saying?

Nicole Herviou: Oh lord.

Justin Alba: And same with me now, whatever age I am, and 21 years old or 16-year-old Justin. You don’t want to hang out with him.

Nicole Herviou: It’s like I might still be emo, but my god.

Audience Member: A lot of teenagers are assholes a lot of the time.

Rachel Davis: Preach.

Justin Alba: That is true.

Rachel Davis: Preach.

Nicole Herviou: That’s a fact.

Justin Alba: That is true.

Nicole Herviou: They are not good people.

Justin Alba: That is true.

Nicole Herviou: Except our activist friends are.

Justin Alba: Well you know what this is reminding me of? And this is a sad thing, and what it really reminded me of is in Rutgers, there was a heterosexual roommate recorded on video, his roommate having sex with another man and he posted it somewhere and the guy committed suicide.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: Yep.

Justin Alba: And I really hope that that, didn’t mean to bring that up, that memory up in me. And I think, like you said, the fact that they’re not addressing that this can be a danger of this kind of outing.

Nicole Herviou: Right, that’s irresponsible.

Justin Alba: — Is kind of what bothered me.

Rachel Davis: I’m sure there are people, especially young people, who have done something like this. But when you frame it like that, that’s irresponsible and again, that’s getting into the issue of responsibility. Creators have a responsibility, like social issues, but I’m sorry, yeah. No, this is a responsibility and you did this wrong, this is not the way to do this.

Nicole Herviou: I mean, even if he came up to her later and was like, hey that wasn’t cool?

Rachel Davis: Yeah, where’s that, that’s a different framing.

Nicole Herviou: Like that made me upset or uncomfortable, like yeah, I appreciate you caring and trying to have a conversation with me, but the way you did it wasn’t cool.

Audience Member: Yeah, but adult Bobby is the one that called her on it.

Audience Member: That’s true, yeah.

Audience Member: In the following episode, because it was like wait for a second, this is why everybody hates you. I think the more pivotal moment is when adult Bobby is forced to come out, because younger Bobby and literally he’s like this is your fault, Jean. This is not the way he wanted it done.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, yeah.

Audience Member: Even though, people debate that all they think, oh okay they just made it for Marvel editorial. But I was made about it at first, but then I realized there had been all of these clues over the years, like him and Lorna never had sex, and he had this thing with Northstar that we couldn’t understand. And then the affair with Mystique where you know she shapeshifts.

Nicole Herviou: That’s fair —

Nicole Herviou: — Go ahead.

Justin Alba: No I was going to say, also during the Austin run, he has a conversation with Annie, a character that no one liked, who havoc had a relationship with and she goes you’re a homophobe, aren’t you? And I remember like, man, it’d be so interesting to make Iceman gay, because it would add this whole layer of shame that a lot of the people really do have.

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Marvel Publishing.

Rachel Davis: Yeah, right. And in the Iceman run, too, especially when they’re discussing Natasha Romanova and her death, there are scenes where they go back in time. Like back to the old 60s comics with him interacting and their planting that this was something that’s been there from the beginning. That’s excellent retconning, visually especially.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, no — I mean — obviously there are always clues there. I think that’s, again, it goes back to the comics code and how that was dealt with back in the day and all of these hints that people were dropping for years. And we can finally see them manifest, which is cool. I’m interested to see who else we see. Like as time goes on, come out.

Justin Alba: So explain a little more, what can we learn, what can people learn from Kittie Pride, who are allies?

Nicole Herviou: Well Kittie, again, I can’t stress enough that this is not about you?

Nicole Herviou: You’re an ally, like hush. And again, everything I’m saying, I’m regurgitating from people in the community that I’ve spoken to. And creators that I’ve spoken to who are very passionate about this, obviously. You kind of have to know when the hell to take a backseat. And when to not get upset when someone waits ’til the proper moment to come out to you?

Like it’s just not, oh lord. It’s just not about you so hard. But at the same time, she is very supportive and is there for him and her whole thing was I could’ve been there for you. Like that’s why she’s upset. And that’s not, it’s as valid a reason as you can have. Again, it’s not ill-conceived, but it is the only like, okay fine. Like anything that you could say, to me, is I just wanted to be there for you. But again, that’s kind of strokin’ your own ego.

Rachel Davis: It is, but I feel like she made some progress, especially when she gave Bobby’s parents the letter that he wrote to them that he was never able to send. So Bobby, unable to verbally come out to his parents at the time, wrote a letter explaining his side and where he came from and wanting their love still and because of that X life, he never had a chance to give it to them at the moment. So Kittie’s like listen, before you go, just read this.

Nicole Herviou: After he says like he sees them and is just like, blurts out I’m gay and it blows up. It’s very awful and sad and that’s when I had to read things I didn’t want to say out loud and it made me very upset. But after that whole argument, she’s like let me see if I can help this situation by giving you the letter he intended to give to you.

That these are all the thoughts he was trying to get out, but he’s off fighting a battle right now, he can’t do that. So let me help. And it actually does help.

Rachel Davis: It does. She didn’t give a speech, this wasn’t her stepping in to be like this is how I see it. She wasn’t inserting herself into it. This was Bobby and we read Bobby’s letter, this is Bobby talking to his parents. She just happened to put that there. That was good allyship.

Nicole Herviou: Right. And again, it is about framing, ’cause that could’ve gone horribly wrong.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Nicole Herviou: Like he could have been very upset that she did that, but the way it pans out and her intent is. But you have to, that’s the thing, is everyone’s different. That situation isn’t going to pan out like that every time.

So you need to know, okay, well just because this worked for this person, if my other best friend has a similar situation, I don’t know that I can do that every time. It’s about the person, but again, in that situation, she read it and she was right. Which doesn’t happen for her all the time? No one is perfect — but yeah — I thought that was a very, very strong choice on her part for sure.

Justin Alba: So I’m going to bring up again, Jean Grey, but I do want to talk about X-Men Red. Which I can say is honestly one of the best first issues I’ve read in a really, really long time. One of the things I like about it is my whole life, I always loved the kind of art that was steeped in politics, it was a metaphor for human rights, I loved all those kinds of things.

But for the first time this year, I was like, you know, I kind of need a break from all this Trump shit, and it’s just like he’s just on the news all the time. And even escaping, he’s still there and I just can’t get away from this orange Nero who’s just evil. So, you know, 2017 would have been a really shitty year for me if I didn’t know Jean Grey was coming back in December. So actually, literally not kidding.

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Marvel Publishing.

But I wanted to put up this panel, ’cause if you guys, she’s talking to Black Panther on the bottom, and this is the first issue of X-Men Red and he’s like, what do you want to do, you know. And she goes, I want to heal the world. And for me that was so impactful because I’m taking in all this art that’s commenting on what’s going on in the world now, I’m watching CNN, terrifyingly watching Fox once in a while to see the other perspective.

I don’t know what to do with it, I don’t know how to process this. And my childhood hero came in and said, let’s take it to the next level, let’s heal the world. And when I think of that, oops. No one saw that. When I think of that, I’m really bad at buttons, just so you know. But when I think about that, I think of, again myself, and I think of again, the fact that I had X-Men as a kid.

The fact that I could go home after being ridiculed, after having teachers call me the F-word, after having spitballs thrown at me, after having gum put on my back and that word on a piece of paper that I couldn’t take off all day. To have my mom have to help me get it off at night. If I didn’t have these comics to read, like I said, I don’t know where I would be.

And why we’re talking about Iceman and why we’re talking about America is because Iceman is actually canceled now. And it’s 11 great issues. One thing I want to talk about is it’s so important to support books like these, it’s so important to support Iceman. It’s so important to support America, it’s so important — to — I mean it’s important to obviously all of comics, but it’s important to support the characters who are making the Marvel Universe look more like our universe.

Nicole Herviou: Absolutely.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

Justin Alba: So yeah, I, kind of, want to, well I’m going to leave it at the Jean Grey thing, but I don’t know if you guys want to comment on that.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, I mean on that, just talking about that Iceman run, particularly. I recently wrote an article about all this. About everything we’re talking about. And I spoke to a lot of creators for it and I asked them what other runs or creators inspire you? And they all mentioned each other, which was beautiful. But Sina’s Iceman came up every single time.

So when I found out it was only 11 issues, I was like, that’s criminal. Because it had such an impact on, not only us as fans, but on the other creators. So if you do something that has that kind of ripple effect, and we get even more of these stories and then those stories beget even more of these stories, I mean, yeah it was only 11 issues and that sucks, but it made an impact that we might see two, three years down the line or maybe even 15, if a fan decides to step into a creator position. Like these things have an impact and that’s why it’s so important to support them because if we had 11 more issues, think of how much more it could have done.

Justin Alba: Think about how that impacted us in the room.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah.

Justin Alba: I mean we were almost all in tears reading, several times.

Nicole Herviou: I was very upset.

Rachel Davis: And I feel like as fans, we have a lot of power and influence, too. Like I mean, this run of Iceman ended a while ago and yet we’re still talking about it, we’re still reacting to it as an audience, we’re still coming together to discuss these issues. Like, we shouldn’t underestimate our own power, not just in the comics that we buy, but also who we’re talking about, who were promoting, which creators we’re meeting at cons. I was talking to Joy, hi Joy, earlier.

We were talking about what is so great about cons, is that finding people like us in this room and being able to have these discussions. That’s powerful and when you go to a table and talk to a creator, that does have a ripple effect. We matter, our opinions matter to these people, ’cause they’re us too.

Nicole Herviou: Absolutely.

Rachel Davis: So we can heal the world.

Justin Alba: I love that, and on that note, for me when I go to sleep at night, I still to this day think about some people that did some of this messed up stuff to me when I was younger and I’m still like, man. I have so much shame that I didn’t stick up for myself and turn around and punch that guy in the face or tell my mother. I was so embarrassed, I would make up lies about it to my father who was this athletic guy. He was president of his high school back in the day.

Jean Grey and the Phoenix: Recognizing Female Power

So I thought that they wouldn’t understand. I thought about how do I take the cue from Jean Grey, as I often do in my life, and how do I take this to the next level myself? And for me, which you guys saw already, it’s about forgiveness. Not even necessarily forgiveness of the people who I feel were my oppressors or had wronged me in these ways or made my life hell. It was forgiveness for myself and to allow myself to feel the shame that I felt that allowed me to, then, to forgive them. A part of me doesn’t feel like anyone deserves my forgiveness, don’t get me wrong, and I still struggle with it every day.

But I do feel that when I surrender to this word, that my life is better, the quality of my life is better, I can sleep easier and I’m, frankly, less afraid. So I really just wanted to end it there. And talk about that for a second, and again, we have so many conversations like these. So many podcasts like these, so many articles like these, we really hope that you guys check it out. On, so thank you so much for being here. Thank you so, so much for listening

Rachel Davis: Thank you.

Justin Alba: It really means a lot to us.

Justin Alba: Does anyone have any questions about Jean Grey, because I’m here for trivia. Just kidding. She’s here.

Rachel Davis: Hi.

Audience Member: Question about America Chavez.

Justin Alba: Oh.

Rachel Davis: Oh yes, please.

Audience Member: Actually, it’s kind of the reason I’m here.

Rachel Davis: Perfect.

Audience Member: So I started reading independent comics like Dykes to Watch Out For, and that’s where I’m from. Yes. Commercial comics are relatively new.

Justin Alba: We’re all obsessed with Dykes up here, too.

Rachel Davis: Yeah, hello.

Rachel Davis: Yes.

Audience Member: Is there anything about America, in the series or in the book that came out that you didn’t enjoy?

Rachel Davis: That’s a good question.

Nicole Herviou: Oh, that is a really good question.

Rachel Davis: Go for it.

Audience Member: It’s more of a two-part, ’cause I want to hear what you have to say. Because there’s something that concerns me about some of it and I want to hear your answers.

Rachel Davis: Sure.

Justin Alba: Oh, well I feel like you guys should go first. And mine’s kind of a hard hitter.

Nicole Herviou: I’m going to be honest with you, I read the first issue… today. I planned on reading the rest of the series because it captivated me, so I can honestly say in issue one, I did not. But I’d be fascinated to hear your opinion on it because obviously there’s something you’re asking about. So I want to hear it, I’m ready.

Audience Member: Obviously not a Latina, but I’ve spent most of my formative gay years hanging out with lesbians. So the genre is very, very familiar to me. I was curious, especially asking yourself, is there anything that came off as pastiche as opposed to purely authentic?

Rachel Davis: Actually I’m not Latina, I’m actually half Black, half Italian. It’s very, don’t worry. People come up to me speaking Spanish sometimes, and I have to tell them I took French in high school. Don’t worry, I’m very used to this.

Alex Russo: What Can a Bad Role Model Teach Kids?

Justin Alba: I am the Latina and people never speak Spanish to me, so. Yeah, it happens.

Rachel Davis: In terms of her racial portrayal, is that what you’re asking, about her racial identity?

Audience Member: Some things that were obviously, they’re coded language and it’s really great. It’s super interesting to read from coming in, but I was just wondering, especially because the author herself is a Latina.

Rachel Davis: Yes.

Audience Member: That it reflects that and there isn’t any sort of, there isn’t the publisher coming in like, oh can you amp this up a little bit more?

Rachel Davis: You do see that sometimes with certain characters.

Audience Member: I don’t know if there was that, it doesn’t seem like there is, but

Audience Member: Really?

Audience Member: Well, I’m trying to…

Justin Alba: I’m kind of on this guy’s side, yeah. I feel that way too.

Rachel Davis: I understand where you’re coming from, because I’ve noticed that, too. Like sometimes somebody’s identity can just be so to the forefront like, oh no, I’m not going to do this. Or having them be the strong, black female character as somebody who identifies as black as only seeing that character.

And there’s a beauty in being able to break down and there’s a strength in being able to recover from a breakdown that you don’t always see. There’s a flattening, I would say, at times with diverse characters. So I know the phenomenon that you’re talking about.

Audience Member: There’s like a language thing that’s happening that feels on the verge of being a little much?

Justin Alba: Heavyhanded is the word.

Audience Member: Heavyhanded, yeah. But at the same time, she’s also young, she’s in college, she’s sort of double coming out and learning about herself, and learning about the community and this is sort of how it is in that era or in that age spectrum?

Nicole Herviou: Sure.

Rachel Davis: I think there’s a point to that, it’s so hard with comics trying to rationalize that decision because one of the beauties about comics is it’s a collaborative art form. You have a writer, but you also have an editor. You also have an artist who’s also going to be coding the visual language. And how all of that comes into interplaying and the editing process, that’s always very hard to tell.

Yeah, maybe at times, and also you have to keep in mind that historically, there hasn’t been that perspective. So sometimes somebody goes hard, at least for me. Even when I notice it, it’s like, okay, I know historically, maybe there’s like a nine-year-old that needs to see this, maybe there’s a young person that does need this. That’s going to be okay for that person, I can handle a little hardhandedness. Not always, but yeah.

Audience Member: See, my thing is, I was a fan before the comic, and she had all of that kind of Latina with her. But it wasn’t that annoying. And I think that’s the difference, I mean, I’m for diversity, I want more queer characters, I want them of color, I want all of that.

But I really want the writers to actually be comic book fans. And that’s the difference between Iceman and America. Iceman is written by a person that’s a comic book fan. Gabbi Rivera just figured this stuff out. And so it makes a big difference in the presentation because she threw away most of the history and did kind of reverse, like why would she go to a university that’s in a different dimension? Why didn’t she go to Empire State? Like everybody else.

Rachel Davis: I see where you’re coming from and it is a very valid point that I never considered, but I think one of the great things about what Marvel is doing as an independent person, was that they brought in these other voices. I mean, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s run of Black Panther is, there are going to be children that are never going to grow up in a world that Black Panther didn’t exist and didn’t become this big thing.

So nobody else in this room had that experience, and that’s amazing. Roxane Gay with World of Wakanda, Marjorie Liu and her influence with X-Men. These were also people that don’t have that comics degree, but they changed the game and they brought in a perspective, you need both. You’re absolutely right, you need people that love the medium. To be quite frank, that’s some of my issues with Alan Moore as we were discussing yesterday. His lack of love for the medium, but —

— he writes it anyway.

Rachel Davis: Yes. And he does it so well, which is the really annoying part. But yeah, I think I see where you’re coming from, but I also think that was also one of Gabbi Rivera’s strengths. Is that, yeah, maybe the writing was a bit too hard, but she came in this from a novice and she took this seriously.

Audience Member: Yeah, you know and I couldn’t tell though. And that was the problem because I don’t feel like she did her homework. I really feel like she didn’t, because, in Young Avengers, she’s amazing. I mean and she actually becomes one of the leaders of the Ultimates, and I’m like, wait, where did that girl go?

Rachel Davis: You had your hand up?


Audience Member: Yeah, I’ve actually never read a comic book.

Rachel Davis: Oh, hi.

Audience Member: Hi, yeah.

Nicole Herviou: Welcome.

Audience Member: I’m curious, are these storylines still segregated, or are they throughout all comics now?

Rachel Davis: That’s interesting, the issue of continuity in comics is it’s own panel discussion, quite frankly.

Justin Alba: I would say it’s somewhat ubiquitous throughout all publishers now.

Rachel Davis: Especially the big two, I would argue.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, they’re working on it. Like indies are doing so much better at telling these stories and I can’t stress that enough. The number of creators in the community and in the business on that side of the business, it’s unbelievable and the diversity of stories is genius.

So I think that at any given point, you’re going to find between 5 and 10 characters in the community in each of the big two being written actively. But that’s like maybe like 10% of the characters they’re writing. So it’s a small, small chunk and not all of them are always being written, so it depends on what writers and artists want to pick up, what book. So like right now, I don’t think there is an Iceman book. Am I wrong?

Justin Alba: No.

Nicole Herviou: So yeah, like right now…

Audience Member: What about minor characters and situations even in the mainstream?

Justin Alba: Yes.

Nicole Herviou: Those always exist, yes.

Justin Alba: Well now Iceman isn’t, well he never left, but he was in X-Men Gold.

Nicole Herviou: Right, he doesn’t have his own book, but he’s still around.

Justin Alba: Yeah.

Audience Member: Yeah, I guess what I’m getting at is how can it be seen as cultural programming for the straight-identifying people?

Justin Alba: How can it be seen as that?

Audience Member: I’m guessing it needs to be just outside of just our community. Outside of the alliance, generalized. Oh, this is normalized.

Justin Alba: They’re definitely doing that because you know how I know is because the other community is fighting back rather hard.

Nicole Herviou: Very, very hard.

Justin Alba: So yeah, I mean in the last few years, there’s been YouTube channels and entire websites devoted to how comics are getting to SJW and they’re all being ruined and so, honestly having a comic and a character like Iceman, who’s been around since 1963. It’s a big deal. Rictor and Shatterstar, maybe it was time for that to happen but not as a big deal as a character like Iceman.

You know, when Northstar, as we showed you and I think it was 1992 when he came out, he was the only one. Right, in all of comics. So I think that by supporting comics like Iceman, like America, like comics that we’re talking about. That’s a really great way to, I mean I don’t want to say normalize, but to get people to understand what the queer experience is like.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, because it’s clearly a part of our lives.

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Somos Publishing.

Justin Alba: And can I just say, before we take another question, really quick, that La Borinqueña is really amazing.

Nicole Herviou: Yes.

Justin Alba: Yeah, it’s not a Marvel comic book, but it’s about a Puerto Rican superhero and it’s very similar to America?

Rachel Davis: Yes, and she’ll be, actually DC Comics, this is an independent comic and DC Comics is bringing Wonder Woman into her world too. Which is an excellent folding of independent comics and major publishers meeting. Which is phenomenal, yes.

Nicole Herviou: Yeah, super rad.

Justin Alba: I won’t be reading ’cause Jean Grey isn’t in it. Just kidding.

Rachel Davis: La Borinqueña.

Justin Alba: La Borinqueña, yeah.

Rachel Davis: Oh. Oh, we have one more hand, hey. What’s up?

Audience Member: I just want to speak to the normalization of it, because looking back, like Looking back at Northstar and his introduction, now we move a little bit further and how the X-Men actually mirrored the HIV crisis through the Legacy Virus.

Taking those beliefs and values and looking at that’s how a minority population is treated, we jump into the 2000s and we get even more of having interracial gay marriage, which that’s such like we hit the pinnacle. That’s fantastic, look at that, it’s happening. And then we get Iceman coming out and it just seems like the normalization’s going on this huge upward, I’m not really asking a question. I’m just talking.

Rachel Davis and Justin Alba: [in unison] No, it’s fine.

Rachel Davis: This is why we love comic so much, please, if I could give you a mic right now, I would.

Audience Member: It’s okay, but like we’ve got such a great ascension going on, speaking to the Marvel side as well, but even modern DC, who added a whole bunch of women of color and women on the queer map orientation.

It’s just wonderful to see it come out in such a wave, almost like the ripple effect is so real, because we started with this tiny props. And then you have with the Legacy Virus and how gay people were very on the outside circle, diseased, and all that kind of stuff. Anywhere in comics that happens and it’s just great to see that. And the X-Men are just a great mirror for that, ’cause I mean a stable minority, I appreciate them for it. I guess you know a little bit of X-Men trivia like, Karma is one of my favorites.

Justin Alba: Yeah, she’s one of my favorites, too.

Audience Member: That woman, like she’s got literally women of color with disability and she’s also gay, she’s technically a single mom, she cared for her sibling. And on top of all of it, like. The X-Men are just such a wonderful mirror for anybody who wants to just know about representation.

Rachel Davis: Well said.

Justin Alba: And representation of everything, too, I think.

Nicole Herviou: Everything, absolutely.

Rachel Davis: Yes.

Justin Alba: Yeah, I know that Chris Claremont didn’t intend for that, I mean I only know ’cause I asked him, but Rogue is a great character for people who have endured sexual abuse, she’s wonderful for that. I guess that’s someone to look up to in terms of how they deal with it. I will ask you this question though, were you 100% on board with Northstar’s marriage, because I had a couple issues and I wondered if you did too?

LGBT superheroes
LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Marvel Publishing.

Audience Member: I had to support the big picture.

Justin Alba: You support the picture.

Audience Member: I feel that.

Audience Member: ‘Cause I would also like want a lot more out of, exactly. Everyone forgets him. I would love more of him.

Justin Alba: Yeah, no I will just say really quick that the only thing I didn’t like about Northstar was that they made him too nice. He was always a dick before.

Audience Member: But that was the point?

Justin Alba: ‘Cause he’s getting married he’s nice, I don’t know if I would be nice.

Audience Member: He got aggressively nicer the outer he got. Because in Alpha Flight, when he was in the closet, he was an absolute jerk.

Rachel Davis: Oh.

Nicole Herviou: That’s actually a great point.

Justin Alba: That is a really good way, that’s a great interpretation.

Audience Member: Come out and wrote that book or whatever, he was getting a little nicer, he was still mean. But he wasn’t, and I think after him finding love, actually kind of transformed him.

Rachel Davis: Oh, that’s beautiful.

Audience Member: I have one, this happened years ago when they were showing I think the first X-Men movie at the Uptown, which is the large single-screen theater in DC. It was the moment where Bobby is talking to his parents and they’re like, have you tried not being a mutant? And you could hear every single gay person in the entire theater just like, yes.

Nicole Herviou: That is amazing.

Rachel Davis: Yeah.

LGBT superheroes
Marvel’s LGBT superheroes Awesome Con Panel reference; Courtesy of Marvel Publishing.

Justin Alba: And if you guys end up reading all of Iceman, they take that so much further and so much more real and it’s so amazing, so yeah.

Nicole Herviou: Oh god, again, I was quote-unquote, playing the father, like I was reading his lines. And I would have to, after everyone, just be like I’m sorry I got to go, it was just so upsetting and it’s stuff that my friends have heard. It’s that exact same thing and about him both being a mutant and being gay. Because both of those things are being addressed in this run and it’s a lot, but yeah. Yeah.

Rachel Davis: Yeah, if you want to talk to us after Awesome Con, please do. I mean, you guys are awesome.

Justin Alba: Oh yeah, and you know what hit us up on ComicsVerse, believe me, all three of us are on that site all the time, so. We’ll find you pretty quick.

Rachel Davis: Thanks, Awesome Con.

Justin Alba: But we always love discussing this stuff, so.

Nicole Herviou: Thanks, Awesome Con.

Justin Alba: Thank you so much for being at Awesome Con, it really means a lot to us.

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