Lately, mainstream comics publishers like DC and Marvel have made nice strides in growing the LGBTQ+ rep of their universes, although they nonetheless have a protracted solution to go. However getting right here was a gradual and gradual course of, with many notable landmarks — and a few admitted missteps — alongside the way in which. In Queer Superhero Historical past, we’ll take a look at queer characters in mainstream superhero comics, in (roughly) chronological order, to see how the panorama of LGBTQ+ rep within the style has modified over time. Right now: Mystique!
There’s a well-known line within the 2003 X-Males film, X2, during which Iceman’s mother and father uncover that their teenage son is a mutant. “Have you ever tried…not being a mutant?” Iceman’s mom asks him. It’s clearly meant to evoke its real-world equal: “Have you ever tried not being homosexual?” The mutant rights battle within the Marvel Universe was most likely most generally understood as a metaphor for civil rights and racism earlier than X2, however this mainstream, blockbuster film clearly — if delicately — tied it to LGBTQIA rights as nicely. Mutants, and the X-Males, are a metaphor for queerness (amongst different issues).
This wouldn’t have been information to longtime X-Males readers. Chris Claremont, the author of Uncanny X-Males from 1975 to 1991 and doubtless the only most necessary X-creator to at the present time, is thought for a lot of issues, however amongst these is, uhhh…shut relationships between feminine characters. Storm and Yukio, Kitty and Illyana (okay, Kitty and everybody)…and, in fact, Mystique and Future.
Mystique, AKA Raven Darkholme, really first appeared in Ms. Marvel #16 (April 1978) by Claremont and David Cockrum, although she rapidly grew to become a significant X-Males villain (and occasional ally). Anybody who solely is aware of Mystique through the films, the place she is usually a henchwoman for Magneto with little dialogue and fewer company, has been misled: Mystique henches for nobody. (She additionally normally…wears garments.)
Mystique’s biography is lengthy and concerned, however to hit a number of the highlights: nobody is aware of precisely how outdated she is, however she’s been round since a minimum of the 1800s. She has taken quite a lot of lovers and had quite a lot of kids. Her oldest son, Graydon Creed, was conceived with the villain Sabretooth; when Graydon turned out to not be a mutant, Mystique misplaced curiosity and deserted him, leaving him to develop as much as turn into an anti-mutant politician who was ultimately assassinated. Her subsequent son, Nightcrawler, was conceived with the mutant Azazel (revealed to be The Precise Satan in presumably probably the most hated X-Males story of all time); Mystique deserted this youngster as nicely. The one youngster she really bothered to elevate was Rogue, who she adopted at age 14, however, you recognize, raised to be evil and inducted into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and stuff. It wasn’t neglect, however it wasn’t nice, both. And naturally, there are a long time and a long time of schemes, machinations, double-crosses, and flat-out murders. Suffice it to say, Raven Darkholme isn’t a fantastic particular person.
However then there’s Future.
Future, whose actual identify is Irene Adler, was launched in Uncanny X-Males #141 (January 1981), by Claremont and John Byrne (one other pioneer in introducing queer characters to superhero universes). She is blind, with highly effective precognitive skills. She has additionally, like Mystique, been round since a minimum of the late 1800s. In reality, they met when Irene encountered a sure “consulting detective” across the flip of the century. (For these of you who’re placing two and two collectively: sure, which means within the Marvel universe, Sherlock Holmes was an actual particular person, and that actual particular person was Mystique.)
For years, Mystique and Future have been depicted as…shut. Whereas different members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants have been barely tolerated colleagues at greatest, Mystique cared deeply for Future, and the 2 ladies had clearly co-parented Rogue. When Future was killed in 1989 (sacrificing herself for Mystique), Mystique was devastated, and her descent into unrepentant villainy after Future’s dying is usually chalked as much as grief and the lack of Future’s stabilizing presence.
Comedian e-book relationships are typically intense, and as such, same-gender friendships are sometimes learn as homoerotic, normally unintentionally. At the very least, I don’t assume we’re presupposed to consider that Batman is desperately pining for Superman. However Claremont and his varied collaborators crafted Mystique and Future’s relationship with intent. In Marvel Fanfare #40 (October 1988), Mystique and Future are proven dancing, with Mystique in her male “Eric Raven” kind, and Mystique refers to Future as “my love.” In Uncanny X-Males #265 (August 1990), the villain Shadow King refers to Future as Mystique’s “leman,” an archaic time period for a lover, notably a bootleg one.
Why the coding? Effectively, keep in mind that the Comics Code forbade queer characters till 1989. Extra importantly, Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, allegedly had a “no gays within the Marvel Universe” coverage that stored the equally closely coded Northstar within the closet till 1991. DC was flouting the Code by the late ’80s, however there was no such freedom at Marvel. Claremont was left with hints and implications, figuring out most readers — and editors — would chalk it as much as simply “gals being friends.” His makes an attempt at extra overt references have been shot down, like when he tried to disclose that Mystique and Future have been Nightcrawler’s organic mother and father, with Mystique having taken a male kind for the conception.
However that was then. The Code is not any extra, Northstar is married, and generally the MCU even lets unnamed characters be queer onscreen for an entire 10 seconds. (Ahem.) And Mystique and Future lastly had the romantic subtext of their relationship turn into confirmed textual content in 2019, in Historical past of the Marvel Universe #2, once they shared a kiss.
On reflection, that appears…awfully late. Sure, Marvel lagged behind DC when it comes to queer rep again within the ’90s, however they’ve loads of queer characters now, together with extraordinarily in style ones like Hulking and Wiccan and America Chavez. Northstar obtained married in 2012. Iceman, of “Have you ever tried not being a mutant?” fame, got here out in 2015. Mystique and Future have been intentionally coded as lovers a decade earlier than Northstar got here out, so why did it take one other 28 years after that to verify what everybody already knew?
Perhaps it was as a result of it was so extensively understood that Mystique and Future have been in love that Marvel didn’t discover it essential to make it apparent. In spite of everything, a relationship can nonetheless be each queer and deeply dedicated with out bodily intimacy. Perhaps Marvel wished to take care of believable deniability for the sake of the cinematic Mystique, who tends to be depicted as a heterosexual male fantasy at the beginning. Or perhaps they only thought it didn’t matter since Future was useless. I don’t know.
Regardless of the purpose, Future was resurrected in 2021’s Inferno #1, and he or she and Mystique have been collectively ever since. (It was additionally revealed round that point that they have been married earlier than Future died.) On the time of this writing, Marvel appears to be hinting that November’s X-Males Blue: Origins #1 will even retcon Claremont’s authentic plans for Nightcrawler’s parentage into canon, with Future as his mom and Mystique as his organic father.
On the floor, Mystique embodies quite a lot of unfavourable tropes about queer characters, notably bisexual ones: she’s closely sexualized, she’s untrustworthy, she’s misleading. (“Queer, arguably nonbinary shapeshifter” is a cliche all by itself, although not essentially a unfavourable one; we coated two of them simply final month.) She’s additionally, frankly, a horrible particular person, stereotypes apart; abandoning 66% of your kids doesn’t samaritan make.
However she’s a nice villain. And her love story with Future is not only compelling and transferring; it’s, in some ways, probably the most iconically queer love story in all of comics. The various a long time of hiding and censorship and coded messages to readers who understood are all too actual, even at the moment. Apparently, they stand in marked distinction to Mystique herself, who might so simply conceal her mutant standing, however has been out and proud about it since her debut. However it isn’t a contradiction — or whether it is, it’s a contradiction that matches completely with the character: mutable, changeable, genderfluid; mom and monster, villain and ally, femme fatale and devoted lover. If the X-Males are a metaphor for queerness, nobody embodies that extra fully than Mystique, in all her issues.
So right here’s to you, Mystique and Future, and to a different 42 years collectively. Simply…perhaps don’t have any extra children, okay?