Thor was replaced by a woman, stripped of his name and powers. Iron Man was replaced by teenage African American girl. Iceman is now gay. And let’s not forget how Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man’s love interest known for her dark red hair, has been cast as an African American in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming movie.
And now Wonder Woman is officially bisexual, according to the series’ current writer, Greg Rucka. The character, who’s celebrating its 75th year in print, was confirmed to be queer by Rucka in a recent interview with Comicosity.
“Are we saying Diana has been in love and had relationships with other women? As Nicola and I approach it, the answer is obviously yes,” said Rucka, who explained that the mythical island of Themyscira from which Wonder Woman hails has a “queer culture” by his standards.
“You’re supposed to be able — in a context where one can live happily, and part of what an individual needs for that happiness is to have a partner — to have a fulfilling, romantic and sexual relationship. And the only options are women.”
The character’s former writer, Gail Simone, echoed his sentiment on Twitter to state that she was surprised it was even being talked about.
Of course Wonder Woman is bi-. I am amazed this is still a discussion.
— GARGOYLE SIMONE (@GailSimone) September 28, 2016
Social media is rejoicing over the revelation, but one must ask whether forcing such elements of diversity into comic books lowers the impact of the struggles of anyone who live their whole lives struggling with the loneliness of never really fitting in.
Diverse characters should be developed from the ground-up like any other. Shoehorning “woke” elements into existing characters for the sake of performative wokeness minimizes what many people have gone through, and still do. Doesn’t it reduce what it means to be different?
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be diversity in comic books, or any other medium. I’m all for evolving comics, games, movies and TV shows to offer a wider range of stories and experiences from characters of diverse backgrounds. But if you’re going to do it, do it right. Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it, especially when it comes at the cost of erasing or modifying existing characters beyond recognition.
Some of the characters in this slate of socially progressive changes to the comic book scene are hamfisted, to say the least. The Norse god Thor had his name reverted to a “title,” his powers taken away from him and given to a relatively obscure character who wields his hammer Mjolnir in the name of modern feminism.
Not to be confused with the Bolo Yeung kung-fu movie, Ironheart replaces Iron Man. She is described as a 15-year old prodigy who’s even smarter than Tony Stark, taking his place in all the Iron Man comics. As for Stark himself, readers who followed his struggles with alcoholism and personal guilt will have to be content with seeing him live on in the Iron Man armor’s AI. It’s hardly a fitting end.
In the case of Wonder Woman’s retconned sexual preferences, there are so many other characters that could’ve taken her place and given proper attention. Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy come to mind. There has always been a romantic element in their friendship with one another. Ever since they first met in Batman: The Animated Series, the two anti-heroes have complemented each other better than many other partnerships in the DC Comics universe.
As a matter of fact, in a recent issue of DC’s Bombshells, the two finally make out and express their true feelings for each other. Unfortunately, their romance is an alternate universe comic, and not part of the official canon. In the main stories, they’re presented as polyamorous girlfriends “without the jealousy of monogamy,” according to DC.
Unlike so many other iconic romances in comics, it’s not quite the relationship it could be. It could very well be written off as just a phase the next time Harley gets back with the Joker.
Barring the use of existing characters, nothing is stopping the publisher from creating a brand new character who happens to be gay, lesbian or transgender. Establishing a proper backstory with motivation to drive his or her actions would go a long way towards queer representation than any hamfisted attempt to shoehorn such elements into an existing, well-established character.