Marvel writer Marjorie Liu on scripting a gay Canadian X-Man's wedding

First aired on Q (06/06/12)

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Cartoon characters have been coming out of the closet lately, with an openly gay character named Kevin Keller featured in Archie comics earlier this year, and DC comics recently revealing that the Green Lantern is gay. Marvel Comics, meanwhile, beat them all to the punch when they revealed that Northstar — a character who is part of the superhero team Alpha Flight — was gay (and Canadian!) back in 1992. Now, Marvel is publishing the first mainstream superhero gay marriage, as Northstar is set to wed his partner Kyle in an upcoming issue of Astonishing X-Men. Bestselling romance novelist Marjorie Liu is scripting the same-sex wedding storyline, and she spoke with Jian Ghomeshi about it on Q recently.

"This discussion has been ongoing for a long time, almost a year. It was part of a long-term plan on how to look at these X-Men characters, how to evolve them and progress their relationships," Liu said. "Characters are best evolved and revealed through their relationships, so in discussions of how to keep characters from becoming stagnant, we look at relationships between characters and what would make [them] more interesting to readers and to the writers as well."

But why introduce a same-sex wedding now, in particular? "Why not marriage? Why not discuss this now?" said Liu.

In addition to being gay, Northstar is a mutant (he's one of the X-Men), and his partner Kyle is a gay black man. The challenges they both face as "outsiders" is a key element of the storyline. "There's a marked lack of diversity in many forms of media, not just comics," said Liu. "Speaking personally as a person of colour, it's nice to see different faces and different kinds of relationships." But Liu doesn't want this to be a case of mere tokenism — it's important to her that the stories ring true. "Keeping it real is absolutely important," she said. "In the case of their relationship, we're well aware that this is a controversial topic and not everyone believes gay marriage should be allowed, and so we were very careful to reflect that in the book itself."

To Liu, stories about romance are stories about vulnerability. "If you think about it, it takes tremendous courage to reach that level of intimacy required to fall in love with someone," she said. "And so in writing romance...we're writing about that act of faith. And so I looked at Kyle and Northstar in a similar way."

Despite the politics surrounding this storyline, Liu did her best to simply focus on the relationship. "I was just concerned about their relationship and telling the best story I could," she said. "The rest falls away. If there's going to be controversy, that comes later. But in the moment when you're writing, you worry about the story." Backlash is the least of her worries.

As has been mentioned, it seems as though more and more comics have been embracing gay characters in recent years. Is there something about comics as a medium that makes it conducive to embracing LGBT characters? "Comics as a medium is conducive to embracing all kinds of diversity," said Liu.