On the weekend, at the huge MCM London Comic Con at the ExCel Convention Centre, there was a slightly different screening. Different because this trailer screening featured something as yet pretty much unseen on the big screen: LGBT superheroes.
While I was tabling at the convention with my own LGBT superhero book, the director and stars of a special trailer, made to highlight the lack of LGBT diversity in modern superhero movies, despite the presence of characters who in the source material are LGBT, and say no more.
In a twist of fate, I later met one of the stars of the trailer, Kane Surry. We were, at the time, both completely unaware of the others projects.
“Would you like me to give you the pitch?” I ask the gentleman casually browsing the comics on my table.
“Sure, go on.”
“Well, it’s all about a team of LGBT superheroes…”
“No way, really? You won’t believe where I just came from.”
Where he’d come from was a special pre-screening of the trailer he and the cast and director were giving an eager audience at the MCM Comic Con, made in partnership with the event.
We discussed ideas of LGBT representation in superhero movies and comics, and it was wonderful to see that our thoughts on the subject seemed to be in sync: despite superhero movies becoming a permanent and majorly important fixture of the Hollywood landscape for over a decade now, we still have yet to see an on-screen LGBT superhero or main character.
A number of characters who have been in the movies are in fact LGBT in the comics. Characters like Mystique and Catwoman are portrayed as bisexual, but there’s no suggestion of that in any of the many movies in which they have appeared. And whilst the trailer does also point to Iceman, an important distinction which may be highlighted there is the character didn’t come out as canonically gay until after his last appearance in the movies. However, what is also of note, whilst openly queer director of the majority of the X-Men franchise, Bryan Singer, has included plenty of gay allegory scenes (the Iceman ‘have you tried not being a mutant?’ scene is a particular stand-out) he has never included an actual LGBT character in the movies, or at least presented them as such. In that franchise alone, there are a huge number of LGBT characters that the director and studio can chose from, but they never do.
Superhero movies aren’t the only part of Hollywood missing out on LGBT diversity, but many other parts of Hollywood and genres of film have been getting increasingly open, with many more featuring lead LGBT characters. Superhero movies, however, have been distinctly heteronormative.
Something that director Mike Buonaiuto and his team hope to change.
“This project has been completely created by volunteers. We hope that we can demonstrate to the studios that there is a huge audience for accurate LGBT portrayal on the big screen, and it won’t deter cinema-goers to buy tickets.”
Coming off a week where the hashtag #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend trended and received a great deal of media attention (made all the more interesting after a certain reveal occurred), it’s hard to argue with them.
And to those detractors that are sure to come out of the woodwork to hit the comments sections stating that as heterosexual viewers they couldn’t POSSIBLY relate to an openly LGBT superhero or plot, why not? We the LGBT audience have had to relate to heterosexual characters for decades. We even have to see characters that do openly represent us erased or turned into straight characters, so isn’t it time we had some on the big screen too?
The trailer, from Kane Surry, George Longworth, Conor Boru, Mike Buonaiuto, Lauren Kay-Lambert, Leighton Cox and the rest of the Shape History team can be viewed below, and you can add your voice here.
Joe Glass is a Bleeding Cool contributor and comics creator. He’s the writer and creator of LGBT superhero series, The Pride, which is available on its own online store and on Comixology. He is also the co-writer of a horror comedy set in South Wales called Stiffs, which is available here and on Comixology.