Sina Grace on Writing Iceman at Marvel: “I Was Surrounded by Cowards”

As has been documented in various Bleeding Cool articles throughout the course of the book’s two series, one of my personal favorite X-Men comics of the past few years was Iceman, written by Sina Grace, and drawn it its first volume by Alessandro Vitti and Robert Gill and in its second and concluding one-shot by Nathan Stockman. The book breathed new life into a character who it could be argued hadn’t really received significant character development since his days in X-Factor in the 1980s. It’s true that it was “The Great One” Brian Bendis who wrote Iceman outed by Jean Grey’s invasive telepathy, but it was Grace who wrote adult Iceman coming to grips with this and learning to be himself and love himself, alongside, of course, lots of mutant action and drama. The book ended too soon, when it was really just getting going, IMHO.

Sina Grace on Writing Iceman at Marvel: "I Was Surrounded by Cowards"

With all of that in mind, it’s sad but not surprising to read Sina Grace’s comments, posted to his Tumblr, about his time at Marvel writing the book and what he says was a lack of support from Marvel while he dealt with online bullying as well as a lack of support and promotion for Iceman itself.

Grace writes:

Between Iceman’s cancellation and its subsequent revival, Marvel reached out and said they noticed threatening behavior on my Twitter account (only after asking me to send proof of all the nasty shit popping up online). An editor called, these conversations always happen over the phone, offering to provide “tips and tricks” to deal with the cyber bullying. I cut him off. All he was going to do was tell me how to fend for myself. I needed Marvel to stand by me with more work opportunities to show the trolls that I was more than a diversity hire. “We’ll keep you in mind.” I got so tired of that sentence.

Even after a year of the new editor-in-chief saying I was talented and needed to be on a book that wasn’t “the gay character,” the only assignment I got outside of Iceman was six pages along, about a version of Wolverine where he had diamond claws. Fabulous, yes. Heterosexual, yes. Still kind of the gay character, though.

We as creators are strongly encouraged to build a platform on social media and use it to promote work-for-hire projects owned by massive corporations… but when the going gets tough, these dudes get going real quick.

Grace goes on to talk about Iceman’s success outside of the direct market with a new audience reading the book in trades, despite his editor telling him that Iceman would be “DOA if too gay” and that most solo X-books don’t last a year anyway. He also mentions Marvel’s initial willingness under Axel Alonso to give the book a chance to succeed in this format, which eventually led to another volume of the book after the first one’s cancellation. However, Grace says things changed when Alonso was replaced by C.B. Cebulski as Marvel Editor-in-Chief.

To Axel’s credit, he was warm to the idea and even gave me an extra month, but when he left Marvel that idea got brushed away. Of course I was right. The first two volumes sold like gangbusters thanks to word-of-mouth, librarian love, and support from retailers big and small.

When the series returned, no one at Marvel asked me: “What do you think landed with readers?” Nor did they ask the question that Axel did: “What matters to your community?” So when I wrote what I thought the fans would be into, a story about a man learning to be a better ally in the war against hate, editorial totally missed its value.

Grace describes the final straw for him at Marvel was his creation of the new character Darkveil (sometimes referred to as Shade) and what Grace describes as, once again, a lack of support and promotion.

All of the weird drama I put up with crystallized when I created a drag queen mutant, first called Shade, now called Darkveil. I told my editor that Shade would be a big deal for X-Fans, and asked how we should promote her. He said: “leave it up to the reader’s interpretation.” Everyone at Marvel shrugged off two years of goodwill and acted like I’d coordinated behind their backs on an announcement that made headlines. Beyond mentioning on Instagram the queens who inspired the character, I didn’t coordinate shit. Of course, their head publicist can’t admit that my quotes were pre-approved from an unreleased interview. At this point, I stopped believing that there’d be any more work for me. There were so many shady moves on their end that I’m still having trouble putting into language, but it all aligned with an experience I had in retail where a corrupt manager kept lying and moving the goal posts in order to keep me selling in a department I didn’t want to work in. I offered to give Darkveil a proper character bio, and I walked away.

Grace also says that he doesn’t view his treatment as discrimination, but rather “general ineptness,” and concludes:

It is my belief that if we are telling stories about heroes doing the right thing in the face of adversity, wouldn’t the hope be to embody those ideals as individuals? Instead of feeling like I worked with some of the most inspiring and brave people in comics, I was surrounded by cowards.

You can read Grace’s full post on Tumblr. Grace has since moved on to write Jughead: Time Police at Archie and Go Go Power Rangers at BOOM!. And based on this post, we probably shouldn’t expect an Iceman revival at Marvel anytime soon.

We reached out to Marvel for comment on this story, but have not heard back at this time. If they do respond, we’ll post an update.

About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.