Recently in the pages of Avengers Academy #23, Striker (one of the main characters in the series) revealed that he was gay, despite spending a majority of the series heavily flirting with the female characters. It was a bold move and a great one overall in turning the Marvel Universe into a more culturally relevant world, addressing some of the criticism lobbed in Marvel’s direction recently for overall lack of diversity.
Of course, not everyone feels that way. In fact, Jerry Smith of Erlanger, KY, wrote to the book’s letter section “After School Special”, expressing a general distaste in the move and using quite colorful analogies in the process. As Smith writes,
I don’t care if anyone practices an alternate lifestyle. However, I don’t want to see those lifestyles portrayed among minors in mainstream super hero comics. In books where people lift tanks, wear capes and shoot heat beams out of their eyes, why would you insert alternate sexual lifestyles? It’s like giving Little Oprhan Annie AIDS.
He notes that he finds it upsetting that true minorities not represented in comics include conservatives, Christians, businessmen (or at least those not being presented “as a villain/racist/homophobe/monster”). Smith goes on to explain that the discussion of sexuality doesn’t belong in an all-ages comic (Avengers Academy is rated T for teen), and suggests that Gage “volunteer for a hotline” or “donate money to an organization” which helps kids needing assistance or comfort while coming out. Smith ultimately notes that he finds the infusion of politics in comic offensive, adding “there is an appropriate place for alternate sexuality or any adult storyline: independent, creator-owned or adult-rated comics. Not mainstream super hero books.”
Greeted with a letter like that, Christos Gage took the entire letter section to write a thoughtful and detailed response on the matter. In his response, Gage writes,
I think the issue is whether one considers sexual orientation to be a political/lifestyle choice or an inherent aspect of who someone is, like race or ethnicity. I subscribe to the latter viewpoint. What I find interesting is that the dividing line on this issue seems to be not politics but age, with younger Republicans like Meghan McCain saying in much great numbers that they consider homosexuality not to be a choice (as do some older ones, like Dick Cheney). I know of at least one avid reader of Avengers Academy (Hi, Paul!) who is a diehard Tea Party Republican and loved issue #23 as much as all the others, so clearly there is some diversity of opinion even with conservative circles on this matter. I say all this not because I expect to change your mind, but hopefully to explain why I don’t consider the Striker storyline to be pushing a political agenda.[…]I say the above not to discount your feelings – I couldn’t agree more that no one should buy a comic they don’t like – but rather to clarify why I made the storytelling decisions I did and why I feel Marvel (and, really, comics in general) offers something for everyone, regardless of age, race or political affiliation.
We have nothing but respect towards Gage for not only addressing the letter, but doing it in a respectful manner. Of course, this isn’t the first time Gage has spoken in defense of the reveal, but it is nice to see Gage engaging the readership, even those who have less than nice things to say.
For the full letter and response, please check after the cut.