For a franchise that’s meant to be at the heart of the Marvel universe, Marvel’s editors seem to spend a lot of time promising that the X-Men aren’t in danger of permanently disappearing. However you can see where people get that idea from reading Extraordinary X-Men #1, the mutant race’s first chapter in the All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch. After surviving Secret Wars, the only thing in store for the X-Men appears to be further threats to their existence. No rest for the next step in human evolution, eh?
While Marvel cynics are likely to argue that this latest attempt to wipe out the mutant race is more to do with franchise movie rights than creative direction, the X-Men have been going through the proverbial ringer for quite a while now. Between the Scarlet Witch depowering millions of mutants on M-Day to the Death of Charles Xavier, the troubling return of the Phoenix and Cyclops becoming a terrorist revolutionary, the last ten years have seen mutants face more extinction threats than they’ve had hot dinners.
Moving forward to the present, the mutant race now find themselves at the peril of the Terrigen mists—a global gas cloud that bestows superpowers to those with the dormant Inhuman gene, as featured in All-New Inhumans. Although the Terrigen mists grant Inhumans powers, it is revealed in Extraordinary X-Men that the cloud is in fact poisoning and sterilising mutants as well as contributing to a condition dubbed ‘M-Pox’ by mankind, who are more terrified of mutants than ever. Sound familiar?
As fun as they are to read, I really love talking about comic books. From favourite heroes and classic storylines to the finer points of adaptation, talking about comics is a chance to scratch my literature analysis itch without losing the other person ten seconds into the conversation because – unlike contradictory French philosophy – most people have some kind of opinion on Thor. (Even if it’s just that he’s dreamy.)
We all have friends that we consider specialists on certain topics. These are generally the people that we turn to if we are struggling to understand a particular problem, from fixing iPhones to flustered tourists wailing in Mandarin. As became apparent following the recent announcement that a new character will be lifting Thor’s hammer and calling it her own, apparently my friends see me as their specialist in comic books and gender theory. Since news broke, I’ve found myself having to explain the news and its implications over and over again. It’s been a fun few weeks.
Given that there’s still a little bit of confusion (or transphobia, feel free to decide for yourself) regarding the matter I figured that a blog post explaining precisely what has been announced could save me some time and hopefully shed some light on exactly why Thor is now a woman but still called Thor (as opposed to She-Thor, Thorita or Betty.)
In the pilot episode of HBO’s newest show Looking, Jonathan Groff’s character Patrick struggles through one of the oldest sitcom tropes: the ill-fated first date. Traversing the typical subjects of past relationships, career struggles and the uncertainties of wine bar appetisers, Patrick’s incompatible companion soon decides to bail without even the good manners to split the bill evenly. (Not classy, cheapskates of the world.) However Looking gives this well-worn depiction of the single life a noticeable twist: both characters are gay men.
While claiming that non-heterosexual romance doesn’t prominently feature on modern television may sound laughable to modern audiences, it’s a reality many queer viewers have come to accept without even realising. LGBT representation in modern media is undeniably progressive in 2014; shows such as Glee, Modern Family and Brooklyn Nine-Nine all feature queer characters and narratives as part of the fabric of modern life. However, all these shows seem to promote inclusion with a catch: gay characters can be get screen time as long as they don’t act on their sexual desires.
Last month, the comic book community discovered the casting details for an upcoming big-budget superhero movie adaption. (I guess there must have been a Y in the day.) Following plans to relaunch the Fantastic Four movie franchise, FOX revealed that team member Johnny Storm would be portrayed by African-American actor Michael B. Jordan in a race-blind casting for the Human Torch. So far, so Hollywood.
However, the backlash against news of a Black Human Torch from certain sections of the fan community quickly proved to be so vicious that the catchphrase ‘FLAME ON!’ suddenly took on a whole new (somewhat racially dubious) meaning. This indignation from predominantly white, heterosexual, male fans both represents an intriguing point in the cultural evolution of comic books from fringe texts to mass media products and raises the question of the cultural ownership of geek culture; to whom exactly do superheroes belong?
While I have little personal experience to back up the theory, I sometimes get the impression that being a woman in the music industry might not be the easiest job in the world. For, despite recent scientific advances in the important areas of space exploration, nuclear power and vegan ‘bacon’, no one seems to have solved the secret to being a rock star and a girl at the same time. From having to deal with inevitably doomed romantic entanglements to being endlessly reminded by the media that you’re morbidly obese because you’re bigger than an XXS, writing a memorable hook for your latest song appears to be the least of most female musician’s problems.
On top of all that, women in music also seem to enjoy the convenient double standard of always being the fall guy for shitty situations. (Or fall girl, rather.) From Yoko to Miley, the world of music has taught us that if something’s gone tits up then it’s usually easiest to blame the person with the tits. (And definitely not the middle-aged man dressed like Beetlejuice that she’s grinding into.)
The following article discusses queer cinema and the context of gay pornography so, surprisingly, mentions dicks here and there. Just a heads up, Mum.
Last week I went to the Cineworld Glasgow to see I Want Your Love, a 2012 queer film following in the ‘porn with a story’ dynamic of films such as Shortbus. The decision of the cinema to screen such a film was rather surprising to me, given how pornography at large and gays enjoying themselves aren’t two of the most conventional themes in mainstream cinema, but luckily my brief optimism in the arts was crushed when I got to the ticket desk.
‘Hi could I have a ticket for I Want Your Love at 9:00 please?’ I figure this is a perfectly normal request at, of all places, a cinema.
The female cashier’s face drops into a grim expression at the mere mention of the movie. She slowly leans forward towards me, practically mounting the desk, and asks in a low voice that suggests I’ve asked her for a family ticket to Baby Murder 4 in 3D!, ‘Well do you know what the film’s about?’