Marvel has received a great deal of perfectly justified criticism over the years for focusing almost exclusively on white male heroes. The only early exception was Tony Stark buddy and sidekick Col. James Rhodes, and even he was played by multiple actors in succession which naturally took away from his impact. But for the most part it’s been a bunch of white guys saving the day and pretty ladies watching them do it, so it’s understandable that the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” has taken some heat.
That said, things have gotten distinctly better in some of the more recent Marvel projects. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has become a more prominent character (even if they won’t give her her own movie); Anthony Mackie’s Falcon has also emerged with bigger roles; Krysten Ritter absolutely dominated her own Jessica Jones show on Netflix, and helped to introduce Mike Colter’s Luke Cage, who has his own upcoming series; Elodie Yung’s Elektra just recently joined Daredevil (to rave reviews); and Chadwick Boseman is set not only to appear as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, but to star in his own solo film (which will be directed by Ryan Coogler).
To put it bluntly, Marvel is suddenly embracing black actors and women. That’s terrific, and in all seriousness the studio deserves some credit for addressing its issue. However, full inclusion isn’t just about race and gender. At some point it would also be tremendously refreshing to see Marvel present an openly gay superhero in a major cinematic project – and believe it or not, the comics have plenty of LGBT characters!
Actually, in fairness, we did see an open lesbian relationship in the Jessica Jones, though it didn’t concern any superheroes. For that important step, the three heroes below could easily be worked into gay relationships in the MCU.
If you’re a fan of popular fiction, you probably know the name Irene Adler. That’s because she’s a popular character in various Sherlock Holmes adaptations, having been played by Rachel McAdams in the Robert Downey, Jr. films and Lara Pulver in the Benedict Cumberbatch show (remember this maddening scene?). Well, whether by coincidence or due to Marvel’s willingness to borrow characters from other fictions, Irene Adler is also a character from X-Men comics.
Specifically, she’s a partner in combat and in life to Mystique, and goes by the name Destiny. In fact, in addition to breaking off to form their own mutant brotherhood, Mystique and Destiny even adopt a child together (that child being Rogue). It may be about as fully developed a same-sex relationship as you can find with major character involvement in all of Marvel. It’s still very possible for Marvel to make this happen on screen. Jennifer Lawrence has helped to make the Mystique character very popular, and we have yet to see an Adler/Destiny character in the X-Men films. The relationship almost certainly won’t materialize in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse (we’d have heard the rumors by now), but if the franchise keeps going this could be one of the best opportunities for an LGBT relationship. The only thing is, it would be up to 20th Century Fox rather than Marvel Studios.
Elektra Though she’s primarily known as a badass antihero and off-and-on Daredevil love interest, Elektra actually has some history connecting her to the LGBT community. At times in the Marvel comics she was in a lesbian relationship with Vanessa Fisk, the ex-wife of Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin, and a character we actually saw in the first season of Daredevil (played by Ayelet Zurer). Leading up to that season Elektra was arguably the most visible of any Daredevil-related character in the public eye. The Jennifer Garner film about the character, though poorly received, was only released 11 years ago.
Additionally, Elektra has featured in a popular arcade slot reel online, which is typically the territory of more active superheroes (many of whom serve as thematic backdrops for such games). Gala Bingo’s casino page describes the game as being faithful to the original comics, and one can get a pretty clear look at all the classic elements of this character including red outfits, ninja weapons, and all by playing the title. Despite all this, however, Elektra didn’t appear in season one of Daredevil, when Vanessa was around.
She was brought in for the recently debuted second season (played by Elodie Yung), and thus may have missed the boat on a potential same-sex love interest. However, we know that there’s precedent in the Marvel comics for such a relationship. So if Marvel does decide to embrace the LGBT community through a popular hero, she may yet be a candidate.
For a character who hasn’t had a signature role, Colossus has kind of been all over the place in modern Marvel entertainment. Like Mystique, he’s connected to the 20th Century Fox branch of Marvel cinema, and specifically the X-Men films, most recently appearing in an amusing supporting role in Deadpool.
Colossus has also been a mainstay in numerous modern Marvel video games, being featured as a starting hero in the Marvel Heroes MMORPG in addition to appearing in numerous app games. In short, he’s a very familiar character to Marvel fans, perhaps as much or more so than Elektra or Mystique. But not too many fans who haven’t delved into the comics are aware that Colossus is actually supposed to be gay. Specifically, he’s known to have had a romantic connection with the ultra-fast mutant Northstar, though we have yet to see the latter in film. As with Mystique and Destiny, the opportunity is there for 20th Century Fox.
Introducing Northstar would pave an easy path for the first LGBT relationship featuring superheroes on screen. Here’s hoping Marvel’s recent progress toward a more inclusive manner of storytelling ultimately expands to include one or all of these suggestions!