Over the past decade superheroes, and the comics which spawned them, have seen a resurgence in popularity and mainstream media attention. Not since the Golden Age of Comics back in the 40’s have comics been such a large part of our daily lives. The Avengers continues to dominate at the box office, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has gained widespread critical acclaim, and now tights clad women, and especially men, have made headlines across the nation.
If you haven’t heard by now, Northstar an openly homosexual Marvel superhero, is about to take part in the first ever same sex marriage ceremony in comic book history. After proposing to his long-time partner Kyle this week, Marvel has been shouting from the rooftops trying to stir up publicity for the wedding issue next month. There are save the date cards at local comic shops, and nearly every Marvel issue rolled out this month had an advert for the coming ceremony. This single issue is taking on the scope and grandeur Marvel normally saves for huge crossover events such as Civil War. In fact, the current Marvel crossover, Avengers vs. X-Men has not received nearly the press or advertising campaign as this one-off event.
While in the Golden Age we saw the birth of heroes such as Captain America, a hero who bravely donned the Stars and Stripes to fight the Nazi hordes, heroes such as Northstar tell a very different story. Whether or not you agree with the message that Marvel is looking to portray, it is impossible to deny that a group of men and women largely known for tights clad heroes and wanton use of onomatopoeia, are making an impact on our political landscape. For too long this was seen as a kid’s game or mindless entertainment, but stories like this show us that these people have something to say, and that they’re not afraid to take a stand.
Having grown up surrounded by superheroes, the idea of them promoting a political agenda is not new to me. X-Men has spent the better part of the past five decades dissecting the undercurrent of popular society rejecting those who are different. Whether through paralleling the struggles of the civil rights movement or helping children who combat schoolyard bullies, the X-Men have shown that they long for a world where they can peacefully co-exist with the humans who hate and fear them. Marvel, therefore, has always been about confronting socio-political issue, but what’s interesting about this latest headline is that now they’re in a place for more than just the comic enthusiast sub-culture to hear about it.
What I want to focus on today is the fact that our entertainment is not content to be shallow. Issues that need to be addressed are being brought forward. With the resurgence in popularity that both Marvel and DC have found, those issues are being confronted in ways most people would never have imagined. As crazy as it sounds, the Avengers might make more of a difference in your child’s worldview than any teacher or friend. These are characters that people look up to, and what they say carries more weight with each ticket and comic book we buy. Whether you want to high five comic writers for taking a stand, or punch them in the face for championing views you don’t agree with, it’s important to see they are addressing them. Entertainment is often a reflection of our world, a window into what our culture values or what it fears. As you read, watch, or listen, don’t just consume haphazardly…THINK!