In Marvel Comics’ All New X-Men #17, the teenage Iceman character scored his first gay kiss. And it only took 54 years!
It’s been a romantic queer moment that fans of the mutant hero have been waiting for since he came out two year ago in Uncanny X-Men #600. Iceman and his goofy wit have been kicking around comics ever since he debuted in X-Men #1 back in 1963. In fact, due to a time-travel storyline (there are actually two Icemen running around the Marvel universe at the moment), it is this very same 1960s-era young Iceman who has finally broken barriers by locking lips with a young Inhuman named Romeo.
While current adult Iceman has yet to taken on a gay love life — something that will hopefully change in his first-ever ongoing solo series, coming this spring — teenage Iceman is following his heart and running away with his first boyfriend.
The Advocate sat down with All New X-Men writer Dennis Hopeless to discuss the triumphant kiss and his feelings on writing a queer romance within a big X-Men multi-issue crossover event.
The Advocate: You inherited the All New X-Men title right after Iceman came out to his fellow mutants. Did you feel pressure to continue to explore his new status as a gay character?
Hopeless: I didn’t feel any pressure, no, but it’s not as though I needed a push. My primary overarching theme for the series was always escaping one’s destiny.
The teenage X-Men traveled forward in time and were wildly disappointed by their adult selves. In most cases that disappointment was very rooted in supe heroics. Cyclops had become a morally questionable revolutionary. Jean Grey merged with a genocidal intergalactic firebird. Beast was now giant furry blue mad-scientist monster. But in Bobby’s case, adult Iceman is a grown man who has not yet accepted his homosexuality. His closest friends don’t even know.
Adult Bobby never faced his biggest fear. He never stopped hiding. He never unburdened himself of this huge lie or question or whatever. Teenage Bobby sees this sad grown-up version of himself, and it terrifies him. I write comics for the character drama, and that situation is rife with it. I couldn’t wait to explore that story.
Some gay geeks might have complained that Bobby came out only to have his queerness be placed on the back burner for much of this current All New X-Men title, but in fact, your run has taken a more slow- burn approach followed by a big storyline reveal. Was this your goal?
Absolutely. We’re talking about a character who never came out at all the first time around and then was (accidentally) forcibly outed by a (telepath) friend (Jean Grey).
Bobby is obviously intensely private about his sexuality. He doesn’t want to repress like his older self, but none of this was going to be easy for him. Diving in head first wouldn’t have made much sense, so our approach was to make clear from issue number 1 that Bobby was wrestling with things but let the story build slowly and organically.
We show pretty early on that he doesn’t know how to talk to his friends about any of this. We give hints that he’s terrible at flirting and doesn’t know how to approach guys he wants to meet. Then we let Idie and Evan sort of notice and decide to help.
My hope is that by the time we got to the big Bobby-Romeo storyline, we had earned it. Romance is always more rewarding when you build and earn it.
Devoted X-Men readers have experienced many X-Universe crossovers over the years, where the main plot drives each tie-in rather than an individual character’s own story arc. Why did you decide to focus issue number 17 on Bobby and Romeo's romance within the framework of a larger crossover event like Inhumans vs. X-Men?
Fortunately, I was in the room when Inhumans vs. X-Men was conceived so I knew it was coming from the beginning. I knew I wanted a star-crossed lovers war story to be our in and had plenty of time to set it up. It’s also the case that I just prefer writing character-centric stories. A giant mutant versus inhuman war isn’t all that relatable, but I think most people can relate to family drama complicating young love. This story just made the most sense to us and I’m thrilled with how it came out.
With Iceman being a mutant and Romeo being an Inhuman was this an intentional reference to Romeo & Juliet?
Ha. Yes, it’s very much intentional. Full disclosure, Romeo was never meant to be his actual name. It started as the silly shorthand (editor) Daniel (Ketchum) and I used when talking about Bobby’s boyfriend.
Like I said, we had this story loosely plotted from the jump so we were referencing Romeo for months. It was always my intention to give him a less on-the-nose name. It just never happened for whatever reason, and I fell in love with the comic bookiness of calling him Romeo. I’m sure it rubs some fans the wrong way, but at this point I can’t imagine calling him anything else. Romeo is Romeo and Bobby gets a big kick out of how ridiculous that sounds.
It was thrilling to see a full-page spread of Bobby and Romeo's first kiss. Was there any fear or trepidation in so prominently showcasing a gay kiss?
I honestly didn’t think anything of it. In my rough draft they kissed in the opening scene. This splash was about Bobby finding Romeo. Editor Daniel Ketchum pointed out that this was a big moment for Marvel and we should save the first kiss for the final scene splash. Daniel is a great story editor and was obviously right about that, the placement of that kiss makes the issue. But no, no trepidation. We’ve all just been waiting it to get here.
Seeing Bobby and Romeo ice-speed off into the sunset was very rewarding. Can you tease us with what's to come for the star-crossed lovers?
It’s all laser tag, water parks, and gorgeous mountain runs from here on out, right? Yeah, no, probably not. Superheroes rarely get happily ever after. They also don’t really age, eat whatever they want, and always look amazing. So, you know, fair trade -off. I’ll just say, “Welcome to the X-Men, Romeo, hope you survive the experience.”