Young Avengers Presents #3: The Boyfriends

Wiccan and his brother Speed are heading off to find their mother, the Scarlet Witch. (This series is pretty much an umbrella anthology, with each issue featuring a different Young Avengers member.) So Wiccan needs to say a temporary goodbye to his boyfriend Hulkling. I was curious to see how explicitly this would be handled, given the hoo-hah that’s arisen in the past from conservatives who don’t like gay in their stories of well-built men in tights. Let’s read along together.

Page three: Billy (Wiccan) has been explaining how he’s been having nightmares, which motivate his quest.

YAP 3 page 3

Will readers know what “BFs” or “P-town” means, or only those already “in the know”?

Speed shows up on page four and hurries them along. Then the two say goodbye on page five:

YAP 3 page 5

At this point I am yelling at the comic. You do TOO have to say it! It’s important to be explicit so your relationship can’t later be retconned or ignored or handwaved away! And to quit caving in to the frightened who think it’s just fine for Superman and Lois to be shown in the sack but a cute, hand-holding gay relationship is “shoving their sexuality in our faces”.

This was somewhat redeemed by the first panel on the next page.

YAP 3 page 6

So overall, touching, subtle, but unarguable. The rest of the issue wasn’t nearly so interesting to me, as the two boys tour various Marvel locales and find not much. Then there’s a battle and a lecture and ultimately, nothing changes.

23 Responses to “Young Avengers Presents #3: The Boyfriends”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Huh… put me down as someone who has no idea what P-Town means.

    Looks like an interesting comic though, I love those YA characters.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Provincetown, MA, on Cape Cod. As wikipedia says, “Sometimes called ‘P-town’, the town is known for its beaches, harbor, artists, tourist industry, and its reputation as a gay resort.”

  3. Pedro Tejeda Says:

    Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is openly gay and from the last few plays he’s done has been kind of critiqued for laying the gay references out like a bad will and grace episode.

    I think he’s trying to be restrained and trying to play off the relationship as pretty matter of fact.

    These books also really aren’t supposed to be “EVERYTHING CHANGES” but kind of character moments to showcase who these individuals are and what is going on with them since Heinberg hasn’t been around to do the second series.

    Marvel’s been pretty straight forward about showing the two boys are dating each other often enough. It’s not in every book but I think the writers have normalized their relationship enough for the most part it’s like most dating relationships between people.

    When hanging out with my friends and my wife I don’t feel the need to constantly clarify my sexual orientation and the fact that she is my wife. Why would two young gay boys who have been clearly dating, and explicitly so since the Heinberg series and their outing have to do that?

    In the end I feel what you are asking for would have serve the story less to what RAS was trying to do and undercut the quality of the story as serviceable character moments reflecting on the character’s link to a pre-existing Avenger.

    When they finally find a good creative team to write YA, we’ll see more Teddy and Billy moments. I doubt it will be them in bed together, they are still pretty much not legal yet.

  4. Johanna Says:

    I’m not asking to see them in bed together. I’m asking for the equivalent (to use your comparison) of having them say at least once “this is my wife”, not “this is a person who’s close to me who shares my house”. There’s been too much of the latter in superhero comics, which allows the willfully blind to stick their fingers in their ears (to badly mix metaphors).

    It also would have been nice to see them at least hug goodbye.

  5. Pedro Tejeda Says:

    I’m not sure how much of the YA stuff you have read, but their relationship even when written by Heinberg was pretty matter of fact.

    They were together and it was not treated as other or something out of the ordinary. These young lads are more scared of revealing their superhero nature to their parents than their sexuality because it’s not this idea they angst about. It’s something so fundamental to their being.

    As a straight male, I understand the feeling of my sexuality being something I don’t have to question in my interactions with people. It’s something that is so “just is” for me.

    It’s absolutely refreshing to see a gay character and a gay relationship treated in the same exact way.

    It’s hard in this case because since there are too few gay relationships in mainstream superhero comics that we kind of want them to be a little political and make a stand. I kind of liked the way Bloke was in X-Statix about it, but even then the writer pointed out how kind of hokey it can be to write a character that way. Not every human being wants to make every aspect of their personal lives a political statement, so why should nearly realistic characters do the same?

    I also see that both characters seem to be very nice young gay boys who are pretty much sexually naive. They care deeply about one another but on some level don’t have an overly intimate relationship because they aren’t possibly ready for it.

    I like to think that if they had been ongoing we would have seen the maturation of that relationship but they been kind of stuck in the background since the end of the initial run.

  6. Johanna Says:

    I think we’re pretty close to agreeing here. “Matter of fact” to me means using the word “boyfriend” (as he does in the last panel of the excerpt), not shying away from it or pussyfooting around it. I’m not sure what else you think I’m asking for – I want the relationship to be definite, not explicit.

  7. Johanna Says:

    And thanks very much for sharing your character explanation and background!

  8. Rivkah Says:

    Nice. And actually, rather refreshing: it’s hard to find that balance on GLBT subjects without either making it about being GLBT or looking the other way completely.

    However, a peck on the cheek would have been cute. :)

    I’ll probably be picking this up; the dialog and art are really appealing (a moi) as well.

  9. Johanna Says:

    I really hope we do see more of the Young Avengers in the future as a team.

  10. Dave Says:

    Johanna, I wonder if you are employing a double standard? You have been pretty outspoken about your dislike of female characters who are defined solely by their relationships (or lack thereof) with men. Now we have two fairly well-rounded teen characters whose sexuality is NOT their sole defining characteristic and you have a problem with it.

    I am among the demographic that many (liberal bloggers) assume would be offended by the mere existence of two such characters. I’ve not read this recent run of one-shots but I did read and enjoy the recent oversized hardcover collecting the YA run to date. I’m not offended by any of this because Heinberg did a nice job of portraying them as people, not stereotypes. They are not completely defined and ruled by their sexuality, which is a quality that’s pretty unappealing in both gays and straights and, frankly, not very interesting. The most flamboyant people (again, both gay and straight) I’ve known have tended to be pretty shallow.

    Let the flame war begin ;)

  11. Johanna Says:

    I don’t want them to be defined by their sexuality, I just want the writer to be clear about it, as he ended up being. (Thus, no problem — the post illustrates a journey, not a complaint.)

    Man, no wonder writers want to shy away from the topic — when you bring it up, lots of misreading starts!

  12. Steven R. Stahl Says:

    Very few, if any, reviewers seem to have noticed the errors in the story, which included placing the house Vision, Wanda, and the twins lived in in the wrong city–Cresskill, NJ, instead of Leonia, NJ–and had Master Pandemonium fail to mention his battle with Wanda in the SCARLET WITCH miniseries. Aguirre-Sacasa went straight from Byrne’s AWC #52 retcon to YAP #3.

    One might speculate about why the SW miniseries appearance was omitted–was it because Wanda remembered her twins, even as Master P. taunted her with their forms, incorporated into his body? That could have forced an alteration of the plot.

    It’s not a sin to approach a story with an agenda, but producing terrible stories while tending to the agenda can be criticized. I’ve seen fans on various boards struggle to figure out just how Wiccan and Speed can, in any way, be the two boys born to Wanda and Vizh in Englehart’s VISION & SCARLET WITCH #12. They can’t; in YOUNG AVENGERS #11, Heinberg wrote an incomprehensible sequence that defined Tommy and Billy as “lost souls” who were transfigured (?) by Wanda, etc., retconning both V & SW #12 and Byrne’s AWC #52 in the process. Even if one relies on soap opera-type rapid aging–it’s still impossible to reason how Heinberg’s twins can be connected to Wanda unless a third party who artificially aged them and altered them in other ways is brought in. It’s a sign of the contempt Marvel Editorial has for the fine points of writing that Brevoort, et al., see no need to fix the problems.


  13. Johanna Says:

    Sorry, no sympathy from me on that point. I don’t even understand the “problems” you’re describing, not having read those comics. I like the idea of the two boys as the lost children of the Scarlet Witch (and the Vision, let’s not forget the other parent). And whether the right NJ city was mentioned… well, I don’t really care. There are plenty of superhero comics out there that are driven by your kind of continuity concerns — I’ll take this one, with characters and a situation I enjoyed reading. You may call it “terrible” and made with “contempt” because it doesn’t fit with comics I’ve never seen, but I find that attitude frankly silly. I liked it, and I’m never going to read those other comics anyway. A comic written solely to address your confusing final paragraph, that would be terrible.

  14. Johanna Says:

    Sorry, that came out sounding harsher than I intended. I appreciate that you read comics for different reasons than I do… I think it was the final sentence, about the editor not acknowledging these problems, that set me off. He probably doesn’t think they are problems.

  15. Eugene Says:

    Johanna, I agreed with your points. I think it’s difficult to navigate between rocking the boat, and not rocking it so much, between having their sexual orientation be seen as a significant part of their self-concepts but also seen as not necessarily a definition of who they are. It’s a parallel to their super-hero identities — they’re Wiccan and Hulkling, and that’s a huge part of who they are, but they’re also Billy and Teddy.

    In response to the gentleman’s comment, “When hanging out with my friends and my wife I don’t feel the need to constantly clarify my sexual orientation and the fact that she is my wife,” I think it’s easy for you to downplay that aspect because we live in a society where heterosexuality screams at us. There is a range of what it means to be heterosexual — you have the luxury and privilege to not explain yourself. You can show PDA, or you don’t have to.

    When it comes to seeing LGBT characters in the mainstream media, it’s important that we do see characters that can say “I love you,” instead of “… You know, right? I don’t have to say it?” Are Billy and Wiccan really sheepish about saying the L-word? Or have they not been afforded a chance to see affection modeled for them because there are so few LGBT role models in society?

    Perhaps some day we can see their relationship evolve such that they will have an “on-page” panel kiss or openly say that they love each other. I do appreciate the last panel line: “I have the coolest boyfriend ever.” I agree — a hug or peck on the cheek would have been nice, too.

  16. sam Says:

    one thing I want to say is in this occasion teddy was in hulkling form and then went into billy form so if I were billy I don’t think that I would kiss hulkling form or myself

  17. Emily-Anne Says:

    I’m a little confused… I thought Teddy’s “mom” was killed by the super-skrull? I haven’t read Avengers presents yet… I’m getting it today, my dad’s picking it up. Does she like, super heal or something?

  18. D.A.K. Says:

    I just bought Young Avengers: Presents today, so I’m looking forward to this part in particular (not that I’m not loving the book so far, but I’m still a fan of these two)

    Love the art for them, as well. That style is really lovely to me.

  19. Kris Says:

    Sam, I can understand Billy not wanting to kiss Teddy when Teddy’s morphed to look like Billy…but as for Teddy in Hulkling form, what’s not to love ? He’s huge and hot. Unless Billy finds the green skin offputting, I suppose.

  20. A.J. Says:

    I’m incredibly late on this, I know. But personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the way that this is written. At this point in the story, it was never really established how long the two of them had been dating. If you remember new love, you get a little sheepish around such words as “love” and such actions as kissing. Some people go through that for a longer amount of time than most.

    I thought that this was cute and I don’t think anything was unclear. It could also be the authors easing the audience into the characters’ relationship rather than throwing it into their faces all at once. Some comic readers are not so liberal.

    Oh, and I’m a gay teen as well. So…yeah!

  21. Taryn A.Q. Says:

    may be it’s my fault I’m still not fully filled in on what has been happening in the marvel universe, but i was never realy interested in comics, most of the good ones i cant even find the first issue. I cant read them on the internet, becase my family doesnt have internet(im typing from a school computer-which those of you who know school computers, should know how restricting they are), and the nearest comic shop(30 min away) i don’t go to becase we have a half price books and were broke.
    this stinks
    love the YA
    hope i get to read them all soon

  22. Bailey Says:

    If you really want to see a gay couple shown in the sack check out the new 52 Batwoman
    Plus I love they way their relationship is so we’re together and we don’t have to be showy about because we are just together and nothing else matters. But I do think they’re missing a good bye kiss or at least a hug or something

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