When Marvel and Komen announced that they were partnering for a considerable marketing push this June, we felt very conflicted about it. On the one hand, it appeared that Komen was banking on something that the Big Two comic companies rarely like to face: that their product already reaches an audience interested in issues that concern women. On the other, it had only been four months since Komen had defunded Planned Parenthood for pretty shaky reasons that were very clearly politically motivated, experienced a mountain of backlash agains the decision, and refunded PP, shortly after which several high ranking executives of the charity resigned their posts.
Now that each variant cover and the one page ad that will run in every Marvel comic this month have been revealed, it turns out that this is, in fact, not about lady issues at all: the ad is specifically concerned with male breast cancer. Am I disappointed? Yeah, kinda. But am I glad that someone’s pointing out that this disease isn’t as gendered as our pink-is-for-girls society would have it? Yeah, that too.
Cancer, plainly, knows no gender, race, creed, or political leaning. But breast cancer is overwhelmingly associated with women, despite that fact that affects men as well. It’s good that somebody is taking the two heroic male leads of this summer’s record setting blockbuster and putting them in a “feminine coded” situation and saying that’s okay. It’s good that somebody’s showing two examples of the peak of heroic masculinity as having a care for each other’s health, that somebody’s pointing out that breast cancer happens to dudes too, and that those dudes shouldn’t be apprehensive to take care of their own health or admit to their disease for fear of being perceived as feminine.
I’m not thrilled that Komen is one of the somebody who’s saying it, but hey, if I completely discounted a campaign for good simply because of other practices it was associated with, well… I could look like Komen did this last February.
P.S. Let is also be said that I admire the clear attempts to push female characters to the covers of books where they do not always appear prominently, such as Sue Storm on the front of Fantastic Four or X-23 on the cover of Wolverine.