From left to right: Sana Amanat, Judy Stephens, Tini Howard, Vita Ayala, Leah Williams

Celebrate Pride Month With Marvel’s Queer Comic Writers Vita Ayala, Tini Howard and Leah Williams

The three creators joined a roundtable interview on the 'Women of Marvel' podcast.
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‘Women of Marvel’, one of our favorite podcasts, released a special Pride Month episode featuring a roundtable of LGBTQ+ comic creators. The panel featured Vita Ayala (Age of X-Man: Prisoner X, Acts of Evil), Tini Howard (Thanos, Age of Conan: Belit), and Leah Williams (Gwenpool Strikes Back, X-Tremists) as they joined hosts Sana Amanat and Judy Stephens.

Together, the creators discussed the creative process of writing comics, as well as the LGBTQ+ comics characters that inspired them. Vita Ayala, who identifies as non-binary, says, “It took me a really long time to figure out who I was, because I didn’t have the language and I didn’t have the representation.” They discussed their connection to X-Men‘s genderfluid icon Mystique, saying:

“Mystique was really important to me — shapeshifters in general, but especially Mystique because here’s this character who’s designated female at birth, but once she hit her mutant awakening, that meant nothing. She could be anyone or anything almost, within reason, but she’s done a lot of really wacky stuff. And to me, that was really something that at the back of my mind, whenever I would read a Mystique thing — and I would literally read or watch anything with Mystique in it. I was like, ‘None of the boundaries that people put on themselves and other people apply to Mystique, and it’s okay?’ No one questions it because she’s a shapeshifter, so she can just do whatever she wants to do in terms of her own body and in terms of who she’s connecting with.”

Mystique has long been a favorite among LGBTQ+ comic fans, not only for her abilities and her queerness. Mystique’s shape-shifting acts as a powerful metaphor for the ways in which we bend and re-shape ourselves to fit into society. Despite being able to become anyone, Mystique is confident in herself and her identity. Despite being portrayed in several films, we have yet to get see a queer Mystique on the big screen.

Tini Howard talked about bringing a queer character and narrative into her Captain America run, saying

“…I got to make [Captain America] a freedom fighter again, like I got to make him actively save women and queer characters. … [I]n that issue, the character who has been rescued who is gay is like, ‘I don’t want to go back to Germany because it’s 1945.’ … [T]o have that character spit that back at Cap and expect the hero to say, ‘Oh, well I can’t do anything outside the rules. Sorry.’ It was really fun and refreshing and important as a queer writer to be able to have him say like, ‘No, I’m going to save you, and we’ll get you wherever you have to be to be safe.’ … [I]t was a really good experience to get to write the hero of heroes, like Captain freakin’ America, take the hand of a gay man and say, ‘Your life is worth saving.’”

She also discussed coming out as bisexual and the baggage that comes with stereotypes and assumptions about that label. Howard said, “[B]ecause of so much of the cultural dialogue around bisexuality, I just believed that if I identify as this, then I am unprofessional in some way, and now it’s amazing that I feel like ‘I’m here now with you fine people’ to quote Titanic, but I’m here representing myself professionally not in spite of my sexuality but because of it.”

Leah Williams discussed the impact that Marvel comics and fandom had on her, “Marvel is one of those properties that has kept me alive during the darkest points in my life, so the same sort of passion that was driving what I chose to write about before is what’s driving me writing comics now.” Williams also touched on the importance of representation, remarking “To deny someone their likeness is to make them feel monstrous, it is to push them into the shadows and tell them that they belong there, and that is not something we should be doing to marginalized communities.”

She elaborated by saying, “It denies them their reflection in a book that they’re going to for joy. So, that is why I absolutely believe in representation and firmly believe in the power that we have as creators and the responsibility we have to our readers.”

The entire interview is well worth listening to, and we can think of no better way to celebrate Pride Month than by supporting our favorite LGBTQ+ comic writers and artists.

(via Marvel, image: Marvel)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.