For the past month, one of the topics that has been getting attention has been Marvel Team-Up #24. Specifically the death of Freedom Ring.
The catch is that the character was one of Marvel’s very few gay characters and that fact, combined with the manner of his portrayal and death, has been leading to some very piercing questions.
Over at the Image Comics message board (I’m cheating a little to link this here), Robert Kirkman explains the motivation behind killing Freedom Ring.
Freedom Ring was always planned as an inexperienced hero who would get beaten up constantly and probably die. I wanted to comment on the fact that most superheroes get thier powers and are okay at it… and that’s not how life works.
During working on the book, I was also noticing that most gay characters… are all about being gay. Straight characters are well-rounded characters who like chicks. So I wanted to do a well-rounded character who just happened to like dudes.
Then I decided to combine the two ideas.
In hindsight, yeah, killing a gay character is no good when there are so few of them… but I really had only the best of intentions in mind.
Steven, at the Roar of Comics, adds his own perspective to Kirkman’s mistake in his blog post, Neutral:
What I started thinking about was how Kirkman could have told the first idea without getting into trouble. (The idea of a superhero actually suffering and sacrificing to do his job, obviously, interests me.) And I realized the only way he could have done it is if Freedom Ring was a straight white male.
If Freedom Ring was black, or Hispanic, or Asian, or if he were a she, then Kirkman might have been accused (rightly accused) of implying that Freedom Ring was incompetent because he was black, because she was a woman.
But no one would reasonably say he would have died because he was male, or white, or straight. For storytelling purposes, a straight white male is neutral, contains no value that informs or overwhelms other, subtler personality traits.
Both Kirkman’s message board post and Steven’s blog entry add new facets to the entire overall discussion. It’s definitely good reading.