Iceman (Bobby Drake), one of the five original X-Men characters, has been outed as gay in All-New X-Men #40 — written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Mahmud Asrar.
But…it’s not exactly the Iceman we’ve been reading about for decades, but rather his younger self — plucked from the past (shortly after the team formed) and brought to the current time. Sowhat does this mean for Bobby’s older self? To be determined…
Bobby has a long and complex history as one of the original X-Men since the comic’s debut in 1963. This profile will focus on personal events in Bobby’s life instead of superheroic events as a member of the x-Men, Champions, Defenders, X-Factor, and other teams. Please see Iceman’s Marvel entry for info like that.
The revelation in All New X-Men #40 that Drake, the second of Professor X’s recruits to the Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters, is gay was met with groundswell of reactions from readers who were both for and against the idea. Through events typical in comics the original X-Men team was some timee ago transported from their past into the present day of the Marvel Universe (just a few months before the post Secret Wars re-set in real world time). As you can imagine the team has dealt with a lot of “culture shock” coming from a time when the mutant community was seemingly much smaller and isolated and when the greater non mutant society was less accepting of homosexuality to a time in the future when the mutant population has relatively skyrocketed and marriage equality is a reality, as seen when Northstar and Kyle Jinadu married on a beautiful day in New York’s Central Park.
In this issue writer Brian Bendis wrote a scene in which a young Jean Grey takes young Bobby aside after Bobby makes an unwelcome and sexist comment about Ilyana and asks him why he acts this way when he’s gay. The two go back and forth: Jean being persistent and Bobby denying until a crack in his facade allows himself to accept the idea that being gay is okay. The conversation ends with them hugging and Bobby asking Jean if she thinks Angel is gay. Her answer is no, but Angel, like other X-Men, has an alt version which is gay.
Bendis rejected another option regarding Bobby’s sexuality when he has Bobby raise the possibility that he’s bisexual rather than “But I think you’re…full gay” as he wrote jean’s reply. One can argue that making the character bisexual could have been an easier idea for fans who thought the revelation came out of nowhere to accept. Drake has a long history of romantic involvement with women, dating back to his origin retroactively told in X-Men #47 (vol 1). when Bobby revealed his mutant power after he and former girlfriend Judy Harmon were attacked by bullies. Till then Bobby’s parents were the only other people who knew of his power. The incident landed him in protective custody in the jail house from which Professor X had sent Cyclops to rescue him; a plan that almost didn’t happen when a town lynch mob nearly foiled their escape attempt. Professor X used his mental powers to erase their knowledge of Bobby’s power from their memories, and the teen was off to the confines of the Westchester school. Before the original series’ cancelation, writer Roy Thomas also showed Bobby to have an interest in Lorna Dane who was more interested in having a relationship with Alex Summers (Havok).
How Bendis arrived at the idea to reveal the young Bobby Drake as gay involves looking at how various writers handled the character over decades and teasing out clues and reading between the lines. Certainly various writers such as Stan Lee and Roy Thomas portrayed Bobby as straight over the course of his first two decades of the character’s existence.Even Bobby’s origin story is predicated on Bobby protecting himself and girlfriend Judy Harmon after being threatened. Minor characters like Arnie Roth that were gay, if somewhat coded, had started to appear in the early 1980s, but the idea of outing an established major character as LGBT was unheard of.
In New Defenders #131 writers J M DeMatteis and Peter Gillis along with artist Alan Kupperberg created a scene with Bobby, Angel, and Beast in which Bobby jokes about being Beast’s boyfriend. Bobby’s joke stood out even if it was played for laughs which it seemed possible since with the very next issue now solo writer Gillis has Bobby flirting with new teammate Cloud. Gillis had other plans for Cloud as readers discovered when Cloud began to develop feelings for Moondragon. And that led to stress and guilt and so Cloud somehow transformed into a man to make falling in love with Moondragon easier. And Bobby freaked out and sort of acted like a closested gay any time he was around Cloud’s male presentation.
The series ended not long after and Bobby would be featured in Louise Simonson’s X-Factor where he would become involved with Opal Tanaka. Bobby goes from that series to Uncanny X-Men (June 1993) which was written by Scott Lobdell. Lobdell bombastically outed Northstar as he fought the alliterative Major Mapleleaf a little over a year before in Alpha Flight #106 (March 1992).
Starting with #301 Lobdell sets out to break up Bobby and Opal, ending their relationship in #305. Six issues later Bobby questions himself over the break up, comparing himself to other guys he knows who are married, in school, or happily single and scoring with women. Thanks to a plot device in issue #311, a comatose Emma Frost wakes up to find that her consciousness has been transferred to Bobby. She’s in control and uses his power in ways he’d never thought of before which doesn’t make Bobby happy and that leads up to Emma in her own style telling Bobby those ideas hadn’t occurred to him because of low self-esteem.
Several months later in Uncanny #319, Lobdell has Bobby take Rogue to visit his parents. Mr Drake is a very conservative Irish Catholic and Bobby’s mother is Jewish. The scene at the dinner table is tense, to say the least, and it explodes when Mr Drake says he wished Bobby would bring home a “normal girl”. Bobby replies: “That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? You’re just disgusted by anything that doesn’t fit in to your limited definition of normal. Sorry if I disappointed you, Dad” and then leaves with Rogue getting a dig in at Mr Drake. Yes, the dialog reads like something many parents might say when disappointed with their adult son’s choice of girlfriends (not that Bobby and Rogue were exactly a couple), but it also reads how an upset (conservative) parent might react to their gay son bringing home a boyfriend.
Bobby confronts Emma about helping him develop his powers to the degree that she had while her mind was controlling his body (X-Men #331). Emma refuses and makes a catty remark about Bobby using his power to pursue “your first love: Interior decorating”. Bobby’s reacts with an unexpected demo of how much his control has improved by lowering her blood’s temperature so she keels over in pain. A case could be made that his response overcompensating for the interior decorter comment if it at the truth or Bobby just might have been cruel because he hated Emma.
Whatever the case was, Lobdell wrote Iceman off the team and left as writer not longer after that. Iceman came back into prominence when Chuck Austen came on as writer. Austen wrote Iceman as a conceited jerk and made him the object of Northstar’s unrequited love, almost making Jean-Paul sympathetic if not for Austen’s stilted dialog and general cheesiness. Bobby almost gets involved with a new student until her husband attacks him and instead eventually ends up dating Nurse Annie who’s been Northstar’s sole confident regarding his crush.That would be a little twisted if Bobby had known about Jean-Paul being romantically interested. I vaguely recall the two of them being in a dire situation on a mission and wondering if Austen wasn’t saying something sexual through subtext. At some point I may have to search through my boxes for those issues and convince myself to re-read them, which seems a dreadful prospect.
Writer Marjorie Liu included Iceman on her roster during her run of Astonishing X-Men and wrote him being involved with Kitty Pryde. The writer also explored having Iceman being possessed by the Apocalypse Death Seed and quickly turning evil and threatening to end life on earth by creating a new ice age. Liu also brought back former love interests Opal Tanaka and Annie whom he turned on and later couldn’t face after being freed of the object’s influences. Liu’s take on Iceman was that the character was deeply repressed and we’ve all seen the many ways repressed and self loathing people can act in real life. The dialog in this sequence reads like things a self loathing just out of the closet person might say when looking back at their past behavior. In the days following the release of All New X-Men #40, Liu tweeted that she considered the character to be deep in the closet during her run and that the revelation of his sexuality explains so much about past behavior and conflicts.
Of course, none of the above is conclusive proof that Bobby is gay. Certainly not in the same way that Northstar shouting he’s gay on the cover of Alpha Flight #106 is. The coming out process for LGBT people differs in many ways and individuals often repress their sexuality and self awareness because they fear being ostracized by family, friends, and society, sometimes leading them to believe they have to have relationships with the opposite sex to fully pass as straight. It’s exactly how a family member lived their life until they realized how unhappy their life had been to that point.
We’ll have to learn how future writers will handle Iceman’s sexuality Iceman post Secret Wars as things unfold.
Iceman/ Bobby Drake first appeared in X-Men #1 (1963) and confirmed to be gay in All New X-Men #40.
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