Kissing Cousins

Spoiler warning: This post contains text and image spoilers for this week’s X-Factor #45 and this month’s Agents of Atlas #6.

Here’s a recent image from Agents of Atlas, Jeff Parker’s excellent series about a revived team of unconventional ’40s and ’50s superheroes:


The fella is Namor, ruler of Atlantis, and the lady is Namora. Namor and Namora. Odd coincidence, you might be thinking, but no, she’s actually named after him, because she’s his cousin. Well, they’re royalty; what are you going to do?

Namora’s sexual infatuation with her cousin goes back to the character’s early days, and Parker has wisely opted to tweak the status quo so that Namora is only Namor’s adopted cousin, so it’s not really incest. It just looks a lot like it.

I only mention all of this because the above kiss between cousins came out a couple of weeks ago, which means it beat this kiss in X-Factor #45 to the shelves:


These fellas are Shatterstar and Rictor, members of the extended X-Men family (not a real family this time, so it’s all right). Paralleling Namor and Namora, Shatterstar was long ago shown to be smitten with Rictor, but this is the first time Rictor has been shown on-panel to reciprocate his feelings. Of course, this was a cliffhanger moment, so it could all be undone next issue. Mephisto did it.

What’s extraordinary about this moment is that it appears to be the first male-male romantic kiss ever shown in a Marvel superhero comic. Marvel has had other gay couples - Wiccan and Hulkling; and versions of Northstar and Colossus; and… I think that might be it, actually - but neither of these couples ever kiss, even in situations where straight couples might (like, when one of the pair was about to die, which gay people do a lot in the Marvel Universe).

So here we are in 2009, and Marvel has finally decided that it’s all right to show one man kissing another man on the lips in a romantic context. I might be applauding the moment if it weren’t so tardy, and if it hadn’t come hot on the heels of Marvel deciding it could ashow cousins kissing each other on the lips in a romantic context. It’s not progress; it’s just giving up.

There is another notable Marvel first here; Rictor may officially be Marvel’s first male bisexual superhero - the first Marvel hero shown to have relationships with both men and women. It’s still not exactly radical, but it is a positive step.

It’s also worth mentioning that Shatterstar creator Rob Liefeld has reportedly responded to these events by saying, “I have nothing against gays, I have gay family, nuthin’ but love here. Ditto gay characters if thats’ (sic) what their true origins are. As the guy that Created, designed and wrote his first dozen appearances, Shatterstar is not gay. Sorry. Can’t wait to someday undo this.” Maybe Rob could get in touch with his gay family members and try to explain to them how upset he is that his own ‘kid’ grew up gay, and how he’d like to ‘fix’ him.

As a final note; X-Factor and Agents of Atlas are two of the best comics Marvel is publishing at the moment, and I’m a big fan of Jeff Parker’s work (and, full disclosure, I consider Jeff a friend). Parker brings an often-lacking sense of fun and scale to superhero comics, and guys like Parker, Matt Fraction and Jason Aaron stand in stark contrast to a lot of the mandated misery that bogs down the Marvel Universe. When they do something implausible, it’s fun-implausible, like a talking gorilla firing guns with its feet, not dumb-implausible, like a known psychotic killer being put in charge of a government superhero agency.

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16 Responses to “Kissing Cousins”

  1. ewa Says:

    Isn’t sex and marriage between cousins legal and also very common in a lot of cultures?

    So isn’t changing them from real cousins to adopted cousins, so they can get it on, kinda super insulting to all the real cousin couples out there?

  2. Al Kennedy Says:

    It’s legal in the UK. It’s not actually incest unless you’re looking at it from the Catholic POV.

  3. Jill Says:

    Isn’t a kiss-up between adopted cousins somewhat lower than Jane Austen on the edginess scale, since she wrote about actual cousins getting it on?

    Hmm, perhaps Jane Austen in Atlantis could be the new Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It would explain why Mr Namor was constantly jumping into the fishpond.

  4. Andrew Says:

    Marriage between cousins is like gay marriage in reverse; while gay marriage rights are spreading, I think marriage between cousins is declining - it surely only ever existed as a matter of legal or cultural necessity, and it does seem to bring with it an increased risk of birth defects. In the cultural context of Marvel editorial, I’m sure it’s a taboo, hence the adoption switch, and why I think they’re not being ‘modern’, just indifferent.

  5. Guy Says:

    Is it possible that Rob Liefeld supports the idea that you are born gay or born straight, and that he objects because having a character “change” like this gives support to the idea that you can “turn gay”, and vice versa?

    On the other hand, you could say the character was simply in the closet the whole time.

    On the gripping hand, these are comic book characters, and they change all the time in far less subtle ways…

  6. ewa Says:

    When I was little I totally fancied my cousin. I hope that doesn’t make me a big fat perv!

  7. Andrew Says:

    Ewa: Pre-sexual little girls have been known to crush on horses. I wouldn’t extrapolate too much.

    Guy: The problem with the ‘don’t change anyone’ argument in fiction is threefold. First, as you say, while people don’t ‘turn’ gay, they often do only come to terms with it over a period of time. Second, of all the superheroes that have been created, it stands to reason that some ought to be gay, and the reason they aren’t is convention and prejudice; that ought to be corrected.

    Third, specific to this case, there is no history of Shatterstar being heterosexual, so it’s not really a stretch. Liefeld certainly didn’t establish it. He doesn’t have the right to call it now.

  8. Al Kennedy Says:

    “I think marriage between cousins is declining - it surely only ever existed as a matter of legal or cultural necessity”

    So not because, for instance, they fell in love? Because I know of at least one instance where that was the case.

  9. Andrew Says:

    Well, I’m talking about the cultural generality, Al, but if you’d like to introduce me to your married cousin friends, I’m sure that would be lovely.

  10. Al Kennedy Says:

    If we’re allowing for exceptions to that generality, that’s fine - my only issue was that “it surely only ever existed as a matter of legal or cultural necessity” seemed to be precluding any other option. Didn’t mean to sound defensive, it’s just that this particular couple are people who I’m very fond of.

  11. Andrew Says:

    I suppose I should have been clearer. There are cultures where marriage between cousins is not merely permissible, but very close to the norm, and that is what I assume existed out of legal or cultural necessity.

    But I still think it’s peculiar, even if perfectly lovely people are doing it.

  12. Marysia Kay Says:

    Shatterstar and Richter has always been canon… in my head. Shame the art has them looking somewhat less hot than I recall.

  13. Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment » Liefeld ‘can’t wait to someday undo’ Shatterstar development Says:

    [...] (via Andrew Wheeler) [...]

  14. fanboi Says:

    kissing adopted cousins is especially not a big deal if adopted and the only perfect genetic match possible.

    Yay to Shatterstar - Boo to Rob Liefeld - lets make sure he never gets his hands on SHatterstar and Rictor to undo this wonderful story!

  15. Aman Chaudhary Says:

    I’m hoping Namor and Emma Frost get together again…

    And here’s to ‘Star and Rictor. Those two deserve a happy ending!

  16. waxlion Says:

    I can’t actually be sure any more, but I’m pretty sure in X-Statix –or when it was still X-Force?– they had a couple other gay couples but I forget whether or not they were ever shown to properly kiss on panel. (There was the relatively long-term Vivisector and Phat relationship which they started off to boost their celebrity profile at first but I think they both had others and there was at least one other prior to them with an unnamed boyfriend?)

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