I've always, ever since I was a 12-year old nerd, had a thing for Rictor, one of the at-that-point lesser-known members of the extended X-Men family. I'm not sure what it was, but I formed an inexplicable crush on this cartoon character.
From the first time I saw him, as a peripheral character in a 1992 issue of Uncanny X-Men, I was intrigued. And years later, after I had lapsed on reading comic books, I was pleased to learn that Rictor had "come out." Or, rather, writer Peter David picked up on the preexisting subtext and had the character, once a young man suicidal over his earth-shaking mutant powers, say he's into guys.
Now that X-Factor, the Marvel comic in which he came out, is drawing toward a close (the final issue hits stands in September), let's take a look back at Rictor's evolution from scrawny supporting character to gay hero.
X-FACTOR #17 (1987): Rictor, real name Julio Esteban Richter, was first introduced when an anti-mutant group called The Right tried to exploit his tectonic powers to level a New York City block. This helped established Rictor's self-hate over his innate powers, a common theme in the X-Men family of comic books.
X-FACTOR #20 (1987): Taken in by the X-Family, Rictor was at this point the picture of self-hating angst.
NEW MUTANTS #73 (1988): Some time on the field helped Rictor become a bit more comfortable. It was also around this time that he began rocking a sleeveless leather vest and a new, punkier hairdo. The writing was on the wall.
NEW MUTANTS ANNUAL #5 (1989): Female teammate Boom-Boom always had a thing for Rictor, and he liked to flirt back. Nothing came of it.
NEW MUTANTS #90 (1990): This issue gives a good look at both Rictor's punkier look and at his trademark drama queen angst, which lent itself nicely to the daddy issues he developed with team leader Cable, whom Rictor erroneously blamed for his father's death. Yes, comic books are basically soap operas.
NEW MUTANTS #91 (1990): Fighting Sabertooth helped Rictor find his inner hero.
NEW MUTANTS #93 (1990): Costume change!
UNCANNY X-MEN 270 (1991): The first time I saw Rictor. I was smitten.
NEW MUTANTS #95 (1991): A big crossover special saw Rictor and his fellow mutants lose their powers. This brought him and gal pal Rahne closer.
NEW MUTANTS #97 (1992): Losing his powers makes Rictor realize he appreciates who he is. Considering his relations with wolf-like teammate Rahne, though, it's clear he wasn't completely comfortable quite yet.
X-FACTOR #84 (1992): Rahne and Rictor's relationship continued into the 1990s...
X-FORCE #16 (1992): ...But when Rahne and Wolverine turned on the team, it became clear that Rictor had feelings for new member Shatterstar, as well. Oh, and Rictor got his powers back.
X-FORCE #19 (1992): Rahne left the team, which gave Shatterstar and Rictor time to get to know one another. (That other wolfie type character is not Rahne; it's another furry heroine, Feral.)
X-FORCE #34 (1994): Shatterstar's devotion to Rictor was shown in the mid-90s when he helped him save his troubled family in Mexico. Rictor was soon written off of the series, appearing only sporadically over the next few years.
X-FACTOR (v3) #1 (2006): After being off screen for many years, Rictor was brought back into the fold when current writer Peter David rebooted X-Factor. Rictor, now sporting a shorter hairdo, had again be depowered and finds himself back on the ledge. Team leader Jamie Madrox talks him down.
X-FACTOR #14 (2007): Twenty years after his first introduction, Rictor finally admitted in a backhanded way, that he's gay. And Madrox lets Rictor know he knows.
X-FACTOR 45-46 (2009): Finally, after nearly two decades fighting side-by-side, Rictor and secret crush Shatterstar locked lips, becoming the first mainstream male comic book characters to do so. Writer Peter David would go on to win a GLAAD Media Award for his portrayal of Rictor and Shatterstar's romance.
Rob Liefeld, the writer who created Shatterstar, balked, and claimed at the time he would one day undo the character's sexual development, “As the guy that created, designed and wrote his first dozen appearances, Shatterstar is not gay. Sorry. Can’t wait to someday undo this. Seems totally contrived.”
X-FACTOR 207 (2010): One of the biggest relationship hurdles Rictor and Shatterstar have had to overcome is the fact that Shatterstar is from another dimension and had to learn about love, sex and fidelity.
X-FACTOR #209-210 (2010): By far the hardest thing Rictor and Shatterstar have had to deal with is the return of a pregnant Rahne, who claimed the baby was Rictor's and worried she had turned him gay. (She was one of the 33% who disagree with Lady Gaga.) Neither of those things were true, as seen here...
X-FACTOR #213 (2011): Rictor not being the father of Rahne's wolf baby really strengthened his relationship with Shatterstar.
X-FACTOR #220 (2011): And his gay relationship with Rictor has really helped Shatterstar come out of his shell.
X-FACTOR #242 (2012): Rictor and Shatterstar are now a dynamic duo in the pages of X-Factor, where they fight demons and super villains and learn about relationships and all that good stuff. But what will happen now that X-Factor's folding? Writer Peter David's staying mum, but may I suggest a mini-series featuring Rictor and Shatterstar touring gay America? Shatterstar clearly needs to be brought up on the lingo.