Love and (gay) marriage, it goes together like a billion-dollar franchise.
Amid the steady rollout of news surrounding Marvel’s The Eternals, President Kevin Feige confirmed during this weekend’s D23 Expo that the film will include the studio’s first openly gay male superhero. The Chloe Zhao-directed movie will coincide with a love interest for the canonically bisexual superhero Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), whose romantic backstory was cut from Thor: Ragnarok but will be included in the next installment.
While Feige did not announce casting for the character or state which member of the humanoid clan would be LGBTQ+, he did add in a pretaped Monday interview with Good Morning America that Marvel’s first gay superhero would also be getting a partner.
“He’s married, he’s got a family, and that is just part of who he is,” he said.
Marvel’s first foray into meaningful LGBTQ+ representation has been a longtime coming for the studio, which has teased the introduction of queer characters for years. Back in 2015, Feige promised the Marvel Cinematic Universe would “for sure” get an out LGBTQ+ character within the next 10 years.
However, Marvel has taken extremely small steps to get to this point. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn hinted at an LGBTQ+ character in the franchise’s second installment before almost immediately backpedaling, while Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t mention that the rock monster Korg (voiced by director Taika Waititi in a brief cameo) is gay. In the comics, he’s reportedly in a relationship with Hiroim the Shamed.
While Avengers: Endgame had a gay character, the moment was strictly blink-and-you’ll-miss it. A member of Captain America’s support group (played by co-director Joe Russo) lost his boyfriend when Thanos (Josh Brolin) wiped out half of existence with a snap of his fingertips.
Russo acknowledged the milestone wasn’t nearly enough to answer LGBTQ+ fans’ desire to be seen in their favorite franchises. However, he and his co-director brother, Joe, felt even a small gesture was worth it.
“Representation is really important,” Russo told the entertainment website Deadline in April. “It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them. We felt it was important that one of us play him, to ensure the integrity and show it is so important to the filmmakers that one of us is representing that.”
But if Marvel has promised to further commit to inclusion in its next phase of film franchises, The Eternals shows it’s off to a good start. In addition to two LGBTQ+ characters, Salma Hayek (Frida) will star as the studio’s first Latina lead, while Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians) and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) while will be among Marvel’s first Asian superheroes. The studio is also set to adapt Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Simu Liu in the titular role.
In addition, the choice of Zhao (The Rider) to direct The Eternals makes her the first Asian woman to helm a Marvel movie. Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) will direct the Harley Quinn spinoff Birds of Prey, but that’s a DC project.
The Eternals is scheduled to hit theaters on November 6, 2020.