Someday, someone’s gotta write a comprehensive book about Jim Shooter. During his time as editor-in-chief for Marvel, there’s no denying he had an incredible impact on not just the company, but the entire industry. And depending on who in the industry you ask, this impact was either disastrous or fantastic or some mixture of the two. It’s pretty tough to find someone with real knowledge of the Shooter reign who doesn’t hold pretty strong opinions on the man. (Hell, it’s hard to find someone with hearsay knowledge who doesn’t have an opinion)
This strip goofs on Shooter’s policy of disallowing gay characters in Marvel comics, which resulted in the rewrite of a long-running Alpha Flight sub-plot. Northstar was still officially in the closet in those days, although creator John Byrne and later Alpha Flight writer Bill Mantlo would drop what hints they were allowed to make. Mantlo intended to go a lot further than hints, and over the course of several issues had Northstar suffer from a progressively-worsening sickness that was eventually to have been revealed as AIDS (Because he was gay, you see. Let’s not dwell on the appropriateness of the storyline as planned, lest we stray too far from our point).
Between Shooter’s policy and the Comics Code, the revelation was squelched. A new explanation had to be given for why Northstar was so sick, and Mantlo rose to the challenge by revealing that Northstar was actually part elf (or “fairy”, as it’s commonly told in the retelling. But again, let us not get bogged down by Mantlo and stay on-point). So he was an elf and he was dying of an elf disease and magic saved him and yay it was over. Northstar wouldn’t come out of the closet officially for another, what, 60 issues of Alpha Flight?
Some people take this and other instances (Google “Hulk” and “YMCA” and see what you find) as evidence that Shooter had a personal problem with homosexuality. I dunno, I think it’s just as likely he was afraid to go up against the Code or that allowing gay characters would lead to controversy that cost them readers. But the thing it, the reason why is largely irrelevant. If you’re the guy making the edict that _____ group is not allowed to appear in your company’s product, then whatever the reasoning behind it, you’re the guy who gets to hold the shit-bucket for as long as people care to recount it.
Quotable quotes from @JoshCritic:
“Before Marvel made an announcement about Northstar’s marriage, they should have made one reminding everyone he was still with the X-Men.”