Last week, something almost magical happened – a comic character long interpreted as queer by readers quietly, yet undeniably, confirmed their bisexuality.
The character in question is one Katherine ‘Kitty’ Pryde, better known as Shadowcat. Or Ariel. Or Sprite. Or, currently, Red Queen. Since her first appearance back in 1980, where she joined the X-Men as the team’s youngest member, Kitty’s been through a lot of superhero identities – she even filled in as Star-Lord, briefly! – but one near-constant has been her curiously close female friendships.
While Kitty has predominantly dated men – specifically, men named ‘Peter’, with her significant relationships including Piotr ‘Colossus‘ Rasputin, Pete Wisdom, and Peter ‘Star-Lord‘ Quill – her friendships with women including Magik (awkwardly, Colossus’ sister) and Prestige (also long speculated to be bi) have been so deep that fans have long suspected there was more going on. For years though, nothing would be confirmed – partly because Kitty was underage for most of her first two decades worth of appearances, and also because the Comics Code Authority forbade any mention of homosexuality in comics.
The CCA hasn’t been used by Marvel since 2001 though – and the industry body was entirely defunct by 2011 – but Kitty Pryde has nevertheless spent the latter half of her entire publication history with her bisexuality still largely unaddressed. Until now.
In the just-published X-Men spin-off Marauders #12, written by Gerry Duggan and with art by Matteo Lolli and Edgar Delgado, a recently-resurrected Pryde was being welcomed back by her friends. In the current set-up for X-Men comics, death is a minor obstacle (as detailed in our recent look at X-Factor), although Kitty – now going by Kate – had some unique problems with her own revival, related to her intangibility powers.
The difficulty in bringing her back lead to a particularly jubilant reunion with Magik, and Kate shares a longing look across a crowded room with Prestige. It’s after she sneaks out of her resurrection party that readers get the moment they’d been waiting for though. Plotting her revenge against Sebastian Shaw, the man who’d killed her months before, she gets an impromptu set of knuckle tattoos – K-I-L-L S-H-A-W – and before leaving the parlour, she flirts and initiates a kiss with the female artist.
In and of itself, the interaction may be written off as Kate being overcharged with emotion, a mix of joy at returning to life and rage at Shaw, and that manifesting in an impromptu kiss. However, Duggan seeds the scene with the tattooist – currently unnamed – mentioning having a date planned before Kate literally throws money at her, then responding “Well… now I got a date with you.” After the kiss, both women are blushing and smiling. Between the coded language, the nervous looks, and the kiss itself – all in concert with Kate’s interactions with Magik and Prestige in the same issue – make it a definite queer milestone for the character.
It’s now clear Marauders has been laying the groundwork for this reveal for a while, though. The relationship between Kate and Emma Frost has been a central one throughout the series’ run, one hinging on their long connection. Emma had tried to indoctrinate Kate back in her first appearance, attempting to lure her to a rival school to that of the X-Men’s at the time, and the pair had regularly been opposed on matters of principle over the years. There had also been an undeniable frisson of tension between the two on occasion, which this scene – for which there is no heterosexual explanation – tapped into:
Other developments in the series foreshadowed the long-overdue queering of Kitty Pryde, too. Her maturation, swapping Kitty for Kate, was one such point, showing her growing up and ready to define her identity on her own terms – a clear LGBTQ+ allegory. Her taking on the role of Red Queen – responsible for ensuring lost mutants make it to their new homeland of Krakoa, becoming and commanding and protective figure for her community – also has queer undertones. Her shift in wardrobe, abandoning a sleek superhero uniform for a gender-defying sea captain look is yet another, with Lolli regulary depicting both Kate and Emma in sharp suits and other lesbian- or masculine-coded drapery.
Marauders has been an LGBTQ+ positive title from the off though, also focussing on Iceman’s burgeoning relationship with Christian Frost, Emma’s brother. It now seems that pairing was almost a bait-and-switch – a welcome spotlight for existing gay characters, but perhaps meant to distract readers from Kate’s impending outing.
It’s possible “outing” is too strong – Kate doesn’t specifically say she’s bisexual, after all – but it would be hard for future writers to roll this issue back. It’s also arguably positive that mainstream comics are moving past the need to have big, dramatic, and often-angsty proclamations of coming out, and are instead increasingly comfortable in quietly showing, rather than loudly telling, a character’s sexuality.
Where the story goes next remains to be seen. Fingers crossed Kitty goes back for a proper date with that tattooist – maybe she’s called Petra, since Kate has a type. For now though, Marauders has put to rest literally decades of speculation: Kate Pryde is definitively, demonstrably bisexual.