If you know anything about the Marvel comic book character Thor, the god of thunder, or the 2012 superhero film The Avengers, then you might know that Thor’s adopted brother Loki is a powerful sorcerer and deceptive villain who often tries to take over Thor’s homeland of Asgard. But, Marvel’s 2019 series of young adult (YA) anti-hero novels will also make Loki pansexual and gender fluid. Is this another case of media depicting queer people as villains?
Wait… is Loki pansexual?
The novel, part of a three-novel series exploring Marvel’s anti-heroes, will be written by Mackenzi Lee, a queer-friendly author whose 2017 YA historical fiction, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, features a bisexual male lead character traveling through 18th century Europe.
“Loki is a canonically pansexual and gender fluid character,” Lee recently wrote on Twitter. She continued:
First, it’s about time the LGBT+ community was represented in superhero narratives. Second, in the comics, Loki is reborn as a woman & uses female pronouns & often takes on female forms like the Scarlet Witch and Lady Sif. Odin calls him “my child who is both.” So Loki is established as a pansexual genderfluid character in the Marvel comics. I’m not changing anything, just sticking to the canon. But so what if I was? Queer people need superheroes too.
It’s undeniable that Loki’s gender-swapping and bisexuality have been used to add to his villainous role as a destabilizing force in Asgard. But hiring a queer-friendly author to explore his story in depth gives hope that Marvel won’t just continue the problematic tropes of queer villainy but will take the time to explore the character’s complexity and humanity via sexuality and gender identity.
Lee’s interview with Publisher’s Weekly, suggests that she may well avoid tired anti-LGBTQ tropes to breathe new life into a Marvel villain that has been around since 1962. Talking about the queer romance in her YA novel, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, she said:
I knew from the start that I wanted a queer romance that ends happily, with both people better because of it. I wanted it to have the same happy ending that contemporary romances so often get, not just coded gay characters in the background or a doomed gay romance. Most gay historical romances have a bittersweet edge, but I wanted to write a happy romance without reservations, because happily-ever-afters for queer characters haven’t quite reached historical fiction yet. It’s important for queer people today to see that we have existed forever and we have found ways, even in places that seem to reject us, to have fulfilled romantic and sexual lives with those we love.