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Knowledge Waits: The Possible Hints Over the Years That Iceman Is Gay

by  in Comic News Comment

This is the latest in a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me. Here is a collection of all of the installments in the feature so far.

One of the interesting aspects of young Iceman coming out in the most recent issue of All-New X-Men (and from the sound of Brian Michael Bendis’ discussions of the topic, it sure sounds like adult Iceman will be catching up with him, as well) is the notion that Iceman being gay is something supported in past comics. Bendis noted to CBR:

CBR: This story isn’t something that’s coming out of the blue, either. Over the years there’s been a lot of hints that Bobby might not be entirely honest with himself about his sexuality.

Bendis: Yes! That’s the funniest conversation online. We have some people going, “What on Earth are you talking about? Where did this come from?” Then there are other people who weren’t surprised at all. Already on Tumblr, and I’m not going to repost them until later in the week, people have posted a road map of panels of things that Bobby has done over the last 50 years that prove the point that I thought was obvious, and many others did too.

Bendis is correct that “Iceman is gay” is something that has come up a whole lot over the years with X-Men fans. So what’s this road map that Bendis is referring to? I don’t know what he’s specifically referring to, but I know what what most of the signs people refer to when they argue that Bobby Drake is closeted. So let’s take a look at them.

NOTE: This is so image intensive, I had to split it into three pages – BC.

First off, obviously when he was created, Iceman was not intended to be gay. That wasn’t even within the realm of possibility for someone like Stan Lee for a superhero character in 1963. Even as other writers took the book over, clearly, they were never thinking Bobby was gay, either. Bobby had a couple of girlfriends during his first stint as a member of the X-Men, but nothing serious.

When the first X-Men series ended with X-Men #66, Bobby was in a bit of a love triangle with Havok over Polaris…


But when X-Men relaunched with Giant Size X-Men #1, Bobby, Polaris and Havok all leave the team and Bobby seems to be fine with Polaris and Havok now being a couple.

Iceman then helps to form the Champions soon after leaving the X-Men in 1976, but again, no real relationship. He seems to be getting close to Darkstar, but it fizzles, especially when she ignores him when he risks his life to save her in a battle involving the Stranger.

Bobby is more or less just a guest star character for the rest of the 1970s (Champions folded quickly) and well into the 1980s, before J.M. DeMatteis brought Iceman, Angel and Beast to the Defenders for the NEW Defenders in 1983.

Beast was the public face of the team (and the team leader). Still, it was pretty clear that Bobby was still considered straight by the writers. Even to the point where DeMatteis and incoming writer Peter Gillis had Bobby jokingly pretend to be gay in 1984’s New Defenders #131…


New writer Peter Gillis was interested in exploring some interesting ideas about sex and gender, and it sort of began with Defenders #132, with Bobby flirting with his new teammate, Cloud…



In #134, Cloud, though, shows an interest in her female teammate, Moondragon…


She struggles with her feelings the following issue…


In #136, she solves her problems by turning into a man….



Ironically, of course, Moondragon years later came out as a lesbian.

Bobby doesn’t handle it particularly well…



Cloud changes back and forth and Bobby has a particularly hard time when he’s consoling Cloud on her bed when she changes into a man. Bobby freaks out, and tells Cloud that he wants to help, he just can’t.

But eventually he remains friends with Cloud…


And as they come closer to learning Cloud’s origins later on and whether she actually DID “turn” into a guy or if she is perhaps two person merged into one…



Then, of course, her origins were revealed to be something COMPLETELY different as the series abruptly ended. Honestly, I don’t think the Cloud era is all that important to the overall “Hints that Bobby is gay” storyline, but people will always bring Cloud up, so I figure I might as well address it.

Bobby joined up with the new X-Factor soon after and again, didn’t have much in the way of love interests until Opal Tanaka was introduced in X-Factor #51. Again, writer Louise Simonson was clearly writing Bobby as straight.

They remain a couple for a couple of years, even as Bobby rejoined the X-Men. However, when Scott Lobdell took over writing Uncanny X-Men, it is now that we first really saw what people refer to when they talk about hints that Bobby is closeted (besides, of course, the general “he never had all that many steady girlfriends” thing).

Read on to see what Lobdell did with Bobby during his run…

Lobdell first hints that Bobby really isn’t all that serious about Opal in 1993’s Uncanny X-Men #301…


and then breaks them up in Uncanny X-Men #305…



Notice how sets up the whole recurring “there’s some unsettling stuff going on inside Bobby’s head” angle that has shown up a lot over the years since then.

Uncanny X-Men #311 really sets things into motion, as Bobby goes to check on the comatose Emma Frost (who had been in a coma for thirty issues at that point), and note how he thinks about how he pushed Opal away…


He and Emma are hit with some alien feedback and the result is Emma is awoken from her coma, but in Bobby’s body!!

When he gets his body back, he is haunted by how Emma was able to do things with his powers that he never could. He confronts her, and she tells him that he knows the real reason. The implication is that it is because he is holding himself back due to a lack of self-esteem, but whether there is something else there BEHIND that lack of self-esteem is left unclear.

In Uncanny X-Men #319, Bobby takes Rogue to have dinner with his parents. A lot of people have looked at this issue as being like a gay guy bringing a beard home with him, and it really does read that way.



And when we see Bobby’s dad (who has gotten a bit of a rewrite, as he had appeared in the past and while he was conservative, he wasn’t nearly as conservative as he is now depicted), it would be easy to see how the kid of a guy like this would repress anything that would make him stand out…




Soon after this, due to the events right before Age of Apocalypse, Rogue needed time away from Gambit, so she and Bobby go on a road trip, and man, back when these issues were coming out, I really expected them to out Bobby every other issue. It really seemed like that was the way Lobdell was heading…



In X-Men #331, Bobby confronts Emma Frost about his powers, and she makes a comment about him being an interior decorator that some people have taken as a gay joke. I dunno about that…


Lobdell, though, soon wrote Bobby out of the title and then Lobdell left, as well. Later writers didn’t do a whole lot with Bobby until Joe Casey had him on his team when Grant Morrison revamped the X-Men. But Casey didn’t do much with Iceman’s private life during his stint. Chuck Austen took over Uncanny X-Men with issue #410.

Read on to see how Austen dealt with Bobby’s sexuality head on…

So Lobdell had already made Northstar a member of the X-Men in a brief story before Grant Morrison took over writing New X-Men, but Austen was the one who made him a full-time member.

When he is introduced to the team, he befriends Nurse Annie, who notices that Northstar has a crush on Iceman…




(As an aside, how bad is the writing on that last half page? Why in the world did Austen think he needed those extra pieces of dialogue?)

She tries to help things along, but…



Iceman is later attacked by that woman’s husband. Northstar stops him and later, he talks to Annie as Bobby is in the infirmary (next to the comatose Havok, who, it turns out, Annie is into due to her kid linking her mind with Havok’s when she sleeps)…


As the years went by, writers would occasionally have their fun here and there, like having Lorna joke about how disinterested Bobby was as a lover or stuff like Peter Davis in X-Factor: Nation X #1…


You know, sort of “you can interpret it however you’d like” sort of stuff.

But Bobby also dated Mystique and Kitty Pryde during this time (he even had a fling with the aforementioned Nurse Annie).

But, again, the relationships all ended poorly. Marjorie Liu did a storyline looking into Bobby’s psyche. At the time, Liu noted that she was writing Bobby as straight, but could easily see how someone could think he was closeted, and it seems like she sort of wrote that aspect in there as a sort of an aside to her work [EDITED TO ADD: In recent interviews post-Iceman coming out, Liu now has gone a bit further and says she was considered him closeted at the time. I believe her, but she said at the time that she was writing him as as straight, but again, she was VERY open to the possibility of him being gay back then, so it really isn’t a big difference, I don’t think]. In the story, Bobby is possessed by the Apocalypse Death Seed, and all of his ex-girlfriends are brought back into play. In the end, he is able to fight off the evil inside of him, but he was obviously messed up inside. Like Lobdell before her, Liu played up that Bobby is holding some stuff deep inside himself. It’s like, “Holy Repression, Batman!”…




Now is any of this proof that Bobby is gay? Of course not. Not even close. Again, Liu wrote her story with the intent that Bobby was straight. Jason Aaron has written Bobby as straight very recently both in Wolverine and the X-Men and the Amazing X-Men.

This is just noting that there is a pretty good framework there of noting that Bobby is clearly repressing SOMEthing. It could just be low self-esteem, But it could also easily be him being closeted. Either way, I would imagine that this is the road map Bendis is using in his current and upcoming work with Iceman’s sexuality.