In 2017, writer Sina Grace received a lot of publicity and backlash for his run on Iceman, which explored the gay character's life in an ongoing series. Grace has now detailed his own struggles with Marvel Comics about the book behind the scenes.
In a post on Tumblr, Grace wrote he felt compelled to reveal his struggles with Marvel Comics due to the upcoming end of Pride Month and a desire to "discuss the realities of creating queer pop culture in a hostile or ambivalent environment."
After detailing the backlash he received for his work on Iceman, Grace wrote, "Between Iceman’s cancellation and its subsequent revival, Marvel reached out and said they noticed threatening behavior on my Twitter account (only after asking me to send proof of all the nasty shit popping up online). An editor called, these conversations always happen over the phone, offering to provide 'tips and tricks' to deal with the cyber bullying. I cut him off. All he was going to do was tell me how to fend for myself. I needed Marvel to stand by me with more work opportunities to show the trolls that I was more than a diversity hire. 'We’ll keep you in mind.' I got so tired of that sentence."
"Even after a year of the new editor-in-chief saying I was talented and needed to be on a book that wasn’t 'the gay character,'" he continued. "the only assignment I got outside of Iceman was six pages along, about a version of Wolverine where he had diamond claws. Fabulous, yes. Heterosexual, yes. Still kind of the gay character, though. We as creators are strongly encouraged to build a platform on social media and use it to promote work-for-hire projects owned by massive corporations… but when the going gets tough, these dudes get going real quick."
Grace then revealed an editor insinuated Iceman wouldn't survive "if it were 'too gay'" and the book was likely to be cancelled anyway, as that's typically what happens with X-Men solo series.
Grace then cited the positive coverage his work had received in the media. However, despite the attention, "Marvel still treated [him] as someone to be contained, and the book as something to be nervous about." In response, Grace sought out "more press from the New York Times," after which Marvel became stricter about his work and required him to "get all opportunities pre-approved, and all interviews pre-reviewed." He then noted his "straight male colleagues" were not required to do the same.
Grace also revealed Axel Alonso, who was editor-in-chief at the time, gave the book an extra month before cancelling it, "but when he left Marvel that idea got brushed away." The writer then expressed his feelings of vindication at the sales Iceman did in trade paperback, which later brought up the opportunity for a new series.
Grace then detailed drama surrounding "a drag queen mutant, first called Shade, now called Darkveil." Grace asked how the comics company could promote the character, but "everyone at Marvel shrugged off two years of goodwill and acted like I'd coordinated behind their backs on an announcement that made headlines." Grace noted he "didn't coordinate shit" beyond mentioning who'd inspired the character on Instagram.
"At this point, I stopped believing that there’d be any more work for me," he said. "There were so many shady moves on their end that I’m still having trouble putting into language, but it all aligned with an experience I had in retail where a corrupt manager kept lying and moving the goal posts in order to keep me selling in a department I didn’t want to work in. I offered to give Darkveil a proper character bio, and I walked away."
Grace added that some of his complaints might be due to the nature of "freelance life" before blasing the comics publisher for its "general ineptness." He continued, "It is my belief that if we are telling stories about heroes doing the right thing in the face of adversity, wouldn’t the hope be to embody those ideals as individuals? Instead of feeling like I worked with some of the most inspiring and brave people in comics, I was surrounded by cowards."
Grace ended by saying he's proud of his work on Iceman, and he's unhappy with how detailing his experience might affect the book's legacy. However, he reiterated that, as Pride Month comes to a close, "the time for self-congratulating is over, and folks should be earnestly listening when they ask: what could we have done better? "
CBR has reached out to Marvel Comics for comment.