Ever since they were introduced in the early 1960s, the X-Men haven’t just been a team of mutant superheroes hated by a world they’re sworn to protect—they’ve been a metaphor for pressing social issues. Back then it was the burgeoning civil-rights movement but in more recent decades, the band of outsiders has been seen as stand-ins for the LGBT community: Mutants’ special abilities usually became active in adolescence (when many gays become aware of their attractions) and they’re usually forced to hide their true nature or face discrimination, imprisonment or even torture and death. In one notable storyline, a supervillian from the future created the HIV-like Legacy Virus, which ripped through the mutant population and had no known cure. Currently there are openly gay members of nearly every X-team and the main squad is based in San Francisco, with frequent depictions of the city’s vibrant queer culture.
One of the multitude of X-titles published by Marvel Comics, Generation Hope focuses on the next generation of young mutants, facing a world where their number have been greatly decreased. Hitting the streets today, Generation Hope #9 tackles a subject very much in the national spotlight: the gay-teen suicide epidemic. In an exclusive interview with iFanboy.com, writer Kieron Gillen says the book was the ideal venue for broaching the sensitive subject.
It’s not the type of story that fits in any other major superhero book. It’s simply not what those books are about. But the X-Men? X-Men is a book about mutants, used as a metaphor about prejudice. And of the X-Men books, Generation Hope is fundamentally about new mutants trying to survive dealing with the fact they’re mutants. With the metaphor in place, you can not just do a story about it—I dare say you should tell a story about it. In a real way, it’s the sort of story Generation Hope exists to tell. If we can’t tell this story and tell it as well as we can, the book may as well not exist.
Gillen says he was determined to do the storyline justice and ran his script by several longtime readers as well as the top brass at Marvel. “It’d be inexcusable to mess this one up. I don’t think I have.”
Generation Hope #9 is in stores now. For a special six-page preview, visit ComicBookResources.com.