‘Young Avengers’ are coming out

Robert Taylor


Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Among the attack robots and deadly cyborgs stand two heroes, hand in hand, who go into battle against Kang the Conqueror. They love one another and aren’t afraid to show it. The only twist? They are both guys.

One of Marvel Comics’ most popular titles, Young Avengers, has been causing controversy in the industry because it has two openly gay characters on the team.

Two of the members of these Young Avengers, Hulkling (who can change shape and often chooses to take the form of the Hulk) and Wiccan (a powerful magician just learning his craft), have come out and are now in a relationship.

Allan Heinberg, who writes Young Avengers, is primarily known for his writing on such television shows as “The O.C.,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Sex and the City.”

“Marvel has never said ‘no’ to anything I’ve pitched for the book,” Heinberg said. “Nor have they ever tried to force any editorial decisions on the book. (Young Avengers artist) Jim Cheung and I have absolute creative freedom.”

Young Avengers debuted in the 10 best-selling comics of February 2005.

“Allan Heinberg exploded on the comic scene in 2005 as the first new voice in what seems like forever,” said Jeph Loeb, a best-selling comic writer who also produces the hit TV show “Lost.” “Dubbed originally as a rip on Teen Titans, within the first few pages of Young Avengers 1, Allan (Heinberg) lets you know this isn’t like anything you expected, and it exceeds all your expectations. Deft plotting, fantastic character moments and what is now known as ‘The Heinberg Sly Humor’ make this book go to the top of my pile every month.”

Heinberg didn’t initially plan on addressing the characters’ homosexuality so soon.

“Wiccan and Hulkling’s romance was actually part of my initial pitch, but I had originally intended to build it very subtly over the course of the first year,” Heinberg said. “But when we got a number of supportive letters based on one panel of flirtatious banter between them in Young Avengers 1, I asked Marvel if we could address the issue overtly, and to my astonishment they said, ‘Sure.'”

In the third issue letter column, one reader, James Meeley, attacked Heinberg for daring to even hint that the heroes were homosexual, stating, “.I would hope that you and Marvel would not be so gung-ho to pander to every taste within society that you would forget that comics were never meant to be an outlet for changing society’s view or forcing sensitive issues to be discussed among the readership. Sexuality issues were never needed in the past to make super hero comics exciting and interesting. I don’t think they need to now to be so, either.”

In the following months the Young Avengers letter column was flooded with letters, many of which supported the relationship, even though it hadn’t even been made official in the comic yet, Heinberg said.

By the end of the first story line, Wiccan and Hulkling did make their relationship official, and the second story arc featured Wiccan inadvertently coming out to his parents, who accepted him and welcomed Hulkling into their family.

Homosexuality isn’t the only taboo subject Young Avengers has touched on since its launch. The second arc also revealed that black team leader, Patriot, had an addiction to steroids.

The move raised several eyebrows, especially because Heinberg decided to have the only black person on the team be the one with the addiction.

Despite touching on so many taboo subjects, Heinberg said that he isn’t trying to make the book overly edgy.

“I’m not a fan of topical storytelling or the moralistic sermonizing that tends to accompany it,” Heinberg said. “I have no desire to write an edgy book. I just want to write an entertaining one.”

New issues of Young Avengers can be found at local comic stores. The first trade paperback, Young Avengers: Sidekicks collects the first six issues and is available in softcover and hardcover from local bookstores.

Contact ALL reporter Robert Taylor at [email protected].