Storytelling school

“Marvel’s Voices”: Alex Phillips Encourages Storytelling to Go Beyond Visibility

The last two years have been nothing but a roller coaster. After the major success of last year’s first MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE #1, we as the LGBTQIA+ community have witnessed a continued attack on our most vulnerable with an onslaught of legislation. I don’t need to tell you how badly we need posts like this. Marvel’s Voices isn’t just a comic book: for many of us, it’s a capsule crystallizing our place in queer history.

Like most of us, I sometimes feel like I am at the end of a pendulum, swinging mercilessly between feeling that we are progressing and regressing as a community, especially as the headlines put constantly highlighting both the gains and losses of the LGBTQIA+ community without a moment to pause and process.

In the face of laws that decide whether we can say the word gay, whether teachers should be required to “take out” their transgender students, or whether we can teach critical race theory in our classrooms, The Voices of Marvel, and the stories it offers us, give us the opportunity to show how united our voices are. That we don’t leave any part of our community behind.

Rising above the dizzying cycle of news and telling our stories in their clearest, boldest and least subtextual form pays homage to those who have masterfully danced around the comic book code before us, all also highlighting the next generation.

My affinity for comics runs deep. Not to age me, but I grew up between ALPHA FLIGHT #106, when Northstar came out, and ASTONISHING X-MEN #51 with his marriage to Kyle Jinadu. Even before my queer awakening, something about the X-Men universe always resonated with me. It wasn’t until I came out years later that I understood the hidden messages and subtext within the pages and wished the writers and creators could have been bolder in their exclamations. I had no idea the struggle it even took for those moments of subtext to slip through the Comics Code, or how long those before me had even waited just to see the subtext that I considered “not enough”.

Now I find myself wearing way too big shoes and hoping I can walk in them. I’ve been fortunate enough to incorporate queer storytelling into my career, and even to work alongside some of the great black queer pioneers in television. But even with all the opportunities I’ve had, I have to admit that I haven’t made the kind of queer story I want to see on screen. Like my predecessors, I want to do more. Like my predecessors, I am deeply and painfully aware of the uphill battles that come with real change.

I have and continue to see how difficult it is not only to tell LGBTQIA+ stories, but also to maintain the authenticity of our characters. Working in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, one would think that allegory would make it easier to incorporate queer stories, but in many cases it’s still a reality that only certain types of queerness are allowed to thrive in the mainstream – leaving everything else drowned by unconfirmed subtext. These excluded characters also deserve to be represented in an authentic, three-dimensional way, because the simple truth is that everyone deserves a voice.
and for their stories to be heard.

That’s why my job in television is ultimately about being a bridge and a vessel. Even though I contain multitudes as a black, Puerto Rican, sometimes male, cisgender, lesbian female, I cannot speak for any of my trans and queer siblings. I work as a producer and executive, so it will never be my words that come out of a character’s mouth. This is why it is imperative for me that I now nurture the writers who will one day write these words. This quest for authenticity through diversity is why Marvel and the comics have always held a special place in my heart. Stories like the ones you’re about to read are replacing film and television, paving the way forward and shining a light on the places others are afraid to look. But if we’ve learned anything from the current news cycle, it’s that visibility doesn’t equal liberation. On the contrary, visibility exposes many people who may have felt safer out of the limelight.

MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE 2022 is more than just an anthology. This is an opportunity to recognize our struggles and celebrate ALL paths of homosexuality. It is a call to action for us to lead our whole community together towards liberation. He calls on our film and TV counterparts to be bolder in their queer portrayals. It’s making sure our cisgender and straight counterparts know that even if they insist on not saying gay, they’ll still see us. Just like Taku just stood next to Black Panther, we’re all here and we’re not going anywhere.