Thursday, July 29, 2021

Pride Month Spotlight: Marvel’s Billy Kaplan and Teddy Altman

Welcome to the 24th installment of our 2021 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQIA+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQIA+ community and in mainstream media.

Today’s spotlight will shine on two Marvel Comics characters. As we strive for representation across various forms media, comics are an important and sometimes overlooked area. One of the best examples of comic inclusivity can be found in Marvel’s Young Avengers series, which features a predominantly LGBTQIA+ team of superheroes. Today, we’ll be focusing on two of the founding members of the Young Avengers, the (now married) couple Billy Kaplan and Teddy Altman.

William “Billy” Kaplan — aka Wiccan — is a powerful warlock that just so happens to be the reincarnated son of Scarlet Witch and Vision. Theodore “Teddy” Altman — aka Hulkling aka Dorrek VIII — is the half-Kree, half-Skrull son of Mar-Vell and Princess Anelle. When the Avengers disbanded, Billy and Teddy were two people listed in the Avengers Fail-Safe Program, which Nathanial Richards (Iron Lad) used to form the Young Avengers.

Marvel Comics
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One of the things that makes the Young Avengers series so great is the fact that every character — including Billy and Teddy — has their own individual backstory and arc. When Billy was first introduced, he had no idea that he was the reincarnated son of Wanda Maximoff, or that he had a twin brother named Tommy Shepherd (aka Speed). And beyond digging into his family history, Billy also had to contend with coming into his (very strong) powers and capabilities, including becoming the Demiurge.

Marvel Comics

As for Teddy, he grew up with the ability to shapeshift, but he didn’t know the true nature of his parentage until the Super-Skrull Kl’rt came to Earth and kidnapped him. What began as a push and pull over him between the Kree and the Skrulls later turned into him becoming the emperor of the Kree-Skrull alliance and the King of Space. Basically, these two are the definition of a badass power couple.

A particularly important scene involving the two occurred early on, in Young Avengers #7 (2005), when Billy’s parents mistook his uncertainty about telling them that he was on a superhero team with thinking he was coming out as gay. The moment was heartwarming without a hint of drama, as his parents told him that they’ve always known, they love him, they’re proud of him, and they’re happy he and Teddy found each other (followed by Billy’s dad promptly welcoming Teddy to the family!)

The development of Billy and Teddy’s relationship over the years has been a joy to watch unfold, from their subtle flirting and protectiveness over one another in the first Young Avengers run, to the bumps they’ve hit along the way (always coming back to one another!), finally leading up to one of their most recent exploits: saving an entire vacation planet in the midst of their honeymoon. The comics give Billy and Teddy plenty of action-packed superhero moments, while also inserting soft snippets of their private life together in between. (Without shying away from the intimacy, either!)

Marvel Comics

Audience Reception

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Though they’re not as popular today, letter pages full of submissions from readers were always a staple found in comic books over the years. Going back and reading the letter pages of the original 2005-2006 Young Avengers run is an experience, to say the least. When it was revealed that Billy and Teddy were dating, the news wasn’t exactly met with enthusiasm by some readers, unfortunately. Looking back on those pages today highlights just how incredibly important it is for comic book writers to continue to creating and writing stories about LGBTQIA+ characters.

Marvel Comics

On a more positive note, the original series went on to win the 2006 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book, and the 2013 series won the same award at the 2014 GLAAD Media Awards. Meanwhile, Empyre, Lords of Empyre: Emperor Hulkling, and Empyre: Aftermath Avengers (which heavily featured storylines with the two) won GLAAD’s 2021 Outstanding Coming Book award this year!

Current Comics

Billy and Teddy recently appeared in their own comic earlier this year, King in Black: Wiccan and Hulkling by Tini Howard, in which features the two on a killer honeymoon that’s nothing short of exciting.

Marvel Comics

Meanwhile, Marvel’s first-ever queer-centered special spotlighting LGBTQIA+ characters — Marvel’s Voices: Pride — began hitting shelves this week on June 23. The issue features 12 all-new stories, one of which stars Wiccan and Hulkling! The original Young Avengers team, Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, returned to craft this particular story.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

A child version of Billy was introduced in the Disney+ series WandaVision (along with his brother Tommy), which continues to add to the list of Young Avengers characters that are slowly being introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Teddy has yet to show up, but there are still plenty of projects up ahead that he could appear in. Although there’s been no official confirmation of a Young Avengers film or series, all signs are certainly pointing to something. Assuming that we could see an aged-up version of Billy in or after Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, that will bring us one step closer to some much-needed representation in the MCU with one of Marvel’s best couples, Wiccan and Hulkling.

Stay tuned for the rest of our daily Pride Month spotlights throughout the rest of this month.

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Lindsey
Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, she's likely reading books and comics or dabbling in creative writing. Otherwise, she's probably yelling about something Star Wars or Marvel related on Twitter @lindyysolo. Contact: lindsey@nerdsandbeyond.com

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