A clearly gay character has finally arrived in the Marvel universe — although many casual viewers may miss the historic moment.
Joe Russo, who directed Avengers: Endgame with his brother Anthony Russo, portrays a gay man in the blockbuster, reports Deadline. It's a small scene — the character is part of a support group for those who have lost loved ones at the hands of Thanos, a villain who made half of the universe's living beings disappear in Avengers: Infinity War.
“Representation is really important,” Joe Russo told Deadline. “It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them. We felt it was important that one of us play him, to ensure the integrity and show it is so important to the filmmakers that one of us is representing that. It is a perfect time, because one of the things that is compelling about the Marvel universe moving forward is its focus on diversity.”
The Marvel universe has been slow to embrace diversity. Its first film led by a woman, Captain Marvel, premiered last month — a decade after the superhero franchise began with Iron Man. Several minor characters, like Thor: Ragnarok's Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Black Panther's Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and Okoye (Danai Gurira), were reportedly de-gayed through deleted scenes.
Anthony Russo told Deadline that the inclusion of the gay character represented a step toward inclusivity that reflected the real world. "We wanted to have a voice that was talking about the experience of people that went beyond The Avengers," he said. "That’s why we felt we really needed it in the movie. Otherwise, it just became too hermetic and insular. That character that Joe is playing really came from that point of view, him being an everyman who has suffered from Thanos’ act."
Marvel has yet to introduce a clearly LGBTQ superhero — although the studio is reportedly searching for a gay actor to portray one. A Marvel executive, Victoria Alonso, told Variety at the Captain Marvel premiere that "the world is ready" for a gay superhero.
Avengers: Endgame premieres Friday.