This week, Marvel Comics released its much ballyhooed "Astonishing X-Men" #51 featuring the wedding of gay X-Man Northstar to his longtime boyfriend Kyle. The issue has inspired waves of response from supportive events at comic book shops across America (most notably a marriage at New York's Midtown Comics Wednesday for Ohio couple/comic fans Scott Everhart and Jason Welker) and a series of increasingly strange and largely unsuccessful protests from conservative groups. Amidst all other activities, fans who bought issue #51 on Wednesday may have also noticed an unannounced guest star in the issue in the form of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
This is, of course, Bloomberg's second Marvel Comics appearance after a previous special Spider-Man comic saw him promoting New York's job hunting aides. And like that time, this Bloomberg appearance came complete with an ad in the issue promoting NYC as a spot for destination weddings for couples both gay and straight.
Chris Coffey of the NYC Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment spoke with CBR News about the move and what New York hopes to achieve in participating in the historic issue. "We've had this partnership with Marvel that goes back to the special edition they did of Peter Parker trying to find a job with some of the city resources that were available. The city was really pleased with the partnership and thinks Marvel is a great corporate citizen," Coffey told CBR. "So from the city's point of view, we're always looking at new ways that we can get a message out -- whether that's through more traditional ways like television, radio, newspapers, blogs and digital media or others. And this presented a real interesting way to get a message out to folks.
"We're always looking for outlets and distribution platforms that can get the city's message out, and in this case, it's a terrific message. The mayor's office is always talking about how New York is the center of equality and fairness, so this became a terrific way following marriage equality being legal in New York last year that we can show off to lots of people who are New Yorkers and to people who may be interested in getting married who are from other places. This is a terrific message we're proud to be a part of and obviously a terrific platform that the mayor's office of entertainment is thrilled to be a part of."
Aside from the print appearance, the Mayor's office also had representatives on hand for Everhart and Welker's ceremony at Midtown. "We were there, and it was great. The two grooms who were married actually came to the mayor's LGBT reception last night where he celebrates Pride Week in New York. Their being there meant it almost became a wedding reception for them as well -- although there were also 1,200 other New Yorkers there celebrating Pride Week," Coffey explained.
Overall, he noted that New York has found comic books are an effective way to promote the mayor's agenda both within NYC and across the country. "The Spider-Man jobs edition was really successful. It was printed in the Daily News and distributed city-wide, and the message was 'Different things the city is doing to get New Yorkers jobs.' I know that a lot of other cities have looked at that model and said, 'Should we be using comic books?' Someone like Marvel has hundreds of thousands if not millions of readers who are getting their information that way. And while that's entertainment information, we can use that in all sorts of ways."
Of course, while each issue featuring Bloomberg have served similar purposes, there are some distinct fanboy differences Coffey noted. "The difference here is that the Peter Parker job story was a special edition of Spider-Man that stood out but was not a part of the series. It was a stand alone edition," he said. "This new story was part of the continuing story of X-Men and of Northstar getting married to Kyle. The mayor showed up at the wedding, and we wanted the mayor to show up to support Marvel and what they're doing, but we also wanted to use this to be part of the platform and tell as many people as possible that New York is a great place to celebrate your lives. We like to think of ourselves as a beacon of equality, fairness and justice.
As for the Mayor's rendering by artist Mike Perkins, Coffey said the reaction was a good one. "I think he would say that when he was growing up that he would be portrayed in 'Spider-Man' and 'X-Men,' he would have been really excited. He was proud to stand next to Spider-Man a year ago, and he mentioned Northstar at his Gracie Mansion LGBT reception. So I think it's every kids dream to be characterized in a comic book. There are still times when the mayor looks around and is humbled by things like that."
"Astonishing X-Men" #51 is on sale now.