'Marvel's Voices': Alex Phillips Encourages Storytelling to Reach Beyond Visibility
Alex Phillips, VP of Television at Bad Robot Productions, introduces 'Marvel's Voices: Pride' as an important collection of stories for the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond.
The last two years have been nothing if not a roller coaster. After the major success of last year’s inaugural MARVEL'S VOICES: PRIDE #1, we as an LGBTQIA+ community saw a continuous attack on our most vulnerable with an onslaught of legislation. I don’t have to tell you how much we need publications like this. Marvel’s Voices is not only a comic: For many of us, it’s a capsule crystallizing our place in queer history.
Like most of us, at times I feel like I’m on the end of a pendulum, swinging mercilessly between the feeling that we are progressing and regressing as a community—especially as headlines constantly highlight both the wins and losses for the LGBTQIA+ community without a moment to pause and process.
In the face of laws that are deciding whether we can say the word gay, if teachers should be required to “out” their transgender students, or if we can teach critical race theory in our classrooms, Marvel’s Voices, and the stories that it provides, gives us the opportunity to show how united our voices are. That we are not leaving any parts of our community behind.
Rising above the dizzying news cycle and telling our stories in their most clear, boldfaced, and least subtextual form honors those who masterfully danced around the Comics Code before us, while also shining a light for the next generation.
My affinity for comics runs deep. Not to age myself, 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 within me. It wasn’t until I came out years later that I understood the hidden messages and subtext in the pages and wished that the writers and creators could have been bolder in their exclamations. I had no idea the struggle that it even took just for these 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 deemed “not enough.”
Now I find myself wearing shoes that are way too big and hoping that I can walk in them. I have been fortunate enough to integrate 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 that I’ve had, I must admit that I haven’t made the type of queer story that I crave to see on screen. I, like my predecessors, want to do more. Also like my predecessors, I am painfully and acutely aware of the uphill battles that come with genuine change.
I have and continue to see just how hard it is not only to get LGBTQIA+ stories told but to maintain the authenticity of our characters. Working within the sci-fi and fantasy genres, one might think that allegory would make it easier to incorporate queer stories, but in many cases, it is still a reality that only certain types of queerness are allowed to thrive in the mainstream—leaving all others drowned by unconfirmed subtext. These outcast characters deserve to be represented authentically and three-dimensionally too, because the simple truth is that everyone deserves a voice
and for their stories to be heard.
That’s why my work in television is ultimately about being a bridge and a vessel. Even though I contain multitudes as a Black, Puerto Rican, at times masculine-presenting, cisgender, lesbian woman, 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 from a character’s lips. That’s why it’s imperative to me that I uplift writers now who will one day write those words. That pursuit for authenticity through diversity is why Marvel and comics have always had a special place in my heart. Stories like the ones you’re about to read supersede film and television, blazing a path forward and shining a light on the places where others are afraid to look. But if we’ve learned anything from the current news cycle, it’s that visibility does not equal liberation. If anything, visibility exposes many who may have felt safer out of the limelight.
MARVEL'S VOICES: PRIDE 2022 is more than just an anthology. It is an opportunity to acknowledge our struggles and celebrate ALL walks of queerness. It is a call to action for us to carry our entire community into liberation together. It’s calling out to our counterparts in film and television to be bolder in their queer representations. It’s making sure that our cisgender and straight counterparts know that even if they insist on not saying Gay, they will still see us. Just as Taku simply stood next to Black Panther, we are all here and we are not going anywhere.
ALEX PHILLIPS currently serves as Vice President of Television at JJ Abrams’ production powerhouse, Bad Robot Productions. Previously, Phillips worked for Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions as a film and television executive. Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Phillips graduated from The College of William and Mary and began her career in film and television by volunteering with the Tribeca Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and at The Paley Center for Media in NYC. She interned for Akiva Goldsman’s Weed Road Pictures, worked as an assistant in the TV Literary Department at The Gersh Agency, and served as the writers’ assistant and showrunner’s assistant on hit television shows Chicago Fire (NBC/Universal) and The Chi (Showtime). Phillips has a particular interest in comic books and graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and adventure, and she is excited to continue to use her platform to elevate diverse voices within those genres.
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