Chris Cooper on Northstar and the Historic 'Alpha Flight' #106 Issue
The writer and one of Marvel's first openly gay editors discusses 'Marvel's Voices: Pride,' the original X-Men, Northstar, and more!
Marvel's Voices kicked off its fourth season by sitting down with one of Marvel's own, Christian "Chris" Cooper, in celebration of the release of MARVEL'S VOICES: PRIDE #1, out now. The writer, editor, active birder, and Harvard alum was associate editor at Marvel Comics from 1990-1996, and one of Marvel's first openly gay editors.
Most notably, Cooper was the associate editor of the landmark issue ALPHA FLIGHT #106, where Northstar comes out as gay, becoming the first openly gay Super Hero in the Marvel Universe, as well as introducing Victoria Montesi, the first openly lesbian character for Marvel.
On Landing at Marvel
How did the former Harvard alum, working in magazine publishing, land at Marvel? As he points out to host Angélique Roché, his friend Kelly Corvese, "who [he] hates for all eternity because he beat [him] by just a few months as the first openly gay editor at Marvel," alerted him that an assistant editor job was opening up and knew about his dream of working for Marvel Comics. He recounts meeting Bob Budiansky, who was in charge of the custom comics division, and being told he was overqualified for this job, to which Cooper responded while laughing, "I don't care! I will xerox till my fingers are bloody. I just want to work here!" Cooper notes, "It was the happiest employment period of my life."
On His Marvel Origin Story
Cooper's first introduction to Marvel was actually through television in the form of old 1966 Marvel cartoons that introduced him to the likes of Thor, Sub-Mariner, Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man. Cooper jokes he "can probably still sing all five theme song." He credits these old cartoons for leading him to the comics, but he wouldn't dive deep with his love for Marvel until junior high when he came across an X-Men comic, from the Claremont-Byrne years, in a convenience store, recalling, "They showed all these characters on this cover, including this Black woman with white hair all over the place. I'm like, 'Wait, these aren't the X-Men I know. What is this?' I think I picked it up right around when they first introduce the Hellfire Club, during the Phoenix saga... I was totally rehooked."
On The Role of an Editor
"As an editor, you were the steward of a particular book and its characters," explains Cooper. "Now, I was never a full editor. The highest I ever was was an associate editor, but that meant I had books of my own underneath a full editor. As an editor, you are in charge of the characters. You are in charge of making sure that the integrity and the value of the characters, that their storylines are consistent, or if you decide to go in a new direction, that it's a better direction. You are the one who who's ultimately in charge. But you don't exercise that directly over the content of the books. It's more by whom you hire to write it and draw it."
Cooper continues, "For example, perfect example, ALPHA FLIGHT. At that point, I was Bobbie Chase's assistant editor. Bobbie, her job was to steward ALPHA FLIGHT and take it in a direction that was meaningful and interesting and keep the integrity of those characters or else take them in a new direction. And her job was also to say, 'Yeah, good idea. No, bad idea. Yeah, good idea. Yeah, nixin' that.' And that's what she did. As the assistant editor, I sat and listened and learned, and when I thought I had something valuable to contribute, I jumped in."
On Northstar's Coming Out in ALPHA FLIGHT #106
Speaking on the public reaction to Northstar and his evolution, Cooper comments, "Well, that's the thing. It was Marvel. And Marvel was comics, Super Hero comics anyway. Now, never mind that DC had had openly gay characters before us. Never mind that the independent comics had openly gay characters. This was Marvel doing it. And so, for some reason, that was epic. That was seismic for Marvel to have an openly gay Super Hero."
Reflecting on ALPHA FLIGHT's groundbreaking moment, and so many moments since, Cooper reveals, "It's fantastic. It parallels the mainstreaming for good-- mostly for good, but you know, a little bit for ill. It parallels the mainstreaming of LGBTQ issues in society and LGBTQ people. So it was bound to happen. The people writing comics, like me, are either gay themselves or have gay people in their lives. There are gay people who we are working side by side with. They are in the streets. They are our family. So how can you not put that in the comics?"
To hear more from Chris Cooper, listen to this new episode of Marvel's Voices above, and be sure to MARVEL'S VOICES: PRIDE #1 in stores now!
Also, be sure to check out Chris' Marvel's Voices Powers & Possibilities essay on how the X-Men opened up spaces for LGBTQ readers.
Listen to new episodes of Marvel’s Voices each and every week! You can listen to this season on the SiriusXM app the day before it’s available everywhere else. It’s included in most SiriusXM subscriptions. Download the app for free today to start listening. Episodes drop on Sirius XM on Fridays, and available the following Monday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, Pocket Casts, Amazon Music, and everywhere you listen to podcasts.
For more information on Marvel's Voices, head over to www.marvel.com/voices!
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