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Marvel Cinematic Universe To Get First Trans Character

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is expanding, and soon fans will see a transgender character.

At an event Saturday at the New York Film Academy, the president of Marvel Studios was asked whether there were plans to bring "more LGBT+ characters" into the Marvel universe --"specifically the T, trans characters?"

"Yes, absolutely, yes," Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige responded. "And very soon — in a movie that we're shooting right now." Feige didn't go into details, such as what superpower the character might have, or which movie the character would appear in.

Marvel is currently shooting The Eternals, which will feature its first gay character, and its first deaf superhero. And the next installment in the Thor franchise will see Tessa Thompson playing Valkyrie, who will have an LGBT storyline. "As a new king, she needs to find her queen," Thompson said.

Marvel made history in 2018 when it released Black Panther, the first mainstream superhero movie featuring black superheroes and a mostly black cast. "Black Panther is a story we haven't seen told before in popular cinema — a story about black people completely untouched by colonialism, who exist entirely outside the global systems of institutionalized racism," wrote NPR's Glen Weldon at the time.

"It's a fantasy, in other words — but then, that's exactly what superhero stories are for," Weldon said. "It's difficult to explain the simple, inspiring and empowering joy of seeing a version of oneself onscreen, to those who've spent their lives unthinkingly soaking in it."

In last year's Captain Marvel, Brie Larson played the eponymous character, who (spoiler alert) turns out to be one of the most powerful characters in the entire Marvel universe. She was the second woman in the Marvel universe to lead her own movie — or, as film critic Justin Chang wrote, the first"assuming you don't count the ill-fated 2005 Jennifer Garner vehicle 'Elektra.' "

With Black Panther and Captain Marvel, "we wanted to keep showcasing heroes from the comics that represent the world that goes to see our movies," Feige said. "So our intention was always to continue to do that." Both of those movies were so successful, Feige said, that they "have inspired other companies around the world to do the same thing and tell those different types of stories."

Marvel wouldn't be the first studio to feature a transgender superhero. That distinction belongs to CW's Supergirl, which in 2018 cast the first transgender superhero to be featured in a television show. Nicole Maines plays Nia Nal, who came out last year as a transgender woman named Dreamer who is half-alien and half-human. "That inadvertently [broke] the fourth wall because as Nia's doing that, so am I," Maines told Entertainment Weekly. "I'm going on television and declaring my identity as a trans woman, proudly, unapologetically, and in hopes of inspiring people." The increasing representation of trans people in media has "taught me there are people in Hollywood who care," Maines said.

Feige told the New York Film Academy audience that Marvel tries to encourage diversity behind the camera as well. "Both films we have coming out in 2020 are directed by women," as are multiple Disney+ shows, he said. "It makes for better stories," he continued. "When you're sitting at a table ... if everybody looks like you, you're in trouble. You're not going to get the best story out of that."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").