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Marvel's Eternals might feature first openly gay superhero lead

Fire up the rumor mill.

Anonymous sources are reporting that Marvel Studios may be seeking to cast an openly gay male lead for its forthcoming cosmic saga The Eternals, one of the as-yet unvisited properties that will be getting the spotlight after the conclusion of Phase Three. That Hashtag Show reported the possible move.

According to THS, the studio is seeking an actor who "physically resembles a superhero," age 30-49, to help lead the ensemble. The report states that while actors of any ethnicity will be considered, Marvel would prefer to cast a gay actor for the role, which would be a first for mainstream superhero cinema.

In an interview with The Playlist last year, Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige alluded to the fact that LGBT representation was one among many priorities for the MCU in its first post-Avengers phase, although he was characteristically coy about providing any details. Asked if there were any "gay, bi, LGBTQ, out character[s]" currently in the works, Feige simply responded "Yeah… Both ones you've seen and ones you haven't seen." The first part of that equation was likely a reference to Valkyrie, Tessa Thompson's character from Thor: Ragnarok who was confirmed to be bisexual by Thompson herself (and director Taika Waititi, who lamented that portions of the film making this clear had to be left on the cutting room floor). We may now have a stronger indication of what he was referring to with the second part, and we might also infer that Valkyrie's sexuality will be made explicit in a future appearance.

A little background: the Eternals are an ancient race of beings forged by the Celestials (already established in the Guardians of the Galaxy series) to protect the Earth in opposition their counterparts, the nefarious Deviants. Their film's story is thought to center on the male/female romantic relationship between Ikarus and Sersi, meaning that any possible LGBTQ character would essentially be a secondary lead. THS states that the studio is "going to great lengths to keep the identity of the character a secret," which jibes with Feige's ultra-brief comment on the subject.

There are a huge number of LGBTQ characters to be found among the pages of Marvel comics, notably Young Avengers members Hulkling and Wiccan, certain versions of the Greek god Hercules, and — in case you were unaware — Deadpool. But it should be noted that no Eternals are canonically LGBTQ, not that Marvel Studios has ever been shy about strategic revisions to comics canon.

If true, the casting move would mark a welcome expansion of Marvel's recent efforts to give center stage to compelling characters who don't happen to be straight white guys. 2018's Black Panther proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that a black filmmaker, telling a story from his own personal viewpoint with a predominantly black cast, could craft a superhero epic that would resonate with audiences of all stripes; that flick is the MCU's highest-grossing film to date domestically, outperforming even Avengers: Infinity War stateside. Likewise, the forthcoming Captain Marvel — the MCU's first solo vehicle for a female superhero — is earning advance critical raves and looks poised for similar box office-smashing success. Also on tap for Marvel is Shang-Chi, an origin story for the venerable Master of Kung Fu, who made his comics debut in the early '70s. That film is being penned by Chinese-American scribe Dave Callaham, and the studio is seeking an Asian-American actor to fill the lead.

These moves toward greater representation may, to some, come off as a bit belated — after all, it took a full decade after the debut of Iron Man in 2008 for a non-white actor to lead an MCU film. But Feige and Marvel seem to have taken to heart the lesson that more onscreen diversity not only makes sense in terms of crafting a more complete, believable universe, it's just good business. People like to imagine themselves up there on the screen fighting the forces of evil, and the more types of people that are given center stage, the wider an audience these stories can play to.

Again, we'd like to remind you that for now, this is merely an unconfirmed rumor. But if true, we'd like to go on record saying that it's pretty damn great. Real-life heroes come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and orientations, and for too long, those who craft the stories of our cinematic heroes have largely chosen to ignore that simple fact. Also, we'd like to point out that while it has taken Marvel Studios awhile to display a true commitment to diversity, there's an old adage that rings resoundingly true here: better late than never.

We'll have more information on The Eternals as it becomes available.