When Rio de Janeiro mayor Marcelo Crivella set out to censor Marvel's Avengers: The Children's Crusade for its inclusion of a same-sex kiss between two superheroes, he certainly didn't intend to make it one of the most well-known scenes, comics, and collections to ever hit Brazilian news.
The unexpected development in the world of Brazilian comic book sales has taken international media by surprise, shedding light on anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiments in some of the country's highest offices--and the work being done to protect the rights of that community, at the same time. Crivella, an evangelical bishop before taking office as Mayor of Rio, wanted to send a message by censoring copies of the Marvel Comics kiss for its "inappropriate" content for children and families. But the city's justice system, and now the front page of the country's biggest newspaper have made the Young Avengers romance historic for a whole new reason.
Crivella made his announcement via Twitter on Thursday, September 5th, claiming that he had encountered copies of the Marvel trade paperback including the kiss between same-sex superheroes Wiccan and Hulkling, while visiting A Bienal Internacional do Livro Rio, or "The International Book Biennial Rio" (via O Globo). Ironically, his claim that the content is "inappropriate" to children led to retailers selling out of the copies which remained on shelves. On Friday, municipal inspectors arrived to conduct random searches for materials "with inappropriate scenes for children and adolescents," claiming they would not comply with the requirements of Article 78 of the Statute of Child and Adolescent, and should be sold in sealed, black packaging, with a warning. The event's leaders interceded, and without any judicial body supporting the search, the inspectors departed. (According to the Statute, depictions of a same-sex kiss do not qualify as inappropriate).
By Friday night, the story had spread wider than anyone could have predicted at the time. With many citing Crivella's actions as openly anti-LGBTQIA+, and the event releasing a statement in defense of free speech, democracy, and recognition of varying types of literature, the responses began. Like Brazilian YouTuber Felipe Neto, who informed his 34 million subscribers (via Metro) that he would personally be purchasing 14,000 books focused on LGBTQIA+ stories and issues. They will be given out randomly at the event, free of charge, sold in black packaging with a warning labeling them "inappropriate for outdated, backward, prejudiced people."
The scene itself, depicting Wiccan and Hulkling's kiss (deemed offensive and inappropriate by Crivella) landed the spotlight on the cover of Folha de S. Paulo, the country's widest-circulated, most-visited, and influential newspapers. Based on the early responses from within and without the country of Brazil, this isn't the last that Crivella, or those who share his views, have heard of Marvel's still very-much-in-love gay hero couple.
The superheroes may not be as well known as the Marvel heroes starring in the Avengers film franchise, but the Young Avengers are notable in the comic publisher's history for several reasons. Strangely enough, the kiss between Hulkling (Teddy Altman) and Wiccan (Billy Kaplan) in Avengers: The Children's Crusade #9 (2010) isn't the first gay superhero couple, the first time a character was confirmed to be gay, the first gay kiss, or any similar milestone one might expect. What made the moment from writer Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung historic was that it was the first time readers had seen Billy and Teddy share a kiss, despite them being introduced as a romantic item, and later a loving couple. They've been through some ups and downs, but even today can be seen in Marvel's Death's Head.