I believe that diversity in media is important because it can lead to a better understanding of different perspectives, and ultimately, more tolerance and compassion for others. Minority groups deserve to see themselves represented, and represented well, in various forms of media. While mutants have represented oppressed minorities as a metaphor for decades, Northstar became the first major openly-gay character in comic books in 1992, which helped pave the way for more LGBT+ representation in comics.
Victor Borkowski is a mutant with green, reptilian skin and a long, prehensile tongue that can stick to any surface. Because of his reptilian mutation, he has the ability to camouflage himself with his surroundings and is capable of re-growing lost limbs (and in recent years, artists have occasionally given him a long tail – stop doing this). But as a young, gay man, Victor actually had a harder time accepting his mutation and appearance than his sexuality. To celebrate Pride Month, we’re welcoming Anole to the D-List.
A student at Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, Anole first appeared in New Mutants Vol. 2 #2 in 2003. Created by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, this appearance was barely a cameo, and he wasn’t even named until a few issues later. Although it wasn’t explicitly stated, many clues hinted at the fact that Anole was gay. However, while other students at the school were regularly featured throughout this volume of New Mutants and its continuation New X-Men, Anole was not. Finally, a few years later, the students were pulled into Limbo, and Victor was given more attention (so they pulled him out of Limbo to put him into Limbo… I’m funny, dammit).
Victor naturally led a bunch of students while battling demons and Illyana’s demonic persona, Darkchylde. A demon chopped off Anole’s right arm, but a new, bulkier arm quickly grew in its place (there’s a Jon Bobbitt joke in here that I’ll let you make on your own). Anole kept calm and took charge in a very scary situation, so once the kids returned home, Rockslide convinced Cyclops to let Victor join the official team of students training to become X-Men.
I was happy to see Anole get a spotlight because while there are so many students and squads of young, potential X-Men, not many characters could contribute anything significant to a given story. Still, it was silly for writers to tease at his sexuality but then continue to leave him out of meaningful stories when there were so few gay X-Men. However, not only did his time in Limbo set him up to be a regularly featured character, a friendly yet antagonistic relationship between Anole and Rockslide also blossomed.
Santo tried to convince Anole to let X-23 cut off his other limbs because Beast believed they would all grow back just as his right arm did. When Anole refused, Rockslide called him a sissy, which lead to Victor attacking Santo. Between “sissy” and the beating that led outside, Anole must have told Santo he was gay, because Rockslide said, “I swear, I didn’t know!”. Later on, Rockslide seemed to out Anole to everyone, but Loa claimed everyone already knew.
Although this was all meant to be humorous, it was still problematic. While I am not a gay man, I have heard coming out stories and I understand the importance of this rite of passage. However, and this is not excusing it, I also understand that teenagers are awful and dumb, and may not grasp the significance that coming out has to someone who identifies as LGBT+. Santo, although an endearing character, occasionally speaks inappropriately, and this incident was sadly not out of character for Rockslide (his manners are rocky at best). Not a mutant to let awkward social situations get the best of him, Anole was featured pretty regularly in X-Men titles and depicted as a very caring young man.
Both Rockslide and Anole were tired of sitting on the sidelines during most missions, so Santo convinced Victor to sneak out with him to patrol the streets of San Francisco late at night. They wore disguises and fought criminals, but unwittingly landed in the crosshairs of Mr. Negative, who hired the Serpent Society to deal with the vigilantes. However, Anole singlehandedly defeated Death Adder, Anaconda, and King Cobra (and Trouser Snake). Although Negative had taken control of Rockslide, Victor caused Santo to unwittingly slam Negative to the ground, so the villain surrendered. Anole had just beaten a group of infamous villains by himself. When Cyclops found out what the two were doing, Scott told the pair to keep up the good work. I would encourage everyone to read X-Men: To Serve and Protect for this story alone. It really captured how much heart these two characters have and how well they can work together.
Victor was clearly a capable combatant, but when he was targeted by Lady Mastermind, the villain exploited his insecurities. Anole struggled with his confidence because of his appearance and ditched a date because of it. Lady Mastermind sensed Victor nearby and created multiple illusions of the date telling Victor how gross he looked. With help, Victor defeated Regan, but the villain’s actions clearly shook Victor to his core.
Up until this point, Victor hadn’t been shown romantically involved with anyone, and it made sense that he struggled with his looks. The poor kid actually seemed to have an easier time accepting his sexuality than his appearance, which is something that he told Iceman. Bobby was just coming to terms with his own sexuality and had questions for Victor, who told him the lizard skin proved more difficult to accept (it’s not easy being green, or so I’ve heard).
Over the past few years Anole has enjoyed more attention, but the students still haven’t regularly accompanied the X-Men on missions, something many of the kids have grown tired of. While that is a valid complaint, Victor recently did something terrible and completely out of character.
Beast secretly created a vaccine for the X-gene, which Anole stole and apparently handed over to the government. When Beast demanded to know why, Anole claimed it was so some mutant wouldn’t have to become like him– a monster. While this has led to a much larger story in the current volume of Uncanny X-Men, it was not worth the expense of Anole’s character.
Sure, Victor had struggled with his appearance, but to hand over a cure for mutants doesn’t make sense. Anole is a caring guy, and certainly not stupid. I don’t believe he would have given the cure over to authorities without first thinking about how the government could weaponize it. He’s watched so many of his friends die over the years, why would he endanger his fellow mutants in this way? Someone was going to be vilified here, so even if there wasn’t a good choice, I think Anole was the wrong choice (Beast is terrible so vilify him some more).
While Anole has appeared in plenty of alternate universes in Marvel Comics as a background character, he’s currently enjoying a larger role in Age of X-Man. There are so many mutants in the Marvel Universe and only so many titles at one time, so I understand that not every character I love can be featured, but Anole is a capable fighter, gay, insecure, and compassionate – and he deserves more time in the spotlight.
X-Men comics are about to radically change, so even if Victor doesn’t continue to appear alongside mutants, I think he would fit perfectly elsewhere. He was a huge fan of the Young Avengers, but I think he would probably work well with the current lineup in Champions, too. Regardless, I just hope that Marvel doesn’t camouflage him and we see more of Anole in the future.
UPDATE: We all know by now that Anole wasn’t in control when he handed over the cure – my baby is still good.