In case you missed the hype train: Karolina and Nico are officially canon in RUNAWAYS. This is a big deal for a lot of long-time comic fans. A lot of non-comic fans are excited too. There’s a lot of factors adding to why this relationship in particular matters. Karolina and Nico finally getting together isn’t just representation that people have been begging for. Their relationship in RUNAWAYS is also the answer to a long-standing issue in the comics.

Representation

First things first — we have a canon gay relationship on screen. Comics have been pretty gay for a while, honestly. Suspiciously enough, not much of that has transferred to the TV shows and movies. In fact, a lot of characters in the MCU who are canonically gay in the comics get no mention of their sexuality in the films. It’s refreshing to have this not be the case.

Representation in RUNAWAYS
Nico and Karolina continue with the relationship discussion (and the kissing), letting us know the kiss at the dance wasn’t a one-off thing.

Karolina, in the comics, is a lesbian. The same rings true in the TV show. While the comics haven’t confirmed specific sexuality for Nico, the comic canon is that she likes girls (specifically Karolina) as well as guys. It might seem like common sense for adaptations to keep the comic-canon sexualities for characters. However, we have a pile-up of characters that are LGBT in the comics that the movies seem hesitant to confirm on-screen.

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It’s nice to not only have these characters confirmed as LGBT but to have a canon relationship. Seeing gay characters represented is only half the battle. Having gay characters have meaningful on-screen relationships matters as well. It’s nice to be able to step outside of the comics — where I can read about canon lesbians like America Chavez or Angela — and not have to be deprived of seeing gay relationships.

Nico, Karolina, and the Comics

To be fair, when it comes to representation, things can be a bit complicated. This applies to RUNAWAYS — while Karolina has been gay since the start of the Runaways comics, Nico’s history is a bit more complicated. In fact, Karolina came out to Nico first in the comics — by admitting her crush on her.

Nico responded by rejecting her. The initial volume of Runaways implied that Nico isn’t interested in girls. However, comics are ongoing, and things change. Nico went from rejecting Karolina to being weirdly jealous of Karolina gaining a girlfriend later on in the comics. Now, with Runaways on its third volume, the comics have Nico openly admitting that she has a thing for Karolina. Karolina, however, has a girlfriend.

Representation
Karolina has moved past her initial crush on Nico in the comics. Nico’s feelings for Karolina are a bit more…complicated.

After so much back and forth in the comics, it’s interesting to see them in an actual relationship. A lot of the comic fans were a bit frustrated by watching these two characters skirt around each other for years. Karolina’s other relationships in the comics have been important as well. Karolina’s been with Xavin in the past, and is currently together with Julie Power — Karolina’s never seemed to have issues finding relationships. However, to see Nico actually have a canon relationship with Karolina in RUNAWAYS is a fantastic adaptation decision.

Adaptation and Choices

People creating media of comics have multiple choices, actually — they can provide less representation, equivalent representation, or more representation. Less representation is when movie or television adaptations chose not to canonize a character’s sexuality in the new media. Equivalent representation would be when an adaptation keeps a character’s sexuality the same as it is in the original canon.

Representation in RUNAWAYS
RUNAWAYS gave us a step up from Karolina’s awkward confession in the comics by having Nico reciprocate.

More representation is when a show decides to confirm a character as gay when the comics haven’t done so. This is a decision that X-Men movies or TV series could make with Storm, for example. The comics typically code Storm as bisexual, but there’s been no textual confirmation.

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When it comes to the decision to canonize Nico and Karolina, I’d say we’re getting more. Nico gets to go beyond struggling with her feelings. In the comics, she’s interested in Karolina, but it’s possible to write off her sexuality without canonizing it, since Karolina is the only girl she has indicated interest in, and she’s never entered a relationship with a girl.

Why Does Nico Matter?

You may be wondering why Nico getting to be in a relationship with the girl she likes is such a big deal. There’s already a canon LGBT character in RUNAWAYS even without Nico. Certainly, Karolina is great. In fact, Karolina has stood out as a fundamental gay character in the comics for a while. There’s something to be noted about Karolina, though — she’s white.

In fact, almost all the gay representation we saw in comics at the time of Karolina coming out was white people. This goes doubly for gay women. While the comics have a few more LGBT characters who are men of color, like Rictor, the dating prospects for LGBT women are…blindingly white. Nico represents a change for the better when it comes to the representation of LGBT people of color.

There’s another problem Nico helps cover as well. Marvel, for all its steps forward in LGBT rep, has a bad habit of making bisexuals/pansexuals morally grey characters. Daken, Mystique, and Deadpool, for example, are all bisexual or pansexual in the comics. This seems to reflect the unfortunate stereotype that bi/pan people aren’t trustworthy, are sneaky, and/or manipulative.

Nico changes this narrative as well — Nico’s a hero. Nico is unambiguously good. Unlike Marvel’s other bi/pan characters, Nico is someone who can’t be portrayed as an untrustworthy person who “can’t choose a side” when it comes to morality or sexuality. Nico’s refreshing representation for bisexual and pansexual people, especially women of color.

RUNAWAYS and the Future for LGBT Characters

RUNAWAYS has confirmed that Nico and Karolina are both into girls — with no caveats. The canon can’t write off Nico’s interest as her working through her own issues, which the comics are still capable of doing. (Especially considering Nico’s bad habit of kissing people whenever she has an emotional dilemma.) Even if the show covers Nico’s issues with relationships, she’s expressed genuine and reciprocated interest in Karolina in the canon of RUNAWAYS.

Representation in RUNAWAYS
Nico seems to have some hang-ups on relationships in RUNAWAYS as well — but unlike the comics, it hasn’t stopped her relationship with Karolina.

This decision in RUNAWAYS could be a sign of new decision making for adaptations and LGBT characters. Comic fans aren’t exactly used to the idea of new adaptations having more representation. However, comic fans having the opportunity to become used to something like this sounds amazing. Having movies/television confirm characters as LGBT when the comics only code them as gay could mean a lot.

Considering that television and movies have the chance to reach broader audiences currently than the comics, things like this are even better. I hope that RUNAWAYS starts a trend. People have acknowledged that media can add representation wh when it comes to race, so it’d be nice to see people realize the same applies to LGBT representation.

RUNAWAYS setting an example is fitting, in my opinion. I hope the rest of Marvel’s creators take note.

One Comment

  1. Fanta Nick

    September 3, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Okay, huge objection: This is less representation. It writes Xavin out of the story, and Xavin is a queer black woman. Karolina and Xavin explored a very real part of some relationships where your identified orientation has to contend with something that doesn’t fit the binary. A lesbian or straight man falling for a transwoman. A straight woman or gay man falling for a transman. It also dealt with the other side, feeling delegitimatized whenever your other half starts acting like you aren’t really what you identify as.

    That entire dynamic has been written out of the story in favor of wish fulfillment that is honestly portrayed in such a way that it looks like Nico is just reciprocating to spite Alex.

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