Reading Young Avengers
My name’s Billy Kaplan and it’s official: I have the coolest
boyfriend ever. — Young Avengers Presents #3
Michael and I prayed to Wiccan, teenage superhero, often in those days. Née Billy Kaplan, Wiccan fought evil via magic and positive thinking: I want to disable Kang’s forcefield I want to disable Kang’s forcefield. The Young Avengers was meant for high schoolers, but we believed the trade paperbacks we shared would deliver us from our twenties. Wiccan was a mesh of the both of us—Michael’s pale skin, my raven hair, our same crippling insecurity— but actually had a boyfriend who loved him: Hulking, his hunky, shape shifter teammate. “You’re all I have,” Hulking would say. “And that’s enough.”
We invoked the Wiccan way at our town’s lone and lonely gay club. Every Friday and Saturday like church, we downed tributes of vodka crans and shots out of test tubes, while Wiccan’s devoted boyfriend rescued him from Dr. Doom’s Latvarian castle, helped him find his long-lost witch mother. We tried to grind on boys under cheesy disco lights, and Wiccan danced in cosmic light, willed it from his palms while chanting spells. When we left the club, drunk and without any suitors, eating McDonald’s fries, we remembered Wiccan depressed after losing his powers and multiple teammates. He didn’t drown himself in McNuggets and buffalo sauce—his invulnerable beau proposed to him instead. Wiccan, we’d say, we want to be loved we want to be loved.
But while Michael moved to Brooklyn and fell for a wide-grinned science teacher, he sobbed on subway rides home because he loved his biologist too much. When I found someone who biked 60 miles a day, I thought about him so much I didn’t write or read or buy groceries; I woke vomiting from malnutrition. Wiccan, nearly all-powerful boy-in-love, never fell prey to lovesickness, never thought a love note on Hulking’s pillow might betray sentimentality, never feared he might be left behind. Maybe Wiccan, budding sorcerer supreme, was capable of more transcendent love, but maybe our comic bibles led us astray. Imagine a more realistic storyline: Wiccan forgetting to battle the Super Skrulls in favor of daydreaming about a wedding tux; Wiccan asking a telepathic ally if Hulking’s bad mood meant they were over; Wiccan, out of costume, just lanky Billy boy, lying in bed, focused too hard on Hulking, chanting into the dark, I want to sleep please please I want to sleep.
Eric Tran received his MFA from University of North Carolina, Wilmington. His work appears or is forthcoming from the Indiana Review, Hobart, and Knockout.