Joss Whedon Almost Ruined Marvel’s First Gender-Mutable Character


The character Xavin from “The Runaways” was groundbreaking for becoming Marvel’s first gender—mutable hero, but “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon almost nullified that progress. In the mid-2000s, The Runaways, along with The New X-Men and The Young Avengers, were Marvel’s first serious attempts to create new socially diverse teams of young people of different backgrounds, physiques, races and sexual identities. Proper representation can be a thorny path, but when Brian K. Vaughan introduced the gender-shifting Skrull character Xavin in the middle of the second volume of the series, they seemed natural. Unfortunately, when Whedon took over The Runaways in 2008, he changed Xavin’s personality, which, although it was supposed to be festive, ultimately made the book deaf and simplistic.

Xavin is a Super Skrull undergoing training from the planet Tarnax VII, who arrives on Earth to conclude a peacemaking marriage by agreement with a member of the Fugitives, Caroline Dean, another space alien from the rival Majesdan race. As a Super Skrull, Xavin can replicate the abilities of any member of the Fantastic Four, but Xavin also assumes a human form that changes from male to female at will depending on emotions or what they think the situation requires. media. Caroline identifies as a lesbian and is wary of the idea of a marriage of convenience, but eventually falls in love with the very attentive Xavin, who joins the Fugitive team.

In issue #29 of Joss Whedon’s “Runaways” story arc, “Dead End Kids” with art by Michael Ryan, the team travels back in time to 1907, when superheroes were just beginning to appear in New York. Up to this point, Xavin’s human form was black, but in 1907 they assume the form of a white man for their own safety, an intriguing premise that is not explored at all. When Caroline meets a girl who has been abused and wants to bring her back to the present, Xavin objects so violently that they lose control and return to their black female form. Caroline decides that this means that the female form of Xavin is the “real” Xavin, and they embrace. This contradicts what Vaughan wrote in issue #22, where Xavin explains that Caroline already accepts them for who they are and that others should do the same, a much more constructive place for this conversation.

The fact that Caroline made this observation about Xavin completely deprives Xavin of their free will. Xavin, who usually freely transforms from a man into a woman and always in black skin, suddenly finds himself chained to a white male body for a long period of time, especially because otherwise they may be harmed. However, when Xavin returns to a more comfortable form at a particularly tense moment, it somehow has to equate to the fact that this form is more “real” than the others. Thankfully, the next creative team completely ignored this, but Xavin was written off the Ground and hence out of comics for more than a decade in the process.

Xavin first appeared since 2009 at the end of the 100th issue of “Runaways” by writer Rainbow Rowell and artist Adress Zhenole in 2021, depicted in a new, more openly androgynous green Skrull form. Xavin has also been included in Hulu’s Runaways live performance series, but this version is not a Skrull and takes only a female human form. Xavin was the first example of gender variability in Marvel comics, and the character was subjected to insults and ridicule that would never make it into one of today’s books, but to the credit of the authors, Xavin’s personality was never played out for laughs. However, one of the biggest mistakes Marvel made in “The Runaways” was that they allowed a high-profile writer like Joss Whedon to completely downplay Xavin’s gender-shifting identity.