Every year, Marvel and DC commemorate June with covers and stories centered around its stable of LGBTQIA+ characters. That tradition continues this year, but in Marvel’s case, it’s been deflating thanks to the messaging getting fumbled pretty badly.

On March 21 (Thursday), Marvel revealed its list of books coming out in June. Most of them are tied to its upcoming Blood Hunt event, and several comics—X-Men #35, Amazing Spider-Man #52, Immortal Thor #12, and others—have “Pride Allies” variant covers. The titling would have you think that Marvel was celebrating Pride Month by focusing solely on allies—aka, “the straights”—of its LGBTQIA+ cast, which went about as well on social media as you’d expect.

Flash-forward to March 22 (Friday), where Marvel put out an announcement about the Pride variants: specifically, the eight covers (four each drawn by artists Betsy Cola and Davi Go) will pair an LGBTQIA+ hero with a prominent straight character (with the former getting primary focus) to “showcase both the spirit of Pride Month and exemplifying the importance of strong allyship.” You can see one such cover by Go below, which sees Northstar share the spotlight with Spider-Man.

Image: Davi Go/Marvel Comics

On paper, there’s nothing wrong with this—DC’s doing the same thing with Batman and Nightwing, for instance, but these covers just have the standard “Pride” labeling. It also helps that DC got to control the narrative by revealing its Pride output before the solicits rather than the other way around. What’s more, these covers are boosted by another annual Pride anthology celebrating its own stable of LGBTQIA+ characters, along with an one-shot honoring the late Doom Patrol writer Rachel Pollack, who gave the publisher its first trans hero in Coagula.

Supeheroes and queerness have always been linked together—it’s part of why Robin exists. You can (and fans often do!) read A-listers like Spider-Man, Daredevil, et al as queer, either by pulling from scenes in comics or other versions of them found in movies and games. Giving these heroes the “allies” label complicates things even further. What was probably an earnest attempt to celebrate a demographic of Marvel’s audience now has a weird air over it, made worse by the fact that it came straight from the source.

Marvel’s Pride Allies covers will run from June 5 to June 26.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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