Iceman, one of the legendary superheroes from Marvel Entertainment’s X-Men franchise, will slide back into the spotlight with his very own solo comic book series out this September. Among his many capacities, Iceman can fashion an icy armor to protect his body, form ice slides to move fast, create glaciers and utilize his destructive power to fully control water, ice and cold, making him the most powerful of the cold-based fictional characters. His comeback this fall is backdropped by an earlier 2015 revelation that the character is gay.
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Until he discovered his superpower to manipulate water, ice and cold, Iceman was Bobby Drake, a regular teenage boy living in Long Island, New York, during the 1960s. Like others from the mutant race, Iceman found his born superpower when he hit puberty. He staged his first appearance in The X-Men #1 comic published in 1963. Since then, as one of the original X-Men characters, he has been critical in fighting antagonist Loki and other notorious bad guys.
As the youngest member of the first six X-Men, including Professor X, the founder and leader of X-Men, Bobby has always been the most chill of the superheroes, never showing any interest in becoming the strongest fighter. However, despite his slack personality, his superpowers stand out. Iceman is an omega-level mutant, the most powerful class of mutants in this fictional universe. Years of battling have seen him transformed from a chubby kid to a sharp fighter with a more crystalline and sleek, almost glacier-like, exterior. Over the years, his superpowers have only become more potent.
Iceman can now convert the latent thermal energies in and around his body into efficiently dissipated energy, decrease the temperature to absolute zero within seconds, and freeze objects in any environment, even the desert, as long as there is water vapor. His power is so immense that he once saved the world from a massive nuclear explosion.
Another mighty ability is that Iceman can turn himself into organic ice. By reforming his own body, adding sharp ice to his shoulders, knuckles and fists, he becomes a living weapon. Sometimes, he even uses his powers during a fight to conceal himself in an enormous glacier.
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In fact, glaciers have likely served as an inspiration to the Marvel writers and artists in developing Iceman’s personality and heroic actions.
For example, Iceman gives a signature “glacier fist” to punch the villains and often creates glacier-like ice piles around himself to demonstrate the might of his power. It may be a coincidence, but even Bobby’s personality mirrors our public perception of ice and glaciers. For example, the writers gave Bobby a sensitive and emotional personality, with Bobby often making cold jokes and puns to hide his true feelings from others.
— Joe Taraborrelli (@JoeTabs) May 12, 2017
GlacierHub interviewed Ryan Haupt about the image of glaciers in X-Men and other comic books. Haupt is a Ph.D. candidate in paleoecology from the University of Wyoming and also a huge fan of comics. He has been involved in an AGU science communication project on counting the carbon footprint of superheroes. “There is a long history of heroes and villains with cold-based powers or themes,” he said. “In general, those characters tend to be villains, like Mister Freeze, Icicle, Captain Cold, or even the Penguin. I would guess that has to do with our cultural perceptions of cold versus hot. When we say someone is cold, we mean that they’re unaffectionate, standoffish and distant, whereas someone who is warm is welcoming, caring and nurturing.”
Haupt added, “These ideas might also apply to the image of glaciers; they’re remote, gigantic, unfeeling blocks of ice that I would guess most folks don’t think of as having any particular significance in their day-to-day life.”
The upcoming solo series will focus on Bobby trying to stop a new potential mutant massacre. The writers will also give more room to depict Bobby’s life as a gay man. Although the responses to Iceman’s solo comeback are not all positive, there is no doubt Iceman’s return will create some chill this autumn, maybe even bringing the discussion of glaciers and cold closer to the public.