The following article will contain spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy.
I’ll lead this article by giving Guardians of the Galaxy developer Eidos-Montreal the benefit of the doubt: the revelation that Peter “Star-Lord” Quill is bisexual is a relatively recent one. It came about last December, where the 2020-2021 Guardians of the Galaxy run showed Peter as part of a polyamorous relationship with Aradia and Mors, a pair of aliens. Though the throuple is now estranged, it was the first time Peter entered a romantic relationship with a man.
But it wasn’t meant to be the first time, as there were plans to give the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy a male love interest as far back as 2017 in the short-lived Star-Lord comic. Character Designer Kris Anka even shared concept art for the unnamed character who would have been Star-Lord’s boyfriend. The seeds for Peter Quill to be a bisexual king (or, well, a bisexual disaster) were planted years before they got to bear fruit. This is why I’m all the sadder that Eidos-Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t so much as make a casual reference to our hero’s sexuality. It has me wondering just when this aspect of Star-Lord is going to make it past the confines of comic pages.
Guardians of the Galaxy is, for the most part, a pretty sexless game. Despite the choices you’ll make as Star-Lord, there aren’t romance options. There’s at least one chance where you can whip out Peter’s flirty charm to try and smooth talk a woman — but beyond that, many of the in-text references to Peter’s intergalactic sexcapades are reflected through casual jokes. All of them are noted as being with only women.
Meanwhile, Peter doesn’t have an overt love interest in the game. While most people might know his relationship with Gamora from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that ship isn’t really referenced in the game at all. The only relationship that Peter is contending with in Guardians of the Galaxy is one from his past. 12 years prior to the main game’s story, Peter was involved with Ko-Rel, a Kree space cop. Given that she has a child who’s about that many years old, Peter spends much of the game wondering if he might be an absentee Star-Dad without knowing it. As far as Peter’s sexuality goes, his past relationship with a woman may be key to his narrative, but he’s not engaging with it in the present.
But even though there’s no active relationship at the core of Star-Lord’s story in Guardians of the Galaxy, sexuality is a key pillar of who Peter Quill is. He’s an established playboy, the “has a bed to sleep in at every galactic port” kind of guy. There are a handful of jokes referencing his hookups, but rather than make a point to say any of these were with men — or even leave them ambiguous enough to vaguely indicate his identity — all his referenced sexual partners are explicitly said to be women.
As I said, Peter’s reveal as a bisexual man isn’t even a year old as of this writing. But it does make me wonder: just how long will it take for that aspect of who Star-Lord is to become common knowledge?
Comic adaptations are kind of like a long game of Telephone with the source material. Revelations made in comics often take years to make it to the more widely circulated adaptations like movies or video games. In the meantime, we gain a pretty strong base understanding of someone like Peter Quill, even if a few details are subject to change or get removed entirely depending on the adaptation. We know he’s a half-human/half-alien with some kind of important lineage on his father’s side. He was abducted at a young age and spent much of his formative years in space, which is why he is an emotionally-stunted man-child. He also loves old Earth music and has a collection of songs he’s brought with him into space. These are some of the pillars of Peter Quill that are often seen in most depictions of the character.
But those are years-long traits that have been incorporated from comics into the depictions we see of Peter in movies, TV shows, and video games. How long does his bisexuality have to exist in the comics space before it becomes as inseparable from his portrayal as his elemental guns and the Awesome Mix of songs his mother gave him?
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I had hoped Eidos-Montreal’s game could have been the first adaptation to acknowledge Peter Quill is a queer superhero, even if it was in a passing mention. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most widely-consumed property to spawn from the comic books. But even if I gave actor Chris Pratt the benefit of the doubt that his church isn’t homophobic, I still have a hard time seeing his version of that character pivoting to an openly bisexual portrayal in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder or Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3. Though Eternals is set to have the first openly gay lead when it comes to theaters later this week, the MCU’s depiction of queerness is still practically non-existent after well over a decade.
Star-Lord is one of the first times Marvel has had to contend with an MCU leading man being revealed as queer in the comics while the character is still active in its movie franchise. Outside of the MCU, Iceman, who was part of the Fox X-Men universe, came out as gay a year after he was last played by Shawn Ashmore in X-Men: Days of Future Past — thus, his queerness was never addressed on-screen. The film version of Star-Lord is in an emotionally entangled romance with Gamora, though her role in the future of the movie series is uncertain after her death in Avengers: Infinity War and subsequent dimension hopping in Avengers: Endgame. If Pratt’s Peter Quill were to even remotely hint at his identity in the future, it would likely be in a passing reference rather than a new relationship.
Given all these complications, I was resting many of my hopes on the Guardians of the Galaxy game to take the leap, as I don’t think the MCU would dare invite controversy for one of its established leading men. Broadly, queer men are often not at the forefront of AAA video games unless they’re an option, rather than something a player has to reckon with. Men-seeking men haven’t had a The Last of Us Part II moment where the leading character was unambiguously queer, and that still seems like something most AAA studios are wary of touching.
Perhaps it was foolish of me to hope Guardians of the Galaxy would be the game to do it. And since the game doesn’t outwardly portray Peter as bisexual, I’m left looking around, wondering what adaptation will signal that this part of Star-Lord is as intrinsic to who he is as anything else, rather than something to be sequestered into comics fewer people will read than will see the movies. If Eidos-Montreal gets a second shot at Guardians of the Galaxy, the studio will have another chance to take that step — assuming Marvel will let it.