In celebration of the release of Astonishing X-Men #51 where Canadian mutant superhero Northstar marries his boyfriend, Kyle, publisher Marvel Comic encouraged retailers to do something special.
Parkville's own was happy to oblige. On Wednesday afternoon, customer and Parkville native Mikal McCruden and his husband Chris Gardener renewed their wedding vows in a short ceremony.
McCruden, 40, and Gardener, 50, were legally wed two years ago in May in a ceremony in Washington D.C. McCruden, a longtime comics fan, saw Wednesday's new issue as an opportunity.
"It's that X-Men message—it has a lot of lessons of equality, you feel a lot of empathy for mutants, they live in a world where people hate and fear them just for who they are," McCruden explained.
"I think when life gives you opportunities to stand up for something you think is important you have to take them," McCruden said. "Meeting and marrying Chris was kind of a dream for me—dreams are important things, they uplift us; it's especially important when those dreams involve dignity, honor and equality for everyone."
"We feel strongly enough to make a stand, say here we are. Plus it’s the comic book wedding I always wanted," he said.
McCruden, who was born and raised in Parkville and graduated from , met Gardener, a New Jersey native, the same way most people meet.
"It was a pretty standard courtship," Gardener said. "We met in a nightclub and fell in love."
"We met and then he sort of tracked me down through some friends. After that it was just spending a lot of time together," McCruden said.
Soon after, they moved into a Mount Vernon apartment together.
"Pre same-sex marriage, if you ask your lover to move in with you it’s kind of like asking them to marry you," Gardener said. "We had actually made plans to go to Canada to get married, but then D.C. became available."
"When it happened in DC we were like wow, it’s kismet," McCruden said.
The pair wed on May 29, 2010.
Though the couple could have their union recognized under current Maryland law, they said they've chosen not to until same-sex marriage becomes legal in the state. The issue is headed to a referendum on the November ballot, and McCruden said that he has faith the legislation, passed during this year's general assembly, will hold.
"I have a lot of faith in Marylanders. This is one of those kinds of states where I think ,maybe—I have faith that the people of this state are evolved enough and that marriage equality has moved on enough—this might be the first time where the referendum will go our way," McCruden said.
The ceremony in Parkville, which McCruden described as "part grand romantic gesture ... part political statement", mirrors other events around the country at Manhattan's Midtown Comics, Maximum Comics in Las Vegas and Henderson, NV, as reported by pop culture news site Bleeding Cool.
With other ceremonies taking place in the limelight, you might be asking how tiny Parkville got involved. For the answer you needn't look any further than Marvel Comics senior vice president of sales, David Gabriel.
"This is really what Marvel Comics does best, which is capture the zeitgeist of the times," Gabriel said, speaking on his own behalf, in a phone interview with Patch. "The story has been planned for about a year, and we hit it at the right time."
Gabriel explained that the Northstar character has been "out" for at least 20 years and that his marriage to his boyfriend came at a great moment.
"It's important because it’s gay pride month, [the issue] represents a milestone in the way that Americans are thinking right now," Gabriel said. "That's what we saw this morning—it was the mainstream press, they're certainly very interested in this as a human interest and civil liberties story and really that’s what the X-Men are all about. Perfect analogy, perfect book to do it in."
"When I learned that Maximum [Comics] was doing something [to commemorate the issue] I wanted to open it up to any retailer."
He said that Marvel often encourages retailers to hold promotional events for the launch of milestone issues.
"The word went out sort of nationwide that things were going to be going on. I just happen to have a personal relationship with Randy for a number of years and knew he was one of the perfect stores," Gabriel said.
Randy is, of course, Collectors Corner owner Randy Myers.
"I'd love to take credit for [the event in Parkville] but Randy and Mikal [McCruden] should really get it," Gabriel said.
Myers and McCruden have had a business relationship for years—Collectors Corner is where McCruden gets his monthly comics fix. Myers acknowledged that he was "taking a risk" of possibility alienating some customers by holding the event.
"When they got married two years ago, I was invited and I'm just his comics shop owner," Myers said. "I'm happy for them and I'm happy we did it."
Shop employee David Crispino agreed.
"These are real social issues that need to be overcome so that we can get on to bigger and better things. I would like to think that your average comic fan is accepting of new story lines and sometimes allegories and metaphors of real events. Hopefully it gets people thinking in a positive way," he wrote in an email.