by Miller C. Lashbrook
If you are not familiar with the initialism OTP, it stands for One True Pairing. The terms is used in fandom conversation, shipping culture in particular, that is used to refer to a fiction couple, canon or not, that an individual is extremely fond of discussing, viewing, and reading about. This term can often be used to refer to a “ship” or pairing that a fan wishes happened in the source material, but can also refer to a canon couple. One of my favorite fictional couples, one of my OTPs, is that of Billy Kaplan and Teddy Altman, or Wiccan and Hulkling.
I was first introduced to this pair through their entries in the Official Marvel Encyclopedia. When I was around 11 I was very interested in reading comics, but I did not have access to a comic book store. I did, however, find the encyclopedia at a book store. I was able to convince my father to buy it for me. When reading it cover-to-cover in the coming days I came across Hulkling’s entry which was not large, but referred to a character Wiccan as “his boyfriend.” At the time I was finding figuring out my own identity, so to find not only one, but two, characters in one of my favorite universes that were like me.
My first time reading a comic arc with them was in fact the Civil War event tie-in miniseries, Civil War: Young Avengers/Runaways written by Zeb Wells with art by Stefano Caselli, which I found in trade paperback at my public library in high school. This was my gateway into both the Young Avengers and Runaways. I had read online that both of these teams were filled with LGBTQ+ representation, so when I was finally able to read this, I was quite happy. At this time when I was still very much figuring myself out, reading an entire graphic novel about two teams filled with queer characters was so affirming. There was something in particular about Billy and Teddy that I was drawn to however.
Since I was young I have always loved witches and magic as depicted in fantasy literature, from Harry Potter to Disney villains to playing Scarlet Witch in the X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse game; perhaps this brought on my fascination with Wiccan. Hulkling is another story though. To give context, Hulkling has nothing to do with the Hulk. He is green, but he is in fact the secret child of the Kree, Mar-Vell, and the Skrull princess, Anelle. This allowed him to inherit super strength and vulnerability from his father and shape-shifting/metamorphic abilities from his mother. The relationship between my sense of self and my body has always been complex, between my sexuality, gender identity, and my body image, so to find a character the looked something like me, was not the most athletic, and could shapeshift to match his sense of self was incredibly affirming. Teddy is a character that I can see myself in and one that I can look to as a role model.
Fast forward to Marvel’s 2020 summer event, Empyre, and fans finally get the wedding (two weddings actually) of Wiccan and Hulkling as a key part of the Marvel event. I read this event at a time when I was falling in love with my fiancé, who happens to be a lot like Billy in personality, so of course, this inspired me. All this being said, if you find yourself wondering why LGBTQ+ Marvel Comics fans are freaking out about the inclusion of Billy and Tommy in the MCU in WandaVision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, go check out the original Alan Heinberg and Jim Cheung Young Avengers run, their Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, Volume 2 written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jamie McKelvie, or Empyre by Al Ewing.