Anole (Victor Borkowski) is a fictional mutant superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. He was created by Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis and first appeared in issue #2 of New Mutants vol. 2 (August 2003). A student at the Xavier Institute and junior member of the X-Men, Anole is one of the few openly gay characters in the Marvel Universe. His reptilian mutation grants him superhuman abilities including wallcrawling, a prehensile tongue, and adaptive camouflage.
Initially a supporting character in New Mutants vol. 2 and its relaunched title, New X-Men: Academy X, Weir and DeFilippis intended for the character to commit suicide early in the series after coming out as gay and finding himself rejected by his family and friends. According to the writers, the story was to serve as a message about intolerance. Marvel editors scrapped the story due to concerns about the controversy it might generate. The storyline was rewritten and the character survived. He since became a fan favorite and began to be featured regularly throughout the series and as a main character in subsequent X-Men-related titles, including New X-Men and the short-lived Young X-Men.
Early life and arrival at Xavier’s
Victor Borkowski is a sixteen-year-old mutant born and raised in Fairbury, Illinois, a small, typical American town in which he lives a normal life despite his reptilian features.The close-knit community accepts him for who he is until anti-mutant sentiment begins to spread. For his own safety, his parents send him to the Xavier Institute where he quickly excels academically.
When the advisor system is set up at the Xavier Institute, Victor chooses Karma as his advisor and is given the code name Anole. During the formation of training squads throughout the school, he is reassigned to Northstar’s Alpha Squadron where he serves as the squad leader. At first, he is depicted as close friends with fellow student Julian Keller and the other students in the Hellions Squadron, but later becomes closer to his teammates. He is especially close to his mentor Northstar, who helps him to come to terms with his sexuality. Anole is deeply affected by Northstar’s death, stating that Northstar understood him and was important as a figure he could confide in.
Anole is one of only 27 students at the Institute who does not lose his mutant powers in the aftermath of House of M, also known as Decimation or “M-Day.” The squad system is dissolved and the remaining students are merged into one group. Shortly afterward, Emma Frost sets up an all-out brawl amongst the remaining students to determine who will become the new team of X-Men trainees (dubbed the “New X-Men”); Victor is not selected for the squad, but remains at the school. When a resurrected and brainwashed Northstar returns with his sister Aurora and attacks the Institute, Anole finds him and is able to temporarily snap him out of the mind control set in place by the Children of the Vault. Anole’s joy at seeing his former mentor is short-lived, as Northstar returns to his mind-controlled status and knocks him out. The school is later attacked by Reverend William Stryker and his army of mutant-exterminating Purifiers. This results in a bus full of Anole’s classmates being killed and the murder of other friends at the school.
Joining the New X-Men
During the New X-Men story arc “The Quest for Magik,” Anole and his classmates are sucked down into the dimension of Limbo by the demon Belasco. They are soon attacked by a large group of demons, and Anole takes charge, rallying the students around the defenseless Blindfold, only to have his right arm severed at the shoulder by a demon. Later he is trapped in stone by the machinations of Darkchilde as she attempts to create a powerful Soulsword from Pixie’s soul. Anole manages to break himself free and stop Darkchilde from completing the process, saving Pixie. Anole then finds that he has generated a larger and stronger reptilian arm replacing the one he lost, a previously unknown aspect of his mutation. The arm itself is spikey, resembling his scalp, with razor sharp claws. After helping to defeat Belasco, Anole and Pixie are made members of the New X-Men squad on recommendation of Rockslide, who threatens to quit if they are not appointed to the team.
Rockslide and X-23 later try to convince Anole to cut off his other arm in order to generate a stronger replacement. When he refuses, Rockslide calls him a sissy, which Anole finds offensive enough for him to reveal his sexual identity to Rockslide and attack him. Rockslide apologizes, swearing that he did not know. Later, in a misguided attempt at group bonding, Rockslide voices his acceptance of Anole’s sexuality, outing him to some of the other students, though Loa states that she was already aware and that everyone already knew.
As a member of the New X-Men, Anole takes part in various missions with the team, including the events leading up to X-Men: Messiah Complex and through to its conclusion when Cyclops officially closes the school and disbands the X-Men. With the school closed, Anole returns to his family in Fairbury, Illinois.
Divided We Stand
A vignette in the two-part series Divided We Stand explored the after-effects of Anole’s numerous traumatic experiences at the Xavier Institute during his return to his hometown. Northstar, now rehabilitated, is contacted by Cyclops to find Anole, who goes into hiding after accidentally attacking his own father due to posttraumatic stress disorder from his experiences at the Xavier Institute. Northstar discovers Anole at his tree house, unhappy to see his former mentor. At first, Northstar makes jokes, thinking Anole is having a problem with fitting in as both a mutant and as a gay teen. Anole explains that his town accepts him for who he is and that his problems come from Northstar, along with the other X-Men, for providing the students under their care with a poor education, stealing their innocence by constantly exposing them to danger, and then throwing them away by disbanding.\ Planning to run away, Anole leaves a note for his parents at the tree house and elbows Northstar in the face—similar to how Northstar attacked him in the past—and tells him to tell all of the former New X-Men not to come looking for him.
Dani Moonstar personally recruits Anole to the Young X-Men team by visiting him at his new home. Anole is still apprehensive, maintaining his views from Divided We Stand, but is persuaded to join the team when Dani tells him that the X-Men have relocated to San Francisco, California, “a place renowned for its tolerance of mutants and… other minorities,” a reference to Anole’s gay identity. Moving to San Francisco, he engages in various missions with the Young X-Men, including assisting during the Skrull invasion of San Francisco.
When his teammate Dust dies from a hidden medical condition brought on by her fight with Magma, Anole once again voices his opinions about leaving the team as they are constantly put in danger with mortal consequences. Dust is revived by teammate Ink and she convinces the team not to disband.
Powers and abilities
Anole’s reptilian mutation gives him green scaly skin, a spiked head carapace instead of hair, a prehensile sticky tongue, the ability to stick to solid surfaces, and enhanced agility, speed, reflexes/reactions, coordination, and balance. He can also rapidly camouflage himself through physiological color change to his surroundings to become “invisible.” He can grow back lost limbs but they appear scaled and reptilian like his carapace and grant him a higher level of strength. His new arm has sharp claws at the ends of his fingers that he can use for attack purposes. Beast confirmed that whenever Anole loses a limb, a stronger version of that limb grows in, though Anole is reluctant to risk further transformation.
Sexuality and reception
Early in the character’s publication history, Anole’s sexual identity was alluded to by his close relationship with his squad mentor Northstar, one of Marvel’s most recognized openly gay superheroes. After Northstar’s “death,” Anole’s conversations with his former mentor Karma, an openly lesbian character, discussed how he felt it was important for him to have someone like Northstar, who “understood him,” to talk to in particular. His sexual orientation was later confirmed by DeFilippis on an online forum, who stated that the dialogue intentionally alluded to this, and was reaffirmed in The X-Men: 198 Files. His sexual orientation continued to be mentioned indirectly, and other allusions included him pointing out that Young Avengers characters Wiccan and Hulkling are gay before being cut off and Anole attacking Rockslide for calling him a “sissy,” Rockslide shouting that he “didn’t know” and that he “shouldn’t be so sensitive.” In the following issue, Anole’s sexuality was officially stated outright for the first time when Rockslide announces, “Anole’s gay!” in an attempt to quickly get the remaining students to bond with each other by opening up about their secrets. Despite Rockslide’s vocal acceptance of his sexuality, Anole was outraged, though Loa stated that his classmates already knew.
Since then, Anole’s sexual orientation has been handled more openly, being directly referred to as “gay.” When discussing further story development of Anole’s sexuality during their run on New X-Men, Yost and Kyle stated that they had no plans to further cover the issue, emphasizing that Anole would be able to work out any issues he had regarding his sexuality or his lack of reconciliation with his former mentor Northstar by covering them off-panel with teammate Rockslide. Anole would later confront a rehabilitated Northstar in the X-Men: Divided We Stand vignette “Blend In,” revealing that contrary to Jean-Paul’s assumptions, he experienced no difficulties being accepted as a mutant or gay from his family or residents of his hometown, and instead experienced posttraumatic stress disorder and a sense of being used and abandoned after his time with the X-Men.
During his review of X-Men: Divided We Stand, writer Dustin Christian of For the Love of Comics Reviews expressed pleasant surprise upon realizing Anole’s sexuality and praised writers Yost and Kyle for their handling of the character during their creative run on New X-Men, stating, “It’s cool to see a gay character depicted in a non-stereotypical fashion so that their orientation doesn’t define everything they do and someone like me wouldn’t even know that about them.”
In the vignette “Abomination” featured in X-Men: Manifest Destiny, Anole and his Young X-Men teammate Jonas Graymalkin have a talk where Graymalkin discusses his past and reveals that he too is gay and was a victim of a near-fatal homophobic attack at the hands of his father. Anole reassures him that he will be all right and the two form a friendship. Lyle Masaki of Logo’s AfterElton.com expressed interest in this development, stating that, “[w]ith the small number of gay superheroes out there, camaraderie between gay characters is as rare as same-sex couples.”