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At first glance one unfamiliar with the characters of Rictor and Shatterstar may think they are just another slash pairing. Two male characters forced together from imaginative fantasies with no grounds or basis for affection. And while in most fandom cases this tends to be true, Ric and Shatty are quite a different story.

For many years their relationship was built up and hinted at -- teased even -- while these two best friends teamed together. Marvel dropped many hints in both their art and dialogue, and even as far as some plots. During a time when outwardly gay superheroes weren’t particularly a common thing, many fans still had their speculations.

And while Marvel writers denied it at the time, their very own books spoke otherwise. Ric and ‘Star’s relationship can be compared to a comic ‘urban legend’; were they, or weren’t they? What were the writer’s true intentions? Was there really anything there, or was it all wishful thinking?

Most writers have been tight-lipped, while others have continually teased the possibility. But after getting to know these two boys, the chemistry cannot at all be denied. Behold below the complete history of Rictor and Shatterstar’s relationship -- as teammates, friends, and perhaps one of comics’ first canon pair of gay lovers.

Our boys first met in X-Force #14. Rictor had been serving as a member of GW Bridge’s Weapon PRIME, and X-Force was being sought out as a means to locate Cable. Upon seeing his old buddies from the New Mutants apart from Cable’s leadership, Rictor quickly defects and joins the team. He and Shatty didn’t have much to say at first, but it began the
series of snappy dialogue between them.

During the X-Cutioner’s Song crossover event, X-Force was wanted and apprehended by the X-Men and the government sanctioned X-Factor team. During the altercation, Shatterstar had been impaled through the chest by the claws of Wolverine. Upon seeing this, Rictor is quick to react and even chose to take out his former girlfriend (and proclaimed love) to
avenge him. (Issue #16).

Upon being released, X-Force is placed on probation. In the weeks they were at the school, ‘Star and Ric hung out and messed around
in the Danger Room. They get a nice work out in, and Shatty looks as though he enjoys Rictor’s leisurely stretching. (Issue #19).

After spending some time on their own and settling into the Camp Verde Reservation, the boys had already completed a few missions together. By the time Cable returns though, things become a bit tense. Shatterstar has girls throwing themselves at him left and right, but all that flirting only sends him over to the one he really wants --
and Rictor is perplexed. (X-Force #26)

We next see them together in X-Force #29. Shatterstar decides he should get some
experience out in the world, and like a good pal, Ric takes him into town. But not before voicing his concerns and telling him that he’ll be there if he needs him. Aw.

X-Force #34 was a nice defining moment. Catching a telecast from Mexico, Shatterstar seeks out Rictor and informs him that his family is in trouble. But not only does he inform him, but he does so in Rictor’s native tongue, Spanish! Rictor is astonished that Shatty had learned, and when asked how and why, Shatterstar responds that in case they ever need to speak of
highly personal things, they can do so without eavesdroppers being able to listen in. And this was just the first language learned for such reasons.

After really spending some time together and getting to know each other,
Rictor drags Shatterstar out for a night. Murderworld was the first base in a city, and Ric was ready for some fun. But harmless dancing for the Mexican was a sore spot (perhaps even jealousy?) for Shatterstar, and he has no problem showing it.

After being grabbed at,
Shatty takes off and voices his concerns to Rictor. There they admit to each other they are virgins, and discuss Shatty’s bioengineered package in an alley on a rainy night. Then, Rictor promises to help him with anything he needs. Aw. (X-Force #43).

Murderworld didn’t last long, and was eventually blown up by a fail safe left by Arcade. Issue #44 (following the Age of Apocalypse Arc) found X-Force back at the Xavier Institute. Shatty and Ric seem closer than ever, but when Cable announces he will be telepathically linking himself to everyone on the team, Rictor goes ballistic and decides he would rather live back at home with his gun running family then stay with X-Force. Shatterstar is absolutely devastated and
begs him to stay.

Cable #22 saw the heart wrenching scene that saw the two best friends say good bye. Shatterstar begs and pleads for him to stay, and Ric tries his best to let him down easy. But Cable is able to pick up on the emotions being displayed, and even he tries to persuade Ric to come back.

And as soon as Rictor leaves,
Shatty is broken. In a fit of rage, he jumps a machine gun wielding criminal in a suicide dive -- and takes a gunshot wound to the chest for his efforts.

After being released from the med lab, Shatterstar joins his teammates in an attempted intervention on his teammate, Tabitha. But when help turns into a bully fest, Shatterstar angrily steps out, claiming that when someone you care about wants to live their life a certain way, you must let them -- if only for their happiness -- even if he thinks it’s wrong. Just like he did with Rictor; when you love something,
let it go.

In X-Force #49, Shatterstar goes out on the town alone, and finds himself back at the dance club Rictor took him to. There he turns down another
lovely lady’s advances, and returns to thinking about his best friend. While deep in thought, our warrior stumbles across a gay bashing, and breaks it up.

The next mention came in the form of a
narrative box. Shatterstar and Siryn are both lonely with the recent loss of their friends and take up a sparring exercise at an abandoned church. This one small box is probably the biggest piece of evidence of their relationship yet. (X-Force #56).

At the peak of Shatty’s identity crisis, Cable finally
interrogates him. The negative attention gets them no where near closer to solving the problem, but one dear amigo thinks otherwise. Rictor finally returns and wants to help ‘Star in a positive manner. They are happily reunited, and can’t keep away from each other. (X-Force #59)

Shatterstar is suddenly abducted by Mojo and his Protectorate. At the abrupt loss of his friend, Rictor is in absolute shambles, proving the deep affection was not just one sided on ‘Star’s part. Rictor is quick to
dismiss and disrespect anyone who may get in the way of him getting his friend back. (X-Force #60)

And when Shatterstar finally fulfills his destiny, he dies. And no one is more broken and alone then Rictor. The Mexican threatens to
destroy the Earth to get his friend back, and no one can stop him from leveling the place with his anger. However, Spiral pulls through and claims she can save him, but needs Siryn’s familiarity with the Weisman Institute to do it. Rictor refuses, stating if anyone should be saving Shatty, it’s him.

The warrior comes back to his amigo in one piece, and they share a
touching scene together when they reunite. Nothing beats hand holding under the moonlight. (X-Force #61).

A few issues later, Ric and Shatty are captured and experimented on during Operation: Zero Tolerance. The boys escape together eventually and reunite with X-Force, but Cable has other plans for them. For their protection he announces he has created aliases for them, and orders the team to live underground. Rictor openly states the only important thing keeping him on the team is ‘Star, and that he won’t be living underground to help Cable. Shatty agrees, saying he would rather give his limbs
to be with his friend then hide like a coward. The boys break away from the team, and leave to go live together in Mexico. (X-Force #70).

We don’t see Ric and Shatty again until a few issues later. Arcade has kidnapped Rictor, and the only way he is to be released is by
Shatterstar fighting against Domino. In a choice to kill his friend and former leader, or let Rictor die, ‘Star tells Dom not to take it personally and attacks her. The fight is a brutal one, but Domino comes out on top. The end shows that Rictor was not actually the target at all, but rather ‘Star was. His healing gets him out of the jam, and both boys escape with their lives in tact. (X-Force #76).

Finally, the issue that sealed it all, the X-Force Annual 1999. Rictor and Shatterstar are a team of vigilantes taking down organized crime, and are propositioned by a
mysterious business man offering them ten thousand dollars to take on some test experiments. The endeavor gives us a nice look at Shatty from Ric’s POV, as well as an infamous hotel scene -- in which the boys politely turn down two executive suits for one shared quarters. They spend the night together and start their mission the following morning, and again we see some great team work and the boys taking care of one another.

The
business was not at all what it seemed, and they uncover ulterior motives, as well as some familiar faces from the past. They fight them off, but X-Force shows up to stop them. Ric and Shatty could care less what their old friends have to say about their choices, and take off on them again with some unique help from Rictor’s powers.

The end of the issue saw them take off together to (seemingly) live happily ever after. This would be the last time the boys appear together on panel in a 616-verse book.

In an alternate future, Ric and Shatty are teamed up
together again in X-Force. They are attacked on a plane in mid air, and in the midst of battle against an alien force, Shatterstar falls victim and dies. And Ric is the one left to bury him. Eventually, the Mexican is a casualty as well, and is taken by the same fate. (X-Men: The End; Book One #4).

X-Force is launched again a few years later in a limited series. And while our favorite Mexican wasn’t asked back to play, we do get a nice mention of him. Sam Guthrie has seen the future, and isn’t about to side with Cable ever again. When Nathan points out that even ‘Star trusts him, Sam retorts by saying ‘Star would never follow Cable if he was aware of
Nate’s responsibility for Rictor’s death in the future. Even Sam knows ‘Star would take Cable’s head for such a fate. (X-Force 2nd Series #3).

Shatterstar shows up again with X-Force, and even though Rictor isn’t visibly in attendance, he does get
a speech bubble. Whether or not this was an artist or writer mistake remains to be seen, but in any sense, this would show they were together again just around the time of the Decimation. (Cable and Deadpool #18).

After joining Madrox’s X-Factor, Rictor has been down in the dumps and depressed. One day he finds himself in a bar with his boss, and finally makes a comment about his stance on
man on man relations. He doesn’t outwardly make an announcement, but the implication is there.

And after he washes himself of Madrox spit, Rictor gets a turn to shower Jamie; Madrox claims Rictor wouldn’t hook up with Pietro, especially when
it may make Shatty jealous. Ouch, did someone hit a sore spot, Ric? (X-Factor, Volume 3, #14).

When life gets tough for Ric, he finds himself in bed with an old flame. And while that old flame isn’t ‘Star, it begins to flesh out Ric’s character as a bisexual. More references and hints are dropped about his sexuality throughout the book (including throw away lines from Brokeback Mountain, sheesh). (X-Factor, Volume 3)

Later on in the X-Factor run, Rictor and Strong Guy take a road trip to visit one of Madrox's dupes in Vermont. When they show up, it appears they are being followed by a masked man. Once the dupe lets X-Factor in his home, the masked man makes his presence known and attacks through an office window. Guido immediately goes to fight him, and pulls off the mask to reveal Shatterstar underneath. He says nothing but the word 'Cortex'.

A fight ensues, but even with Shatterstar under the supposed mind control, the boys still banter at each other back and forth. Rictor eventually realizes that he can't stop 'Star, and most likely would have been injured or killed if Strong Guy didn't intercede. Despite the attack, however, Ric doesn't want to see 'Star hurt and begs Strong Guy to be careful. Not Guido's strength, a large fall, or any strikes are able to stop Shatterstar until Cortex is intercepted by his 'bosses'. Shatterstar is let free of the control and, when he finally gathers his bearings, recognizes Rictor. The two friends don't take much time after that to meet for a kiss. This marks the two officially becoming a 'canon' couple, and arguably Marvel's first romantic male/male on panel kiss. (X-Factor, Volume 3, #43 & 45)