Despite largely being written by middle-aged white men, the world of comic books, specifically Marvel and DC, have done a pretty stellar job at balancing the scales in terms of representation.
Captain America, the quintessential American superhero, has been a black man. Female heroes no longer exist purely to be ogled by men and jump around in hilariously impractical bikinis. I mean, a bunch of them still get drawn that way, but at least they have the same agency as their male counterparts now.
And while the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to flounder with precisely zero gay characters, the LGBT audience is pretty well catered for in the world of comics. Both DC and Marvel have shown real progress in creating fantastic superheroes who just so happen to enjoy having sex with members of the same sex.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 of the most groundbreaking gay superheroes to appear so far in the worlds of Marvel and DC Comics.
Rictor & Shatterstar
Unless you’re big into the X-Men, you may not be overly familiar with Rictor and Shatterstar, but you should be. Their kiss was one of the first depicted in mainstream comics, so even though they’ve never had a major movie role, these guys were at the forefront of a movement.
Rictor, in case you didn’t know, is a computer genius with the ability to generate seismic energy waves, released through his fingers to create something like an earthquake. The brilliantly-named Shatterstar is the son of Dazzler (so of course he would turn out gay) with all the usual superhuman enhancements: strength, speed, reflexes, regenerative ability and, uhh, “hollow bones”. Sure, why not?
Poison Ivy’s sexuality is complicated, bordering on impossible to label, but she does have a sexual relationship (evolved from a very flirtatious friendship) with Harley Quinn. Put simply, Ivy seems to have an obsessive personality which causes her to fixate on certain things at any given time: Harley (as opposed to finding women in general attractive) and plants.
There’s also a classic panel containing an epic beaver innuendo, because why not?
Making a character like Rictor gay is great, but it takes balls to out one of your premier superheroes. That’s exactly what DC did with Green Lantern.
“This guy, he’s a media mogul, a hero, a dynamic type-A personality and he’s gay. He’s a complex character,” said James Robinson who authored the Earth 2 issue (2012) in which Alan Scott’s Lantern is revealed to be gay.
The panels are pretty awesome in their casual depiction of Scott’s gay relationship, although a Christian group called One Million Moms at the time and released a ranting statement about “our depraved society”. Bless ’em! In a previous canon to the Earth 2 saga, Scott’s son Obsidian was also a gay hero.
Considering that X-Men have essentially existed since the beginning as a not-so-subtle metaphor for being different and accepting who you are (regardless of whether society does), it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many of the most iconic LGBT superheroes come from Marvel’s vast pool of mutants.
While some superhero comings-out are handled in a pretty casual way – a celebratory kiss, for instance – for Bobby, it’s quite a big deal.
Jean Grey (quite invasively) alerts him to the fact that she knows he’s gay because she’s been inside his mind. Bobby freaks out a bit, but then realizes that being inside his mind is probably preferable to having seen what’s on his hard drive, and decides to be cool with it and move on.
Another X-Men, and this time it’s Xi’an Coy Manh, better known as Karma (her name is pronounced Shi-ann, and it isn’t actually a real Vietnamese name, but whatever). Despite the in-built prerogative of comics to constantly toy with their characters’ backstories, sexualities, even to gender-swap, Karma has consistently been portrayed as a lesbian.
She also has a totally badass mutation: she can possess any mind totally at will, and once she’s in, there’s no getting rid of her until she has what she wants. Typically she’s been a member of the New Mutants, although sadly it seems (because in Marvel movies everybody is straight, and also into really vanilla relationships).
With a relaunch comes the opportunity to reinvent heroes in order to keep telling fresh stories (which, after several decades, is not exactly easy). In DC’s Rebirth (minor spoilers ahead), Wonder Woman has a twin, Superman has a son… and Aqualad is gay.
His mom isn’t happy with it, but maybe she should be more worried about that all-purple outfit. For shame. Keep your eyes peeled on future Rebirth issues to see how Aqualad’s story progresses.
Bling, birth name Roxanne Washington, has one of the greatest backstories in the history of Marvel comics – and when I say great, I mean most hilarious and downright insane. She is the daughter of Roy “Daddy Libido” Washington and Angel “Sexy Mutha” Depres, both considered hip-hop royalty despite having names which sound more like ’90s pornstars. In X-Men: The 198 Files, Roxanne is targeted by kidnappers on account of having famous rapper parents because, you know, that’s a thing that happens.
Her mutation is quite similar to that of megabitch and Hellfire Club president turned good guy Emma Frost, in that she can turn her body to diamond form, before manipulating said diamonds into spears and firing them as weapons. All of the above is solid crystal proof that Bling is totally awesome, and was presumably created by somebody with a costly cocaine habit. She’s also bisexual, which is cool, and yet more evidence (as if it were needed) that the X-Men are super-gay.
For evidence of how intensely shitty Daken’s upbringing was, look no further than the Japanese translation of his name: “Bastard dog.” Charming! His mother was murdered by the Winter Soldier, but Daken was raised to believe that Wolverine, his father, had been responsible, and spent his adolescent life despising and training to kill the man who “abandoned” him. Comic book writers really love their fucked up parent/child dynamics.
Like Mystique, Daken has had sexual experiences with various X-Men and Avengers of both genders, and there’s a degree of debate to be had about whether he uses sex for his own gain rather than purely for pleasure. It’s probably easiest to say he’s bi and leave it at that.
One of his powers involves the manipulation of pheromones to induce sexual arousal, which is not that far removed from using mind control to coerce somebody into bed… but hey, an X-Men gotta get laid somehow.
Fifty years after the creation of the first Batwoman, her descendant Kate Kane put on the cape. Ironically, considering Batwoman was created to distract from media suggestions that Batman was gay, this incarnation of Batwoman very much enjoys the company of women.
Kate came close to marrying Gotham City PD detective Maggie Sawyer in Detective Comics, and although that never panned out, her sexuality has remained a constant. More recently Kate was seen flirting with Renee Montoya in the DC animated movie Batman: Bad Blood. Small character moments in that movie such as her father asking her to find a good girl and settle down made big waves in reinforcing that sometimes being gay is just another aspect of a superhero’s character, rather than being a crazy big deal.
Bonus: When Wolverine Went Gay…
OK, so this happened in an alternate universe (in X-Treme X-Men #10), but the sheer novelty of seeing Wolverine and Hercules making out (in color-coordinated brown outfits no less) is kind of hilarious.
That’s one hell of a power couple. I wonder which one– (editor’s note: don’t go there.)
You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.