From moral panics to editorial bans, LGBTQ+ superheroes have faced an uphill battle since day one. There’s been a lot of progress over the last few years, but we still haven’t come close to making up for the decades of erasure
and ignorance that’s surrounded queer and trans comic book characters. I’m Kya, and I’m Dev, and to celebrate Pride Month, we’re looking at the history of queer comic book superheroes, to show How LGBTQ+ Superheroes Have Come a Long Way In the early days, comics were governed by a self-censoring Code, which banned any depictions of queerness under its rule prohibiting quote ‘sexual abnormalities’ and ‘sex perversion.’ The Code led to Wonder Woman giving up her badass military job for a dating advice column, and Batman and Robin meeting female counterparts/love interest to prove just how straight they were. You have grown up quite nicely. Really?! Robin is very straight. Definitely. Yeah! All of them. One of these characters, Kathy Kane’s Batwoman, would become an important LGBTQ+ icon in her own right, but that wouldn’t happen until the next millennium. Really? I thought you totally annoying. I had quite a crush on you. Took me a while to get a hang of the ‘girl’ thing. Yeah, me too. We’ll get there, but first let’s stop in the ‘80s, when the Comics Code started to fade, and we started to see some Early Attempts at queer and trans representation. DC’s first outwardly gay superhero was Extrano, a Peruvian wizard whose name came from the Spanish word for ‘strange’ or ‘queer.’ Sadly, Extrano’s character was even less subtle than his name. He was a walking stereotype, a flamboyant caricature who insisted his teammates call him ‘auntie.’ During the height of the AIDS epidemic, he was infected with HIV by a vampire called ‘Hemo-Goblin.’ It was a wildly offensive attempt to address the ongoing crisis, and helped spread the harmful misinformation that HIV can be transmitted through a scratch. Extrano was forgotten for years, until he was re-introduced to the DC Universe in 2016 by bisexual writer Steve Orlando, who gave him a much more dignified makeover. DC’s first attempts were clumsy, but at least they tried. Marvel, on the other hand, forbade any mention of queerness for years. During Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter’s tenure from 1978 to 1987, he allegedly instituted a strict ‘no gays in the Marvel Universe’ policy. That didn’t sit well with a lot of creators, including X-Men legends Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Most X-fans know that Nightcrawler’s mother is the shapeshifter Mystique, but originally, she was going to be his father. Mystique had a close relationship with her fellow Evil Mutant, Destiny, and Claremont wanted to portray the two as lovers. Destiny was going to be revealed as Nightcrawler’s mother, who conceived him after Mystique shapeshifted into a male form to do the deed. Marvel nixed their relationship, citing the Comics Code, which was also their reasoning for keeping Northstar in the closet. From his 1979 debut, Byrne wanted to portray his Canadian crusader as gay, but he was only allowed to subtly hint at it. It wasn’t until 1992 that Northstar was permitted
to utter the simple but liberating phrase: ‘I am gay.’ It was a huge moment for mainstream comics, as was his wedding to his partner Kyle in 2012, the first same-sex superhero marriage in history. By no means did it fix the industry’s problem with LGBTQ+ representation, but it was a big step forward, and helped steer the entire medium on its path towards Breaking Down Barriers DC began experimenting with queer themes
in non-canon stories like ‘Watchmen,’ which included gay and lesbian characters like the Silhouette, Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis. And in DC’s legendary Vertigo imprint, a new generation of writers was boldly exploring themes that
their costumed counterparts wouldn’t tackle for decades. From ‘The Sandman’s’ realistic, positive portrayal of lesbian and trans characters, to John Constantine’s badass bisexual detective. and the queer and non-conforming members of the ‘Doom Patrol,’ especially Coagula, the first transgender
superhero, created by trans writer Rachel Pollack. Queer characters slowly began appearing in DC’s mainstream comics, too, like the Pied Piper, a member of the Flash’s rogues gallery, who came out of the closet in 1991, one year before the debut of Renee Montoya. I love Renee, she’s great, everyone follow Renee on Twitter and Instagram. She was a Gotham police officer who was outed by her asshole colleagues, and later took up the superhero mantle of the Question. In DC’s WildStorm universe, Warren Ellis introduced Apollo and the Midnighter in 1993. They started out as parodies of Superman and Batman, and soon evolved into the first openly gay couple in comics. Speaking of the Caped Crusader, remember the Batwoman who was created as a distraction from Bruce’s ambiguous sexuality? Kate Kane was reintroduced in 2006 as an out lesbian who was kicked out of the military during the height of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and used her training to clean up the streets of Gotham instead. Over at Marvel, they had eased up on their ban of LGBTQ+ characters, and in 2003, they touted the debut of a new western series with a gay lead, ‘The Rawhide Kid.’ RAWHIDE! Unfortunately, Marvel relegated him to their adults-only MAX line, and slapped it with a content warning simply because their main character was queer. Marvel rightfully took a lot of flak, but to their credit, they responded to the controversy by introducing more queer and trans themes into their books, as did DC, Image, and the indies. As the 2000’s turned into the ‘teens, we witnessed the birth of A New Era. Queer visibility is at an all time high in comics, and it came about in three distinct ways. The first is the most simple: creating new LGBTQ+ heroes, Like Karolina from the Runaways, Hulkling and Wiccan, a gay couple from the Young Avengers, or America Chavez, a queer Latinx hero for a new generation. Unfortunately, it’s hard for a new character to make an impact in a struggling comic book market, which brings us to the second method: Take characters who were only hinted at being queer, and confirm years of fan speculation. Marvel did it with Northstar, Mystique, and Rictor, a bisexual mutant who shared Marvel’s first queer male kiss with X-Force’s Shatterstar. Not to mention the clearly pansexual Deadpool. Like Beyonce says, please, please stop cheating on me! Marvel’s done a great job, but DC is the master of catering to their queer fanbase. BECAUSE DC IS BETTER! They are… In that way… Both Catwoman and Wonder Woman were subject to years of speculation, until they were both confirmed to be bisexual in the last few years. And fans have always known there was more to Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s friendship. I mean, even for ‘90s kids TV, they weren’t exactly subtle about it. So I was overjoyed, but not too surprised, when DC confirmed their relationship was romantic, and finally showed them kissing on panel in 2017. I had to defend this for YEARS and people were like ‘they’re not together!’ And I’m like ‘YES! At the VERY LEAST Poison Ivy is in love with Harley, at the VERY LEAST! The third way to incorporate more LGBTQ+ characters is a little more controversial: Retconning characters to make them more queer. DC did it with Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, but Bobby Drake, A.K.A. Iceman, is probably the most famous example. Marvel caused a lot of controversy when Bobby was revealed to be gay in 2012. As a founding member of the X-Men, it was a big deal for Bobby to come out, and even though a lot of fans had issues with such a huge change to a character they’ve known for decades, It showed a strong commitment to the LGBTQ+ cause. Have you tried… Not being a mutant? I like that Iceman is queer, but the way they did was a little weird… ‘You’re gay.’ ‘WHAT? Shit, I am!’ Read my mind! The X-Men are all about oppressed people fighting for acceptance, and representation is a hugely important aspect of that battle. Comic books have come a long way, but the movies still have some catching up to do. For all the success superheroes are having in movie theaters, The adaptations have come up short when it comes to queer representation. It’s not like they haven’t had opportunities, either. ‘Black Panther’ missed a chance to showcase Ayo, a queer member of the Dora Milaje, the same way ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ skipped over Valkyrie’s sexuality, That’s what Marvel wants. Ambiguity. ‘Wonder Woman’ gave us a subtle hint, They came to the conclusion that men are essential for
procreation, but when it comes to pleasure, unneccesary. No, no… but her bisexuality could have played a bigger role, or any role at all. Somehow, a raunchy, insane comedy like ‘Deadpool’ has
more LGBTQ+ visibility than the MCU and DCEU combined. From Deadpool’s preference for pegging, to his crush on Colossus, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s adorable relationship with Yukio, Hi Yukio! Hi Wade! it’s by far the queerest superhero movie we’ve seen yet, Which is insane, and it’s an amazing example of how easy, important and rewarding LGBTQ+ representation can be. CTA: Thanks for watching everyone, Happy pride month! Yes, and in honor of pride month, We want to know some of your favorite LGBTQ+ superheroes? Who have made you feel seen and represented? Daken? Loki? Harley Quinn? Let us know in the comments below, And please subscribe to NTN!