This year’s National Coming Out Day in the US, which was on 11 October, saw one of the biggest developments in comic book history when it was announced that the new Superman is bisexual. Among all the LGBTQ+ superheroes in comic books, Superman is now at the top largely because of his popularity. To have the world’s most recognisable superhero as gay can be incredibly inspiring, as it may help people who are struggling with their sexuality and may be apprehensive of coming out.
The new Superman, Jonathan, is the son of Clark Kent, the original Superman, and Lois Lane. He is in a relationship with journalist Jay Nakamura, who looks charming with pink hair. The panel that establishes Superman as bisexual shows him kissing Nakamura. Their love story will be explored in the November issue of the ongoing series Superman: Son of Kal-El.
Additionally, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is ready with its own openly gay character in films in the upcoming The Eternals. Played by Brian Tyree Henry, Phastos will be shown raising a son with his husband and living a happy life before the rest of the superpowered gang comes knocking at his door. Interestingly, Phastos was never portrayed as gay in comic books since his appearance in the 1980s.
These are not the first in the mainstream comics world to have emerged as LGBTQ+ icons. Diana, better known as Wonder Woman, has been widely recognised as bisexual. Her island of Themyscira, where only women live but marriages happen, has indicated that bisexuality is normal in Diana’s world.
The character’s creator, Professor William Moulton Marston, lived in a polyamorous relationship with two women — Elizabeth Holloway Marston, who was his wife, and their common partner Olive Byrneboth — who inspired the character of Wonder Woman.
Moreover, among the many famous names who have been depicted as queer for a long time is Tim Drake, aka Robin.
There have been and will be many more LGBTQ+ superheroes in mainstream comics that will bring more diversity, inclusivity and queer representation in our world.
Here are some incredible LGBTQ+ comic book characters who are inspirational figures for everyone.
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy
Two of DC comics’ (and Batman’s) biggest supervillains also happen to be the most famous queer characters in comic book history. Both Harley and Ivy have been so successful that readers want more of their eccentric adventures, which may not be for a ‘good’ cause but certainly high on the madness-and-thrill scale.
Though their relationship was well-known, it was in 2015 that Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn writers, confirmed that the clown princess of crime and Ivy are non-monogamous girlfriends. In 2020, the outstanding animated TV series Harley Quinn became the first film or TV show to officially present Harley and Ivy as a couple.
Of the two, Harley has been more in the spotlight in comic books, animated serials, video games and movies — the latest being Warner Bros. Suicide Squad films. She was originally introduced as an excellent psychiatrist who was manipulated by Joker to such a degree that she literally went crazy for him. However, successive comic books have depicted the relationship as toxic for Harley and she was able to break free from Joker’s influence. She then embarked on a journey to discover her sexuality.
With Poison Ivy, a brilliant botanist who cares more for the environment than she does for humans, Harley found a perfect partner in crime and girlfriend. Comic books depicting their team-up have been well-received, turning the duo into queer icons. The most recent, Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour #1, shows the two making out on the cover.
Although Harley continues to flirt with both men and women other than Ivy, she is also helplessly (and hopelessly) in love with Joker, as was recently seen in Injustice: Gods Among Us — the acclaimed comic book series of which she is indubitably the true hero.
Batwoman is one of the greatest DC comics characters of all time and is perhaps the biggest LGBTQ+ character of our time after Supes.
Interestingly, Kathy Kane aka Batwoman, was created in 1956 as a love interest for Batman for a rather sad reason. Since it was a very different period from now, questions were raised on Batman’s sexuality and his relationship with Robin. Batwoman was meant to quell those critics.
It was only in 2006 when Batwoman was given a fresh backstory and personality of her own. The new Kane is openly lesbian. She is depicted as a former soldier of the US Army till the anti-LGBTQ “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy cut her career short. As Batwoman, Kane is equally as competent in keeping Gotham safe as Batman.
Batwoman is portrayed by Ruby Rose in the first season and Javicia Leslie in the second season of the series named after the titular character that premiered in 2019.
When it comes to LGBT characters in comic books, Marvel’s X-Men perhaps has the widest representation and some of the best too. In fact, one of the first openly gay characters to have come out of the closet was a member of X-Men — Northstar.
The mutant, who has the powers of flight, super speed and photonic energy, was created in 1979 as part of the Alpha Flight team. He was always meant to be gay but co-creator John Byrne initially didn’t reveal it because of the rules of Comics Code Authority and, according to him, the opposition from then Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter.
Eventually in 1992, in the pages of Alpha Flight #106, Northstar became the first superhero in the Marvel universe to declare “I am gay”.
Northstar, whose non-superhero name is Jean-Paul Beaubier, again created history exactly 20 years later. He married his partner Kyle Jinadu at the first same-sex wedding for a Marvel superhero as shown in Astonishing X-Men #51.
Among the first gay male superhero, Northstar was created with the very purpose of raising gay issues. According to Byrne, Northstar was always gay “even if I would never be allowed to say it in so many words in the comics themselves.”
Hulkling and Wiccan
Hulkling is a Marvel superhero who can shape-shift and has super-strength. Wiccan is the son of Scarlet Witch and has magical powers like his mother.
Created by openly gay writer Allan Heinberg in Young Avengers #1 in 2005, Hulkling and Wiccan are inseparable gay teen superheroes and express their love for each other when they are not busy saving the world as members of the Young Avengers team.
Their romantic relationship is considered one of the best ongoing stories in comic books. The two LGBTQ+ superheroes also got married in the Empyre crossover, which started in 2020.
The extremely popular character, whose real name is Bobby Drake, is one of the original members of the X-Men and has been a regular figure since the 1960s. Iceman, as the name suggests, has the power to create and control ice.
His coming out as gay has been a subject of debate over the manner it was revealed. In the world of Marvel comics, where multiverses and time shifts are common, a younger Bobby finds himself displaced in time and the present day as part of the All-New X-Men series.
In the #40 issue, the powerful psychic Jean Grey reads his mind and outs the young Iceman as gay. It was one of the biggest revelations in Marvel comic books, given the character’s stature. But questions were raised over the invasion of privacy evident by Jean reading Bobby’s mind without his permission. The older Bobby has apparently remained in the closet.
In the Disney+ series titled Loki (2020– ), Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) asks Loki (Tom Hiddleston) if he has had lovers in “would-be princesses, or perhaps, another prince”. To this, Loki replies, “A bit of both. I suspect the same as you.”
That was the official announcement that the gender-fluid Loki was pansexual — a fact known to die-hard Marvel comic book fans and those who know that the mischievous Nordic god of the same name has a similar sexual identity.
Before the series, author Mackenzi Lee had in 2017 announced that she will present Loki as queer in her three-book historical fiction series for Marvel. “Loki is a canonically pansexual and gender-fluid character. So.” she had tweeted in response to a question on whether the God of Mischief will be presented as such. Her book Loki: Where Mischief Lies, released in 2019, thus presents Loki as she promised.
Earlier, in 2014, the comic series Loki: Agent of Asgard had established the Asgardian as bisexual.
Loki was originally depicted as a supervillain in the Marvel comics featuring Thor, but the character has undergone a lot of change and is now one with moral ambiguities. The film versions and the TV series successfully present this side of Loki. Though he still attempts to become an all-powerful figure, Loki is seen more like a rebel and sometimes even an anti-hero because of his actions.
Among the newcomers in Marvel comics, America Chavez aka Miss America, is the first LGBTQ Latinx superhero with her series of comic books.
A member of the Young Avengers and now West Coast Avengers, Miss America has been a phenomenally popular character among fans particularly since the release of the America series in 2017.
Unlike other queer characters, who might appear too emotional, Chavez is presented as someone who sees the happier side of things. She is a favourite among cosplayers and one of the biggest LGBTQ+ icons, especially among Latin teens.
The character first appeared in 2011’s Vengeance #1. In her comic series, Miss Amerilesbica was raised in a parallel world by two mothers. She is an 18-year-old student at the fictional Sotomayor University and spends time protecting friends as much as she does fighting aliens. She is exceptionally strong (think DC comics’ Superman), can fly and easily travel to any dimension or multiverse.
Miss America will make her MCU debut in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and will be played by Xochitl Gomez.
The film adaptations of the X-Men superhero comics omitted one of the most important aspects of this legendary character’s personality — her bisexuality, a facet that has always been clear in the comic books.
Raven Darkhölme, aka Mystique, is a powerful mutant with shape-shifting abilities. Her struggle to keep her real appearance — blue-skin, yellow eyes, and red hair — hidden from society has been equated to the pain and suffering of members of the LGBTQ+ community who are forced to keep their sexuality a secret.
In the comic books, she has been in a relationship with mutant Irene Adler, aka Destiny, for at least 100 years, which makes their romance one of the longest-enduring in the X-Men timeline. They even adopted Rogue for a time within the comic book universe. But theirs is also a perfect tragedy in LGBTQ+ romance, as readers would know.
Due to her shape-shifting abilities, Mystique is described as pansexual and has also been in a relationship with a few males in the Marvel comics.
On 11 October, 2021, Marvel announced that Chris Claremont, the creator of Mystique, Destiny, and many other significant characters in the X-Men universe, will write a new story with Raven and Irene as protagonists.
A member of the Invisibles, Lord Fanny is a transvestite Brazilian. She is an extremely powerful witch who fights extra-dimensional forces bent on destroying Earth.
Born male and named Hilde Morales, Lord Fanny was raised as a girl by her grandmother who was also a witch. She learned the dark arts of shamanism and gained incredible powers. The character is shown as having endured a lot of physical suffering and even contemplated suicide before joining the Invisibles.
Like other members of the Invisibles, Lord Fanny is a creation of acclaimed Scottish comic book writer and playwright Grant Morrison.
The DC comics exorcist, who was famously played in the 2005 film Constantine by Keanu Reeves, is bisexual.
The chain-smoking, trench-coat wearing Constantine is seen by many as one of the coolest comic-book characters and one of the tallest among LGBTQ+ superheroes. However, neither film nor a later series on the character explored his sexuality.
Constantine’s bisexuality was indirectly explored in 1992’s Hellblazer: Counting to Ten issue and, ten years later, fleshed out in Ashes & Dust in the City of Angels. It was given more open attention in 2015’s Constantine: Hellblazer. And in the 2020 animated film Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, he calls King Shark his ex.
Thankfully in 2018, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow did present Constantine, who was played by Matt Ryan, as bisexual in the episode “Daddy Darhkest”.
(Main image: DC Comics)
(Featured image: Marvel)