Pride Month is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s a time for those who already identify as LGBTQ to celebrate, learn and love. For our straight allies, it is not only a time for them to learn but also appreciate the creativity and contributions made by our community. That’s why this is the perfect time to highlight this same energy within comic books, which has been dominated, much like a lot of things, by white heteronormativity. Diversity in comic books still have ways to go but queer characters are becoming more visible all the time, with what was once subtext now often spelled out on the page. I selected 10 heroes who are queer but come from many different backgrounds, have different powers and varying experiences.
We all know about the Bat Family (Batman, Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl) but Kate Kane a.k.a. Batwoman is probably one of my favorite heroines in the DC Comics universe. Though originally introduced as straight, when the character made her return after being wiped from continuity, Kate was introduced as being openly and proudly gay. Kate’s story is similar to Bruce’s. On her twelfth birthday, Kate’s mother and her twin sister, Beth, went to an expensive restaurant for their birthday. Unfortunately, they were kidnapped on the way and Kate’s mother was murdered and her sister got caught in the crossfire. Her father eventually married a billionaire weapons heiress, allowing Kate to grow up with status. She uses that status as a wealthy socialite as a perfect alter ego to cover for her real crime-fighting work.
So, Bobby Drake’s coming out story was far from ideal. He was psychically outed as homosexual by Jean Grey, making the founding member of the X-Men Marvel’s highest profile queer mutant. Iceman is an Omega-level mutant with ability to manipulate cold and ice, and the ability to assume an enhanced form made of solid ice. That’s just the simplified explanation of his powers but there’s much more. Not only has he been a valuable member of the X-Men, but also a character that has gone through some serious and heartwarming character development along the years.
Hulkling & Wiccan
What happens when you pair a shapeshifting Kree/Skrull hybrid and super powerful mage with reality warping abilities? One of Marvel’s most iconic couples ever; and that’s not even up for debate. Both are members of the Young Avengers team, where they’ve proved numerous times how valuable they are in saving the world. Between Hulkling’s (Teddy Altman’s) superhuman strength and Wiccan’s (Billy Kaplan’s) magical abilities, this same-sex couple is a Marvel power couple to ship. Hopefully, we see more of them in future projects.
I’m not going to lie. I love almost any and every kind of magic user, and the next hero on this list is arguably one of the most powerful sorcerers in the DC Comics realm. Though he doesn’t employ his magic skills often, often relying on his cunning tactics and vast occult knowledge instead, Constantine is considered by many as being the world’s greatest con man. Revealed to be bisexual, his orientation has never been a big part of his comic book adventures. Writers handled Constantine’s queerness in a ‘matter-of-fact’ way, that has allowed them to explore exactly what that means for the wayward magician. This occult detective can also be seen on the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, portrayed by Matt Ryan. Amidst his scathing wit and cynicism, he is driven by a heartfelt desire to defend mankind from the forces of evil.
America Chavez is new to the comic book scene but she’s already made history as the first queer Latinx superhero in Marvel Comics, which included her own solo series written by lesbian Latina writer, Gabby Rivera. Chavez has held her own with powers of superhuman strength, super speed and flight against top supervillains like Kid Loki and Doctor Doom. However, her most important power is the ability to open and close doors between dimensions. Not to mention she’s an 18-year-old high school student. Through displays of strength and fierceness, America Chavez has shown that she is not a superhero to be trifled with and one that I cannot wait to see hopefully on the big screen soon.
Unlike most superheroes, Aqualad (Jackson Hyde) made his first appearance in an animated TV series, Young Justice, instead of on the comic book pages. He was brought in during the DC Rebirth series of Teen Titans and it was then that he was reimagined as a gay black superhero. The son of Black Manta, Aqualad not only has the power to breathe underwater, but he also has super strength and the ability to construct weapons or other objects out of water as well. This version of Aqualad is especially important to the world of comics because it’s very rare to find black queer superheroes in the mainstream comics from DC and Marvel. If done right, Aqualad can really make an impact on black queer youth. He’s already proven to be an asset to the Teen Titans roster and I hope that continues with more storylines exploring his powers and sexuality.
Cassandra or Urdr, from Image Comics’ The Wicked + The Divine, is one of the many queer comic book characters outside the big two. Cassandra is an Asian-American transwoman who spends most of her time in the first arc dismantling the glamor and divinity associated with the pantheon. As Urdr, The Nordic goddess, Casandra continues to challenge the ideals of her fellow pantheon members, but does it with the aid of supernatural insight. Cassandra is more than a token. She’s written and presented with a distinct identity. Her willingness to call BS when she sees it, is perhaps her defining trait and better empowers her to challenge the ideals and perceptions of those around her.
Midnighter & Apollo
This legendary duo is another one of my favorite couples in comic book history. Not only are they supportive partners of each other, they also kick a lot of ass on a regular basis. Midnighter even went to rescue Apollo when the latter lost his soul to Hell. Talk about relationship goals. Midnighter is an augmented hero with superhuman physical abilities and the power to run through thousands of fight scenarios in his head before a single punch is thrown. Although Midnighter is one of the good guys, when it comes to how he deals with his enemies, it can be seen as brutal and questionable by some. Apollo’s abilities are powered by solar energy, which he absorbs from the sun’s UV rays. He is able to store limited quantities inside his body and when he is in the sun’s rays, he has vast superhuman strength, flight, invulnerability to harm and solar blasts which shoot from his eyes.
Thunder & Grace Choi
When I think about badass lesbians, Thunder (Anissa Pierce) and Grace Choi definitely come to mind. Thunder is one of the daughters of famed black superhero, Black Lightning and has the ability to increase her body’s mass while preserving volume, which effectively increases her density. Grace Choi possesses metahuman levels of strength, heightened durability and endurance, as well as regeneration and increased healing – it is even revealed that she has Amazon lineage. They are both part of The Outsiders, a team that consists of metahuman superheroes who do not fit the norms of the “mainstream” superhero community (i.e. Justice League). Both characters made their live-action debut this year on the CW’s Black Lightning played by Nafessa Williams and Chantal Thuy, respectively.
Karma is one character that has been consistently portrayed as a lesbian. In fact, she is one of the first major lesbian characters to appear in a mainstream comic book. Karma was one of the five founding members of the New Mutants along with Cannonball, Mirage, Sunspot and Wolfsbane. Being several years older than her teammates, she was the most mature member. She is a mutant endowed with the ability to seize control of another’s mind, though she has sometimes been depicted with other more extensive psionic abilities.
Jean-Paul Beaubier was one of the first gay superheroes in North American comic books and the first openly gay character to come out in a Marvel Comics. Initially part of the Canadian superhero team, Alpha Flight, Northstar would later join the X-Men. He is a mutant with the ability to travel at superhuman speeds, fly and project photonic energy blasts. He has a twin sister, Aurora, with whom he shares similar abilities. He married his husband, Kyle Jinadu, in Astonishing X-Men #51 (June 2012), which was the first depiction of a same-sex wedding in mainstream comics. In a sense, Northstar walked, so the rest of the LGBT heroes could run.
The diversity in comics is making great strides and not just in sexuality, but in all other facets such as gender and race; but more can still be done. That is why highlighting these LGBTQ+ heroes is so important because not many of these heroes are known to the general public. What’s even more important is that we have more queer writers to tell the stories of these characters. How many times have we been fed stories in ways that reflect a straight, white male’s voice? Representation matters but more importantly we want these stories to be right and not some half-assed tokenism, or pushed out to check off any diversity boxes. Kevin Feige stated in a 2015 interview with Collider that more queer characters would be joining the silver screen soon and I’m waiting patiently for that to happen. As you can see, we have great characters that we want to see. So Hollywood, let’s get to it.