Comic books are a fast-evolving medium. Even back in the 30s and 40s, comic books were constantly pushing the boundaries of what was deemed acceptable. In the 50s, the progressive nature of comic books took a step backward with the introduction of the Comics Code Authority, which instituted many rules and regulations which sought to stifle characters or stories deemed "inappropriate."
But comic book writers and artists persevered, crafting their books as a reflection of society. Thanks to their forward thinking, today there is more diversity in comic books than virtually any other medium. While there have been many characters over the years who come from all walks of life, we take a look at some of the heavy hitters in comics who also happen toidentify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Here are The 12 Most Noteworthy LGBT Characters In Comics.
In addition to being one of the first X-Men and one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel universe, Bobby Drake is also gay. Over 50-plus years of Iceman engaging in heroics with his trademark witty banter, Iceman has dated his fair share of women, making his character’s revelation all the more poignant.
In a recent run of Uncanny X-Men, teenaged versions of the original X-Men find themselves in present day due to some comic book-y time displacement. It is there that Jean Grey inadvertently reads teenaged Bobby Drake’s mind, discovering that he is, in fact, gay.
This realization causes the younger Iceman to confront his older self, who up until this point, has been living as a straight man. This leads the older Iceman to realize that he has remained in the closet due to being terrified of having to deal with being both a mutant and gay. Coming to terms with his sexuality, the younger Iceman proceeds to ask his older self if he thinks Angel is hot, to which the older Iceman responds with a smile and a yes.
When Wolverine was training in Japan he met a woman named Itsu, whom he married and conceived a child with. The Winter Soldier kills the pregnant Itsu under orders of Romulus, a mysterious character who has been hounding Wolverine for the majority of his life.
Unbeknownst to Wolverine, the unborn child Itsu is carrying manages to survive due to the healing factor he inherited from his father. Taken in by Romulus and trained to be a killer, the child, now known as Daken, becomes a member of both the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men, hell bent on exacting his revenge on his father.
In addition to spring loaded claws and a healing factor like his Dad, Daken also has the ability to produce pheromones that can manipulate any individual’s emotions, including those of love and attraction. Daken is often shown taking full advantage of this ability, seducing both men and women in order to get what he wants.
10 Coagula/Danny the Street
DC’s Doom Patrol was home to many super powered beings that simply didn’t fit in amongst the likes of squeaky clean Superman and the brooding Batman. Eschewing the tropes of superhero comic books, Doom Patrol gave birth to many unique characters, including Coagula, one of the first transgender characters ever to appear in comics, and remains one of the only transgender superheroines.
Before obtaining her powers, Kate Goodwin worked as a prostitute and had sex with Rebis, a radioactive inter-sex person. This coupling gave Kate the ability to dissolve solids and harden liquids, which enabled her to put a stop to Codpiece’s (hilarious) rampage. This got the attention of Doom Patrol, where she continued to fight crime. Initially a lesbian, Coagula would later identify as bisexual.
In addition to Coagula, Doom Patrol also introduced Danny the Street, a sentient transgender stretch of road with the power to teleport. Only in comics.
9 Shatterstar and Rictor
Shatterstar is a genetically engineered warrior from the Mojoverse, created solely to engage in battles televised to that world’s population for entertainment. Eventually, Shatterstar escapes his enslavement and joins up with a group of rebels planning to take down the ruler of Mojoworld, Mojo.
In order to do this, the rebels devise a plan in which Shatterstar is sent back in time to recruit the help of the X-Men. Having travelled back in time, Shatterstar joins X-Force, where he eventually meets the mutant Rictor.
Since he was the product of genetic engineering, Shatterstar is asexual, unable to understand love and sometimes portrayed as lacking emotion completely. His capacity to have romantic feelings gradually begins to change, and his close relationship with Rictor leads him to develop feelings of love for the first time.
Shatterstar’s newly discovered emotions result in a rocky relationship with Rictor, as Shatterstar wishes to pursue an open relationship in order to fulfill his desire for sexual exploration, something that the more monogamous Rictor isn’t very receptive of.
8 John Constantine
The snarky, chain-smoking, trench coat wearing John Constantine is the epitome of the anti-hero. An occult detective with a heart of gold, Constantine headed up the Hellblazer comic book using a mix of cunning and con artistry (and a little magic) in defeating the minions of Hell.
Constantine’s sexuality has been the subject of the Hellblazer book numerous times, as he is shown knocking boots with Justice League’s Zatanna as well as mentioning that he’s been with guys on more than one occasion. Despite these passing mentions, Constantine’s sexuality has never been a major focus of his adventures in the supernatural, which is why he deserves a mention.
Contantine’s writers have made the character’s sexuality simply a part of a complex character, ensuring that it did not become his defining characteristic. Charming and charismatic to a fault, good luck to whoever ends up with him, as Constantine not only manages to get himself into some pretty gnarly situations, but also tends to be the love ‘em and leave ‘em type.
7 Apollo and Midnighter
One is a being capable of absorbing solar energy and converting it into superhuman strength, speed, flight and laser projection from his eyes. The other is a masked vigilante who uses his intimate knowledge of hand-to-hand combat and enhanced reflexes to bring evildoers to justice. Sound familiar? The Wildstorm imprint of DC comics introduced Apollo and Midnighter as parallels to the Batman/Superman partnership.
This partnership grows into something more, and Apollo and Midnighter are revealed to be an item. The portrayal of Apollo and Midnighter is much more than gay versions of Batman and Superman, however. The similarities in powers and abilities aside, Apollo and Midnighter are substantially more liberal with the brutality they administer, compared to their squeaky clean counterparts. Stories often delved into the ramifications of the use of Apollo's powers to kill his foes and Midnighter's love of violence and punishment of criminals with extreme prejudice.
Despite their somewhat unhinged adventures in superheroing, the two were eventually married and even adopted a child together.
With a propensity for dick jokes and lewd behavior, Wade Wilson’s sexual orientation has been the subject of much debate with fans. In 2013, Deadpool writer Gerry Dugan confirmed that Deadpool was pansexual in a Twitter post. Pansexuality is the sexual or emotional attraction toward people of any sex gender identity, with most people who identify as such stating that gender is irrelevant when choosing a romantic partner.
Deadpool’s pansexuality is not without criticism, as some view the character’s sexual orientation as “queer-baiting,” and as such is a conscious effort to appeal to the LGBT community. It’s hard to deny this assertion, as Deadpool often references his sexual proclivities for laughs. Despite this, Deadpool is presented as a loud mouth who is mentally unstable, and therefore injects humor into any and every situation, even at his own expense.
With Ryan Reynolds’ recent portrayal of the character on the big screen, subtle nods to the source material were made; most notably in a nude fight scene and jokes levied at Colossus’ nether regions. With Ryan Reynolds proclaiming that he would like to see Deadpool take on a male lover in a future Deadpool sequel, maybe allegations of queer-baiting can be put to rest.
In 2015, everyone’s favorite cat burglar was finally revealed to be bisexual, a trait that many fans had suspected for a very long time. Recently, Selina Kyle hung up her whip in order to assume control of the Calabrese crime family. This left the door open for someone else to take up the Catwoman persona. The new Catwoman is revealed to be Eiko Hasigaway, the daughter of the head of the Yakuza, a rival crime syndicate.
Kyle and Hasigaway see themselves as allies, and their growing relationship eventually culminates in a passionate kiss. Catwoman writer Genevieve Valentine took to Twitter almost immediately, pointing out that this new revelation about Kyle’s sexual orientation was indeed canon. Probably a good move since Catwoman has developed a reputation over the years as being hyper sexual, and the kiss could’ve easily been misinterpreted as exploitation of the character.
4 Wiccan and Hulkling
In 2005, when the Avengers disbanded for an extended period of time, a younger crop of heroes stepped in to take their place and became the Young Avengers. Members of the team included Wiccan, a powerful mage who appeared as though he raided Thor’s closet, and the shapeshifting, super-strong alien Hulkling, who takes his fashion cues from one mean, green smashing machine.
Always intended to be a romantic couple by creator Allan Heinberg, but not fully revealed, exchanges between the two characters led to speculation from readers that Wiccan and Hulkling were more than just friends. The positive and supportive response from fans has seen the couple become one of the more prominent homosexual relationships in Marvel comics, with their romance being handled in a decidedly more open and direct manner.
Critics have agreed, showing praise for the progressive relationship and the maturity in which it is presented.
Most folks are familiar with Mystique as the blue skinned hottie played by Hollywood heavyweight Jennifer Lawrence, and while there are similarities between the on screen Mystique and the comic book Mystique, the one from the pulpy pages of comic books is a much more nuanced and complex character.
In addition to flip flopping her allegiances more than a politician, Mystique is one of the most fascinating characters in all of comics due to what she represents in terms of sexuality. Mystique is a shape shifter, and as such she can transform herself into whatever society deems desirable, yet she only does so when it presents her with a tactical advantage.
She has had relationships with both men and women. However, whereas most of her relationships with men come about as a means to and end, her one true love has to be the precognitive mutant Destiny.
Due to the Comics Code Authority's puritanical rules against homosexual or bisexual content, Mystique creator Chris Claremont was not able to show their relationship until many years after the fact, where it is shown through flashbacks that Mystique courted the female Destiny as a man. Wherever Mystique falls on the LGBT spectrum, it is clear that the character is groundbreaking.
In 1954, a book called Seduction of the Innocent was published by a psychiatrist that believed comic books were warping the values and moral judgment of the day’s youth. The book created a minor fervor amongst parents and was partially responsible for the creation of the Comics Code Authority. The book leveled accusations at a number of popular characters at the time, including alleging that Batman was in a romantic relationship with Robin, the Boy Wonder.
To quell rumors of homosexual subtexts in Batman comics, DC introduced Batwoman in 1956 as a love interest for the Caped Crusader. By the mid-60s however, Batwoman faded into the background and was largely forgotten until 2006, during the 52 limited series when she was reintroduced as Kate Kain.
Kain was not merely a Rule 63 Batman, however. After her mother and sister are kidnapped and killed, Kain enlists in the United States Military Academy. When an allegation that she is romantically involved with another female student, Kain is kicked out of the Academy, and returns to Gotham. Inspired by Batman, Kain uses her military training and her family’s wealth to become Batwoman.
As one of DC’s highest profile gay superheroes, many organizations and media outlets praised the character’s creators for diversifying DC’s roster. In the years since her introduction, Kate Kain has been in a relationship with cop-turned-superhero Renee Montyoa and even got engaged to her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer. This year even saw Kate out and proud in the DC animated film Bad Blood.
Jean-Paul Beaubier was a professional skier until his power of flight and super speed led him to become the superhero known as Northstar. As part of the Canadian government sponsored superhero team, Alpha Flight, Northstar and his fellow superpowered Canucks were introduced back in 1979, and were long associated with the X-Men, until headlining their own book in 1983.
Created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, Northstar was always intended to be gay. However, Marvel’s then-editor-in-chief at the time did not allow direct confirmation of Northstar’s sexual orientation to appear on the page. Thus Northstar’s homosexuality was merely alluded to for years, until, in 1992, Alpha Flight writers were allowed to have the character state “I am gay.”
This led to significant media attention, as Northstar became the first openly gay character in Marvel comics’ history. Northstar became a symbol for equality within the Marvel Universe, and even took time off from his superhero duties to pen a novel titled "Born Normal." Recently, Northstar broke even more ground when his marriage to boyfriend Kyle Jinadu became the first gay marriage shown on the pages of a Marvel comic book.
There you have it, our picks for 12 comic book characters who kick ass and happen to be part of the LGBT community. There are many others, so who do you think deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments.