Queer Superheroes: A Brief History
by Jim Provenzano

Comics have always had a homoerotic
edge. What's surprising is how many
superhero characters are actually gay,
lesbian, transgender, or ... something
else.


 

The 1993 coming-out of Northstar, of
the Canadian X-Men group Alpha
Flight, caused a sensation. Starting
out as a lithe, elfin creature, by the
time of his coming-out he'd morphed
into a hulking muscle freak drawn by
a straight artist. This irked many gay
comics fans already well-versed in the
subtler nuances of queer comic code.

Other gay characters of various sizes
and superhero skill sets have
continued the tradition. X-Men
characters Mystique and Destiny had
an implied lesbian relationship, but
without all the ruckus. Apollo and
Midnighter, two members of the
Authority, from DC Comics' Vertigo
imprint, have been known to engage
in a bit of affectionate smooching
aboard their high-powered spacecraft.
And the Green Lantern features
lesbian duo Lee & Li, as supporting
characters.

For better or worse, many comic
queers have been villains, including Batman's Riddler and the Joker,
Dare-Devil's nemesis Machinesmith, and the Flash's foe Pied Piper (who
ends up a good guy fighting for gay rights).

In the mainstream comics world, DC and Marvel have very gay-friendly
company and editorial policies. Adult but not erotic, DC's Sandman series
includes many GLBT characters. But few lead characters have been out --
readers have often had to read between the tights.

In 1997 several gay comics fans, finding other online sites to be
unfriendly, formed the Gay League to help clarify who's who, and who's
dating whom. Small presses like Andy Mangel's Gay Comics have filled in
another gap, pumping out over 25 issues of openly queer-themed
comics.