Even before the spike of interest in the Marvel Universe and its confusing plethora of intertwining movies, an abundance of superheroes have existed since, what, the 1940s? We know many of them without thinking twice: Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, the X-Men…we could be here a while. Yet within all of our options, where are all the gay ones? With so many colorful costumes and tight spandex, you’d seriously think at least some of them are hiding in the closet. But thankfully, a couple dozen gay, lesbian, and bisexual superheroes have emerged (or come out) over more recent years, giving a little more representation to the LGBTQ world. And while most of them are far from popular, Hardline is here to help them along by showcasing the most influential.
Born Jean-Paul Beaubier, Northstar was the first openly gay superhero of the Marvel world (and possibly superhero comics in general). Originally a skier with the power of superhuman speed, flight, and light manipulation, he joined the X-Men in 1979 to help better humanity. While the writers considered Northstar to have always been gay, this fact wasn’t openly discussed until 1992, when a fellow character confronted Northstar about the importance of visible LGBTQ people, especially during the HIV/AIDS crisis. He responded by coming out to the press and writing an autobiography, Born Normal. His most famous comic issue, Astonishing X-Men #51, made a splash in 2012 when he finally married his lifelong partner, Kyle. And while he’s been killed three times between now and his debut, it seems not even death can keep him from coming back.
Apollo and Midnighter
Considered one of the best examples of gayness done right in modern comics, Apollo and Midnighter called themselves partners from their start in 1998, though it took a little while for writers to divulge what exactly the couple meant by the word: turns out they’ve been married for quite some time now. With Apollo’s ability to absorb solar energy and Midnighter’s power to determine the movements of his opponents, the duo has been hailed as formidable fame rivals to the likes of their DC counterparts, Batman and Superman. While saving the world on a daily basis, their marriage, gayness–and even their adopted daughter, Jenny Quantum—aren’t very big woes in the face of, you know, complete and utter destruction of the human race. It’s good to keep those priorities in check.
The Green Lantern is a classic and well-known DC superhero, having run so long that his character has plowed through several human identities (e.g. Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart). In 2012, writers decided to have his original form, Alan Scott, come out as gay in preparation for his new reboot in Earth 2. While revealing the retired hero wasn’t the biggest move DC could have made—essentially since he would only now be portrayed as a new, hip, young version of himself—it nonetheless sent shockwaves through numerous fans, who were surprised and unhappy that such a famous superhero could dare to be gay.
Wiccan and Hulkling
All of these portrayals of gay superheroes are great and all, but what about the kids? Marvel thought the same thing when they decided to debut Wiccan and Hulkling, the youngster homosexual couple that joined The Young Avengers in 2005. Despite mutant Wiccan’s tele- and pyrokinetic powers and alien Hulkling’s shapeshifting and superhuman strength, the two of them still have to deal with the usual woes of a teenage romance, their gayness in stride. And while the writers didn’t plan to out the duo until their twelfth issue, fans picked up on the nuances in the first two, responded favorably, and demanded they be open and unashamed of their love for one another.
Another gay youth to take to the superhero world is Bunker, who joined the Teen Titans in 2011. Aside from his Mexican heritage—rarely seen in the white-washed world of superheroes—Bunker’s other twist is that he’s not only gay, but flamboyantly so. While several gay superhero characters are now out, they otherwise tend to act very heteronormative. And with that problem in mind, DC writers decided they wanted a gay character that embraced his sexuality wholeheartedly and away from the straight-acting stereotype meant to keep straight readers comfortable.