Over the summer Marvel Comics got a big boost when the X-Men’s mutant speedster Northstar married his boyfriend, Kyle:The issue sold out, Marvel got a ton of mainstream press, and even complaints from the usual knuckleheads only helped make comics seem more relevant.
Don’t think the comic-book industry wasn’t paying attention.
As social mores about homosexuality has shifted, and issues like marriage equality have proliferated in the news, mainstream comics have introduced more and more LGBT characters—and increasingly ones with (gasp!) actual love lives.
This week comics from both Marvel and DC delivered some same-sex super-hero loving: Marvel’s X-Treme X-Men #10 depicted comics powerhouse Wolverine in a gay romance with the pansexual demi-god Hercules, while DC’s Batwoman #17 sees the cowled crusader proposing to her police-captain girlfriend.
Don’t expect to see Hugh Jackman indulging in any man-love in this summer’s sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, though. This Wolverine (real name James Howlett) is from an alternate universe, part of a team of dimension-hopping mutants who bounce around Quantam Leap-style setting things right.
When the team picks up Hercules, it becomes clear he and his universe’s Wolverine shared an intimate relationship, but this week’s issue laid it all out in four-color fabulousness. While the it’s-a-gay-Wolverine-from-an-alternate-universe is a little silly, it does allow for more elbow room than a mainstream publisher would generally give—including jokes about leather.
It’s also worth noting that while Wolvie has never been portrayed as queer before, his son, Daken (a.k.a. Dark Wolverine) is bisexual, with the mutant power to seduce both men and women.
Unlike Wolverine, Batwoman has been openly gay since she was re-introduced into DC Comics in 2006. But she’s been so busy chasing villains and proving her mettle, she hasn’t had the best luck in the romance department.
That will (hopefully) be changing, now that the Dark Damsel—a.k.a. heiress Kate Kane—has asked girlfriend Maggie Sawyer to be her wife. Of course, there’s no guarantee Sawyer will say yes—or that, even if she does, they’ll make it to the altar. Or that they’ll last to the honeymoon.
Let’s just say comic books, like soap operas, don’t have the best track record when it comes to “Happily Ever After.”
But now that LGBT super-heroes are fairly common, we’re thrilled they’re being flushed out as more than just window-dressing. As Batwoman artist J. H. William posted on his website this week, “Batwoman is an important character, and a socially important one that has meaning that extends well beyond the printed pages of the world she lives in, reaching out into ours [and] possibly affecting those who encounter her story.”
Below, more panels from X-Treme X-Men #10
Images: DC Comics, Marvel Comics