MEN IN TIGHTS

Hero Worship: New LGBT Comic-Book Characters Are Here To Save The Day

We heard a lot this summer about Northstar’s same-sex wedding and the arrival of a gay Green Lantern named Alan Scott. But there are a lot more queer characters in comics these days—from the X-Men’s Colossus (well, in Marvel’s Ultimate line) to DC’s high-kicking lesbian detective, Batwoman (whom we reported on earlier). For those of you not immersed in geek culture, though, we’ve pulled together some of the new breed of bi, gay, lesbian and trans heroes and villains from the two big publishers, Marvel and DC. Click through to meet some of the new LGBT superheroes and anti-heroes. Many more, both from the “Big Two” and indie publishers can be found at sites like the Gay League and Prism Comics. Images: DC Comics, Marvel Comics  
Striker and Lightspeed (Avengers Academy) While Lightspeed (real name: Julie Power) has been around since the 1980s as a pre-teen in the superhero squad Power Pack, she only came out as bisexual in recent issues of Avengers Academy, a series about angsty heroes-in-training. More surprising was the fact that Striker, a cocky teammate quick to hit on every girl in sight, came out to Julie as gay himself. In a rare twist, Striker also revealed he had been molested as a child and was afraid people would think that’s what made him gay. Of course, always quick to turn things to his advantage, Striker held a press conference to publicly announce sexuality just four issues later—much to Lightspeed’s chagrin. Current status: Marvel has announced it will be ending Avengers Academy in November with issue #39, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Lightspeed or Striker pops up again in a new series.  

  Wiccan and Hulkling (Young Avengers) Wiccan (Billy Kaplan) and Hulkling (Teddy Altman) showed up in 2005’s Young Avengers, created by out writer/TV producer Allan Heinberg, and had a pretty heavy gay subtext from the start. (When Wiccan tries tell his parents he’s a superhero, the Kaplans assume he’s coming out as gay.)  Once out in the open, their relationship withstood several trials—alien abductions, a superhero civil war, and the absence of an on-panel kiss until seven years after they were introduced. At the time they were being attacked by alien invaders, the X-Men, secret government organizations and Dr. Doom. Talk about a big buildup! Current status: Since Young Avengers was canceled in 2006, the dynamic duo has appeared in a miniseries, numerous issues of the Avengers, and the recent Avengers: Children’s Crusade. In the new Marvel NOW! campaign, Wiccan is being teased as part of a unnamed team comic. And with Billy and Teddy now engaged, we expect to get an invite to another same-sex superhero wedding any day now.  
Bunker (Teen Titans) A new character introduced in DC’s rebooted continuity (dubbed “The New 52”), Bunker is Miguel Barragan, a well-adjusted Mexican teen whose village is accepting of both his sexuality and his powers. Bunker’s optimistic outlook has gotten him into trouble, but also saved the day a few times. He’s also begun to forge a friendship with Superboy, but we don’t know that we’d call it a bromance just yet. Current status: It was announced at San Diego Comic Con that Bunker left behind a comatose boyfriend, who will be waking up in an upcoming issue of Teen Titans. We look forward to that reunion—as long as it has more kissing than punching!   Starling (Birds of Prey) Another addition to DC’s New 52, Starling (Evelyn Crawford) is an old college friend of Black Canary with an  interesting life: She mysteriously ended up on several government watch-lists, acquired skills in firearms and demolitions, and has a vast intelligence network at her disposal. Not much is known about Starling’s past but she was depicted in a tender embrace with a woman named June, which writer Duane Swierczynski said was “more than a hint” that Crawford was bisexual or lesbian. Current status: Kicking ass and taking names in the current Birds of Prey.  

 Sir Ystin (Demon Knights) Introduced by Grant Morrison in DC’s 2005 miniseries Seven Soldiers, Sir Ystin, a.k.a. the Shining Knight, started out as Ystina, a female admirer of Sir Galahad who disguised herself as a man to fight in the doomed battle to save Camelot. He reappeared in the current series Demon Knights, fighting evil alongside an actual demon, a Muslim alchemist, a tarot-card reader, an exiled Amazon and others. Coming from a much earlier era, Ystin doesn’t really discuss his gender or how he feels about it, but he presents himself as, and is generally referred to as, male. Sir Ystin is perhaps the only implicitly trans characters in a current Marvel or DC series.
Silhouette, Captain Metropolis, Hooded Justice, and Ozymandias (Before Watchmen: Minutemen and Before Watchmen: Ozymandias) Revisiting the characters introduced in Alan Moore’s groundbreaking 1980s series, The Watchmen, the Before Watchmen comics are much more explicit about the Minutemen’s three gay members: Silhouette, Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice (the latter two of whom were in a kinky S&M relationship). The Ozymandias mini explores the title character’s sexuality—though its still not clear if he’s gay, bisexual or omnisexual. Current status: With limited runs of 4-6 issues, the Before Watchmen comics are a short jaunt into the past, but well worth the trip.

 

Anole (Wolverine and the X-Men) First appearing in 2003’s New Mutants #2, Anole (Victor Borkowski) fled his anti-mutant hometown in the Midwest and enrolled at the Xavier Institute, where his life mirrored many of his classmates; academic classes, battle training, and the occasional assault on the X-Mansion. What set him apart from other X-Men (and other gay characters) was his mentor-student relationship with older gay heroes Karma and Northstar, creating an inter-generational LGBT support system which has helped Anole come to terms with his sexuality. Current status: Anole has taken on the role of mentor himself with Graymalkin, a mutant teen from the 1800s who was buried in suspended animation under the mansion for centuries.  

Rictor and Shatterstar (X-Factor) Rictor and Shatterstar literally come from different worlds: While Julio Ricter grew up in Mexico with an arms-dealer for a father, Shatterstar was essentially grown in a vat in an alternate future to be the ultimate killing machine. The two met as members of the 1990s mutant team X-Force, but it wasn’t until their first kiss years later, in X-Factor #45, that the gay rumors were confirmed. Current status: As series writer Peter David continues to expand the heroes’ relationship, we see them facing an oddly familiar dynamic: While Rictor has been around the block (albeit with women) and is ready for a commitment, this is Shatterstar’s first romantic pairing and now the reformed assassin is wondering about all the other fish in the sea. Could this be comicdom’s first open relationship?  

 

Daken ( Dark Wolverine, Wolverine, and Uncanny X-Force )

Daken is the son of the X-Men’s Wolverine, but blames his father for his mothers’ death. With Wolverine’s claws and healing factor, plus a mutant pheromone that allows him to seduce women and men, he has proven to be a powerful adversary—though Daken’s sadistic and capricious nature make his real motivations (and whether he can love anyone) something of a mystery.

Current status: Believed dead, Daken resurfaced as the mastermind behind the new Brotherhood of Mutants and its plan to kill Wolverine and his allies in X-Force. Sheesh, talk about daddy issues!  

 

Spot the Were-Terrier (iZombie)

Technically iZombie isn’t a superhero comic: Launched through DC comics’ Vertigo line, it’s more a old-school horror comic with post-ironic attitude. (Think The Walking Dead meets Twin Peaks.) But since zombie Gwen, ghost Ellie and caninethrope Scott—nicknamed Spot—help save Eugene, Oregon, from the hordes of the undead, they definitely qualify as do-gooders.

At first Scott’s ability to transform into a were-terrier was played for comic effect. But when he becomes besotted with Gwen’s brother, Gavin, the comic made strong parallels between being a closet case and being the monster hiding in the closet. And honestly, when vampires, mummies and government agents lurk around every corner, the gay agenda doesn’t quite seem so threatening in comparison.

Current status: Sadly, iZombie was canceled with its August issue, #28. But Scott’s adventures have been compiled in the trade paperbacks Dead to the World, uVampire, Six Feet Under & Rising and Repossessed, hitting stores in December.

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5 Comments*

  • Allen D.

    I read comics from my closeted days. Dropped out probably 15 years ago. Once Kevin Keller came around, I got back into the fold. DC’s “Earth 2”, Astonishing X-Men, X-Factor, etc are back in my life & I’m pretty happy about it.

    So, yay!

  • Allen D.

    I guess what my drunken ass forgot to say was –

    Some people will comment and say that the comic book companies are just pandering for sales. But, I really respect how the gay storylines & characters have been handled. I wish there had been ‘out’ characters in my closeted years.

  • jogproof

    there is some pandering for sales but top ones are just lgbt like people are not just for sales.

  • Superman

    [Page 2] That Wiccan’s ass is just as round and luscious as I remember it…

  • jogproof

    @Superman: hopefully we will get more of that in the new books

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