Many of the minorities we have discussed so far were not included in the early days of comics out of ignorance and prejudice. However, there was nothing banning comic book writers from creating dynamic and important comic characters who had disabilities, were people of color or weren’t Christian. The story goes a little differently in this installment of Minorities in Comics. See, even if writers wanted to make LGBTQ* characters before 1989, they couldn’t. The Comic Code Authority (CCA) was 100% to blame for this. See, The Comic Code Authority (CCA) wanted to protect us from a multitude of things including: drug use, homosexuality and zombies (we’re not kidding on the last one. Look it up. Perhaps we are currently experiencing the mother of all backlashes?). They sought to protect children from the fabulous drug using walking dead.
Did that stop LGBTQ topics, characters, etc from appearing in comics? Not at all. But their inclusion had to be subtle. Audiences would have to read between the lines and make inferences about comic book characters’ sexuality. And of course, only mainstream comics cared about having a CCA seal on their comics. Many underground and independent comics openly discussed LGBTQ matters (ex: Gay Comix).
The CCA finally removed homosexuality from the taboo topic list and authors were free to create out and fully developed LGBTQ comic book characters. There is a wonderful history of LGBTQ characters from both before and after the CCA code. Most of the characters below are confirmed to be LGBTQ although one or two may be based on rumors and innuendo.
Appears in Starman
First Appearance: 1941
There have been several incarnations of Starman since his first appearance in 1941. This article will focus on Mikaal Tomas, the awesome 1970s version of Starman. It should come as no surprise that he wasn’t originally conceived as Gay. In fact he was only identified as Gay in 2010. This is after a twelve year (in comic book years) relationship with his partner Tony. We have no idea if he was intended to be Gay all along. He was named after a David Bowie song (and not after his predecessor) so that may be a hint. Or not. Who knows? The point is that he is an awesome Gay comic character.
Appears in Runaways, Young Avengers
First Appearance: 2006
Gender swapping is a fairly common phenomenon in the comic book world. It isn’t unusual to switch genders in an alternative dimension or by other magical means. The comic book world is also full of shape shifters who will morph into people of different genders. But none quite so much as Xavin. Xavin is a Skrull. Skrulls are incredibly fluid in their concept of gender and Xavin switches gender often. Xavin’s gender swapping ways become problematic when Xavin falls in love with Karolina, who is a lesbian. Xavin maintains a female identity in order to maintain the relationship with Karolina. But there are lingering doubts about whether this is Xavin’s true gender or just something they’ve done to please Karolina. We would consider Xavin to be an interesting take on a transgender/genderqueer identity.
Appears in Watchmen, Before Watchmen
First Appearance: 1986
We know this one is going to cause a bit of controversy. And we LOVE controversy. Ozymandias’ sexuality has been one of the big questions regarding Watchmen. Some people will argue that Alan Moore is really explicit in identifying his LGBTQ characters. So what about Ozymandias? We know this for certain: Rorschach thinks he may possibly be a homosexual. We don’t really know why, but surely Rorschach must have found something. And he is really into Alexander the Great (an awesome bisexual man). So. Is he Gay, bisexual, asexual or just fabulous and gorgeous? The controversy definitely earns him a place on this list. What do you guys think?
Appears in Young Avengers
First Appearance: 2005
Many of the “young” superhero teams include LGBTQ teens within their ranks. And we really dig that. Comics are following the lead of television, movies and other media by beginning to portray LGBTQ teens in a positive light. And Hulking is an awesome example of a teen superhero in a same-sex relationship. There were many clues dropped that Hulkling and Wiccan were more than friends. When it was finally announced that they were indeed a couple, the response was overwhelmingly positive. And they are very much like any other young superhero couple.
Appears in Infinity Inc, Justice League of America
First Appearance: 1986
Icemaiden is a rarity in the comic universe. She is a bisexual superhero. Bisexual identities are often ignored in media including comic books. So it is very refreshing to see an out bisexual woman represented in comics. She has openly flirted with both men and women. She also managed to date The Green Lantern’s ex-girlfriend. We’re impressed. And the best part is that her relationships are fairly normalized. She is like any other superhero. Fighting crime. Turning into ice. The usual.
5. Ultimate Colossus
Appears in Ultimate X-Men
First Appearance: 2001
There is nothing more badass than Ultimate Colossus. He worked for Russian mob, he turns into metal and he has Wolverine’s respect. Oh and he took Northstar to his homecoming dance. And he loves Will and Grace. Out of all the characters they could have picked to change the sexuality of in the Ultimate Universe, Colossus is probably the best choice. Colossus doesn’t at all fit the stereotype of a feminine Gay man. In fact, he’s one of the most masculine X-Men out there. And he deals with homophobia from his fellow team members; most notably Nightcrawler. Their relationship turns sour the more Peter manages to come out and be open about who he is. It is unfortunately a realistic part of LGBTQ life.
Appears in Uncanny X-Men, Ultimate X-Men, Wolverine
First Appearance: 1978
Oh Mystique. She is one of our favorite mutant shape shifters. Like many shape shifters, she is known to change genders on occasion. However, we wouldn’t consider her to be transgender because, unlike Xavin, she has a stable gender when she isn’t shape shifting. Nope. She didn’t make the list for messing with gender (although that is pretty cool). She made our list because of her longterm relationship with Destiny. And their relationship couldn’t be officially recognized in canon until after the CCA rules on same-sex relationships were lifted. It is a shame because creators had intended to make Destiny and Mystique the parents of Nightcrawler. And we would love to have seen Nightcrawler raised by two mommies.
3. Batwoman (Kathy Kane)
Appears in Justice League, Batman and Robin, 52
First Appearance: 1956
When Batwoman (Kathy Kane) was recreated in 2006, DC Comics was looking for a way to diversify the “Bat Family” and it was decided that Batwoman would be written as a Lesbian. Though she is not the first DC Comics character to be LGBTQ, she is one of the most high profile characters. There was initially some backlash, but overall she has gotten great reviews. And she increases the profile of LGBTQ characters in comic books so we are all for it!
Appears in Uncanny X-Men, Alpha Flight, Ultimate X-Men
First Appearance: 1979
The CCA codes weren’t the only things keeping LGBTQ characters out of comics. These policies were often supported by those at the top of companies like Marvel and DC Comics. Writers had long intended to make Northstar Gay. Unfortunately, Jim Shooter (editor in chief at Marvel) had a policy against any openly LGBTQ characters. And despite subtle references and efforts to out Northstar, he remained in the closet well past the end of the CCA code on homosexuality. He was finally able to come out in 1992. And even then he wasn’t seen flirting or in relationships for a long time. So when Northstar tied the knot in 2012, LGBTQ comic fans rejoiced. Finally, poor Northstar was no longer a bridesmaid and became the bride.
1. The Silhouette
Appears in Watchmen
First Appearance: 1986
If you thought it was hard being LGBTQ in 2012, imagine being LGBTQ in the 1940s. Which brings us to our number one spot. The Silhouette wasn’t a major part of Watchmen. She isn’t even the most important of the Minutemen. But she was one of the earliest Lesbian comic book characters. Now we are certain Alan Moore wasn’t really that concerned with getting CCA approval (and even without mentioning homosexuality, its unlikely he would have gotten it). But The Silhouette is a Jewish character, a survivor of the Nazi regime and a badass Lesbian. You can’t go wrong with her. And she is thrown out of the Minutemen for being openly Gay (despite the fact that they kept members who were closeted). And eventually she was murdered in a hate crime. The words “Lesbian whores” were written in blood above her and her girlfriend’s bed. So our list doesn’t necessarily end in a happily ever after, but that’s ok. Silhouette is certainly deserving of our number one spot.
Honorable Mention: Anima, Tank Girl, Green Lantern
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer