For my first Top Ten article for TQS I thought I would start with a fitting category the ten best LGBT superheroes. To be honest the Superhero comic industry hasn’t exactly embraced homosexuality with open arms over its long history, this is not to say that the industry is inherently homophobic (The support towards minorities and minority characters are part of the history of the genre, see the X-Men franchise for one example) but perhaps it’s best to say that it was hesitant to fully embrace homosexuality until the 90s, and throughout the 2000s a plethora of gay characters have graced the panels of Superhero comics. So, without further ado I present the top ten LGBT superheroes!
10 – Moondragon – Heather Douglas has two distinctive features, her baldhead and the fact that she is openly bisexual. She first appeared in Iron Man #54 (vol 1 1973) and she is perhaps most famously (or infamously) know for coercing Thor to be her lover and an out of character act of patricide. She is unique in the Marvel Universe as she didn’t gained her substantial telekinetic and telepathic powers through some chemical, cosmic rays or mutation. In fact she gained them by hard work and years of training, which has also given her a insufferable superiority complex.
9 – Daken – or Akihiro, is Wolverine’s son and has inherited his father’s healing factor and claws. Created by Daniel Way and Steve Dillon in 2007, Daken has grown in prominence within the Marvel universe and became a competent character in his own right and not just a clone of his father (that would be X-23, sorry geek joke). A member of both the Dark X-men and Dark Avengers team (Dark because they are evil of course), Daken has moved alongside the movers and shakers of the villain world, but has never been thrown to the sidelines. Unlike his father, he has an extra power that allows him to manipulate his pheromones so he can manipulate the emotions of his enemies and he uses this to flirt with both sexes (he even manages to kiss the Avenger Hawkeye, to be played by Jeremy Renner in the upcoming Avengers film). Although none of the creators have explicitly called him bisexual, he seems happy enough (like this website) to swing both ways.
8 – Batwoman – This isn’t the 1950s Batwoman, Kathy Kane, who herself was introduced into the comics to give Batman a romantic interest and dispel any rumours that the caped crusader was himself gay, but actually the contemporary version. Kate Kane was introduced in week 7 of the 2006 weekly comic 52. She was reimagined as a tattoo flaunting, punk rocking, and lesbian military brat to help DC comics to diversify their characters. Due to her connection to Batman she is probably DC’s highest profile gay character, with her own stint as lead character of Detective Comics (854-860) and come September her own series. However even with her high profile she seems more like a publicity drive by DC, so they can say “look how progressive we are” and this is why she only comes in at number eight.
7 – Apollo and The Midnighter – The first of two couples in this top ten, you really can’t separate these two. They are Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s gay analogy of Superman and Batman. Apollo the mighty sun god and Midnighter the violent street vigilante both have starring turns in the series The Authority, which has already been looked at in another article (shameless plugging). Their relationship developed throughout that comic’s seminal first volume, by Ellis, Hitch, Mark Millar and Frank Quitely respectively, which culminated in a wedding and the adoption of Jenny Quantum. Even though they could be seen as a novelty due to the fact that they are essentially gay versions of DC comic’s two main characters, they have been given depth and charm, which elevates them to the compelling characters they are today.
6 – Karma – A founding member and one of the stars of the 80s Marvel comic New Mutants, a refugee from Vietnam, the guardian of her younger siblings and one of the most prominent lesbian characters in comic books, these are the defining characteristics of Xi’an Coy Manh or Shan for short. Created by X-legend Chris Claremont and Superstar Frank Miller, Karma fled Vietnam with what was left of her family due to the rise of communism. Her mutant power, the ability to possess people’s minds, caught the attention of Professor Xavier and she was added to his new roster of young mutant students. Being a little older than the rest of her team-mates and already looking after her younger siblings she was the calming and mature character in the team. She has been prominent throughout the X-Men franchise and at this minute stars in the most recent incarnation of the New Mutants comic.
5 – Xavin – Probably the most unique character on the list, Xavin is a member of the warlike alien race known as the Skrulls. Like every Skrull Xavin can shape shift, but not only that but he is a Super Skrull in training. Super Skrulls are given super powers that mimic Earth’s heroes and Xavin has the combined powers of the Fantastic Four (Invisibility, Super Strength, Fire Blasts and the ability to stretch). Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona for their critical acclaim Marvel series Runaways (a series about a group of teenagers who find out their parents are super villains), Xavin was arranged to marry Runaway member Karolina Dean, so her parents could have their revenge against some enemies. He turned up as a he and unknown to him at the time Karolina Dean was a lesbian, however this didn’t stop the stubborn alien shape shifter. He became a she and they continued their romance and became a member of the team. Therefore Xavin is the only character on the list to go throw a sex change, however throughout the comics run Xavin consistently shifted between sexes and on more than one occasion stated the strengths of both sexes, for example believing that being a man is more intimidating. This fluid changing and his combining (literally) of gender roles, and the fact the reader doesn’t know Xavin’s sex when he was born, lends itself more to the ideas of Transgender and therefore adding even more depth to this complex character.
4 – Anole – Created by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, Victor Borkowski is possibly the most relatable and normal character on this list, and that’s why he stands out so well. A mutant with a reptilian appearance he first appeared as a student at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in New Mutants volume 2 (2003). Originally a back ground character with a unique look (as shown in his picture), his creators where going to bring him into the lime light in a storyline which would see him come out to his peers, be rejected by his friends and family and then commit suicide. Thank god Marvel saw sense on this one and allowed him to live and not do such a predictably insulting storyline. Using his abilities (he can stick to walls, grow new limbs when injured, has a natural adaptive camouflage and a prehensile tongue) he has risen through the ranks to became a junior X-Man and the way he has been handled by the writers, not defined by his sexuality but by his heroic actions, has made him a fan favourite. In fact in a scene with another young gay mutant called Graymalkin, Anole breaks the mould and doesn’t just instantly jump his bones. Instead it is a touching scene of one gay guy helping another with coming to terms with his sexuality.
3 – Hulkling and Wiccan -The second couple on the countdown consist of a couple of Superhero fan boys with powers. O.C and Grey’s Anatomy writer/producer Allan Heinberg created for Marvel the Young Avengers in 2005, with the help of the amazing artist Jim Cheung. The team consisted of a group of teenagers with connections to the Avengers and powers that take it upon themselves to keep the Avengers legacy alive after the real team disbanded. Theodore “Teddy” Altman and William “Billy” Kaplan, better known as Hulking and Wiccan, are part of this team. When we first meet Teddy he resembles a younger Hulk, with his green skin and his Super Strength, but as the series continues it is revealed that he can also shape shift and that his abilities are due to the fact that he is a Kree/Skrull hybrid (The Kree are a technologically advance alien race who look like us but with blue skin and Skrulls have already been mentioned). His father is actually the one time Avenger and Kree hero Captain Marvel (or Mar-Vell depending on who you ask) and his mother is a Skrull Princess. He was originally going to be a girl who shifted into a male Hulk body as Heinberg didn’t think Marvel would sign off on an open gay couple, but he didn’t feel right writing it that way and Teddy was born. Now when we first met Billy his codename was Asgardian, as he modelled himself on Thor and fired bolts of lightning at his enemies, but it was revealed that he was in fact a powerful mage and therefore along the way he picked up the name Wiccan. Interestingly when we first meet Billy he has to sort of chant to make his spells work, for example “teleport us out of here, teleport us out of here, teleport us out of here”. Billy has a twin brother, Thomas Shepard, codenamed Speed (because he can run really fast) and he is linked to prominent Avenger The Scarlet Witch. In fact, although it has been proved to be right recently, he and Thomas are supposed to be her reincarnated twin sons (a very long story). Both Hulkling and Wiccan have what makes Anole stand out and that is the fact that they are relatable and aren’t defined by their sexuality. They come in front of Anole due to the fact that they have been major stars of an ongoing book from the get go and their relationship is believable and the bedrock of the Young Avengers team.
2 – Northstar – This list would not be complete without Jean-Paul Beaubier, who is the first major gay character created by Marvel comics. In fact I would call him the most famous gay superhero out there. Again a creation of Chris Claremont but this time with artist John Byrne, Northstar is a mutant member of the Canadian super team Alpha Flight. He can move at super speed, fly and when holding hands with his twin sister Aurora they can create blinding flashes of light. Although created in 1979 he, and the rest of the team, didn’t get any real characterisation (the whole of the team was created to survive a fight with the X-Men) until Byrne created an Alpha Flight title in 1983. Byrne had always intended him to be gay and scattered the title with subtle references, but the Marvel editor-in-chief at the time, Jim Shooter, had a ‘no gays at marvel’ policy. So it wasn’t until 1992 that the French-Canadian mutant came out in print. Since then he has been out and proud and he has been a member of the X-Men, a tutor at Xavier’s school, a mentor to Anole, killed by Wolverine (and resurrected by evil ninjas to get revenge) and even wrote a memoir about his experiences of being gay and a mutant called Born Normal. At the moment he can be seen in the pages of the X-Books and also a new Alpha flight comic, which shows him living it up with his new boyfriend. He may have missed out at the top spot but he can’t be denied his place in comic book history.
1 – Renee Montoya aka The Question
Not only is she the top LGBT character on this list I would argue that she is one of the most compelling characters the medium has produced in the last 20 years. Originally created for Batman: The Animated Series, Renee actually saw print first just before the series aired in 1992. In Gotham Central Renee was a major character and a detective who was assigned to the Major Crimes Unit. She took centre stage in the story arc ‘Half a Life’ in which she is outed as a lesbian in front of everyone at the station due to a picture of her kissing another woman. This leads to her working environment and her personal life falling apart, her deeply religious parents reject her even though her younger brother supports her. The arc’s villain is revealed to be Two-Face who had fallen in love with Renee and decided the only way to be with her is to take her away from everything she knows and therefore kidnaps her. At the end of the series her partner is killed by a corrupt detective and he manages to get away with it and this leads Renee to quit the force repulsed by all the corruption. Picking up where Gotham Central left her, 52 starts with Renee at her lowest, hitting the bottle after giving up on the world. However the superhero known as The Question (Vic Sage), a fedora wearing vigilante with no facial features, decides to make her his protégé and in the subsequent 52 issues we see her journey to replace Vic Sage and become the new Question. 52 also showed that Renee had a relationship with the new Batwoman. Above all else she is one of the most human characters DC has and has moved away from her stereotypes (being an ethnic minority as well as gay). She is flawed, isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and she reacts to situations the way we would in her position, the ultimate everywoman. She hasn’t got superpowers, high tech gadgets or backed by a fortune, but she still fights the good fight in a grass roots movement against deadly and insane opponents.
So there are my Top Ten LGBT superheroes, so if you disagree or agree or have anything to add just comment!