Tenou Haruka

LGBT characters in comics

For much of the 20th century, gay relationships were discouraged from being shown in comics, which were seen mainly as directed towards children. Until 1989 the Comics Code Authority (CCA), which imposed de facto censorship on comics sold through news-stands in the United States, forbade any suggestion of homosexuality. Artists had to drop subtle hints while not stating directly a character's orientation. Overt gay and lesbian themes were first found in underground and alternative titles which did not carry the CCA's seal of approval.

The CCA came into being in response to Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, in which comic book creators were accused to attempting to negatively influence children with images of violence and sexuality, including subliminal homsexuality. Wertham claimed Wonder Woman's strength and independence made her a lesbian, and stated that "The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies".

In recent years the number of LGBT characters has increased greatly in mainstream superhero comics, however LGBT characters continue to be relegated to supporting roles, and receive criticism for the treatment gay characters receive.

In recent years, mainstream comic book publishers have portrayed more of their characters, both protagonists and supporting, as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT). Both male and female gay comic book characters are represented, as are imaginary persons from all walks of life; economic, social, and ethnic.

Marvel

Alpha Flight’s Northstar was the first major gay character created by Marvel comics in 1979, as a member of the original Alpha Flight superhero team. Although Northstar's sexual identity was hinted at in 1983 in issues 7 and 8 of Alpha Flight, his apparent lack of interest in women was chalked up to his obsessive drive to win as a ski champion . The character was finally revealed to be gay in 1992's Alpha Flight issue 106.

A relationship between the female Marvel comics characters Mystique and Destiny was only implied at first, then cryptically confirmed in 1990 through the use of the archaic word leman, meaning a lover or sweetheart. Only in 2001 was Destiny referred to in plain language as Mystique's lover.

In 2002, Marvel Comics revived The Rawhide Kid in their Marvel MAX imprint, introducing the first openly gay comic book character to star in his own magazine. The first edition of the Rawhide Kid’s gay saga was called Slap Leather. According to a CNN.com article, “The new series pairs the original artist, John Severin, now 86, with Ron Zimmerman, a television writer. Making the Rawhide Kid homosexual was Zimmerman’s idea.. The character’s sexuality is conveyed indirectly, through euphemisms and puns, and the comic’s style is campy. Conservative groups quickly protested the gay take on the character and claimed that children would be corrupted by it, and the covers carried an "Adults only"label.

Marvel's policy had stated that all series emphasizing solo gay characters must carry an "Adults Only" label, in response to conservative protests. But in 2006 writer Joe Quesada claimed that this policy is no longer in force, and Marvel received GLAAD’s 2005 Best Comic Book Award for its superhero comic book “The Young Avengers.”

DC

DC feature a number of LGBT characters as superheroes in their comics, moreso than Marvel comics, with a number of major characters being gay or lesbian and staring in their own titles.

Firebrand is thought by Paul Schrodt writing in Radar online to be an early example: A superhero published by Quality Comics, premiering in Police Comics no. 1 (August, 1941), Firebrand's costume included a transparent or pink shirt over bare chest. In All-Star Squadron #5 (1981) writer Roy Thomas penned thought balloons that suggested Firebrand had been involved in a gay relationship with his sidekick and bodyguard Slugger Dunn.

A more modern example is the violent vigilante superhero Midnighter. The Batman-like Midnighter was shown as being in a relationship with his Superman-like Apollo during their time as members of the superhero team The Authority. Midnighter and Apollo are now married and have an adopted daughter - Midnighter has gone on to star in his own title.

In 2006 DC Comics could still draw widespread media attention by announcing a new, lesbian incarnation of the well-known character Batwoman even while openly lesbian characters such as Gotham City police officer Renee Montoya already existed in DC Comics.. Previously, WildStorm's Image Comics had featured Sarah Rainmaker of Gen¹³ as a character with an interest in other women, and had openly depicted homosexual relationships between the members of the Authority, such as Jenny Sparks and Swift.

In addition to true LGBT characters, there has been controversy over various homosexual interpretations the most famous superhero comic book characters. Batman's relationship with Robin has famously come under scrutiny, in spite of the majority of creators associated with the character denying that the character is gay. Psychologist Fredric Wertham, who in Seduction of the Innocent asserted that "Batman stories are psychologically homosexual", claimed to find a "subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism which pervades the adventures of the mature 'Batman' and his young friend 'Robin'". It has also been claimed that Batman is interesting to gay audiences because "he was one of the first fictional characters to be attacked on the grounds of his presumed homosexuality," and "the 1960s TV series remains a touchstone of camp. Frank Miller has described the Joker as a "homophobic nightmare", and views the character of Batman as sublimating his sexual urges into crime fighting. Burt Ward has also remarked upon this interpretation in his autobiography, noting the relationship between the two could be interpreted as a sexual one.

Some continue to play off the homosexual interpretations of Batman. One notable example occurred in 2000, when DC Comics refused to allow permission for the reprinting of four panels (from Batman #79, 92, 105 and 139) to illustrate Christopher York's paper All in the Family: Homophobia and Batman Comics in the 1950s. Another happened in the summer of 2005, when painter Mark Chamberlain displayed a number of watercolors depicting both Batman and Robin in suggestive and sexually explicit poses. DC threatened both artist and the Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts gallery with legal action if they did not cease selling the works and demanded all remaining art, as well as any profits derived from them.

Yaoi and Yuri manga

Yaoi (やおい) is a publishing genre which focuses on male/male relationships and is marketed at females. Anal sex is ubiquitous. The genre originated in Japan and encompasses manga, anime, novels and dōjinshi. In Japan, this genre is called "Boys' Love" and yaoi as a genre name is mostly used by western fans. Yaoi has spread beyond Japan; yaoi material is available in the United States, as well as other Western and Eastern nations worldwide. As with much manga and anime, SF and fantasy tropes and environments are common. For example Innocent Bird is a manga in which the main characters are angels and demons. Ai no Kusabi is a 1980s yaoi light novel series involving a science fictional caste system. The characters of yaoi do not tend to self-identify as gay.

There is also "gay manga" specifically targeted at gay men, with gay characters. Yaoi writers and fans distinguish these "gay manga" as being separate from yaoi.

The female (hence lesbian) counterpart of Yaoi is called Yuri. Yuri can focus either on the sexual or the emotional aspects of the relationship, the latter sometimes being called shōjo-ai by western fans. Although yuri originated in female-targeted works, today it is featured in male-targeted ones as well.

Transgendered superheroes

Coagula

Kate Godwin, a male-to-female transsexual, was one of the first transsexual characters to have a major role in a comic series. She was a member of the Doom Patrol, and had the ability to coagulate liquids and dissolve solids at will.

Gender-swapping storylines & superheroes

Very few mainstream comic books have introduced transgendered characters. However, it is quite common for characters to have their gender changed for a short time by science-fictional or magical means. A number of characters also exist that have the ability to change their sex at will.

In comic books that include male-to-female or female-to-male transformations, the characters undergo these transformations as a result of a variety of causes, including:

  • Genetic mutation
  • Magic
  • Shape-shifting ability
  • Psychic power
  • Sex-change drug

Babewatch

In 1995, Image comics sought to profit from the "'bad girl' trend in comics. . . by briefly turning many of their male heroes into women." This series was initiated in Youngblood, when "Glory's nemesis Diablolique takes revenge on Glory (and men in general) by turning every man Glory had ever met into a woman"

Cloud

Cloud, who was able to take the form of a female, a male, or a cloud, appeared in a revival of The Defenders. The character could take on male or female form. Romantically attracted to the female Cloud, Iceman was upset by her male form.

Courier A shape-shifting mutant, sometimes allied with the X-Man Gambit. An encounter between them and Mister Sinister resulted in his 'default form' being permanently altered from male to female. A situation she accepted, though not without a degree of resentment.

Flare and the Champions

This series, which was based on the Champions superhero roleplaying game, included transgendered plots in which body possession and shapeshifting abilities were used to set up male-to-female transformations with Dr. Arcane entering Dark Malice's body and Flare's brother Philip uses his shapeshifting abilities to impersonate her so as to avenge himself upon his sister who, earlier, had forced him to pose as a girl.

Lusiphur

When Lusiphur is trapped by his foes, a sorceress offers to help him, whereupon she casts a love spell on him. However, the spell goes wrong, transforming Lusiphur into "Lucy."

Mantra

On a 1994 Ultraverse trading card, Mantra's creator, Mike Barr, provides this information concerning his creation: "Mantra is a man, he just has a woman's body. It was from this dichotomy that Mantra sprang. From the major theme--a switch in genders--came the minor theme of the series: a warrior who must become a sorcerer, a slayer who must become a nurturing mother, a man who has died hundreds of times must become a woman who can only die once. That's the conundrum--and appeal--of Mantra" A Malibu Comics title, Mantra recounts how a warrior was reincarnated into a female fighter's body. After Marvel Comics bought Malibu, Mantra was retired.

Masquerade

A shapechanger able to assume the form of any animal (including humans), Masquerade was a woman who concealed her true nature from the rest of the Blood Syndicate by transforming into an idealized male version of herself.

Sasquatch ("Wanda" Langkowski)

Again, as a result of a complex series of transfers between male and female bodies, Sasquatch is reborn, if only temporarily, as Wanda Langkowski in Alpha Flight issues 45 through 68. In the series Exiles, an alternate universe'sHeather Hudson serves as a female host for Sasquatch.

Shade, the Changing Woman

After Peter Milligan revamped Steve Ditko's Shade the Changing Man in the 1990s, the series explored the idea of a character being reborn in different bodies. One of Shade’s rebirths results in a sex change that allows opportunities for humorous, ironic, sometimes satirical, social and political commentary. Among other themes, this comic book dealt with a man's becoming aware of, and sensitive to, the challenges and issues that a woman faces due to her own femininity, sexism, chauvinism, and life in general in a patriarchal society: She must learn to deal with female clothing and men's advances. There is a more than passing reference to dealing with PMS, the "heroine" has sex with the first man she comes across, and there is even the obligatory urinal joke.

Awakening as a female one morning, Shade is first horrified by her transformation. However, with the help of her female friends, she meets these and other challenges, experiences her first kiss and her first sexual encounter with a man, and must make the ultimate decision as to whether to become a man again. Later in the series, “Shade's son George is put into the body of Lenny's daughter, Lilly”

Shvaugn Erin

A female Science Police officer, Shvaugn Erin took a sex-change drug because he was in love with Element Lad of the Legion of Super Heroes.

Sir Tristan

In Camelot 3000, Merlin casts a spell to bring King Arthur's knights back. The members of the Round Table have been reincarnated as individuals around the world, with the spirit of Sir Tristan inhabiting a female body, causing the usual crises and problems associated with such transformations.

Superman

In an issue of the Elseworld series Whom Gods Destroy, Superman is transformed into a woman (named Kara, an allusion to Supergirl) to make amends for the unwitting crimes he has committed against those of the opposite sex.

Thor

At Loki's suggestion, to teach his son a lesson in humility, Odin transforms Marvel Comics' thunder god into a female deity, making Thor, literally, a diva.

In a recent storyline, After the death and resurrection of the Norse Gods, Loki is reborn as a woman.

Other storylines in which Thor swaps sex include when Donald Blake's girlfriend discovered Mjolnir and when Rogue absorbed Thor's powers. Both of these stories are part of Marvel's What If series.

Xavin (Runaways) Xavin is an alien shapeshifter, who when fighting is usually in male form, however whenever having 'down time' or relaxing tends to revert to female form. Xavin possesses the ability to take any form he/she desires, including sex changes. After becoming engaged to Karolina Dean, a lesbian, he/she begins to spend much of his/her time as a female. Though most of his/her teammates have expressed discomfort with Xavin constantly switching between forms, Xavin views his/her shapeshifting no differently than most people view changing hair color and has defended this decision vocally. This may be an overt nod to transgender issues - Runaways creator Brian K. Vaughan is notably friendly to LGBT issues.

These other superheroes also are (or have briefly been) transgendered superheroes:

List of gay, lesbian or bisexual comics characters

This is a list of all the known gay, lesbian or bisexual characters in the comics.

Gay characters

A

B

C

D

E

  • Element Lad - DC Comics' Legion of Superheroes (gay, original continuity - had a relationship with m2f transsexual Sean/Shvaughn Erin, saying "anything we've ever shared physically...was in spite of" the sex change, not because of it)
  • Sean/Shvaughn Erin - DC Comics' Legion of Superheroes (original continuity - see Element Lad)
  • The Enigma - Enigma; Apparently a comic book character come to life. Lover of Michael Smith.
  • Extraño - member of DC Comics' New Guardians; an effeminate man from Peru, he made references to himself as gay several times, and even references a former lover who had died from AIDS.

F

G

  • Jafaar Garfield - Fullmetal Alchemist, automail mechanic in the manga version
  • Trent Gaudaen - Carpe Diem
  • Bob Glover - Preacher; Sexual Investigator and small-time drug trafficker. Partners with Freddie Allen (see above)
  • Go Go Fiasco - DC Comics' Vertigo title Codename: Knockout
  • Harlequinn (Harley) Goldman - Boy Meets Boy.
  • Kyle Graham - Lead character in the syndicated gay comic strip about a gay B&B, Kyle's Bed & Breakfast by Greg Fox.
  • Ethan Green - Appears in a series of humorous books about his openly gay life and loves (long and short term), and his struggles in this journey.

H

I

K

L

M

N

O

P

R

  • Mikhael (Mik) Rasputin - Boy Meets Boy.
  • Hartley Rathaway a.k.a. The Pied Piper - DC Comics' The Flash
  • Timothy Ravenwind - Swamp Thing, Seven Soldiers: Zatanna. Last in his family bloodline of the Ravenwind Witches. He survives the same terminal cancer that killed his older sister Rebecca Ravenwind. Takes a gay lover and has no interest in having children.
  • Rawhide Kid - Marvel Comics' first gay comic-book cowboy, at least in Marvel's Max adult-line title of the same name.
  • Pat Reynolds - Achewood
  • Wally Roo - The Suburban Jungle
  • Arnold "Arnie" Roth - The childhood friend of Steve Rogers. Though in his teenage years he was something of a "Romeo", when he and Steve reunite in Captain America #270, he reveals that he has been living with another man for ten years.
  • RT-5478 (Artie) - Narbonic (gay, at least in human form)
  • Russian - Assassin from the Punisher comic.

S

T

U

V

  • Vivisector (Myles Alfred) - Marvel Comics' X-Statix - Superhero, Role model, Harvard Undergraduate. Began a "fake" homosexual relationship with Phat. It is later revealed that both characters are gay but are not in love with each other. He then went on to date various movie stars.

W

  • Detective Paulie Walters - Preacher; supercop. Investigating the "Reaver-Cleaver" killings.
  • Wallace Wells - Scott Pilgrim; Scott Pilgrim's Gay Roommate.
  • Wiccan - Marvel Comics' Young Avengers - Confirmed as being in a relationship with fellow Young Avenger, Hulkling.
  • Drezzer Wolf - The Suburban Jungle
  • Wulf - Top Ten; expert pilot and former member of the Skysharks squadron. In a lifelong relationship with Steve Traynor.
  • Devlin Waugh - The first openly gay hero in mainstream British comics was Devlin Waugh, who first appeared in 2000AD in 1992. He was created by writer John Smith and artist Sean Phillips. The character's homosexuality is frequently referenced in the strip, and in his first story he attempts to seduce one of the men he is rescuing.

Lesbian characters

A

  • Amanda Shane - Image Comics; Sci-fi character from Amanda & Gunn and self-published, CyberZone

B

  • Bambi - The Invisibles; member of the "Poison Pussies" cell.
  • Barb - Swamp Thing; lesbian lover of Liz Tremayne.
  • Batwoman (Kathy "Kate" Kane) - the fourth lesbian character to act as a lead in a DC Universe title. Debuts in 52.
  • Black Cherry - Effing Brutal; member of 'Team Brutal', her superpower, she's a raving lesbian.
  • Bobby - The Invisibles; member of the "Poison Pussies" cell.

C

  • Carol Swanson - Sandman Mystery Theatre; closeted, although she secretly has relationships with Madeline Giles (The Vamp) and an unnamed woman.
  • Catwoman (Holly Robinson) - Currently sharing the Catwoman identity with Selina Kyle, is a former prostitute who operates in the DC Comics One Year Later continuity, is in a relationship with another woman.
  • Chelle Archer - Jane's World, Jane's former lover, a mysterious and potentially dangerous former spy? cop? secret agent?
  • Amy Chen - Silver Sable; former mercenary and assassin, now a member of Silver Sable's Wild Pack.
  • Clarice Clifton - Dykes To Watch Out For

D

  • Dorim - Accidental Centaurs (from her discussion with Samantha, bisexuality is apparently the norm among female centaurs in OtherSpace)

F

  • Fauna - Outsiders; Fauna Faust, daughter of Felix Faust and lover of Syonide II. A member of Strike Force Kobra, later killed by her father.
  • The Flying Fox - Astro City Featured in a story in "Local Heroes", she's out in her private life.
  • Foxglove AKA Donna Cavanagh - The Sandman and the Death comics; writer turned poet turned pop star. Lover of Hazel McNamara and Judy (see below for both). She has a non-biological son with Hazel.

H

J

K

L

  • Lucielle - Marv's parole officer in Sin City. Lover, Claire is a psychiatrist.

M

O

P

R

S

T

V

Z

Bisexual characters

A

B

C

  • Zoe Carter - Venus Envy. (bisexual, MTF transgendered)
  • Amanda Cartwright - Umlaut House
  • Margarita Luisa "Maggie" Chascarrillo - Locas, Has had a long relationship with the woman Hopey, as well as with several different men.
  • Chelsea Chattan - Clan of the Cats. Witch and werepanther (and possibly, the avatar of the 'Queen of the Netherworld'); her sexuality is at least in part influenced by the duality of her part-animal nature. It is implied that her sister, Corrine (Melpomene) is bisexual as well.
  • Cherry Poptart - Comedic/pornographic character.
  • Katina "Katchoo" Choovanski - Strangers in Paradise.
  • Cobweb-America's Best Comics. Relationship with male Greyshirt and implied relationship with her female driver.
  • John Constantine - In issue 51 of Hellblazer ("Counting to Ten"), John reveals that he's had "the occasional boyfriend", whilst in issues 170-174 ("Ashes and Dust in the City of Angels" 1-5), he has a homosexual relationship with billionaire Stanley Manor, albeit as part of an elaborate revenge scheme.

D

E

  • Electro - Marvel Comics' supervillain, who in Marvel Knights Spiderman #2 reveals that in jail he'd found a new side to himself, heavily implying prison homosexuality. (implied bisexual)
  • The Engineer- Predominantly heteroesexual, Angela Spica of the Authority made mention of a lesbian fling in college. (bisexual or bi-curious)

G

H

I

  • Icemaiden - Occasional member of the Justice League (bisexual; dislikes labels)

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

R

S

T

  • Elizabeth "Liz" Tremayne - Swamp Thing, former celebrity television journalist and famous writer, suffers abusive relationship with fellow company fugitive Dr. Dennis Barclay, later recovers from recurring post-traumatic stress disorder, begins a sexual relationship with Chester Williams, but breaks up with him when she deeply falls in love with volunteer rape crisis support worker Barb, who is a lesbian.

W

  • Legs Weaver
  • Beatrice Wechsler - Lucifer; waitress at Lucifer's piano bar. Primarily heterosexual but is in love with Mazikeen.
  • Alisin Worthington - Fans!
  • Beryl Wyndham - The Invisibles; occultist from the 1920s, lover of Edith Manning.

V

Z

Other

B

  • Bueno Excellente - Section 8 (apparently pansexual)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - although professing that the experience does not make her gay, Buffy has sex with another female Slayer in the Season 8 comics.

C

  • Cutter - Elfquest Confirmed sexual relationship with Skywise (another male elf). According to the creators of Elfquest, Wendy and Richard Pini, all the Elfquest elves are "omnisexual."

D

  • Danny the Street - Doom Patrol; a sentient, transvestite street, usually illustrated by the presence of pink curtains in building. Later transformed into Danny the World. (transvestite)

L

M

S

Z

  • Zsazsa Zaturnnah - Biologically female, whose alter ego, Ada, is a homosexual male. (homosexual, transgender)

See also

Homosexuality in speculative fiction
Media portrayal of lesbianism: Comics

References

External links

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