As the times change, media changes along with it. In the late 1930s, the Golden Age of comic books, we saw very little representation of marginalized groups and it’s not all that surprising. America, and the history of American media, has a dark past with its portrayal of non-white, non-American, and queer characters—resorting to offensive layers of stereotypes.
Comic book powerhouses, Marvel and DC, learned to grow with the changing times and started to create heroes that better reflected the diverse society we live in. However, while Marvel and DC did a good job making the necessary steps to include non-white people in their comic books, queer characters were still being benched by the sidelines.
Marvel reportedly had a “No Gay Characters in the Marvel Universe” policy during Jim Shooter’s 1980s tenure as editor-in-chief, and Marvel’s policy from the 1990s had stated that all series emphasizing solo gay characters must carry an “Adults Only” label, in response to conservative protests.
Fast-forward to the present day, we have such a diverse rolodex of characters that come from all walks of life, with their identities on their sleeve—impacting both their superhero life and their personal life.
Nowadays, their identities play a huge part in the trajectory of their stories and differ greatly from the past, where their identities were lightly mentioned, but more as a gesture of checking off a diversity box. Here are 7 queer characters you may not have known about.
Northstar (aka Jean-Paul Beaubier) is not only Marvel’s first mainstream gay superhero, but he is the very first mainstream gay superhero in comic book history. Northstar debuted in The Uncanny X-Men #120 (April 1979), but wasn’t allowed to be openly gay until 1992. As with most things that are firsts of their kind, mistakes were made with Northstar.
Marvel has always been known to incorporate real-life events into their stories and when the AIDS epidemic hit in the 1980s, they initially planned on creating a story where Northstar had AIDS (considering Jim Shooter’s leadership, I’m very glad they didn’t go through with that).
2. The Question/Renee Montoya
In the 2020 DCEU movie, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), we meet Renee Montoya (played by Rosie Perez), a relentless cop who’s specialty is cracking down on organized crime in Gotham City.
Montoya is canonically gay, and when asked about how the film portrays DCEU’s first openly gay hero, Perez noted how the film’s honest and open depiction of Montoya as a fully realized character reflects a changing world an said, “Oh, I thought it was wonderful. It was a wonderful opportunity,” Perez said. “You know, if there’s a sequel, I hope that is explored even further in the right, respectful way. And so it was fantastic. It was really, really fantastic.”
Mystique was always meant to be gay from the moment of her inception. Marvel Comics writer Chris Claremont originally wanted Mystique’s gender and sexuality to be as fluid as her mutant abilities.
Her shapeshifting and mutability implies such, but Claremont wanted it to be explicitly clear. He also wanted to make Mystique and Destiny Nightcrawler’s parents, but her identity fell victim to Jim Shooter’s rigid and narrow-minded code at Marvel and Nightcrawler’s parents ended being Mystique and the devil-esque Azazel.
4. Wonder Woman
The Amazons have spent thousands of years living in isolation on an island only populated by other beautiful warrior women and they are known to actively disdain men (due to their past is full of attacks, raids, and rape courtesy of mortal men and fellow gods). Greg Rucka, a DC Comics writer, has confirmed that Wonder Woman is very much bisexual.
5. Gotham City Sirens
Catwoman (Selina Kyle), Harley Quinn (Harleen Quinzel), and Poison Ivy (Pamela Isley) have all been shown to have relatively fluid sexualities. Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn’s close friendship has often been shown to run much deeper—having shown that their platonic partnership means a lot more than meets the eye.
There have even been instances where Poison Ivy has outright confessed her feelings for Harley. There are plans to make a Gotham City Sirens film for the DCEU, and I hope that they respectfully introduce these dynamic characters’ fluid sexuality.
Thor: Ragnarok actress Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is the first confirmed LGBTQ+ superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Kevin Feige was asked whether Thor: Love and Thunder would have an LGBTQ+ storyline, he responded, “The answer is yes. How that impacts the story remains to be seen with that level of representation you’ll see across our films, not in just Thor 4.”
Thompson has mentioned before how disappointed she was in the scenes that were cut out of Thor: Ragnarok that made Valkyrie’s sexuality more pronounced to the audience. No worries though, even without those scenes, her character radiated bi-energy so we all got the message loud and clear.
A genderfluid icon. Similar to X-Men’s Mystique, Loki has the ability to shapeshift and has on many occasions oscillated between the female and male form. While Tom Hiddleston’s Loki never explicitly mentioned in the past that he was bisexual, it was made official in the Disney+ series Loki.
Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki shows the nuance in Loki’s character, but he is even more so in the Marvel comic books. In the style that only the god of mischief could ascertain, Loki has been many ages and expressed himself in many forms with a variety of different people.
In other LGBTQ+ related news, Venom had a coming out party in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, you can now add pronouns to your Instagram bio, and Yelp highlights LGBTQ+ businesses with rainbow-colored pins.
Photos via CBR and Marvel and DC Comics