Here is a short history of gays in comic books. In 1999, comic book writer Gail Simone compiled a notable list of female comic book characters who had been injured, killed, or de-powered in various superhero comics. The article, “Head In A Refrigerator,” made waves, and fans encouraged the comic book industry to change their treatment of women in the medium. The result has been positive, as the ever-increasingly popular world of comic books and graphic novels have yielded some of the most powerful and respected female heroes in literature since the list’s publication. The following list is a similar catalogue of the treatment of gays in the medium. The goal is to facilitate discussion and awareness, that fans expect and deserve better treatment of lesbian, gay, and transgendered characters. The very fabric of our society is defined by whom we choose to venerate as our heroes. Things are beginning to change, but for every step forward – and there are some very good ones — the comic book world has taken some giant leaps back. Most gay characters, even in their small numbers, still remain primarily as villains, minor characters, and victims who are tortured, maimed and killed. Is this a fair representation of LGBT characters in the medium? That is left for you to decide. Yes, bad things do happen to all people, gay people included. But are there positive representations of gay characters to counterbalance these negative ones? Who cares about the death of a gay superhero anyway?
NORTHSTAR: First gay male hero to come out in the Marvel Comics Universe, thus making him their most prominent gay hero. Between February 16 and March 9, 2005, Northstar is killed in three different realities, during the most prominent of which, the X-Men’s most popular hero, Wolverine (star of the X-Men movies), impales him through the chest with his metal claws. Marvel’s most prominent gay hero is later resurrected as a murderous zombie assassin.
FREEDOM RING: Hailed by Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada as the new example of Marvel’s open policy toward gays in their books as “the star of Marvel Team-Up.” Quesada went on to say, “We’ve had more gay and lesbian characters appearing in Marvel comics than ever before.” Marvel Team-Up #24, three weeks after Quesada’s comments, features Freedom Ring, his finger sliced off and then graphically killed with 28 spikes impaling him, including one through the groin and protruding from his anus. Series cancelled with issue #25.
MONSIEUR MALLAH & THE BRAIN: Sadistic supervillains and gay lovers. One is a talking gorilla and the other is a disembodied brain in a jar. They’ve been searching to create a new body for the Brain so he and Monsieur Mallah may consummate their love. Last appeared in DC’s Teen Titans, aimed at teens. No gay heroes in the book, just these gay villains.
ICE: Lesbian member of DC’s superheroes Justice League International. Murdered. Last seen by her teammates in Hell.
MOONDRAGON: Depowered and maimed lesbian hero. Fitted with a power-inhibiting headband as punishment. Kidnapped and had her ear ripped off by a villain who makes her girlfriend (the new Captain Marvel) deliver the body part to her father as a ransom note. (Marvel’s “Annhiliation” series, summer 2006).
BLARNEY COCK: In series “the Boys,” a superhero police force kills hero Blarney Cock, and upon his disembowelment, a gerbil crawls out of his anus. The Boys also blackmail gay heroes with gay sex surveillance photos. (“The Boys,” issue #6)
SHOUT OUT: Gay member of superhero group Teenage Kix. Has his thumbs ripped off by superhero police force in “The Boys” #6.
WING: Sidekick to Batman-like hero Red Hawk in “Powers” superhero group “The Unity.” Admitted his crush to his mentor and was severely beaten by him, arm broken, and hospitalized. Given a check for 750K and forced to sign a confidentiality agreement to leave the group in dishonor following the incident.
BLOKE: First openly gay member of Marvel’s X-Force/X-Statix. Killed on his first mission.
PHAT: Another member of Marvel’s X-Force/X-Statix. First comes out of the closet as a publicity stunt, later killed.
KARMA: Lesbian member of Marvel’s New Mutants. Raped as a girl by Thai pirates. Possessed by villain The Shadow King. Kidnapped and disfigured. Reappeared as grossly obese, too fat to move on her own.
ELECTRO: This longtime Spiderman nemesis recently discovered his predilection for homosexuality as a result of a lengthy stint in prison. Sought out a shape-changing prostitute to satisfy his new desires.
EL EXTRANO: Gay magician member of superteam New Guardians. His name means “The Strange One.” Embodied numerous, offensive gay stereotypes. Attacked by an “AIDS vampire.” Forgotten after series was cancelled.
OBSIDIAN: Former hero of DC’s Infinity Incorporated. De-powered, corrupted by his sexual strife, manipulated by dark forces, tries to destroy the world. His homosexuality is attributed to being molested by his adopted father. Recently placed as the security guard on the all-straight Justice Society of America, but not allowed to sit at the table as a member of the team.
HOODED JUSTICE: Member of original superhero group the Minutemen in renowned graphic novel “Watchmen.” A gay bodybuilder who covered his identity with a hood. Murdered by teammate, US War Hero The Comedian, in a brutal retaliatory killing after Hooded Justice stops the Comedian from raping a female teammate.
THE SILHOUETTE: Another member of original superhero group the Minutemen in renowned graphic novel “Watchmen.” A closeted lesbian who is murdered along with her lover shortly after being outed.
CAPTAIN METROPOLIS: The ultimate loser/wimp of the “Watchmen” graphic novel series. Revealed to have gay relationship with gay team member Hooded Justice. Later decapitated in car accident.
WICCAN & HULKING and KAROLINA DEAN: After a promising start as positive representations of the new wave of gay and lesbian teen heroes, Wiccan and Hulking (boyfriend superheroes in Marvel’s “Young Avengers”) and Karolina Dean (the resident lesbian hero of Marvel’s “Runaways”) are singled out for torture in the series Civil War: Young Avengers/Runaways. Their straight teammates remain unaffected.
FRENCHIE DuCHAMP: Sidekick to Marvel’s Moon Knight character. A gay alcoholic, double-amputee, who is nearly beaten to death with his prosthetic leg in Moon Knight #3, 2006.
JARVIS: Iron Man’s gay butler in Marvel’s The Ultimates. Shot through the head by Iron Man’s new superhero wife, the Black Widow.
THE HULK’S NEAR-RAPE: Then Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter writes a story depicting Bruce Banner’s near-rape at the hands of predatory gay men in the shower of a YMCA. In issue #23 of “The Incredible Hulk,” (1980) Banner escapes and cries, “God, what were they going to do to me! Oh my god…how can anyone? It, it seemed like a nightmare when it was happening, but, Lord, now…It was real!! They were really going to….! Then Banner transforms into The Hulk.
FLATMAN & LIVING LIGHTNING: Two minor characters, largely regarded as silly, come out of the closet as the punch-line to a joke in Great Lakes Avengers, 2005.
HECTOR: Supporting member of superhero team “The Pantheon” in “The Incredible Hulk.” Introduced as a powerful masculine gay character. Aside from a token appearance at a wedding, he is never to be mentioned again in the Marvel Universe.
CHAIN: Pathetic criminal in “Astro City” series. Gay man, murdered by the “Black Mask Killer.”
BATWING: Sadistic, gay super soldier who fights “Guardians of the Galaxy” (#9) after his male lover Rhodney is killed by Charlie-27, a hero of the Guardians.
SHATTERSTAR: Warrior-hero of teen group X-Force. Intended by the writer to be gay, intervenes during a gay-bashing. Character’s homosexuality is dropped soon thereafter, and he is rewritten by new writers as heterosexual.
PIED PIPER: As lame a villain as the name implies. Blows on a magical pipe to make people do his bidding. A longtime villain in The Flash. Has tried fighting on the side of the good guys, but has recently gone back to being a villain. His parents are murdered by teammate The Mirror Master.
THE QUESTION: Renee Montoya, a lesbian alcoholic ex-cop, who after a string of failed relationships and self-destructive alcoholism, replaces DC’s detective, who wears a mask with no face.
GREEN ARROW II/ CONNOR HAWKE: The original Green Arrow’s son. After a long stint in Kevin Smith’s revamp of Green Arrow where Connor is alluded to be gay, his character is made retroactively straight when new writers take over the series.
TERRY BERG: Teenage assistant to Kyle Rayner, a Green Lantern. Victim of a brutal gay-bashing that lands him in the hospital Unable to defend himself, Terry relies on heterosexual Green Lantern to seek out his assailants.
TASMANIAN DEVIL: Gay hero of DC’s Global Guardians team. Minor character. Mostly forgotten.
THE ANSWER II
A gay, former SHIELD agent turned mentally unstable and terrorist. Brought down by Captain America when he steals a nuclear missile.
MACHINESMITH: A gay, villainous robot from the pages of Captain America. Makes a pass at Iron Man in issue #320, vol. 1. Has a crush on heterosexual android hero The Vision.
SHRINKING VIOLET/LIGHTNING LASS, INVISIBLE KID, ELEMENT LAD: Members of DC’s long-running book “The Legion of Superheroes” who have each been featured in storylines hinting at their homosexuality None ever came out of the closet. Apparently there are no gay heroes whatsoever two-thousand years in the future according to the world of DC comics.
THE JOKER: The Batman’s main villain. A homicidal, perverse maniac depicted with increasingly feminine and homosexual overtones. Slaps Batman on the behind in the “Arkham Asylum” graphic novel and taunts his “relationship” with Robin.
ROBIN: Batman’s sidekick revealed as the prime villain behind Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” series, his sequel to the seminal “Dark Knight” series. Before Robin is taken down, he explains his turn to the dark side is the result of his unrequited love for Batman.
BATWOMAN: Rewritten as a lesbian. Closeted. Writers and artists focus on her pneumatic talents, aimed at straight-boy titillation. Kidnapped, tortured, and stabs a sword through her stomach. Original character murdered in Detective Comics #485.
RAINMAKER: Lipstick lesbian bisexual member of Gen 13. Used mostly for purposes of straight-boy titillation.
ULTRA-HUMANITE: Super-villain/mad scientist who possessed the body of a female to carry out her crimes. First transgendered character in comics, created in 1939, and has been trying to destroy DC’s heroes and take over the world ever since.
DESTINY: Lesbian member of “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.” Dead.
Crippled lesbian turned supervillian terrorist. Elecrocuted. Formerly known as Man-Killer.
RAWHIDE KID: Limp-wristed caricature, embodies every homosexual stereotype. Stunt re-creation of an old Marvel Western star whose homosexuality is the joke-premise of new mini-series, handled with the sensitivity of Howard Stern Show writer Ron Zimmerman. Viewed by many as a cheap, offensive gay stereotype to hype book sales. Later, made heterosexual again, according to the “All New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z,” which explains that he was just pretending to be gay “to confuse others.”
JOSIAH POWER: Elder leader of short-lived DC Superteam “The Power Company.” Quickly cancelled. Never to be heard from again.
JETMAN: Elder Police Captain of “Top 10” super-human precinct. Closeted. Blackmailed by serial killer who threatened to out him to his police force.
FAUNA: Daughter of DC supervillain Felix Faust, lesbian member of supervillain team Strike Force Kobra. Killed in action.
SABER AND CANNON: Expert assassins, homosexual lovers/villains-for-hire in the pages of DC’s “The Vigilante.” Saber takes a blade to the shoulder, and Cannon felled by a bullet in the abdomen.
CLOUD: Gender-changing member of The New Defenders. Left earth never to be heard from again. Can’t decide on his/her sexuality.
CAPTAIN POWER: Spiderman villain. Lesbian doctor severely disfigured by explosion, driven to insanity and murder. (Amazing Spider-Man,#10, vol. 2)
MADAM FATAL: A retired actor who fought crime by dressing up as an old lady. First transvestite hero, appeared in Crack Comics #1, 1940. Dead. The DC hero Wildcat mocks his funeral (which had been attended by drag queens) in Justice Society of America #1.
JERICHO: Member of The New Teen Titans. According to co-creator George Perez, he was a “sensitive, artistic, wide-eyed character with arguably effeminate features” that could be interpreted as homosexual. Ultimately became a crazed threat, and killed, impaled by his father’s sword. Recently resurrected.
SCANDAL & KNOCKOUT: Lesbian lovers and supervillain/assassin members of DC’s “The Secret Six.”
SUNFIRE II: Lesbian hero of Marvel’s “Exiles.” Dead.
ULTIMATE IRON MAN: Marvel’s neo-conservative war-machine hero who is straight but of note because his book is written by Orson Scott Card, whose anti-gay diatribe “The Hypocrites of Homosexuality” (Sunstone Magazine, February 1990) presents his opinions on gays. Includes such choice statements as: “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books…to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.” Also writes series “Red Prophet” and “Wyrms” for Marvel Comics.
APOLLO & MIDNIGHTER: Thinly veiled gay versions of Superman and Batman. Super-assassin heroes, stars of super group “The Authority.” Book cancelled by parent company Warner Bros for implying Superman and Batman are gay. Book brought back as result of fan-popularity. Apollo attacked and gang-raped by supervillain team. Midnighter has his heart ripped out by supervillain. Couple marries and adopts baby girl and continues to kill threats to our safety in all universes. Midnighter now has his own solo series—without Apollo.
CAVALIER: Longtime villain in the DC Universe, dressed, laughably, as a musketeer with a feathered dart, snuff, and handkerchief as his weapons. Mostly forgotten, reappears in Justice League #3, vol 3, as living on skid row and trading information for cash
ANOLE: Ineffectual gay member of X-Men’s New Mutant Academy. The class wimp.
WALTER KASKO: Gay teacher, supporting member of “Black Lightning” series. Killed in a botched gang slaying.
NED CAMPBELL: A gay mutant who projects his astral form to take on a male lover. His wife, suspecting an affair, hires a detective who discovers the truth. Killed by a superhero, Wolfsbane of X-Factor, who slashes him apart after they catch him engaged in sex with his male lover (Madrox #4).
DESTROYER & UNION JACK II: Closeted gay superhero lovers. Union Jack killed in car accident. Destroyer remains in the closet until his golden years.
UTLIMATE NORTHSTAR: Shot at point blank-range by Mr. Sinister in “Ultimate X-Men” series and left to die. Rescued by Ultimate X-Men. Hospitalized. Currently dating Ultimate Colossus.
NIGEL CLOWES: Retired V-Battalion operative, appeared in “New Invaders #4” at a Gay Pride Festival that is attacked, with gay marchers slaughtered, by Nazi Vampires.
GRACE & THUNDER: Lesbian lovers, heroes of DC’s group “The Outsiders.”
MEPHISTO: Evil bi-sexual demon in Marvel Universe who appears gay sometimes to carry out his nefarious plans. Tells hero Silver Surfer that “it is mine to deem you slave,… or lover… or nothing.” (Silver Surfer, #100, vol.3)
RICTOR: Sexually confused member of Marvel’s” X-Factor.” Largely alluded to being gay. Never has come out of the closet. After many fans wrote in asking when the creative team would finally address the character’s sexuality, Rictor is now sleeping with female teammate, Wolfsbane, who killed Ned Campbell after catching him having sex with a man.
STARMAN III: Blue skinned effeminate bi-sexual alien, drawn into stereotypical gay life of drugs and clubs, appears later in a Turk County freak show, where is he rescued by the current, heterosexual Starman.
COVEN: Karl Coven is an insane serial killer responsible for murdering seventeen victims, including children. Taunts Captain Marvel by kissing the hero, plunging his tongue into Captain Marvel’s mouth. (Captain Marvel #9, vol. 4)
NBC’S “HEROES”: Popular television series nixes appearance of minor gay supporting character before show airs. Claire’s friend Zach was intended to be a gay character, with episodes planned for him, but his character was pulled from the show altogether.
THE AMBIGUOUSLY GAY DUO: Saturday Night Live’s most prominent portrayal of gay characters. Heroes with homosexual inclinations used as illustration for mockery.
THE STORY IN NUMBERS
65: The number of “Ultimate X-Men” issues it took for the hero Colossus finally to come out of the closet, thus alienating teammate Nightcrawler.
Ages 4-10: The age-correlated sizes in which Wolverine Deluxe Child Costume is available for children for Halloween. Available with muscle torso, jumpsuit, boots, mask, and pair of claws. Northstar costume not available for impaling.
ZERO: Number of straight X-Men that the most popular X-Man, Wolverine, has killed:
ONE: Number of gay X-Men that the most popular X-Man, Wolverine, has killed:
ZERO: Number of boyfriends Northstar has had since his coming out in 1992.
ZERO: Number of times Northstar has kissed a man.
ZERO: Number of times Northstar has held hands with a man.
THREE: Number of times Northstar has been killed in Marvel Comics.
TWO: Number of times Apollo has been the victim of male bondage and rape.
ONE: Number of times Midnighter has had his heart ripped out.
COUNTLESS: Number of murders and kills committed by Midnighter and Apollo.
ZERO: Number of gay heroes in the Justice League and Justice Society of America, DC’s premiere super-hero groups, since their inceptions.
ZERO: Number of gay heroes in the Legion of Superheroes, which takes place two-thousand years in the future.
ONE. Number of gay-bashings in Green Lantern.
ONE: Number of writers at Marvel Comics who have gone on record saying homosexuality is a sin. (Orson Scott Card)
Number of movies and TV adaptations about Superman, Wonder Woman, or Batman: (This is strictly from memory; please feel free to add more. Wonder Woman. 1 TV movie. 1 TV series. 1 Superman TV show (50s). 1 Superboy TV show (80s). Superman cartoon (90s). 4 Superman movies. 5 Batman movies. 1 Superfriends cartoon series. 1 Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes cartoon. 1 Batman cartoon (70s). 1Batman cartoon (80s) 1 Batman cartoon (90s). 1 Batman cartoon (00s). 1 Batman Beyond cartoon series. 1 Justice League cartoon series.
ZERO: Number of gay characters on any of these shows.
ZERO: Number of movie and TV adaptations with the Authority, which features a gay version of Superman and Batman, Midnighter and Apollo.
ZERO: Number of gay superheroes on any of the recent big-budget Hollywood movie versions of superhero movies.
by Perry Moore