*Please note that by the denotation of the word “becoming” in the title we are suggesting DC Comics Editors decision to make an established character gay, than the character just “becoming gay” overnight.
In a recent story it was mentioned that DC Comics would soon out an established character as being gay. While the merits of a popular character being gay or straight are certainly fodder for debate, I have to ask—why is this news?
LGBT characters have been around in comics for years. In fact in 2010 LGBT favorite Buffy from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer is revealed to be bisexual in a comic book expansion of the popular television series. The comic starts with Buffy and another woman, Satsu, in bed together and the almost traditional “was it good” dialogue revealing that it was Buffy’s first time with another woman. On the surface it would make sense that a character in a comic book would have a more fluid sexuality—after all, girl on girl action appeals to men, right?
And comic books themselves are marketed to teenage boys and men, right? Actually, in point of fact, there are quite a few comic book fans that are women. Statistics from the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con show that forty percent of the attendees are female. More than that, however, there are a great many other bisexual comic book characters—some that don’t fall into the category of “hot girl on girl.”
John Constantine, the character made popular by Keanu Reeves in the movie Constantine, is the main protagonist in DC/Vertigo Comics’ Hellblazer series. He is also bisexual. The character was sexually ambiguous from the beginning, however, in issue #51 of Hellblazer it is confirmed that he is, in fact bisexual. The character of John Constantine was recently seen in the Green Lantern focused Blackest Night Story Arc and the character now features not only in the Hellblazer title, but the New 52 title Justice League Dark—putting a bisexual man in place amongst a premiere team of superheroes including Superman and Batman.
More recently, a revamped Batwoman has arrived on the scene introduced as part of DC Comics’ 52 series as part of a push to introduce more minority characters. A far cry from the original Batwoman introduced in the 50s as a love interest for Bruce Wayne, Batman’s alter-ego. This newer, more modernized Batwoman (a.k.a. Kate Kane) is a driven woman, heroic, and a lesbian. More than that though, her very presence makes a statement about the world we live in.
Kate takes on the mantle of the Bat because denying her sexuality would require her to violate the West Point Cadet Honor Code, which says “A cadet shall not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.” Kate Kane’s turn to vigilantism made a very clear statement regarding the real world issue of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” long before its eventual repeal. When relaunching the character in the New 52 line her sexuality has remained intact—establishing her as a pioneer of the titular homosexual hero.
In the second season of Queer as Folk, Michael Novotny, speaks to a college class on the subject of comic books and the LGBT community saying:
“I’m sorry, you know what? I haven’t a clue what homoeroticism in literature means, I just know that The Flash looks good in tights. [...] later as I realized that I was gay, I read them for a different reason. Because, in ways that maybe were not intended, these superheroes were a lot like me. You know, at work they were meek and underappreciated. They were the guys that never get laid… And when they’re around other people, they can’t let anybody get too close for fear that their true identities would be discovered.”
His speech has the power to resonate within the LGBT community. Except for one thing—it’s about comics and superheroes. What do the Flash and Superman and Batman possibly have to do with the LGBT community? While the characters themselves may have little to do with the community, the LGBT community, what many may not know is that the comic book industry and mainstream publishers have a lot to do with it.
These two examples, one male and one female, exemplify bisexuality in this oft overlooked genre—men and women as well as young girls and young boys can find entertainment in the stories of their fighting the villains and the hero saving the day. These characters are not alone. One can find bisexuality in Marvel, DC, Image, Vertigo and nearly any other mainstream comic publisher. Characters such as Firelord, Icemaiden, Topaz, Miracleman and Kid Miracleman are all bisexual. They go through hell, they survive, they save the day and ultimately they get the girl—or the boy—or both.
The point is that even though Archie had a same sex marriage and even though Marvel announced it’s first same sex marriage is set to happen in June and even though DC is set to reintroduce an established character as coming out—gay heroes are not new to the world of Comic Books. They exist for the same reason that Superman, Batman, Hulk and Iron Man exist—because everyone needs a hero or a role model, someone they can see a little bit of themselves in who is living a fantastic life.