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Equality Now

(Editor’s note: this article is from our archive. It was originally posted about three years ago. There have been many changes in the Comic Industry that have further advanced the general sense of equality since we initially shared this piece.)

As comic books are constantly changing, so are the times and also the roles that both males and females play in society. We have begun to see a larger portion of men staying at home with their families, and we have also seen a large amount of women begin to become the primary breadwinners for their families. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender, Queer, Intersexual, and Ally (which will now be referred to as LGBTQIA) community has made very successful strides in the American political arena with such acts as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and with seventeen states now allowing same sex marriage, the LGBTQIA community is standing strong in their fight for equality.

For the LGBTQIA community, what’s going on in America right now isn’t much different from the events that took place in the 1960’s with the Civil Rights movement. Comic book superheroes The X-Men made their first appearance in 1961 and soon became the face of equality in the Silver Age (1956-1970) of comic books. Jamie Coville states “These “mutants” were the next step in our evolution and had powers that society didn’t understand. The result of this was society hated and feared them. Doing this showed parallels to racism and also showed why racism is wrong.” By using mutants, Marvel Comics were able to show that racism can exist without the color of your skin having anything to do with a situation. The mutants and the X-Men were hated for being different and were used to teach readers to not let racism or their own hatred rule their lives.


As the times continued to change, so did comics. In the 1980s we saw a style begin to become more and more popular, known simply as “Grim & Gritty” and was started by writer and penciler Frank Miller. These comics were much darker, and represented more surreal and taboo topics. Some of the more notable comics to come from this time are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which was a spoof on Spider-Man and the X-Men in the title alone), Daredevil, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Watchmen. Watchmen, written by Alan Moore in 1986, was a very serious and heavy story that dealt with issues like The Vietnam War, the issues soldiers faced in the field, and even more taboo subjects such as rape and child molestation. The “Grim and Gritty” style of comics has continued to be a successful style of writing today.


With all this being said, comics have always been changing and making modifications to the times they represent. In today’s society one of the more politically charged hot topics of the day is the LGBTQIA community, their representation and also the desire for equality. In comic books LGBTQIA rights are represented, but not well enough. The introduction of gay characters such as Green Lantern Alan Scott and X-Men Northstar have been major achievements for the battle of equality. Unfortunately though, the Transgender community has no representation in mainstream comic books. The two industry titans, Marvel and DC Comics, have stayed away from the topic of transgender issues.

For the introduction of the first openly gay X-Men character Northstar, writer Marjorie Liu states that “It says a lot about how uncomfortable people felt with taking risks on subjects that might be controversial. Now I think people feel a bit safer doing so because the tide is being turned. Gay rights is an issue that’s discussed more openly. Gay marriage is now legal in New York—they’re not going to lose as much by speaking about it” (Leon). With the introduction of the first gay character, this did create some backlash. A Christian organization by the name of One Million Moms weighed in on the topic of a gay superhero (Northstar):

“This is ridiculous! Why do adult gay men need comic superheroes as role models? They want to indoctrinate impressionable young minds by placing these gay characters on pedestals in a positive light. These companies are heavily influencing our youth by using children’s superheroes to desensitize and brainwash them into thinking that a gay lifestyle choice is normal and desirable. As Christians, we know that homosexuality is a sin.”


However, Marvel feels different about the topic at hand. Marvel believes that “Our comics are always best when they respond to and reflect developments in the real world. We’ve been doing that for decades, and this is just the latest expression of that,” said Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Alex Alonso (Perpetua). Marvel Comics editor went on to say that “The last thing we should do is be frightened to offend. We should be looking to create dialogue, provoke, and take people out of their comfort zone—that’s what we do with comics and that’s what we’re gonna do with this story” (Leon). Alex Alonso makes a strong argument about how comic books should no longer be afraid to push the envelope, but with the topic of the LGBTQIA community, that shouldn’t be something that is pushing the envelope, but society should be more accepting and willing to see the personal lives of comic book heroes. The characters personal life involves both personal relationships and sexual orientation.

The topic of superheroes’ personal lives has recently been brought into the limelight after DC Comics decided to scrap the idea of Batwoman and her marriage. DC Executive editor, Dan Didio stated “Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests” (Polo). This is a serious problem in the comic book community, as we see straight characters such as DC’s superstar Superman who is often depicted in a happy relationship with either Lois Lane, or Wonder Woman. We also see Aquaman in a very happy relationship with his “queen” Mera. For Aquaman to refer to Mera as his queen would have to imply that they are both married, since Aquaman is the King of Atlantis. Other heroes such as Green Lantern and The Flash are shown with their significant others at times, for it to be said that heroes shouldn’t have “happy personal lives” is a cop out. We read superhero stories because they are relatable, we find common ground with the heroes we see in comics each month, and we also keep coming back to them for what is going on in their lives.

In the article “DiDio Attempts to Explain DC’s Marriage Ban; Will Scrap Last Williams/Blackman Batwoman Issues?” writer Susana Polo makes the argument that there are both straight and gay kids, teens and adults that read comic books. For the younger generation of people who are reading comic books, they look to the comic book universe as an escape, and they want to know that things are ok. The LGBTQIA community wants to be represented and they want their own heroes, their own villains, and they want people to better understand them. As an avid supporter of the gay and lesbian community I want my gay friends to have the same rights and representation that I am given, being a major comic book reader and collector, I also want them represented better in something that I hold so close to myself and a community I am deeply tied to.

Susan Polo stated that “The fact is that there are kids out there right now who believe that because they are different from their peers they will never find anyone to love them, will never be accepted by their community, and may never be accepted by their government,” (Polo) and this is a very interesting view on the situation at hand. If kids don’t see people like them represented in comic books, then they might not realize there are more people like them. When a person “comes out of the closet” it’s one of the most difficult things they will face, and this will leave them feeling, most of the time, ostracized and alone. If they have never seen the influence of a gay character in the comic book community, who has gone through the same situations, then the reader may become more comfortable in who they are.

One of Marvel’s most popular characters ever created is just a teenage/young adult who is in battle with the simple struggles of life. Spider-Man isn’t super strong, he’s not super smart, and he’s not overly successful. Spider-Man is just an average character who struggles with work and with personal relationships. He also suffers from the mistakes of his past, he blames his uncle’s death on himself, and he blames the death of the girl he loves (Gwen Stacey) on himself as well. This character has his own demons that he is facing, and struggles that often bring him to his lowest point, but he is able to remain strong and move past his own defeats. The fact that Spider-Man is so relatable helps him gain a larger and more diverse reader base, because he is so much like the readers themselves. If Marvel or DC could include a gay comic book hero, they could easily create a more popular and a well known new superhero.

If a comic book writer would take the risk to create an openly gay character, who is not a second level character, readers of all ages could become exposed to a way of life that they were previously not aware of. Companies such as Marvel and DC need to focus on the fact that the majority of their readers are not from a small town in Kansas, but rather a large majority of the readers are in the inter cities and groups like We Are Comics have been created in hope to help make sure that all forms of diversity are represented equally in comic books. Their founder Rachel Edidin stated that “We Are Comics is a campaign to show—and celebrate—the faces of our community, our industry, and our culture; to promote the visibility of marginalized members of our population; and to stand in solidarity against harassment and abuse” (Chamber) and Rachel Edidin goes on to discuss that the easiest way to create a safe place in comics is to become the change that we want to see.

When the fans become accepting, and willing to understand a different way of life, then comics will be able to change and become more accommodating to the LGBTQIA community. Fans are both the problem and the solution to LGBTQIA rights in comic books. Once the fans are ready for change, the major publishers will no longer be in fear of pushing the envelope and potentially losing readers that are still stuck in 1950’s America.

Works Cited

Chamber, Becky. “Comic Book Fans, Assemble! The “We Are Comics” Campaign
Needs You!” The Mary Sue. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

Coville, Jamie. “The Silver Age.” Pennsilvania State University. Pennsilvania
State University, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <
Leon, Melissa. “DC Comics’ New Gay Green Lantern & Marvel’s First Same-Sex
Marriage.” The Daily Beast. N.p., 1 June 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.


Perpetua, Matthew. “Marvel Comics Hosts First Gay Wedding in ‘Astonishing
X-Men.'” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone Magazine, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.


Polo, Susana. “DiDio Attempts to Explain DC’s Marriage Ban; Will Scrap Last
Williams/Blackman Batwoman Issues?” The Mary Sue. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr.
2014. <>.

Superheroes Are Gay

Now that I have your attention… Lets talk about gay superheroes. When I say “gay”, I do actually mean “homosexual”, and not “lame”. You may have heard recently about the upheaval over at DC where the writers of Batwoman abruptly left the book over creative differences with the editorial staff. The story goes, that co-writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman walked off the book after being told that Batwoman (one of the aforementioned gay superheroes) could not marry her partner. Dan Didio, DC co-publisher, made it perfectly clear in a statement,

“They put on a cape and cowl for a reason. They’re committed to defending others — at the sacrifice of all their own personal instincts. That’s something we reinforce. If you look at every one of the characters in the Batman family, their personal lives kind of suck…

Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, and Kathy Kane — it’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s also just as important that they put it aside as they know what they are accomplishing as the hero takes precedence over everything else. That is our mandate, that is our edict, that is our stand with our characters.”

Now, he’s only specifically referencing “the Batman family”, so it’s possible that his point is that only the characters derived from this specific series and grouping are the ones held to this standard. But regardless, that’s a pretty weak argument. I mean, hasn’t Aquaman been married, like, the ENTIRE time he’s been Aquaman? Does Dan Didio not remember Superman: The Wedding Album? I completely understand that the editors are probably making decisions based on the guidelines that the company heads have delegated to them, and I also understand that sometimes you sacrifice certain things for the sake of the story, but to say that superheroes can’t get married because it affects the way they execute their superheroness is contradictory to even DC’s history.


The book was soon followed by "Superman: The Honeymoon is Over" and, consequently, "Superman: I Just Don't Know Who You Are Anymore. I'm Going To Stay At My Sister's Place For A While Until You Figure Out What You Want".

“Superman: The Wedding Album” was soon followed by “Superman: The Honeymoon is Over” and, consequently, “Superman: I Just Don’t Know Who You Are Anymore. I’m Going To Stay At My Sister’s Place For A While Until You Figure Out What You Want”.

In May writer James Robinson announced that he was, amicably, exiting his book Earth 2 (literally, the ONLY DC book I’ve been reading), but no *real* reason was ever given. Earth 2 made some waves when it first premiered in 2012 due to the fact that it altered the background of original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, by making him gay. Alan becomes the emerald knight after an accident that takes the life of his boyfriend Sam and swears he’ll avenge Sam’s death. There very well could be no connection to Robinson and the writers of Batwoman walking off their respective books for the same reason, but it’s a tad ironic right? I’m not suggesting that the people pulling the strings at DC are homophobic. Actually, to the contrary. I think allowing these characters to be gay in the first place is a necessary and positive evolution. I mean, a gay Green Lantern and a gay Bat-person is kind of a big deal. These are, arguably, the most prolific depictions of LGBT characters in mainstream comics. Prior to Batwoman coming out in 2006, there were really only minor and secondary LGBT characters. It was a big step to have an entire comic book about a lesbian superhero. The other thing I’ll give DC is this… A character’s sexual orientation, should be just another normal part of who they are, and not the most important part of them. If the point is to keep Batwoman from only being “the gay superhero”, then I don’t disagree with their goal for the character. Integrating LGBT superheroes into mainstream comics is important, but I can certainly agree that not going about it the right way could doom the character to becoming just a caricature, which would be digression.

That's progress, right?

That’s progress, right?

Over at Marvel, last June, they released Astonishing X-men #51, which showcased the marriage of superhero Northstar to his boyfriend Kyle. Northstar has actually been an out gay character since 1992, so this seems like a natural progression for the character. Northstar is often considered to be the first major openly gay superhero in mainstream comic books. It was kind of a big deal too, when Northstar came out, because prior to 1989 the Comics Code Authority wouldn’t allow gay themes in mainstream comics. Another reason this was such a big step in progress is the fact that there was an unspoken “NO Gays” rule at Marvel during much of the 1980’s. They have since been open that this is no longer a policy, and it’s evident with Northstar’s marriage and in other books like the recent run of X-treme X-men, which featured a version of James Howlett (Wolverine) who had a gay relationship with Hercules, X-factor, where two bi-sexual characters had and on panel kiss (which won writer Peter David the 2011 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book), and the Young Avengers series that featured gay couple Hulkling and Wiccan (which, in 2005, won Marvel the GLAAD Award for Best Comic Book).

Comic book creators are one thing, but how about comic book readers…? We get notoriously butthurt (irony) because of how detrimental a character’s sexuality is to our personal life (sarcasm). In an interview a few months back, Andrew Garfield suggested that he’d love to see a gay Peter Parker on screen (or at least, a Peter Parker who was exploring his sexuality), and the comic community proceeded to collectively shit many, many bricks.

Pictured Above: The Xavier Mansion was actually built out of fanboy shit-bricks

Pictured Above: The Xavier Mansion was actually built out of fanboy shit-bricks

I understand the argument that Peter Parker is a classic character and there’s no reason to make him gay and screw with the continuity, but I don’t care. We’ll send DEATH THREATS to a publisher for not allowing a gay character to get married, but we won’t even entertain the notion that straight character could be re-imagined as gay, or bi-sexual? These characters have a sentimental value to us that we refuse to let go of and that, to me, isn’t progression. Tradition has it’s place but, while I accept that at this point an on-screen gay Spider-Man will fail to succeed at the box office, I don’t feel like that’s a good enough reason to say that something should NEVER be done. The Punisher is probably my favorite comic book character. Show me a Beretta-toting, muscle-bound, bloodthirsty, handsomely-brooding Frank Castle that also happens to be gay, and I’ll show you a married, father-of-three that has to re-evaluate everything he thought he knew about himself.

"Hey guy, after I finish murdering the scum of the city, I'm gonna pick up some Panda Express and after dinner we're gonna cuddle on the couch and watch the Shahs of Sunset marathon."

“Hey guy, after I finish murdering the scum of the city, I’m gonna pick up some Panda Express. And then, after dinner, we’re gonna cuddle on the couch and watch the Ink Master marathon.”

As a long time comic book fan, I’m gla(a)d that there are more and more mainstream LGBT characters. Along with being an escape from the real world, comics have often been a beacon of hope for how we want our real world to be. The struggles of the X-men to have a place in a world that rejects who they are as individuals can very much be seen as a parallel to the struggles of the LGBT community. I hope that mainstream comics continue to progress and that we can see new LGBT characters, and characters re-imagined as LGBT, get some time in the spotlight. Comics can be an inspiration to social evolution and I hope that we continue to see a trend of great books paving the way for equality.