In this week’s All-New X-Men #40, long-time team member Iceman comes out as gay — his secret being revealed through an endearing conversation with telepathic teammate Jean Grey.
But Iceman’s far from the only LGBT character in sequential art history. As one of Cult of Mac’s comic gurus, I combed through the archives for six more examples of beloved LGBT comic book characters to demonstrate the medium’s continued commitment to diversity.
The revelation? That’s it’s far from the headline-provoking novelty it once was. And that there are more than you might imagine.
And to think some readers probably figured Tim Cook — with his Tony Stark-like tech fortune and desire to make the world a better place — was the world’s only gay superhero.
Originally a member of Canadian superteam Alpha Flight, Northstar later became a member of the X-Men. Creator John Byrne hinted at Northstar’s sexuality as far back as the early ’80s, but was stopped from explicitly referencing it due to Marvel’s then-policy against openly homosexual characters.
Later on, in 1992, Northstar came out in a popular issue of Alpha Flight, which quickly sold out. In 2012’s Astonishing X-Men #51, he married his partner, Kyle Jinadu.
Apollo and Midnighter
The Authority was a comic series known for pushing boundaries. In 2002’s #29, however, writer Mark Miller broke a taboo that had nothing to do with violence, bad language, or any of the other things The Authority was known for: The depiction of gay marriage in a mainstream superhero book.
Published under the Wildstorm banner, Apollo and Midnighter tying the knot may not have gotten quite the publicity that more recognizable characters would have, but it was nonetheless a key moment in comic book history.
A former member of the Gotham City Police Department, fiery Latina Renee Montoya was outed as gay when photos were leaked of her with her girlfriend. What in an earlier era would have been just a throwaway plot point, or a piece of cheesecake aimed at titillating male readers, however, went on to become a crucial part of Montoya’s character — and helped make her even more of a fan favorite than she was previously.
Now having taken on the mantle of The Question, Montoya is more compelling as a character than ever.
Ironically, Batwoman was introduced to DC Comics back in the 1950s as a possible love interest for Batman when rumors cropped up claiming he and Robin were gay. Now DC’s most prominent LGBT character, Kathy Kane may not have quite the down-to-earth realism of, say, Renee Montoya, but as a kickass superhero who just happens to be gay, there are few better.
In 2011, she became the first lesbian character to headline her own comic with Batwoman #1.
Wiccan and Hulkling
Wiccan and Hulkling shared their first on-page kiss in Young Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #9 back in 2012. While they weren’t comics’ first gay couple, or engaging in comics’ first man-on-man kiss, the moment was momentous entirely because… it wasn’t. Instead of being a big issue revolving around comic books’ ability to be progressive, this was a moment between two much-liked characters who happened to be gay and in a relationship together.
“[T]hat’s why this kiss is remarkable,” wrote the website Comics Alliance. “Because it took seven years to show a kiss between two characters who must kiss each other every day. It’s a remarkable kiss because of all the times we haven’t seen it.”
There have been other gay members of the X-Men, but Anole is a favorite. A reptilian mutant and student at the Xavier Institute, Anole is a junior X-Man, who has overcome his somewhat generic early impressions to become a favorite character not defined by the fact that he is gay, but by the fact that he’s a heroic character who just happens to be gay.
In one particularly touching scene, he assures a fellow gay mutant, Graymalkin, that he needn’t be isolated because of who he is. Twenty years ago, the pair would have gone on to become a couple. Today? It’s just two teammates confiding in one another.