This guide to queer superheroes and supervillains is sponsored by She/He/They/Me by Robyn Ryle.
Open your eyes to what it means to be a boy or a girl – and above and beyond! Within these pages, you get to choose which path to forge. Explore over one hundred different scenarios that embrace nearly every definition across the world, over history, and in the ever-widening realms of our imagination! Jump headfirst into this refreshingly creative exploration of the ways gender colors every shade and shape of our world.
Comics have been getting more and more diverse in the past couple of decades or so. That includes oodles of new queer characters to gush over! So I’m going to commemorate National Coming Out Day by spotlighting 26 comic book superheroes and supervillains—some old, some new, some awesome, some ew—who are super queer. That’s one character for each letter of the English alphabet.
Needless to say, this list is far from comprehensive. There are just too many queer superheroes and supervillains to put in one list—and that’s a good thing! So if we missed your favorite, be sure to mention them in the comments!
a IS FOR APOLLO
Despite being able to harness the power of the sun, Apollo tends to be overshadowed by his grim ‘n’ gritty boyfriend (later husband, later boyfriend again), Midnighter. But Apollo is a powerhouse in his own right, able to outwit the devil and bench press a small satellite with equal aplomb. He’s pretty good with kids, too.
B IS FOR BATWOMAN
In the 1950s, Kathy Kane made her first appearance as the high-flying heroine Batwoman. Allegedly, she was created to stop folks like psychologist Fredric Wertham from accusing Batman and Robin of sleeping together. In the 2000s, Kate Kane returned from a long hiatus, and now she was a lesbian. As of this writing, she is also a lesbian with a TV show in development. Holy delicious irony, Batwoman!
C IS FOR COAGULA
Trans superheroes are still few and far between. One of the few we do have is Coagula, who can alter the state of matter (e.g. turn a solid to a liquid and so forth). She joined up with the Doom Patrol in 1993. Now that the Doom Patrol is getting their own TV show, perhaps a coagulated cameo is in order? *wink, wink* *nudge, nudge*
D IS FOR DEadpool
Ah, of course. No list of queer super-characters would be complete without that preposterous, puerile, pansexual Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool. Even ignoring the time he famously dreamed of Cable rubbing sunscreen on his back—though why would you want to?—Deadpool has always been extremely open about who he finds attractive, which includes everyone from Thor to Bea Arthur.
E IS FOR EXTRAÑO
In the Most Improved Queer Hero category, we have Gregorio de la Vega, aka Extraño (Spanish for “strange,” because ‘80s DC did not do subtlety). Gregorio and his terrible hairdo served with a super-team called the New Guardians, but he disappeared not long after being infected with HIV by a villain called Hemo-Goblin. (Again, no subtlety.) More recently, Gregorio turned up with a husband and better fashion sense in Midnighter and Apollo.
F IS FOR FREEDOM RING
Marvel had a few missteps on the way to creating some of the more beloved queer characters on this list. One of those missteps was Freedom Ring. This poor, gay slob stumbled into superheroism after he discovered a magic ring that allowed him to do pretty much anything…except prevent himself from being skewered by multiple phallic-looking spikes. I wonder what Fredric Wertham would have to say about that. He couldn’t possibly be more disapproving than the readers were.
G IS FOR GREEN LANTERN
Alan Scott became the first Green Lantern in 1940. He became the first Green Lantern to come out of the closet in 2011. His origin story, which originally had him getting revenge for the wrongful death of a business associate, was revamped so that Alan’s main motivation was to avenge the death of his boyfriend, Sam Zhao. Normally, I’d cry fridging, but then it turned out Sam wasn’t really dead; he just…lost his memories and became an air elemental? Look, I don’t know. Comics are confusing.
H IS FOR HARLEY QUINN
Harley is most famous for abandoning a perfectly respectable career as a psychologist to go hang with the Joker. But not long after her debut, Harley became good friends with her fellow Bat-villain, Poison Ivy. Almost as quickly, fans began to speculate about whether these evil gals were more than pals. The answer to that question is a hearty hell yeah! They are even depicted as a couple in DC Comics: Bombshells, which Leah has written a lovely article about over here.
I IS FOR ICEMAN
Bobby Drake already had a place in comics history as a founding member of the X-Men. Then Marvel announced that this ice-cold but warmhearted hero had a secret beyond that of his double identity: Iceman, a Don Juan since day one, was actually gay. So what took him so long to come out? In one comic, Bobby explained that he’d kept his sexuality to himself all these years because he got enough persecution for being a mutant, thanks.
J IS FOR JERICHO
Funny story: when he first created Jericho, George Pérez considered making him gay but was afraid that would be too stereotypical, given Jericho’s shy, artistic nature and vaguely feminine appearance. Fast forward a few decades, and guess what? DC made him bi. And kind of a creep. But to be honest, Jericho’s whole life is an endless cycle of being a nice guy, turning evil, dying, and then returning as a nice guy again, so this is nothing new.
K IS FOR KAROLINA DEAN
Young Karolina was shocked and horrified to learn that her seemingly normal human parents were actually alien criminals exiled from their home planet. She joined some other teens, called the Runaways, who were equally disgusted by their parents’ villainous activities. Along the way, Karolina came out as a lesbian and stoutly bounced back from an unrequited crush on a straight teammate. She has since had relationships with Xavin, a genderfluid shapeshifter, and Julie Power, late of the Power Pack.
L IS FOR LOKI
You’d think this one would be a no-brainer, given that Norse Mythology Loki has a propensity for shapeshifting into women and sleeping with anyone and anything. But it wasn’t until 2013 that writer Al Ewing confirmed Marvel Loki was bisexual and genderfluid. And just last year, writer Mackenzi Lee stated Loki is pansexual and genderfluid. Multiple yet equally valid views regarding Loki’s orientation? Seems about right for the god of mischief.
M IS FOR MS. AMERICA
Raised by her lesbian superhero moms in a utopian alternate universe, America Chavez (also a lesbian) now roams the multiverse, punching everyone in need of punching. She recently appeared—and kicked five kinds of butt—in the cartoon film Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors. Shockingly, they acknowledged her lesbian moms, even if America’s own sexuality never came up.
N IS FOR NORTHSTAR
One of Marvel’s first openly gay characters, Northstar is a member of the extremely Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight. He made headlines in 2012 when he married his sweetheart and business manager, Kyle Jinadu. Before that, he slept with Hercules at least once, so that’s pretty cool.
O IS FOR OBSIDIAN
Obsidian is the occasionally villainous but usually heroic Todd Rice, who can manipulate darkness. He overcame an abusive childhood and untreated mental illness, and ended up joining such prestigious super-teams as the Justice League and the Justice Society. Hilariously, Obsidian is the long-lost son of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who came out himself a few years ago.
P IS FOR PIED PIPER
True to the name, the Pied Piper used his magic flute (not a double entendre) to hypnotize others and commit crimes. Eventually, he danced his way over to the side of the angels and started helping his former nemesis, the Flash, put criminals behind bars. Piper came out to the Flash in 1991 in one of my all-time favorite coming-out scenes. He also once blew up a planet by playing a Queen song, which is, like, peak queerness right there.
Q IS FOR QUESTION
Renee Montoya had the toughest job in the world: a police officer in Gotham City. Things only got worse after Two-Face nearly ruined her career by outing her to her boss and her homophobic parents. But Renee persevered, and she later became a costumed crime-fighter herself, taking over as the faceless Question after the original died of cancer. She now got to skulk around Gotham in a badass trench coat shaking down crooks for intel. Sweet.
R IS FOR RICTOR
Rictor is a Mexican mutant who can cause earthquakes. How fortunate that his real name—Julio Richter—just so happens to closely resemble the name of the scale that scientists use to measure earthquake intensity! For years, fans wondered whether he and his fellow mutant Shatterstar were canoodling behind the scenes. Finally, in 2009, Marvel allowed Rictor and Shatterstar to kiss. Last time I checked, though, they’re on a break. Sad face.
S IS FOR SCANDAL SAVAGE
The daughter of immortal villain Vandal Savage and an unknown Brazilian woman, Scandal Savage is exactly as ruthless as her name would suggest. But while she isn’t exactly nice, she has more scruples than her father and is capable of real affection. At the start of the intriguingly twisted Secret Six: Unhinged, Scandal is mourning her dead girlfriend, Knockout. Eventually, Knockout got better, and now she, Scandal and another woman, Liana Kerzner, are all happily married to each other!
T IS FOR Thunder
Anissa Pierce inherited her powers from her father, Black Lightning, and put them to good use as a member of the Outsiders, a lesser-known superhero group composed of international misfits. It was there that Anissa met and fell in love with the brash and super-strong Grace Choi. Thunder and Grace have both shown up on The CW’s Black Lightning. I for one am counting the minutes until we finally get to see them kick butt together.
U IS FOR UNION JACK
Several men have taken on the identity of Union Jack, that most British of all superheroes. Brian Falsworth (sheesh, even his name is super British) is the only gay one. After realizing that trying to appease Nazi Germany was The Worst Idea, Brian and his boyfriend, Roger, chugged some super soldier serum and used their new powers to help knock the Axis on their asses.
V IS FOR VOODOO
Priscilla Kitaen is a half-alien telepath, exorcist and exotic dancer. She is also bisexual, a fact which was well publicized at the time that she made the jump from WildStorm, a DC imprint, to the DC Universe proper. I don’t know too much about this character, to be honest, but anyone who can regrow her own legs sounds pretty rad.
W IS FOR WICCAN
Despite the name, Billy Kaplan is a young Jewish fanboy-turned-superhero with the power to change reality. He is also a lost son of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, but good luck sorting through that family tree. In any case, Wiccan is rarely seen without his fiancé, Hulkling, a shapeshifting, super-supportive alien prince.
X IS FOR X-23
Laura Kinney was just one of what turned out to be many Wolverine clones. Despite being raised as a human weapon, Laura had too much of a conscience to last long in such a career and turned hero. Up until recently, she was Wolverine. Earlier this year, her co-creator, Craig Kyle, stated on Twitter that Laura is gay, and were it up to him, he’d make that fact canon toot suite. So yes, it is completely accurate to say that Wolverine is a lesbian.
Y IS FOR YSTIN(A)
If you grew up watching Justice League: Unlimited, you probably know the Shining Knight as a man named Sir Justin. But a few years ago, DC revamped the character as Ystin(a), who is “not just a man or a woman,” but “both.” The writer was somewhat cagey about what this meant exactly, but he did comment on Twitter about how nice it was that transgender comic book characters were gaining more acceptance…
Z IS FOR ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH
Zsazsa was created by Filipino illustrator Carlo Vergara and debuted in 2002. As a hero, she is a virtually indestructible woman. As a civilian, he is Ada, a gay man who runs a beauty salon. To become Zsazsa, he swallows a magic stone that fell from the sky. If only eating space rocks always had such super results. (Disclaimer: Please do not eat space rocks.)
Also In This Story Stream
- Cameron Post, Coming Out, and Me
- Mad Girl’s Love Song: On Finding Queerness Through Sylvia Plath
- Why Coming Out is a Creative Endeavour
- More Than Just Representation: 5 Queer Reads
- I Was a ’90s Teenage Lesbian: Lesbian Book Recommendations
- Existing in the Sunlight: A Story of Coming Out
- Creating an Inclusive Library: LGBTQ+ Teens Share Their Recommendations
- Reading Queer Characters Of Colour and Understanding Queer Identity
- How DC Bombshells Makes Me Feel Comfortable in My Queer Skin
- Still in Search of Queer Women in Mixed-Gender Romance