This piece primarily covers the second half of 2015, as the first half was reviewed in 2015 So Far: A Queer Comics Midterm Review earlier this year. Highlights: bisexual Gotham City Sirens, transgender Sera in Marvel’s Angela, multiple queer ongoings from BOOM! Studios and DC, Jem and the Holograms.
The year 2016 is here, it’s fear (Trump’s poll numbers are rising in my state y’all and I’m nervous), and I’m not sure I’ll get used to it.
To avoid dealing with the present, let’s reflect on the past. How was queer comics representation in the latter half of 2015?
If I could bestow a queer comics award upon a monthly publisher, it would—without question—go to BOOM! Studios.
Lumberjanes, The Woods, The Spire, We(l)come Back, Help Us! Great Warrior, Cognetic, Bravest Warriors, Giant Days. All are comics published in the past six months that featured a variety of queer characters: a questioning college student, a transgender lady warrior, a bisexual mermaid, reincarnated queer lovers, and two different sets of (predominantly) queer kids earning their flannel trying to survive supernatural forests.
A great deal of these comics are also all-ages accessible, making them ideal for all children—for the queer ones to learn their self-worth and for the rest to learn about side-shaves (and also acceptance of their queer peers).
Representation on the page is important, but queer creator representation is too; fortunately, BOOM! still features that in spades, with continued work by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, James Tynion IV, Kate Leth, and more.
Little has changed for DC Comics since its partial line-wide DCYou relaunch in June; considering the generally queer-positive nature of the launch, that’s a pretty okay thing.
Harley’s Little Black Book has joined Midnighter, Catwoman, Constantine: The Hellblazer, and the gang of Harley books on DC’s queer-led landscape. Though Batwoman’s general absence in main continuity remains frustrating, she does have a leading role in DC Comics Bombshells, an alternate history World War II story that features several other queer ladies in its rotating cast.
In Batgirl, Babs’ roommate Frankie Charles has ascended into a more prominent role as almost-Oracle and her former roommate Alysia Yeoh, a bisexual trans woman, got married in a recent issue.
Lowlights include Justice League 3001‘s sustained, awkward handling of Guy Gardner’s gender identity, the sidelining of the recently-introduced Renee Montoya in Detective Comics, and the general lack of queer PoC in DC’s lineup.
That “hold” was caused by Secret Wars, Marvel’s major summer event—one that was startlingly bereft of the LGBTQ.
While Maestro, Howard the Human, and Nomad were focal points for different series, queer characters were, at best, peripheral. There were queer alternate universe takes on some characters in Runaways or Siege, but that means little long-term when the AU tagline comes with an expiration date.
Though the ensuing relaunch billed itself as “All-New, All-Different,” the habit of sidelining queer characters was anything but. During ANAD Marvel’s rolling announcements, it seemed as if at least three queer characters would nab solo titles out of the several dozens announced: Hercules, Deadpool, and Angela. Apparently, not so.
In a rapid succession of interviews and tweets, Hercules became definitely-straight-“who knows?“, Deadpool became definitely-not-queer-because-of-his-regenerating-brain-cells, and Angela, despite many recent Sera smooches, became Lady No Labels.
In the dozens more announced ANAD series since its launch, zero have been given to pre-established queer characters. Hyperion, Black Knight, and Starbrand & Nightmask series are worth the risks, but Northstar, Ms. America, and Iceman & Iceman sure aren’t.
As with Secret Wars, queer characters exist—just in limited roles. Wiccan and Hulkling fill out a nine-person roster in New Avengers, both Icemen share team titles with at least six other characters, and Ms. America gets the best ratio on the five-person Ultimates.
It’s hard to reconcile Marvel’s concerted decisions to elevate its women and characters of color when it’s simultaneously sabotaging its queer representation. The company’s been fielding these concerns for at least seven months; why hasn’t anything changed?
Writer James Robinson apologized through GLAAD to the transgender community for the issue’s offense and impact.
Fortunately, the rest of Image’s year has been buoyed by series featuring queer leads, including Rat Queens, Kaptara, Ringside, Shutter, Virgil, Saints, Trees, The Wicked + The Divine, and Empty Zone. I can’t say it with certainty that it’s Image’s most prolific year with queer leads, but it sure seems like it.
Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess, from Action Lab Entertainment, launched to critical acclaim in July, and IDW Publishing’s Jem and the Holograms continues to succeed critically and in the direct market. Queer creators and queer romance stories are a commonplace occurrence over at Rosy Press.
Most other monthly publishers have had at least one series with a queer lead in the past year, though I’m unaware of any from Valiant Entertainment.
Dates! An Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction, Duck! Third Time is the Charm, Oath Anthology of New Heroes (full disclosure: I’m a writer in this one), Shadoweyes: Volume One, and Alphabet are just some of the several queer comics Kickstarters to successfully crowdfund over the past several months, collectively reaching over $120,000 in funding.
Hopes for 2016
Last week, Marvel editor and Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) co-creator Sana Amanat championed representation as a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers; it was a pretty big, pretty awesome deal. I, like many other queer readers, would like to celebrate in Amanat’s enthusiasm and not feel excluded by it.
I’d like to see all publishers add more (and in most cases, any) transgender and non-binary characters and creators to their publishing slates. I’d like to see more queer characters of color and I’d like see even more all-ages accessible queer comics, particularly some with queer male characters.
Queer comics creators stole the Eisners last year and FlameCon‘s first flare-up drew thousands. Several publishers are beginning to acknowledge the value of an LGBTQ audience; those who don’t may find themselves affixed with labels they can’t so easily dismiss.