The world of comics and superheroes is one most people never get to fully experience. Beyond the more popular comic book characters such as Superman, Spiderman, and the Hulk, there exists a massive world with thousands of characters. In contrast to their better-known, silver-screen allies, many of these superheroes are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ)! The comic world does a great job including all kinds of identities, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, gender-fluid, and more. (Though LGBT superheroes and villains have been hinted at in subtext for decades, until 1989, the Comics Code Authority – an industry-created censorship organization – forbade mentioning homosexuality at all in comics.)
On the whole, comic readers and enthusiasts have been rather accepting – even welcoming – to the non-traditional expressions of gender identity and sexuality. There’s an added benefit: while few mainstream characters in music, sport, or film are openly out-of-the-closet, LGBTQ youth and adults can find characters to identify with from within the comic world. And the character representations are generally positive and reflect the true experiences of LGBTQ youth – from family acceptance to being kicked out of the house to hiding their sexuality for decades. From a sexually-fluid, gender-fluid shapeshifter to a gay teen superhero couple to a gender-queer stretch of road, here are 25 LGBT Superheroes and Villains You Probably Thought Were Straight.
One of the best-known characters in the DC Universe, Harley Quinn is the clown princess of crime. A villainous adversary of Batman, Harley Quinn is sometimes known to be dating the Joker despite her flirtatious behavior with both men and women. In the Extended Universe, Harley Quinn was revealed to be dating Poison Ivy, making the villain one of many bisexuals in comics.
The first intersex character in the comic world – an intersex person has sex characteristics such as chromosomes or genitals that don’t fit into the male-female binary – Shining Knight is a member of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. Along with Winged Victory the flying horse, Shining Knight uses magically-imbued weapons and armor to defeat evil. After much ambiguity over his/her gender, Shining Knight finally revealed “I was born this way. I’m not just a man or a woman. I’m both.”
Batman first appeared in DC Comics’ books in 1939, followed the next year by his junior masked-and-caped counterpart Robin. Controversy stirred for years as many believed Batman and Robin were more than a duo and were actually gay lovers. Kate Kane was introduced as Batwoman in 1956 to silence these critics. In 2006, she was reintroduced as a lesbian. Formerly a soldier in the U.S. Army, Kane was released when her sexuality was brought to light under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. She went on to take her role as Batwoman: another caped crime fighter in Gotham.
Appealing to younger audiences, Wiccan is a gay member of the teen superhero team: the Young Avengers. Known as Billy Kaplan, Wiccan is seen by comic enthusiasts as a merger between Scarlet Witch (his mother) and Thor (not his father). He is an immensely powerful magician with abilities such as mind control, telepathy, and astral projection. He has long dated his fellow team member…
Hulkling. Besides being Wiccan’s boyfriend, Hulkling is a super-strong shape-shifter. The child of two alien races at war, Hulkling is based off the Hulk but his shape-shifting powers go way beyond that of the green superhero. The couple has been referred to as “Marvel’s most prominent gay couple”.
The flashiest name on our list of LGBT superheroes and comic book characters, Bling is the daughter of Daddy Libido and Sexy Mutha, both Marvel rappers. Bling didn’t want to follow the family business so she worked on developing her mutant characteristics with the X-Men. The bisexual Bling has bone marrow which makes diamond shards she can use as dangerous projectiles.
Introduced in 1997, Comet is a gender-fluid winged centaur (half human-half horse). Comet is the combination of bisexual female Andrea Martinez and Andrew Jones, a heterosexual male horse jockey. The pair were fused into the Earth Angel of Love after the superhuman-with-horse-DNA jockey tried saving a distressed Martinez who had just been rejected upon coming out to her parents. Comet is endowed with the powers of high-speed flight and ice blasts and can change between female and winged centaur forms.
Part of the original X-Men, Iceman was (and is) a straight cis-gender male character according to the mainstream Marvel Universe. Thrown into an alternate reality, Iceman’s psychic teammate Jean Grey, able to read his thoughts, confronts him about his sexuality. A dramatic confrontation between young and adult versions of Iceman ensues in which the adult version admits to his younger self that, to avoid persecution, he acted straight for many years, hoping it would eventually become an ingrained reality.
A gay-Teen Titan, Bunker is a Mexican superhero who came out as a teenager and was accepted by his small village. Bunker is a LGBT superhero with the power to create “psionic energy constructs” – that’s the long way to say bricks created by a psychic ability. It’s thought his ability to make bricks is a reference and positive nod to the Stonewall Inn: the epicenter of the modern LGBT rights movement in the United States.
A creation of Marvel Comics, Northstar was the first comic book hero to explicitly come out as gay (in 1992). A human-mutant, Northstar had superhuman abilities such as superspeed, flight, and photon blasts. Northstar further made LGBT comic book history when he married Kyle Jinadu in 2012 – the first same-sex marriage in a major comic book.
Born as the male Hilde Morales, Lord Fanny is a transgender superhero. Her grandmother was the most feared witch in their Brazilian city and Lord Fanny was brought up with witchcraft and magical abilities. She later joined the freedom fighter group The Invisibles.
If you enjoyed learning about these LGBT Superheroes and villains, check out The 25 Most Powerful Superheroes of All Time.
Extraño is a Peruvian magician who gained heightened magical abilities after a human evolution experiment was performed on him. First introduced in 1988, Extraño has been depicted as rather kitsch and typifying most stereotypes of gay men at the time. After a battle with the “AIDS vampire” Hemo-Goblin, it was revealed Extraño was HIV-positive.
Making his debut in 1955, the Marvel Comics’ character The Rawhide Kid is one of the most well-known Western characters in comic book history. Though originally a tough-talking gunfighter who was wanted (wrongly) by the law, in 2003 he was remade for a mini-series as a gay gunslinger interpreting the Old Wild West through a modern-day queer perspective.
Sara Lance, a bisexual martial arts expert, was the first LGBT superhero to be featured on a mainstream television series when she appeared in “Arrow”. Better known as Canary, Sara Lance has dated both The Arrow (Oliver Queen) and Nyssa Raatko.
The human-with-artificial-upgrades Midnighter was the first gay male superhero to be used as the primary character for a major comic. His lightning-fast perception allows him to anticipate an enemy’s strike before its made. Though a team partly composed of Batman and Superman is often referred to as the “World’s Finest Team”, many fans give that same title to Midnighter and his husband…
Apollo: Midnighter’s husband and a bonafide superhero in his own right. Apollo is a humanoid-like being who pulls energy from the sun and converts it into flight, super strength, and heat vision. Apollo and Midnighter were both members of The Authority. After they got married, they adopted a little girl: Jenny Quantum.
Imagine waking up one day to learn that your parents are part of an evil crime ring. That’s what happened to vegan peace-keeper Karolina Dean. A Majesdanian, she has the ability to absorb solar energy and use it to create force fields or emit laser blasts. A lesbian, Karolina Dean is the fiancée of…
Xavin is a Skrull (an alien race) with super-human strength, elasticity, and shapeshifting abilities. Often seen in both male and female forms (in addition to her natural Skrull form), Xavin is a gender-fluid superhero – one of the increasingly common examples of gender identity being considered in comics.
Daken is the son of Wolverine (and a Japanese girl who was killed by the Winter Soldier to lure him out). Though Daken resembles his father with superb healing and retractable claws (he has two knuckle claws and one wrist claw), he can also emit pheromones which confuse both men and women. A bisexual, in one comic Daken kissed a man – but only to tease a woman he was seeing. He later killed the man he kissed – now that’s romance!
Initially created as an asexual killing machine in the distant future, Shatterstar’s continued and extended contact with humanity softened him. Despite his difficulty understanding human emotion and sensitivities, Shatterstar cared for his boyfriend (#5) while he lost his superpowers. While the bisexual Shatterstar is in his first relationship and distracted by all the new potential, a full commitment is desired by his boyfriend…
Rictor is a human-mutant capable of creating seismic waves which knock over buildings and villains alike. An out bisexual man, Rictor and Shatterstar shared the first male-male kiss between two mainstream comic book superheroes in Marvel’s history.
A psychic martial arts master, Moondragon is openly bisexual and has been attracted to a wide range of different comic characters including Daredevil, Quasar, and Thor. The shaved-head geneticist has a strong superiority complex which was tempered by her most recent relationship with Phyla-Vell.
One day Renee Montoya is an ordinary Gotham City Police Detective; the next day, the lesbian officer sees her mentor and the original The Question killed. Montoya doesn’t drop the ball and quickly takes on the role of The Question, solving mysteries and defeating bad guys with her master detective work and martial arts skills.
Danny the Street
Absolutely the most bizarre character on our list of LGBT superheroes and comic book characters is Danny the Street. A gender-queer living stretch of road – yes, Danny is actually a street – Danny can teleport into a city and seamlessly integrate with the surrounding urban environment. Danny shelters those in need of help such as Flex Mentallo when he had a mental breakdown. Danny the Street is often (literally) lined with hyper-masculine shops (selling guns, sporting goods, etc.) though the shops are adorned with lace and frilly pink curtains.
Mystique’s blue skin and yellow eyes make her one of the most recognizable characters in the comic book world. Our final LGBT comic book character is also one of the most layered characters. Mystique is both sexually-fluid and gender-fluid (easily assumed since she’s a shapeshifter). Together with her partner Destiny, the two raise a child – Rogue – who becomes a do-gooder with the X-Men after converting from her villainous upbringing.