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.
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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”.