Ten gay superheroes who broke new ground

With Shatterstar and Rictor‘s recent kiss in X-Factor #45, writer Peter David broke down barriers for gay superheroes by showing the first gay kiss between long-established Marvel heroes. (Marvel’s first gay kiss would probably be X-Force‘s Bloke, who died in the same issue that introduced him.) "Ricstar" as fans have dubbed them, join the list of characters who’ve slowly broken down barriers in a long, slow path forward.

Enigma and Mikaal
DC’s first gay kisses

Finding the first gay kiss in a DC comic is a complicated task thanks to the publisher’s tendency to target different audiences with a variety of imprints, sub-imprints and, sometimes, unofficial sub-imprints. As one of the first titles to debut under the Mature Readers-focused Vertigo line, Peter Milligan‘s surreal mini-series Enigma ended with a kiss between the story’s protagonist and the titular hero in 1993. Meanwhile, in 1998, James Robinson gave the DC Universe its first gay kiss when Mikaal Tomas, one of several heroes to take up the "Starman" title, kissed his boyfriend Tony. However, while DC’s gay kisses pre-date their rival, Marvel, there hasn’t been a gay kiss in franchise title X-Force.

Alya & Violet and Hulkling & Wiccan
First long-term same-sex couples

Romance is an important aspect of team books — what would The Avengers‘s history be without the tempestuous relationship of Hank and Janet or the New Teen Titans without Changeling falling for Terra — and slowly we’ve seen same-sex couples be a part of these team romances. When the couple-heavy The Legion of Super-Heroes relaunched in 1984, readers noticed Lightning Lass and Shrinking Violet were growing closer. In 1989, the series relaunched again and the romance between the two became clear. Their affection for each other was an important part of the series until the Legion was once more revamped in 1994. Meanwhile, in 2005 Marvel got its first gay team romance with Young Avengers‘ Hulkling and Wiccan. The couple generated some letters of complaining that a gay couple wasn’t appropriate for a team of young heroes, but Marvel stuck with them.

Thom Creed
First gay hero in mainstream Young Adult Literature

Unfortunately, as Hulkling and Wiccan show, gay stories are still percieved as being more sexually explicit than the same story told with straight characters. Thus, it’s pretty incredible that Perry Moore‘s novel about a young gay man trying to deal with both his sexuality and his developing superpowers would find the acceptance it did. Not only did it become an Amazon top seller but comics legend Stan Lee signed up to help adapt Thom’s story to TV.

Timebomb
From: TV’s first regular gay hero

While there’s been a number of superheroes on TV, the only gay has been Timebomb in the dark Britcom No Heroics, a former drug addict. That, sadly, reflects a dynamic found in Perry Moore’s list of dead, raped and mutilated gay heroes, where gay characters tend to be limited to mature titles where death and dark turns are more common. Hopefully, there will be good news for Showtime’s proposed adaptation of Hero, which would give gay comic fans a new kind of hero to follow.

Apollo & Midnighter
First married same-sex couple

For a little over a year, Apollo and Midnighter inspired plenty of speculation, before The Authority writer Warren Ellis made it clear they were a couple. While Ellis did a great job at treating them the same as every other character on the team, later writers tended to define them by their sexual orientation and their relationship, which at least led to stories where they married and adopted Jenny Quantum as their daughter.

Madam Fatal
From: First Drag Superhero

The Golden Age has plenty of odd heroes to be discovered and one of the more notable ones is Richard Standon, a famous female impersonator who debuted in the pages of, I kid you not, 1940′s Crack Comics #1. Richard used his drag skills to look like an innocuous old lady, who the bad guys would overlook until she turned out to be able to throw a punch like a healthy, young man.

Element Lad
First philosophically bisexual hero

While Starman gave us Mikaal, an alien whose bisexuality came down to caring about love more than the gender of the person he loved, The Legion of Super-Heroes gave us Element Lad first. In 1992, his longtime girlfriend, Shvaughn tearfully revealed she had been taking a gender-switching drug in order to have a relationship with him. He responded that Shvaughn’s — or Sean — gender didn’t matter to him as much as the person. The relationship continued, though Element Lad was already a barely-there character when the Shvaughn/Sean revelation happened.

Northstar
First hero to come out

There’s a reason gay comic fans pay so much attention to Northstar. Not only had he been a major character for years, there were hints from the character’s early days about his homosexuality. When he came out in 1992 — however clunky the story or Jean-Paul’s "I am gay!" declaration in the middle of battle — it was a major breakthrough in comics.

Thanks to the Gay League‘s Joe Palmer for help putting the lsit together.

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