In talking to Who Wants to Be a Superhero's Parthenon, we discovered a shared appreciation of Young Heroes in Love, one of those underappreciated gems whose fans are always surprised to find each other. That got me thinking to other great superhero characters who haven't (yet) found the wide audience they deserve.
Frostbite and Off-Ramp (DC Comics)
From: Young Heroes In Love
Young Heroes in Love was a smart parody of soap operas and superhero comics that never showed any disrespect to either genre. The series followed a team led by Hard Drive, a telekinetic who hid his telepathic abilities (mostly because he was subtly using his mind control abilities on his teammates) and Monstergirl, a shapeshifter who also hid her true abilities (why risk ruining the fun of seducing the team hunk by taking the shape of his girlfriend?)
Off-Ramp was a bit of a loner and curmudgeon, someone who didn't really seemed suited for a team, except that he was very loyal to Hard Drive. His ability, to create warp portals, was well suited to his misanthropic tendencies since it let him disappear for periods of time. However, Frostbite, a bisexual snow elf with an irresistible exotic sexuality, chipped away at Off-Ramp's walled off personality, eventually establishing a connection. During the series' short run, there were plenty of hints that Off-Ramp might be gay. When the series wrapped up its storylines in its seventeenth issue, Frostbite finally convinced him to come out. In the series final issue, set thousands of years in the future, older versions of the two meet and talk like former lovers.
From: Top Ten comics (America's Best Comics)
British writer Alan Moore completely reexamined the superhero comic in his landmark graphic novel Watchmen. He took a meta view of the genre with 1963 and Supreme, where pastiches of Marvel and DC superheros, respectively, were used to comment on the history of the genre. When he created the America's Best Comics imprint, he attempted to re-invent the superhero genre once more with titles like Tom Strong, Promethia, Tomorrow Stories and Top Ten.
Top Ten imagined what it would be like to be a police officer in a world where everyone was a superhero. Full of visual gags and jokes about what it would be like to incorporate super powers into everyday lives, Top Ten intriguingly mixed the police procedural with the superhero comic. At the end of Top Ten's first volume, we learn that Captain Steve "Jetman" Teynor goes home to a husband who loves him very much. Their relationship gets a major focus in Top Ten graphic novel, The Fourty-Niners, which shows how the two met and fell in love in 1949.
From: The Invisibles (Vertigo Comics)
One of the strangest comics was this story of an anarchist team seeking to save the world from forces seeking to suppress the human spirit and force mindless conformity. The Invisibles summoned the soul of John Lennon for advice, traveled in time to consult with the Marquis de Sade and raided a facility that kept a cure for AIDS from the general populace.
A core character in The Invisibles was Lord Fanny. The only child of a witch who's family has passed down their powers from woman to woman, Hilde Morales was raised as a girl so that his family's magic powers could survive. When Hilde came of age, he learned to become a shaman from the gods of the pre-Columbian era. Always managing to stay fabulous no matter how dangerous the situation, this Brazilian transvestite shaman saves his team on a several occasions and was always a valuable player.
Hulkling and Wiccan
From: Young Avengers (Marvel Comics)
After The Avengers were dissolved, a new team of young heroes debuted, all appearing to be younger versions of more famous heroes. They included Hulkling and Asgardian who seemed to be young versions of The Hulk and Thor. From the beginning, the two seemed like a couple, with banter reminiscent of The Avengers' past superpowered couples, like The Vision and The Scarlet Witch or Hank Pym and The Wasp. The relationship was quickly confirmed to readers by th end of the first story arc. Most of the team turned out to have a different history than initially was suggested, including Hulkling and Asgardian. (I'll save that surprise for those of you who might pick up a Young Avengers trade.) When it became clear that Asgardian had no connection to Thor, a teammate suggested he change the code name to avoid inspiring homophobic jokes, prompting a name change to Wiccan.
One of the memorable scenes for this couple comes when the team decided the all had to tell their parents about their extracurricular activities. Hulkling and Wiccan's attempt was derailed when their parents mistake the discussion as an attempt to come out as gay — they learn that their parents have known and approved of their relationship for some time as they waited for their sons to be ready to discuss it with them.
Unfortunately, these characters are currently in limbo. Grey's Anatomy writer Allan Heinberg created Young Avengers and is committed to writing future issues of the series. Heinberg's busy schedule led to the final Young Avengers story arc to be shortened and his run on Wonder Woman to end early. More issues of Young Avengers are promised, but they will have to wait until Heinberg has time in his schedule.
From: Enigma (Vertigo Comics)
At the center of Enigma was a comic within the comic — "The Enigma," a surreal hallucinogenic comic that only lasted for three issues in the 1960s. As a child, Enigma's main character, a boring man named Michael Smith, was obsessed with "The Enigma," even making him an imaginary friend. In his adult years, Michael is shocked when characters from "The Enigma" make appearances in real life — bizarre villains such as The Interior League (who sneak into people's home at night and can rearrange the furniture in a way that drives the occupants insane when the discover it) suddenly cause very real havok, only to be stopped by a very real Enigma. In his quest to figure out why his childhood hero has come to life, Michael learns that he is meant to become The Enigma's lover as the two head out to fight The Enigma's greatest foe together.
From: Manhunter (DC Comics)
The long lost son of a Green Lantern and the multiple personality Rose/Thorn, Obsidian was a poorly-adjusted young man. He grew up under an abusive adoptive father. As an adult, his close relationships with his sister Jennie-Lynn and his close friend, Albert seemed to get in the way of his functioning normally. He eventually had a nervous breakdown and turned evil. However, after receiving treatment for his mental illnesses, he became a changed man. He was finally comfortable with his sexual orientation and he began dating an Assistant District Attorney while working for the Department of Extranormal Operations, a government agency dealing with superpowered individuals.
Phat and Vivisector
From: X-Force and X-Statix (Marvel Comics)
When given the chance to completely revamp the aging X-Force, Enigma creator Peter Milligan threw out the established team and replaced them with a group of young mutants more interested in fame and riches than benefiting mankind or other mutants. They filmed their violent exploits to sell as Pay-Per-View specials, licensed their images on a variety of products and abused trademark law to steal the X-Force name from the team that was currently using it.
At first the bookish Vivisector, a literature student who could turn into a werewolf, and Phat, a white rapper who could enlarge parts of his body, clashed. When they realized they lagged behind their other teammates in popularity, however, the two suddenly announced that they had a "special relationship" at a press conference. Initially, the relationship was only about publicity but the two developed real feelings for each other. In the series' final issue, the entire team, including Phat and Vivisector, died in a botched mission.
Have you got a favorite, little-known gay superhero that I missed? Do you also have fond memories of Young Heroes in Love? Talk about it in the comments.