The visibility of queer folks in Pride month is a shining light among the darkness in the world, and it’s only on the rise.
Over the years, LGBTQIA+ characters in Marvel and DC Comics have gained visibility, and it was helped by the release of last year’s inaugural Pride month specials — anthology books with myriad stories that feature a host of their respective universe’s queer characters. Major queer faces like DC’s Batwoman and Midnighter and Marvel’s Northstar and Iceman were featured prominently as some of these publishers’ queer headliners, and entirely new specials are on their way for this year. However, many people, including Marvel and DC, sometimes forget that some of their most popular superheroes, like Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Star-Lord, and Deadpool, are canonically queer and that they aren’t seen in any Pride content — past or near-future.
Since their “coming out,” these A-list characters have been sparsely mentioned or shown as queer in their comics, and/or virtually not included in any LGBTQIA+ advertisement or promotion. Of course, queer folks don’t have to be visible as queer to be queer, but these characters are fictional, and the power of explicit visibility is something that shouldn’t be dismissed. Inclusion in Marvel and DC’s Pride specials, or at least Pride promotion, would help to realize this power.
LGBTQIA+ visibility looks different to different people. As a non-binary bisexual person, I see it as being comfortable enough in your skin and identity so that others can see who you are, and maybe see themselves, too. Others could see it as wearing rainbows and openly declaring identity, or finding those rare slivers of time where you’re allowed to openly be yourself. Queer visibility also shouldn’t be limited to heteronormative ways of understanding. Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Star-Lord, and Deadpool’s queerness have manifested on-page in different ways, and don’t necessarily include physical touch or a declaration of love or identity, but they are all part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Wonder Woman was confirmed to be queer at the start of DC Comics Rebirth soft reboot in 2016. In an interview with Comicosity, Wonder Woman (2016) writer Greg Rucka replied “yes” when asked if she is queer, citing Themyscira’s non-patriarchal society while mentioning issue #2’s queer allusions. Instances of Diana officiating a gay wedding in Sensation Comics (2014) #48, being kissed on the cheek by a woman Wonder Woman: Earth One, and plenty of other subtext since her first appearance in 1941 provide additional evidence of this clear connection. News outlets then reported her as bisexual, a common term for someone with attraction to more than one gender. Since then, there hasn’t quite been a nod to her queerness besides in the Elseworlds series Dark Knights of Steel where she’s dating a pseudo-Supergirl named Zala.
A year before Wonder Woman’s “coming out,” Catwoman was also confirmed to be bisexual. In Catwoman (2011) #39, Selina and Eiko Hasigawa (the Catwoman at the time) share a kiss, affirming a romantic connection. Writer Genevieve Valentine reaffirmed this on her blog, stating that there were “few emotional beats [she] considered indispensable” and “one was establishing Selina as canon bisexual,” referencing her universally flirty nature. Eiko’s in a recent Catwoman (2018) series arc where Selina also expresses her attraction to people of multiple genders, along with other queer characters and themes introduced.
Made popular in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Star-Lord was shown to be bisexual and polyamorous in Marvel comics less than two years ago in Guardians of the Galaxy (2020) #9. Star-Lord accepts his feelings for aliens Aradia and Mors while stuck in an alternate reality after 12 years before eventually returning to the main universe. After the sudden cancellation of the series, Peter Quill hasn’t been seen much and his queerness hasn’t been explored more on-page. There might have been more time if artist Kris Anka and writer Chip Zdarsky could have fulfilled their plans to give Peter a boyfriend back in their cut-off Star-Lord (2017) series.
The revelation of Deadpool’s sexuality is a little more complex. There wasn’t a cut-and-dry confirmation other than a deleted tweet from writer Gerry Duggan in 2013 stating that he’s omnisexual, and a tweet from Deadpool co-creator Fabian Nicieza in 2015 stating he’s “whatever sexual inclination his brain tells him he is in that moment. And then the moment passes.” People have come to use the common term pansexual to describe his sexuality. However, often his many flirtations with men are played off for jokes. That being said he continues to flirt and express attraction for people who are not women including Spider-Man, Thor, and Cable. So much so that his multi-sexuality has reached Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and was also, however minimal, incorporated into the second film.
Regardless of their visibility or non-visibility in current comics, none of these confirmed queer characters are a part of 2021 or 2022’s big Pride celebrations (Wonder Woman is on one variant cover this year). Their non-inclusion in Pride specials could be chalked up to wanting to feature newer and more prominent queer characters. Admittedly, DC Pride 2021’s stories with lesser-known faces like Renee Montoya, Jess Chambers, and DCTV-originating Dreamer were a much-needed feature. DC Pride 2022 is also advertising its own LGBTQIA+ “equivalents” for most of the main Justice League characters on multiple covers. The stories in this year’s Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1 also feature many different queer characters than last year and the introduction of a new one Escapade. These features feel fresh and like Marvel and DC are putting in the effort to enrich their LGBTQIA+ landscape.
It’s nice to see that Marvel and DC are pushing newer queer superheroes and remembering to feature their minor ones. The confirmations in DC comics of Tim Drake and Jon Kent’s bisexualities, Connor Hawke’s asexuality, queer and trans characters in Nubia and the Amazons this past year, among other creations like Taylor in Galaxy: The Prettiest Star, are also wonderful. (Marvel’s still a bit lacking under control of the historically centrist Mouse). However, this doesn’t mean that the A-listers can’t be featured as well. In fact, all of Marvel and DC’s confirmed queer characters can and should coexist in the queer superhero space. A-listers shouldn’t necessarily be at the forefront of Pride stuff to allow for lesser-seen characters to shine, but they should be visible enough to be able to normalize their queerness on a broader scale. The clear visibility of characters like Tim Drake and Jon Kent Superman do have impact, but these four characters’ prominence in pop culture and on the big screen mean that they could have effect on a much larger scale.
Take the visibility of these A-listers’ Hollywood counterparts. While there is very limited visibility — Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman in The Batman was played as bisexual and Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool could be interpreted as pansexual — they still weren’t seen as queer by the larger public. And the queer hints in Wonder Woman 1984 were only supposed to be just that, and the odds for Star-Lord to be visible as queer in his upcoming MCU movies is low for multiple reasons. It seems DC and Marvel don’t want to risk disrupting the ubiquitously popular mainstream image of these characters to not deter their straight, cisgender male audience. Translations to the screen would be more likely if their queerness was more prominent in the source material.
These characters have the power to be forces for change, not just in Hollywood but for people around the world. The absolute buzz around Jon Kent’s bisexuality, resulting in (mostly) joyful celebration and massive sales, should be enough to show the Big Two that promoting popular, household names as part of the LGBTQIA+ community is worth it. Their apprehension is odd too, considering their enthusiasm for pushing established popular characters like Tim Drake and Loki as queer.
Sometimes, it feels like writers, artists, and editors make the effort to confirm characters as queer and executives allow it for the retention of a part of their audience, but then don’t follow through for fear of ostracizing another segment. Taking into account Marvel and DC’s radical roots, it’s disheartening to see them opt for the preservation of capital rather than put the effort into these characters’ queer visibility (like the their tendency for rainbow-washing).
These A-listers’ queer identities could continue to stay in the shadows as they have been. Why is this such a big deal? Looking at the ever-growing anti-LGBTQIA+ landscape with Don’t Say Gay bills and anti-trans legislation, it has to be. This erasure isn’t directly to blame for this growing anti-queer sentiment in law. But using rainbows and queer identities to paint themselves as allies while ignoring the very real aid they could be providing, whether through increased visibility or fighting back against these laws, is irresponsible at best.
Sexuality isn’t everything, and not every LGBTQIA+ person has to be explicitly and so visibility “out” to be a part of the queer community. Thinking so just reduces us to certain stereotypes around appearance and behavior. But because these are fictional characters in a fictional world that is used to reflect, explore, and enhance our own, the chance to make these A-list characters more visible isn’t only an easy opportunity but a necessary one. None of it is real, we can do what we want with these characters. How is it so believable that whole universes can be melded or timelines jumped across endlessly but a character can’t say they’re bisexual?
We need visibility enough so that people know their favorite heroes are just like them. Visibility simply for the sake of changing the status quo, not just for good press. Visibility for the benefit of the LGBTQIA+ community and the complete understanding and normalization of it beyond the pop culture sphere. The rewards could be amazing if Marvel and DC weren’t so afraid of risk to their wallets.
Considering both Marvel and DC’s slate of Pride content this year, and their continuing inclusion of LGBTQIA+ identities, there’s likely no malice in keeping these characters’ sexualities on the down-low. It’s always hard to tell what’s going on behind the scenes at Marvel and DC HQ — they could have stories only about their queerness lined up for later this year for all we know. But thus far, and according to their slated Pride content, it seems that the big decision-makers at these companies aren’t representing this idea of queer visibility with the intended force, making their efforts feel hollow.
Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Star-Lord, and Deadpool won’t be present in this month’s Pride comics, but they aren’t any less queer for it. Greater inclusion in Pride content and increased visibility across the board would not only legitimize their already canon identities but solidify their status as queer role models and heroes. If not for the hope of broader change, for the kid who needs hope.
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