Two days ago, I posted about discussing superheroes with my fifth graders and how some sexual questions came up. The post got a lot of hits, which I put down to the post title, which was obviously search engine bait.
However, it seems that I also inadvertedly hit upon a zeitgeist topic. For even though gay and lesbian comic characters and even gay superheroes are nothing new, they have been hitting the headlines of late.
The Guardian reports that almost exactly twenty years after coming out as gay, Northstar of Alpha Flight has finally proposed to his boyfriend in the current issue of Astonishing X-Men (Alpha Flight don’t have their own comic anymore) and will be getting married next month.
Of course, Northstar’s outing wasn’t a big surprise back in the day, but mainly a confirmation of what longtime Alpha Flight readers had been suspecting for years. Nor will Northstar be the first gay superhero to get married, Apollo and Midnighter of the Authority have been married for years and even adopted a child, Jenny Quantum, spirit of the 21st century. Though Northstar will be the first superhero in an interracial same sex marriage, since his partner is black.
But even though this development isn’t as revolutionary as the article seems to believe (it should be said that Northstar is Canadian, where same sex marriage has been legal for a while), the news still made me happy, even though I haven’t been a comic reader in years now, because I always liked Northstar back in the day. And I’m glad he finally has a partner, because back when I still was a regular comic reader, Northstar was openly gay, but always single, which always struck me as something of a cop-out.
Meanwhile, Marvel’s big rival DC Comics is planing to out one of their own superheroes as gay. The Daily Mail wonders whether Batman will be the one to be outed. The article attracted some really dreadful comments (even by Daily Hate Mail standards) from homophobic Americans who think DC is going to ram homosexuality down their throats and yell “but won’t someone think of the children”. Obviously, these people haven’t read a comic book in thirty years, let alone have ever been inside a comic shop, since they have no idea that there have been openly gay characters in comics for more than twenty years (Northstar was the first openly gay superhero, though there were gay and lesbian supporting characters before that) and that very few comics are actually read by children these years. Never mind that children do wonder about these things themselves, as my fifth graders can attest.
Meanwhile, Shoshana Kessock offers an overview of gay, lesbian and bisexual characters in comics, SFF TV shows and YA fiction at Tor.com, which confirms that even though it’s great that we are seeing more GLBT characters in the media, it’s not exactly news. In fact, I strongly suspect that the current uproar is linked to the upcoming US elections and that gay marriage is one of the hotly debated campaign topics.
The T-part in GLBT is mostly neglected, though comics have had a couple of gender-switching characters over the years (not the same, I know), including an Alpha Flight storyline in the 1980s where Sasquatch, the boyfriend of Northstar’s twin sister Aurora, ended up in a female body for some very complicated storyline reasons (explained here). This caused some problems for the couple, since Aurora made it very clear that she did not want any sort of intimate physical contact with the female Sasquatch. Since he couldn’t have Aurora, the rejected Sasquatch decided to make a pass at her twin brother Northstar, only to be rebuffed with an icy “I also preferred the man you used to be.” Northstar for the win.
However, apparently Sky Channel has a new crime drama in the UK which features a contract killer who happens to be a transwoman. No idea if the show is any good, but the fact that it exists at all is still an encouraging sign.