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NEWSARAMA: 10 Great LGBT Superheroes (And Superhero Couples)

by Alan Kistler, Newsarama Contributor

Earlier this month, Maine, Washington and Maryland all voted to recognize same-sex marriage, and Minnesota voters rejected an amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Given the news, we thought it was time to revisit this list of some very cool LGBT superheroes and superhero couples from comic books who would definitely want to weigh in on this.

By no means is this a definitive list based on popularity, and there are several other great LGBT characters that we wanted to mention — including non-superheroes like Maggie Sawyer and Kevin Keller. But all 10 of these characters have made helped make even the fantasy worlds of superhero comics a little more realistic by adding diversity to the pages.

Following Shining Knight coming out in the pages of this week’s Demon Knights #14 as transgender, perhaps Ystin will join the list soon. Click “start here” in the upper-left corner to see the list.

10 - NORTHSTAR

The first openly gay superhero in Marvel Comics history, Jean-Paul Beaubier was a professional skier who later used his mutant abilities of flight, resistance to injury, and super-speed to become the hero Northstar. He was first introduced in 1979 in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, as a member of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight — the team he’s been most closely associated with over the years.

Created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, he was intended to be gay but this was not openly stated until 1992 after another character confronted Northstar about how famous and influential people could bring greater attention to LGBT issues and the rising AIDS epidemic. As a result, Northstar came out at a press conference and went on to become a speaker for LGBT rights. He later published an autobiography entitled Born Normal, just before officially joining the X-Men.

The character got some major publicity earlier this year, upon getting married in June’s Astonishing X-Men #51 to his long-time boyfriend, Kyle.

9 -APOLLO AND MIDNIGHTER

Introduced in the Wildstorm comic Stormwatch, the lethal vigilantes known as Apollo and Midnighter first seemed to simply be fun homages to Superman and Batman. Just as the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight are often referred to as the World’s Finest Team, Apollo and Midnighter were a formidable pair themselves, and said they had been partners for years.

But writer Warren Ellis deliberately didn’t tell readers (or artists) just how all-encompassing the use of the word “partner” was with these two. After over a year of watching these two prove to be extremely dangerous and competent warriors, we learned they were actually a couple. Afterward, the two even got married and adopted a child.

DC Comics rebooted their mainstream universe in 2011 with The New 52, and folded the Wildstorm characters into the new continuity. In the current volume of Stormwatch, original series writer Paul Cornell depicted how the two heroes got together — Apollo being a man with strength rivaling Superman’s but worries about how people will react if they learn he’s gay, and Midnighter being a violent tactician who could give a damn what others think.

8 - THE QUESTION

Though Renee Montoya was created to be a new character inBatman: The Animated Series, she made her first appearance in the mainstream DC Comics universe over half a year before the cartoon show even began airing. She spent the next several years as an ally of Batman and member of the Gotham City Police Department, earning the rank of Detective and becoming a major cast member of Gotham Central, where writer Greg Rucka revealed that she was gay, a fact that led to estrangement from her family and some colleagues.

After suffering some hard times and leaving the police force, Renee became friend and apprentice to Vic Sage, the vigilante known as the Question. For months, they traveled together and she gained a new balance in life while increasing her skills as a fighter. She also learned that Vic was dying of cancer. After he passed away, Renee took on his faceless mask and began a career as the new Question.

Since The New 52 relaunch, Montoya has not been seen and it appears the legacy of the Question has been shown to have ancient, mystical roots. Fans remain eager for Montoya to appear in the new continuity.

7- SHATTERSTAR AND RICTOR

First appearing in the pages of X-Factor, an X-Men spin-off, Julio Esteban Richter was a mutant born with the ability to release seismic energy from his body. Taking the name Rictor, he joined the young group known as the New Mutants and later worked with the original X-Force team. There he met Shatterstar, a superhuman warrior from the planet Mojoworld.

Initially, Shatterstar claimed to be emotionally asexual, which was not entirely surprising considering the warrior’s life he’d led on Mojoworld. X-Force writer Jeph Loeb later indicated he had feelings for Rictor and intended to reveal this but then left the series before he could. Years afterward, writer Peter David brought Rictor and Shatterstar into the new X-Factor series and made it official that the two were in love. Shatterstar’s years on Earth had altered his mentality and he had developed the capacity for romantic feelings, leading him to go from being asexual to identifying himself as bisexual and polyamorous.

6 - DANIELLE BAPTISTE

In the universe of Top Cow comics, the Witchblade is a mystical gauntlet of incredible power, passed down through the ages, choosing only women as its host. The most famous Witchblade bearer is cop Sara Pezzini. But when she was focusing on her impeding motherhood, Sara found that she could pass on the Witchblade for a time to a new host: Danielle Baptiste.

An impulsive, fiery woman from New Orleans, Danielle had dreams about the Witchblade and knew that it was part of her fate. Sara eventually got the gauntlet back and Dani became bonded with the Angelus, the female/light/good primal force of the universe, and became instrumental in helping Sara balance the light and darkness of the Witchblade.

5- WICCAN AND HULKLING

When the Avengers disbanded for several months, a new team of teenage heroes rose to fill the void. These Young Avengers included the mystical Wiccan and the super-strong, shape-changing Hulkling.

Wiccan is Billy Kaplan, the eldest of three brothers. Thanks to the weird energies/influence of the Scarlet Witch (a mystical mutant and former Avenger), Billy gained magical abilities. Hulking is Teddy Altman, who learned that he was not human but was actually a hybrid born of two alien parents: Princess Anelle of the Skrulls (green-skinned, shape-shifters) and Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree (human-looking warriors with superior strength and vitality).

In the original Young Avengers series, writer/creator Allan Heinberg intended to reveal that teammates Billy and Teddy were a couple in issue #12. But to his surprise, many fans picked up on the clues of the first two issues and quickly concluded the truth. Recently, the Young Avengers disbanded after a disastrous mission. Months later, Hulkling proposed to Wiccan and, that very night, the two were told that they were now considered official Avengers. This all happened in the pages of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #9, which was the first comic to feature Teddy and Billy sharing a true kiss, nearly seven years after their introduction. As far as what’s next, both characters will feature prominently in the new Marvel NOW! Young Avengers series, debuting in January.

4- KAROLINA DEAN AND XAVIN

Created by Adrian Alphona (Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane) and Brian K. Vaughn (Lost, Y: The Last Man), Karolina Dean (once nicknamed “Lucy in the Sky”) was introduced in the pages ofRunaways as one of several teenagers who discovered that their parents were secretly members of a super-villain group. Kar, a free-spirited vegan pacifist, discovered that her parents were not merely famous Hollywood actors but were also alien invaders of the Majesdanian race. Her heritage meant that she could manipulate and expel solar energy, her natural form was actually luminous and fluid, resembling a person composed of shifting rainbows.

Kar later met a Skrull prince named Xavin who had an arranged marriage with her from years before. Xavin loved Kar and was devoted to her, but she explained that she was attracted to women. Being a Skrull, Xavin was able to shape-shift and decided to solve the problem by becoming a woman. Kar was against this and was bothered that Xavin still took on male form during combat because she/he felt it was more intimidating. But as time passed, Xavin would transform into a female during times of stress or when her body forcibly reverted to its default form. Karolina realized that Xavin mentally and truly identified as a woman now and their relationship truly began to grow.

Sadly, a group of Majesdanians later came to arrest Karolina, holding her responsible for crimes against their race. Rather than let her suffer, Xavin knocked Kar out and then assumed her appearance, allowing herself to be arrested and taken away instead. Recently in the pages of Avengers Academy, Karolina has begun to show the beginnings of a romance with Julie “Lightspeed” Power.

3- MIKAAL TOMAS

There have been several DC Comics heroes who have used the name “Starman” (the first being Ted Knight, co-created by Gardner Fox and Jack Burnley). In the 1970s, a new Starman was introduced who was partially inspired by David Bowie’s famous song. This Starman was a blue-skinned alien armed with a medallion of advanced technology and weaponry. He vanished from comics and was largely forgotten until James Robinson began writing his now-famous Starman comic series starring Jack Knight (son of Ted) and had him encounter the previous Starmen.

Our blue-skinned hero Mikaal Tomas (or Michael Thomas) appeared at first as an amnesiac but eventually recalled his past, revealing adventures against high-tech warriors and romances with exotic alien women. Settling into a new life on Earth, we later discovered he was dating a man named Tony.

When Jack Knight asked him if he were bisexual, Mikaal remarked that his alien biology and upbringing meant he didn’t necessarily conform to human standards of sexuality. Later on, he decided to indeed identify himself as gay.

2- GRAVITY KID AND POWER BOY

In the 31st century of DC Comics, a new age of champions has risen, several of whom serve in the famous interplanetary team the Legion of Super-Heroes. In the LSH, lots of the characters tend to enjoy fun, simple codenames such as Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl, Karate Kid, etc. Along with the main Legion, there’s the Legion of Substitute Heroes (they try, they really do) and the Legion Academy.

The LSH has had gay members before, but recently two students of the Legion Academy have stood out for readers: Jedediah Rikane AKA Power Boy (super-strength and near invulnerability) and Tel Vole AKA Gravity Kid (who, appropriately, manipulates gravity). While Gravity Kid was a promising and very serious student whose actions later made him a pretty clear candidate to become an official Legionnaire, senior student Power Boy was rejected for LSH membership.

Leaving the Academy, Power Boy decided to take a position with the Science Police elsewhere. Rather than continue his own studies, Gravity Kid decided to leave the Academy as well, following Power Boy as a “trailing spouse.” Their commitment to each other as a couple has gained lots of fans.

1- BATWOMAN

The original Batwoman was Kathy Kane, a circus owner and thrill-seeker who seemingly decided to adopt the life of a costumed adventurer for the sheer fun of it (and to get Batman’s attention). She was introduced in 1956 in response to comic book critics who alleged that the Dark Knight was homosexual and that his stories were partly gay propaganda. After a few years of fun misadventures, Kathy Kane largely vanished from comics.

50 years after Kathy first appeared, a new Batwoman debuted in the world of DC Comics. Kate Kane (a relative of Kathy’s) was a woman who had lost her mother and sister to kidnappers when she was a child. Later on, Kate joined the U.S. Army, as her father had before her, but the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy later got her into a situation where she could either come out as a lesbian or allow someone else to be investigated. Kate came out and left the military behind.

A later encounter with the Batman convinced Kate that there was still a way for her skills and training to be useful. With her father as her aid, Kate wages war on Gotham’s criminals as the Batwoman. She has been romantically linked with Renee Montoya and, more recently, with Maggie Sawyer, an old friend of Superman’s. DC’s New 52 reboot didn’t really alter Kate’s history, and she is now the star of her own comic book series.