Posted by: Doc Comics | April 4, 2010

Something GenderQueer about Superheroes

The SNL spoof gets an Alex Ross make-over, but the eternal question remains: Are they or not?

Ever since Dr. Fredrich Wertham insisted on the latent homosexuality of Batman and Robin (along with Wonder Woman and her Amazon sisterhood), queer connotations of gay subtexts have been harder to dispel than any supervillain… but, to be honest, there has been plenty of evidence whether intended or not.  To be more accurate, as some of your readings suggest, there is certainly something GenderQueer about these decidedly unconventional outsiders, vigilantes, aliens, and mutants that the Comics Code neutered as rather chaste and androgynous (banning ANY depiction of homosexuality until 1989).  As allegories for all kinds of social alienation, superheroes from X-Men and Superman have often evoked identification from a variety of readers because these themes of secret identities and hidden traits resonate.

Batwoman returns… with a difference.

The history of homosexual characters in superhero comics is thus predictably fraught with closeted speculation, innuendo, and plenty of homophobia.  When Canadian super-team Alpha Flight‘s resident speedster and fashion model Northstar came out of the closet in 1992, it was a major news story. In a world where AIDS was becoming a frightening epidemic for people still fearful and confused about its causes, Northstar’s “coming out” was intended to aid and inspire those who would be shunned by fear and closed-minded bigotry – both in the comic book world of fantasy and the real world of paranoid homophobia.  Following Wonder Woman, there have also been Sapphic Superheroines that precede the most recent Batwoman.

Debuting in 1963, the X-MEN returned in 1975 with a more diverse multicultural team of mutants… and a new agenda.

With few notable exceptions like the recent Batwoman and The Authority, unfortunately, the comics portrayal of gay characters has been pretty dubious.  Not unlike feminist criticisms of the “Women in Refrigerators” syndrome typical of the exploitative superhero boys club narratives, the “Deaths of Gay Superheroes” have similarly suffered from stereotypical marginalization and violent ugly fates.  Still, progress is being made as well-written characters like Batwoman prove they can sell comics with gender-positive stories that inspire new generations of storytelling… and mainstream X-films.

Apollo & Midnighter from The Authority


  1. […] majority of protagonists, but content of the stories themselves can express sexist, racist & heterosexist beliefs and assumptions. Dragon*con, […]

  2. […] majority of protagonists, but content of the stories themselves can express sexist, racist & heterosexist beliefs and assumptions. Dragon*con, […]

  3. Behold, the 7 most misguided gay characters in comics, and the Most Ridiculous Attempts at Comics Diversity!

  4. Fascinating article I reviewed on a Macho-Femme Latin@ superheroine Citali and the intersections of performance art! Then an article at Bleeding Cool wonders “Is this the first Lesbian fridging in comics?”

  5. “The Complete History of Batman and Robin’s Gay Subtext”

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