There’s more LGBTQ+ representation in comics now than ever before. And we’re not just talking about the patronising token gay best friend.
Queer characters have been taking center stage in comics for awhile now, many of whom are household names, such as X-Men’s Iceman and Justice League’s Wonder Woman.
Open, authentic representations of queer characters is an important act of empowerment for queer people whose stories and experiences have long been marginalised.
For years LGBTQ+ superheroes have been coming out on the pages of Marvel and DC comics but few have made it beyond onto mainstream screens without a decent amount of straightwashing.
While Marvel’s Netflix series have made some strides, like with Jessica Jones’ Jeri Hogarth, or with Hulu’s Runaways’ queer couple – Nico and Karolina (which was a surprisingly nuanced representation), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has only churned out the one-and-only queer character who was part of Steve Rogers’ support group. Urgh.
By contrast, DC has made surprising headway with plenty of queer characters soaring onto DC TV and their animated series, including Arrow’s Sarah Lance, Doom Patrol’s Negative Man and the wholesome duo, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. DC movies, on the other hand, are sadly as dated as the Marvel movies.
Now that Marvel has confirmed Eternals will feature MCU’s first LGBTQ+ relationship, we can only hope that this is just the beginning of more queer superheroes making the jump to film.
In celebration of Pride month, let’s take a look at six LGBTQ+ representation in comics that we’d love to see on screen!
Tessa Thompson has taken to Twitter to confirm that like the comics, her Thor: Ragnarok character Valkyrie is bisexual. But it was later revealed that a scene, which would have made her sexual orientation explicit, was cut from the movie.
Even without explicitly showing, it was obvious that Valkyrie radiated strong bisexual vibes. That scene where she loads a crotch cannon still gets me all flustered and bothered!
In a poignant flashback where Hela was attacking the Valkyries, Thompson’s character watched one of her Valkyrie sisters jump in front to save her from a deathblow. If you followed the narrative cues, you’d know that it was her lover who’d taken the fall in Valkyrie’s place. The pain of losing her lover is further reflected in Valkyrie’s drunken and sorrowful state. Valkyrie’s bisexual markers are there, just buried in subtext. Thompson even clarified in an interview that the sister who was slain was indeed her character’s lover.
Perhaps in large part thanks to the real-life queer icon’s sincere interest in portraying Valkyrie’s bisexuality, Thompson and MCU director Kevin Feige eventually confirmed that in the upcoming Thor movie, Valkyrie will have an explicitly queer storyline, making Valkyrie the first openly LGBTQ+ superhero in the MCU.
Loki’s Disney+ series starring Tom Hiddleston is debuting soon in June and we can barely contain our excitement. There’s a big chance that Loki could be the first genderfluid and bisexual (possibly pansexual) character in the MCU!
Given his shapeshifting powers, Loki can take on many different forms, including genders, and has shown interest in different beings. But despite Loki’s complex representation in the comics, his MCU counterpart is much less nuanced–in fact, other than his boatload of daddy issues, MCU Loki is pretty much sexless.
Since Marvel is a lot more inclined to fully flesh out queer characters in their TV series, we’re hoping that Loki’s full range of fluid preferences – both in gender and sexuality – will finally be explored in the Disney+ series.
When writer Greg Rucka confirmed that Wonder Woman is canonically queer back in 2016, many speculated and awaited an explicit reveal of the bisexual/queer icon on the big screen. It’s disappointing to say that in both movies, Diana is portrayed as painfully heteronormative, indicated by her relationship with Steve Trevor, with little to no hints at her bisexuality.
It seemed a wasted opportunity that no room was made for a non-heteronormative storyline despite having the perfect set up of a women-only island of Themyscira. And frankly unrealistic since the island already screamed queer subtext.
I don’t think a film necessarily needs to interrupt the narrative to bring queer representation to the forefront, but with Hollywood’s long history of presenting same-sex relationships as subtext or blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, it’s about time that one of our biggest queer icons takes center stage without being straightwashed.
Wiccan and Hulkling
WandaVision introduced Billy, who (kinda) becomes Wiccan – a canonically gay superhero. In the comics, Billy falls in love with and marries Teddy Altman a.k.a. Hulkling, a queer Kree-Skrull hybrid superhero and son of the original Captain Marvel, the Kree Mar-Vell.
One of the best, realistic portrayals of queer relationships in comics, the LGBTQ+ community has followed Wiccan and Hulkling’s enduring romance throughout the years–from the early flirty days of Young Avengers (2005) to their seemingly endless engagement and long-awaited marriage in Empyre (2020).
We already know that Marvel is assembling what looks like a new generation of Young Avengers for Phase 4, with new additions like Kate Bishop (Hawkeye), Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), Cassie Lang (Stature), Eli Bradley (Patriot) and America Chavez (Ms America). If we add Wiccan and Hulkling to the pile, that makes seven Young Avengers in the MCU!
Looks like all that’s left is for us to further speculate how Hulkling will be joining the team on screen – whether it’s on future seasons of WandaVision or Captain Marvel movie sequels, only time will tell.
Deadpool 2 isn’t short on queer representation. The movie has two lesbian characters, it openly condemns gay conversion therapy and even has Deadpool unabashedly showing his pansexual proclivities.
But aside from the obvious disproval of aggressive conversion therapy, queer representation in Deadpool 2 is disappointingly ambiguous and superficial. For one, the lesbian dialogue began and ended with the introduction of Yukio as Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s girlfriend – there wasn’t anything else indicative of their lesbian relationship beyond that. It’s a win for the first gay superhero representation on film, but it’s also a weak one.
The other thing is that despite Deadpool’s interest in Colossus, his come-ons have mostly been made under the guise of his own wacky brand of humour. Ambiguity rears its head once again, as fans could read these signs of affections as proof of Deadpool’s pansexuality, or they could simply write them off as jokes.
Is it too much to ask for a pansexual on-screen Deadpool that is as unsubtle and direct as his comic book counterpart?
Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn
When Sucide Squad’s spin-off film, Gotham City Sirens, was confirmed in 2016, I had to check my excitement at the door. After all, up until then we hadn’t seen any LGBTQ + superheroes in DC movies. I didn’t see the possibility of Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn’s relationship appearing on the big screen, and was resigned to reliving it in the comics.
But Harley Quinn’s animated series took me by surprise, revealing a wonderful, wholesome narrative that explored their gradual friends-to-lovers relationship. It was something that the comics haven’t been able to fully flesh out, and sets the animated series apart as a great example for all mediums to follow.
Now with confirmation of Harley Quinn’s bisexuality in Birds of Prey’s animated opening, there’s a good chance we’re going to see a healthy Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy romance in Gotham City Sirens.
And if you’re looking for representation away from the usual superhero fare… Support LGBTQ+ comics at Pink Fest SG 2021
Held in conjunction with Pride Month, Pink Fest 2021 returns to introduce businesses and brands in Singapore that are committed to inclusion. This year’s festival line-up includes over 60 activities held between 1 to 30 June.
We’re releasing a limited 8 page PinkFest print run of Scalemail & Ixora the Flower Knight. Initially featured in our Kickstarter comic SingaHeroes, this will be Scalemail & Ixora’s first published adventure!
Empowered by a mystical being, Eric and Hallie transform into the super-powered Scalemail & Ixora, using their abilities to battle bullies and bigotry, to protect the oppressed!
Based on the pangolin and ixora flower, this LGBTQ+ superhero duo embark on a lifelong adventure, constantly at odds with each other while sharing the most important belief: that equality means protecting all.