I'm a writer and blogger who's been focused on analyzing representation of LGBT and disabled folks in superhero, sci-fi, and fantasy media since 2014.
LGBT characters are finding more and more space in comics these days and our very own Shannen Murphy is here to break down the rising opportunities and the way things are being handles by the big two comics publishers.
Are Marvel And DC In A Gay Arms Race?
It’s a good day to be a gay Marvel or DC fan.
I know, I know, how often do we get to say that?
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Neither company has the best track record for representation, and small presses and self-published work are far outstripping them still, but I like to take the victories where I can.
In January, Marguerite Bennet of the super queer-friendly DC Bombshells will launch an ongoing Batwoman solo comic, making Kate Kane the only LGBT female character from Marvel or DC with an ongoing solo series. For a few months, she will be the only LGBT character from either company with that distinction. However, Marvel is launching two series, one focused around America Chavez, dimension-punching lesbian and former Young Avenger, and one focused on Iceman as part of the ResurrXion line of X-Men comics.
Besides this, DC is launching a new Justice League of America title helmed by Steve Orlando (of Midnighter and Midnighter & Apollo) and featuring gay character The Ray in a founding role as part of a Justice League that “looks like America.”
Currently, DC maintains an edge here, with its flagship LGBT titles being helmed by non-straight writers — Orlando identifies as bisexual, and Bennet as queer. Bennet previously wrote for Marvel’s Angela: Queen of Hel, and her work regularly includes WLW (women-loving-women, in community parlance) and trans women, both in Angela and Bombshells.
Marvel has yet to release the identities of the creative teams working on Iceman and America, but given the general lack of LGBT comics talent working over at Marvel, I don’t personally have a lot of confidence that Marvel will deliver similar queer talent behind its queer character books.
Nevertheless, representation is representation. Good or bad as it may be, it exists, and that’s better than silence.
However, this deluge of announcements regarding upcoming LGBT character focus, along with DC recently elevating outstanding bisexual Sara Lance to team leader on Legends of Tomorrow on TV and introducing lesbian character Maggie Sawyer to Supergirl on TV as well, seems interestingly connected, when you look at it in terms of timelines.
First, on 10/03/2016, DC announced the roster for JLA, prominently including the Ray. Then, on 10/06/2016, the first day of NYCC 2016, DC announced Bennett’s upcoming Batwoman. The next day, 10/07/2016, Marvel announced America. Ten days after that, on 10/17/2016, Marvel announced Iceman as part of a week of announcements regarding upcoming ResurreXion titles.
We’ve also known for months that Maggie Sawyer would be introduced to the Supergirl TV show, and she appeared for the first time in the season’s third episode, flirting with Supergirl’s foster sister Alex and mentioning an alien ex who tends bar at an alien drinking establishment. Sara’s elevation to Legends team leader came in that same week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow.
Now, to return to the question: is it a gay ‘arms race’ of sorts between the Big Two?
While the existence of the comics themselves has to predate the announcements by at least a few months, and announcing new comics during big cons like NYCC and SDCC isn’t in itself unusual, the sheer amount of these announcements and their timing makes it at least a little bit suspect.
But man, in terms of ‘arms races,’ this one is one I can get behind. Gay fans — as well as any other members of the LGBT community with an interest in comics — live in an unprecedented period in comics history. For the first time, not only are we being represented, we’re being represented well in multiple titles and multiple media.
Obviously, the comics industry — and Marvel and DC — are far from perfect. DC has yet to introduce any major transgender heroes, with their highest profile trans character being Alysia Yeoh, and neither has Marvel, with their most high profile trans character being Sera from Angela of Asgard. Not to discount these characters — the fact that they exist at all is an important stepping stone. However, we need more. We have fairly mainstream gay superheroes now — so why not a mainstream trans hero?
But seeing this spurt of announcements gives me a lot of hope for future LGBT content from the Big Two, and I look forward to seeing if either company plans on upping the ante in the coming months.
Shannen Murphy is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow her on Twitter: @m_leigh_media