Out of the Shadows

Queer Comic Characters Standing Tall

Although LGBTQIA+ representation in comics continues to be lacking, there are some great examples of queer superheroes. What makes these examples so important, and what could better representation accomplish?

Wonder Woman is bisexual [ 1 ]. Alan Scott, the Green Lantern, is gay [ 2 ]. Deadpool is pansexual [ 3 ]. Lord Fanny, from Vertigo’s Invisibles, is transgender [ 4 ]. These revelations have blown the minds of bigoted comic fans for years.

For others, especially members of the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s been a blessing to see these characters coming out of the closet. It’s a feeling of not being alone and useless. To see superheroes, or super-villains, being powerful, strong, and queer is an amazing feeling. It’s almost euphoric to see yourself represented in a powerful way. Deadpool is a perfect example of this. He is a pansexual, mouthy, and violent antihero. He doesn’t follow anyone’s rules, not even his own at times. He is powerful, strong, and scary. He has few limitations when it comes to exacting justice. Being pansexual is just part of who he is, he doesn’t explain or apologize for it.

Small moments that include quiet, tender, and loving scenes are what make the epic battles in comics worth it. We shouldn’t be limited to the same heterosexual couples that we’ve seen time and time again. There are so many misconceptions about the LGBTQIA+ community, and comics can help alleviate them.

Being a visual format, comics have a unique opportunity to show a new way of thinking to the masses. It is important to see big comic names, like Wonder Woman, Deadpool, and Magneto, as queer—and in many cases the actors behind the portrayals of these comic characters in movie adaptations agree. Sir Ian McKellen, as well-known for his activism as he is for his portrayals of geek icons like Magneto and Gandalf, has even come forward to lobby for more LGBTQIA+ representation in superhero films [ 5 ]. The more popular the character, the bigger the audience they can reach and the more minds they can change.

We’ve discussed at length the many concerns regarding representation in media and how seeing characters that are similar to you is important to social and personal identity. Positive representation, such as a bisexual Wonder Woman, play a huge part in the development of positive self-identity for young people.

Even villainous characters, such as Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, can be positive queer icons as long as their queerness is not made to be the source of their evil. In fact, it is arguable that Harley and Poison Ivy are a healthier, more positive relationship than Harley and the Joker [ 6 ]. Where Harley and the Joker’s relationship is abusive and violent, the one between Harley and Ivy is supportive and tender. Harley is truly happy with Ivy and it shows in the drastic change in her personality. She’s still quite insane, but she’s happier and less violent.

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s romance has evolved by leaps and bounds, over the years, from subtext to polyamorous support to inarguable canon.

Not Exactly Forced Down Your Throat

It’s a commonly heard accusation that the presence of queer characters in comics amounts to a politically correct agenda being pushed down the throats of comic book fans. This argument is, quite frankly, bigoted at its core. In truth, nothing is being forced upon anyone. Queer people exist. Queer people have always existed and will continue to exist. So, it only makes sense that members of the LGBTQIA+ community would appear in these fictional universes.

Not every comic book character needs to be in a relationship with someone of a different gender than their own. In fact, not every character needs to be in a relationship at all. Same-sex couples should be allowed to just exist in comics and in real life. LQBTQIA+ people deserve to see themselves portrayed in loving and positive ways. Death and sadness are all too common in queer stories and it is time for happier, more hopeful narratives.

Transgender representation is especially problematic in the realm of comic books. Transgender people exist in real life as well, and we are sadly lacking healthy and positive representation of these people in comics. Often, the transgender hero is shown to have a tragic past or present and to be killed off fairly quickly. Creators need to work harder to write positive trans characters. The tragic backstory is cliché and tired at this point—trans individuals face more than enough tragedy, pain, and struggle in their own lives without having to be bombarded by it constantly in depictions in media like comic books.

To be refreshingly honest, the time has come to stop pretending that the world is overwhelmingly straight, just as it has come time to stop pretending that the world is overwhelmingly white and male. Believe it or not, homosexuality is not new or novel—it has been present, at the very least, throughout the majority of human history, dating back to at least the Hellenistic period [ 7 ]. Ignoring instances of homosexuality in any and all its forms is myopic in the extreme; while in a historical context it’s only recently that LBGTQIA+ people have banded together and organized themselves into a community in order to fight for better, more equitable representation, the presence of queer people needs to be acknowledged.

Yet it has taken the comic book industry literally decades to adapt to the simple truths of human existence. Think about this: the first issue of Marvel Comics was published in 1939. The first canon gay character, Northstar, was created in 1979, however he didn’t come out until 1992 [ 8 ]. That’s a sizable gap, not only in the conception of the Marvel Universe and the first openly gay character, but also in the creation of a character and their coming out.

While it’s understandable that, historically, gay people weren’t able to live their authentic lives because of fear of violence and incarceration, comics have always been a gateway for subcultures, oppressed people, and fringe people to become accepted by the mainstream. Mutants, since the inception of Uncanny X-Men, have been an analog for various movements or illnesses, such as the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s or the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1990s. This is a rare power that comics hold more so than other forms of media.

In recent history, comic and nerd culture has been seen as almost an underground thing. Because of this, that media is able to explore more deviant and controversial topics. Now, comic books are in a unique position to feature LGBTQIA+ characters in dynamic ways. The more a person is exposed to a differing point of view or lifestyle, the more accepting they become and favorite superheroes are an easy way to introduce people to alternate lines of thinking. This is also a positive thing for children of all identities. Childhood and adolescence are confusing enough without the added stress of questioning one’s sexuality, but if they see queer characters treated fairly and lovingly, they will be more likely to have a positive self-image. In other words, LGBTQIA+ characters are good for everyone.

The Deep Roots of Homophobia

This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years to change popular opinion and it’s often met with resistance. You can easily see this resistance any time a gay character is introduced. Statements like, “This is PC culture gone mad,” or “SJWs are at it again,” or “I’m sick of all these superheroes being queer,” are said and believed. These thoughts aren’t limited to the sexuality of characters, but also include race and gender as well.

Of course, it is rather noteworthy that the language detractors use when it comes to being exposed to a more diverse comics universe connote the type of violent, toxic masculinity that often accompanies homophobia. Having something “forced down your throat” implies the kinds of sexual assault that are habitually performed by men in positions of systematic power. The desire to not be violated in the same way that so many men have been violating those weaker than them for millennia indicates a fear that, if the tables were turned and the balance of power shifts away from patriarchy, the straight white male will get what’s coming to him in the form of some sort of righteous subjugation. The truth is, of course, that while there’s plenty of poetic justice in such a fantastical idea, it’s just that—fantasy.

Assuming that the queer community is gunning to destroy straight, white-male culture is patently absurd. Reacting to increased diversity with hate and vitriol is hurtful and uncalled for. Whenever an LGBTQIA+ character is introduced the backlash is almost immediate. The queer community is one of the most under-represented groups in media. Having a gay character isn’t “PC culture gone mad,” it’s a more realistic reflection of life. Negative reactions to LGBTQIA+ characters lead queer people, especially young people, to believe that their identity is something to be ashamed of. It’s not. Shame should come from being closed minded and bigoted, not from loving people.

A good example of this is Wonder Woman and the Amazons of Themyscira. They live on an island with no men—of course the ladies are bisexual and/or lesbians. They aren’t nuns. They aren’t repressed Puritans. Having Diana Prince as bisexual is a beautiful, powerful image. She is strong and is not defined by her relationships. Not to mention that Wonder Woman is one of the most popular and recognizable comic characters, both within the realm of DC and universally. Having her in the forefront and being bisexual is such an important moment for all people who identify as bi or lesbian. It adds a dimension to her character without taking anything away. Diana and the rest of the Amazons being queer isn’t forced diversity. It is a realistic aspect of the culture of Themyscira. The reaction to Diana Prince being bisexual was immediate and almost all positive. There were some anti-queer sentiments, but for the most part people accepted that when living on an island of all women, heterosexuality would be an unfamiliar concept.

Another well-publicized example is Deadpool’s pansexuality. This isn’t news, it’s simply a fact about the character. In the 2016 movie, his pansexuality is hinted at during the closing credits. Deadpool frequently breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly. He is seen, in animated form, making comments about the attractiveness of various actors in the movie, calling Ed Skrein, the actor portraying Ajax in the film, the hottest.

Even though Deadpool has yet to be seen with a boyfriend, we shouldn’t discount his sexuality. Many people who identify as bi/pansexual haven’t had same-sex relationships or have only had same-sex relationships and still acknowledge their attraction to different genders. Most people just accepted Deadpool’s pansexuality as a quirk of his character. I mean, Deadpool has had a relationship with the personification of death, who we can all agree doesn’t have a gender so much as simply takes the image of a human [ 9 ]. Never mind that poor Wade eventually ended up blocked from courting Death thanks to the machinations of the ever-jealous Thanos—if he and Death can be an item, why would it be so odd if he fell in love with a man?

The polycule between Deadpool, Mistress Death and Thanos in Marvel’s 616 Universe is … surely one of the most surreal instances of poly and pan-sexual representation.

These are just two examples of adding realism to an otherwise fantastical genre. Relationships, sexuality, and race are diverse and complicated in real life, so why can’t they be in comics? We need Wonder Woman and Deadpool and all the other LGBTQIA+ characters to take starring roles in comics so we can see a broader range of people. There is something wonderful about seeing a diverse and respected cast of characters come together and save the world and each other. It’s so boring when everything is straight, white, and male.

Diversity is what makes this world so weird and wonderful. How monotonous it would be to be around the same kinds of people all the time? We read comics about people who can fly, have heat vision, super strength, or regenerative abilities that make axolotls jealous, but somehow, queer characters are still seen as pushing the limits.


  1. “Harley Quinn and Poison Ivey’s romance has evolved by leaps and bounds, over the years, from subtext to polyamorous support to inarguable canon.”
    Source: Zdarsky, C., Rosenberg, M., Benjamin, R., Barrows, E., Lucas, A., Fabela, A., Carey, B., & Temofonte, S. (2021). Batman: Urban legends (Vol. 1). DC Comics. 
  2. “The polycule between Deadpool, Mistress Death and Thanos in Marvel’s 616 Universe is … surely one of the most surreal instances of poly and pan-sexual representation.” Source: Seeley, T., Bondoc, E., & Redmond, R. (2018). Deadpool vs. Thanos: And A fistful of firsts. Marvel Worldwide, Inc., a subsidary of Marvel Entertainment, LLC. 

Courtney is a writer, editor and videographer for Steam-Funk Studios. Passionate for fashion design with nerdy flair, her family has always nurtured her love for speculative fiction and creativity. Joining the firm as a writer, Courtney’s distinguished herself as editorial staff and as a production assistant for The Living Multiverse’s photography shoots. She has also participated in and acted as assistant troupe manager for our performers and panelists, at shows like C.O.G.S. Expo and PhilCon.


  1. Abrams, Sean. “Wonder Woman Is Bisexual, DC Comics Confirms.” Maxim, Maxim Media, 29 Sept. 2016, maxim.com/entertainment/dc-comics-wonder-woman-bisexual-2016-9.
  2. Pao, Michael. “Alan Scott Is Gay, and Other Gender and Race Changes in DC.” Nerd Reactor, Nerd Reactor, 1 June 2012, nerdreactor.com/2012/06/01/alan-scott-is-gay-and-other-gender-and-race-changes-in-dc/.
  3. Setoodeh, Ramin. “Ryan Reynolds Is Open to Finding a Boyfriend for Deadpool.” Variety, Variety Media, LLC, 3 Jan. 2017, variety.com/2017/film/news/ryan-reynolds-deadpool-boyfriend-pansexual-1201951471/.
  4. WSAPOLLO. “Lord Fanny (Character).” Comic Vine, Gamespot, 7 Nov. 2020, comicvine.gamespot.com/lord-fanny/4005-24233/.
  5. Glass, Joe. “Magneto Himself Calls for More LGBT Representation in Superhero Films.” Bleeding Cool News and Rumors, Bleeding Cool, 23 June 2017, bleedingcool.com/movies/magneto-calls-lgbt-representation-superhero-films/.
  6. Calamia, Kat. “The Importance of Harley and Ivy’s Queer Animated Romance.” DC Comics, Warner Bros., 11 Aug. 2020, https://www.dccomics.com/blog/2020/08/11/the-importance-of-harley-and-ivys-queer-animated-romance.
  7. Lendering, Jona. “Greek Homosexuality – Livius.” Livius.org, Livius.org, 2005, livius.org/articles/concept/greek-homosexuality/.
  8. Andersen, Brian. “Why Queer Characters in Comic Books Matter.” Advocate, Pride Publishing Inc., 22 Sept. 2016, advocate.com/commentary/2016/9/22/why-queer-characters-comic-books-matter.
  9. Casey, Dan. “The Deadpool-Thanos-Death Connection: Marvel’s Weirdest Love Triangle.” Nerdist, Nerdist, 16 Feb. 2016, nerdist.com/the-dan-cave-deadpool-thanos-death-love-triangle-marvel-explained/.