Superheroes! There. Now that your attention has been gathered, I have a message for you. A happily growing number of them are LGBT.
Superheroes and villains alike have been rising and rising in popularity over the past few decades. No longer are comic books, cartoons, and superhero movies considered strictly “nerdy”. in fact, they are almost quite the opposite now. Marvel continues to shatter box office records with each new film release. Even people who don’t really associate themselves with the Marvel or DC universes can name at minimum, ten characters at the drop of a hat. Now that these characters are at the forefront of pop culture, it is the perfect time to take a bit more of an in depth view in to what these characters mean, in and outside of their respective series.
These characters have always been near and dear to my heart from a young age. Waking up early to sit entirely too close to the TV watching X-Men, Batman, and Spider-Man are memories so vivid they’re like flashbulbs. They have been a constant in my life and I truly believe that has shaped who I have become.
It’s fairly common knowledge that X-Men fans acknowledge the lives of mutants in the X-men stories, and it’s parallel with the gay rights movement. Mutants need to hide their powers for risk of outing themselves. Some parents sent their kids away to Professor X’s boarding school. Then the “mass outing” happens, and the public is drastically split on their view of mutants. Some basically want a mutant genocide, while the other welcomes them. The statement “Mutant and proud” meant so much to a young gay me watching the cartoon. It finally clicked why I held these outcasts so near and dear to my heart. I was just like them. I might not have had superpowers but I definitely had to hide my true self.
Fast forward to me discovering all the LGBT superheroes I would come to love. Some notable mentions are Daken (Wolverine’s son), Northstar (who made Marvel history by having the first gay wedding to his human husband Kyle), to everyone’s favorite pansexual lunatic, Deadpool. These and so many other superheroes and villains would lead me to falling even deeper into the comic book spiral.
First discovering the parallels of gay rights in my favorite series, and then discovering those same characters also being LGBT made me realize intersectionality before I even knew what intersectionality was. While the mutants themselves were being ostracized for simply existing, those LGBT characters knew that harsh reality even before the mutant reveal. Sure, someone like Wolverine might be able to easily hide his mutant status just like his claws, but what about characters like Storm, who can’t hide the fact that she is also a black woman? Or Professor X, who cannot hide his disability? Or someone like Blob who can’t hide his physical appearance? The nuances in storytelling are as beautiful as they are subtle.
The widespread love that the public has shown for the Deadpool films gives me hope that they’ll be accepting of other LGBT characters getting their own films. The lack of Deadpool’s pansexuality identity (so far) in the films is in and of itself disheartening and an entirely different conversation, but hopefully it will “pan” out well in the long run.
Ian McKellen himself stated in an interview to Buzzfeed that he specifically took the role of Magneto in the 2000 film because he himself as a gay man identified with the film’s message. Magneto, along with being a mutant, is also a Jewish man. The facets of these characters are just as brilliant as the readers who devour their stories.
We’ll be digging deeper into the topic of LGBT characters in superhero media. This includes the tropes they subvert, the impacts they make, and why they’re so incredibly important. The next article will focus on a frosty gay X-Man that caused quite a scandal when his sexual identity was announced.
Dan (who plays Yardak on Masks and Mayhem) is an opinionated horror movie buff with a associate degree in social science. His interests range from arguing on the internet with strangers about pointless topics, to where to find the best burrito in town and what wine pairs best with it.