Past, Present and Future of LGBTQ Characters in Comics (Part 2)
by Christoph Staffl
In the first part of this article, we talked about representation in comics. What do we (or in this case I) want from a comic with characters from the LGBTQ+ community? I gave you a list of characters and series I enjoy reading myself. Now that we have taken stock, let us talk about what comes next.
With a clearer image in mind of what already exists, it is time to make a wish list (just in time for Christmas!). If you have anything to add to either of the lists, please let me know.
There are basically two ways to increase diversity in comics: either the creators and publishers introduce new characters or they re-imagine established characters with attributes the readers might want to see. Both ways have their pros and cons.
Creating new characters and stories seems to be easier in the independent market. Image, Boom, Aftershock, and many many more introduce new series almost every week. Some of them stick around, some don’t. It is up to us readers to decide if we want those worlds in our comic book shops or not. And everyone starts with the same chances (more or less). The downside is that it can be too much. Just keeping up with current issues and my weekly pull list can be hard at times.
The Big Two, more or less, have their fixed sets of characters. Lesser known ones, like Apollo and Midnighter, might get a mini-series every couple of years, but other than that, there seems to be not much wiggle room. That said, DC (after their Dark Nights Metal event) released a bunch of new books, with fresh faces. Marvel, on the other hand, gave Domino and the Exiles great solo series. Some of them seem to sell well. However, sometimes they try new things and then those characters fade away. For example, what happened to Bunker from Teen Titans a couple years ago? I was excited to have a gay guy on the team. Where is he now?
Regarding the Big Two, another technique might do better: transforming established characters. If a character has a rich history, the reaction of fans can be a bit, let’s say, emotional, regarding specific changes. I can relate to that. Still, you also have to consider that some of those characters were created 80 years ago. It was literally a different time. To modernize some aspects can be an appropriate way to amp up the diversity and representation.
The Wish List
And just like that, we arrive at the second list: this time with comments. Have fun!
- Nightwing, Damian, and Tim (DC Universe)
Yes, that’s right, I want all three of them to walk out of that cave uh closet together. Not in a dirty way, that’s for writers of fanfiction to figure out. Besides, DC now has its own bat-dick swinging Dark Label for these kinds of stories. All joking aside, don’t you think that would be perfect: a trifecta of gay Robins. Fighting in their rainbow-onesies. And not all of them would have to be gay. I see Tim and Nightwing more as bisexual. DC, make it happen.
- Jake (The Beyonders)
This new series from Aftershock was so promising, and then our protagonist falls in love with a woman or at least has a crush on her. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a fantastic series, and I enjoy reading it. Still, wouldn’t it be better if Jake would come out?
- Miles Morales (Spider-Man)
A gay half-black half-latinx Spider-Man sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? Miles is still young, he can slowly figure out that he is more interested in men than women. Your turn, Marvel.
- Fantastic Four (Marvel)
No, I am not suggesting that the four main members come out. However, Sue and Reed have kids. They can be all kinds of things. Building a diverse, rainbow-colored foundation for future generations of comic book fans. Make use of the whole LGBTQ+ alphabet, and show the world that you are not afraid of change.
- Superman (DC Earth One)
DC and Marvel both have a vast multiverse. Earth One by DC is just the first that comes to mind because they slowly build a new mythology and narrative with various graphic novels. Why not change the sex, skin color, or sexual orientation of their most celebrated characters?
- Independent comics in general
I just want to point out how important and exciting it is, to figure out all about our protagonists as we follow them through their world. Especially when reading new comics, I want to be surprised, intrigued, and drawn in. Give me the whole spectrum of the rainbow and more.
These are only a few of the various options publishers have. Every example represents a possible way for them to introduce more diversity into their line-up without changing much. That is all I am asking for: progress, not perfection. There is no such thing as perfection, and every person has a different mindset and therefore a different picture in mind when thinking about the future of comic books.
I am thrilled to have independent publishers who are introducing so many great new series every month. As I said in my article about my favorite LGBTQ+ themed TV shows, it is boring only having straight, white couples in our stories. And I didn’t even mention WebComics yet, which are a whole other universe to explore.
Where does that leave us?
Be conscious of your decisions. Talk about the things you want to in upcoming comics. Talk to the people in your local comic shops, to your friends and co-workers. Annoy your family at dinner. Write your very own, way too long article, about your version of the future of LGBTQ+ characters in comics. Do your research and find more such comics from the past and present. Buy them. Show the publishers they already did some things right, and tell them you want more of that. Do anything. Just don’t be silent.
Thanks for reading!
Featured Image by Steve Johnson on Unsplash