In honor of openly gay and openly badass superhero Midnighter getting his own series this month — which just so happens to coincide with LGBT Pride Month — DC Comics takes a look at how it came out of the closet, capes blazing.
Upon establishment of the Comics Code Authority in 1954, queer characters were all but invisible for thirty years within the pages of DC. Then along came Extraño, a controversial Hispanic magician, who first appeared in 1988.
Basically Liberace in tights, Extraño was most (in)famously bitten by an "AIDS vampire" called Hemo-Goblin. Extraño was later confirmed HIV-positive though it was unclear if that was a result from tussling with Hemo-Goblin or from prior exposure.
So DC wasn't off to the greatest start. But as The Advocate's Jase Peeples puts it, "one could argue that because it was forbidden for the character to be openly gay, the only way for a writer to convey that a character's sexuality was anything other than straight was for him to fit into stereotypes that readers could understand." No matter how broad or offensive those stereotypes were.
DC continued to make strides, however, introducing a number of minor and supporting characters, then in 1991 Pied-Piper became the first openly gay DC villain.
Born deaf — and by the looks of it, color-blind — Pied Piper received special implants which allowed him to hear, making him obsessed with sound. He invents a hypnotic flute and becomes a nemesis of The Flash, though he eventually retires from crime — joking that he had ironically "gone straight."
Then in 1998, DC featured its first same-sex kiss, between Mikaal Thomas aka Starman and his boyfriend Tony.
Starman is also notable for being the first openly gay alien in DC — though I've always had my doubts about Clark "Don't Call Me 'Kal-El' Kent. Anygay, Starman and Tony were together for 12 years in the DC universe — a lifetime in the gay universe — until Tony's death.
In 2006, Batwoman came out as a lesbian, making her the most high profile gay superhero in the DC canon to date. In 2011, she also became the first lesbian superhero to headline a mainstream comic series and a year and a half later, she got engaged to her longtime girlfriend Maggie Sawyer.
However, the writers of the Batwoman series, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, quit the comic shortly thereafter, citing DC's apparent refusal to allow a same-sex wedding among other last minute editorial demands. DC then attempted to make amends by hiring an openly gay writer to take over the series.
Around this time, DC introduced an alternate, gay version of Alan Scott, aka Green Lantern, in Earth 2.
The death of Scott's boyfriend Sam in a train accident precipitated his transformation into Green Lantern and Scott used the ring he had proposed to Sam with to harness his powers.
DC continued to introduce lesbian, gay, bisexual and finally a transgender character, Batgirl's roommate Alysia Yeoh.
Earlier this year, Catwoman came out as bisexual and this month Midnighter becomes the first gay male superhero to headline his own comic. But don't call it a comeback, he's been queer for years.
Related | Catwoman's Queer Appeal
Midnight made his first appearance in 1998, starring in his own short-lived series in 2006-2008, all the while involved with fellow super Apollo. The two married in 2002 in the first same-sex wedding in manistream comics and subsequently adopted a superpowered kid, Jenny Quantum.
But this new Midnighter is single and ready to mingle. According to writer Steve Orlando:
He hooks up with a guy, and is shocked to find out that he’s not frightened by the fact that he’s Midnighter. The fact that these things in his Grindr profile are not jokes. He is a crazed vigilante with a heart of gold and he’s shocked that’s OK, but this person says to him, “Dude, there’s a Superman and there’s a Justice League. It’s not that weird. It’s actually kind of hot.”
Agreed. Check out more of the queerstory behind DC Comics in the vid below:
Les Fabian Brathwaite — man in tights.