Comic book stories are in many ways a reflection of the world we live in, sometimes holding a mirror to prevalent societal issues, with superheroes and villains acting as metaphors of our fears and desires.
Considering the impact and reach of comic books, the inclusion of LGBT characters — as well as the promotion of equality — is crucial. In 2012, Marvel set new ground in Astonishing X-Men #51, when they included the gay marriage of superhero Northstar, and his long time partner Kyle Jinadu.
Northstar, also known as Jean-Paul Beaubier, was also one of the first openly gay comic book characters, having been confirmed as homosexual by Marvel back in 1992. His character has been used as a personification of the struggle against bigotry; not only facing challenges due to his mutant nature, but also his sexuality.
The narrative of his wedding itself didn't sugar coat same-sex marriage, with Warbird in particular commenting that she doesn't believe in the union. Speaking at the time of the comics release, writer Marjorie Liu said:
"Here are two people, trying to live their lives – mutant and gay, black and gay – empowered in their own ways, but also fringe-dwellers. And they're making it happen. They're living life on their own terms. It doesn't matter that it's a superhero comic, the message is: You can do the same thing."
And it's the final sentence that highlights the importance of such storylines; superheroes are the ultimate role models, and to have positive LGBT role models can act as an inspiration for readers.
A Controversial Cancellation At DC Comics
However, over at DC, things haven't been plain sailing. In 2013 the comic book publisher was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, after news emerged that they'd vetoed the marriage of Batwoman/Kate Kane and her girlfriend Maggie in the Batwoman comic series.
The fallout was significant, resulting in the resignation of two crucial members of the creative team, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. The decision by top dogs at DC to prevent the marriage making it to the panel was even more perplexing considering the couple had been clearly depicted in a relationship before that controversial decision.
The First Transgender Marriage In Mainstream Comics
Fortunately, last year DC illustrated a change in approach. In Batgirl #45, Barbara Gordon's best friend and former housemate, Alysia Yeoh married her long time partner Jo. Even more impressive is the fact that Alysia was also the first major transgender comic book character, making this the first transgender marriage in mainstream comics.
Co-writer Brenden Fletcher explained that this wasn't a storyline written just to fulfil a quota, it was much more a natural progression of the characters. In an interview with MTV, he said:
"We’re just looking at what the best story is for the characters and just trying to push forward with that. We just have to try to do what it is we want to do and in our case, Editorial has been so, so, so supportive. It’s a fantastic experience."
With such an impact on popular culture, it's refreshing to see the likes of DC and Marvel setting a strong tone of acceptance. What Fletcher says is also relevant. The key is that, just as in real life, the wealth of characters are able to express themselves creatively, regardless of gender, sexuality or race. Long may it continue.
While we haven't seen a same-sex romance in superhero movies yet, there are still some budding bromances. Check out the clip from X-Men: First Class (2011) below: