Which comic book characters are secretly gay? This has been a favorite topic of gay comic book fans since long before there was an internet to speculate endlessly about such matters. As a young comic book reader, specifically of DC and Marvel books, I looked for any subtle clues as a gay youth that one of my heroes was like me. And by “like me” I didn’t mean 12 years old and Hispanic, I meant “also likes dick”. Speaking of Dick, let’s get started.
Robin was my first guess. He’s a lot of people’s first guess (my Robin was Dick Grayson and not Jason todd or Tim Drake – just to get my age out of the way here). He’s got a lot of pretty loud warning signs going on here. The loudest one, though, other than following around a father figure in close to nothing, was his outfit. He had that flamboyantly colored outfit.
Gay Evidence (Gayvidence? Is that too gay/cheesy?…meh…) Gayvidence:
- the little green shorts
- the easy-slip-off (matching) green booties
- and, apparently, shaved legs.
Plus his name was Dick, for fuck’s sake. Dick. DICK.
Soon enough, though, he was butched up to the hetero masses.
- First by giving him a hot alien girlfriend with enormous tits named Starfire.
- Then they made him less faggy-looking as Nightwing
So much for Dick.
My next suspect was Colossus from X-Men.
- Big, buff, and shiny.
- He also kind of wore giant hooker boots back in the day.
- Costume issues aside, he also refused to get intimate with Kitty Pryde, citing her age as being an issue. Sounded like someone was tryin’ to make excuses to me. I mean, I’ve learned from Dateline NBC that straight men totally love 14 year old girls. Right???
Anyhoo, eventually Colossus hooked up with several other women, and that was that…but how butch were they?…hmmm….
#3 THE HUMAN TORCH
Then of course there is always Johnny Storm, AKA the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four.
- He always had a revolving door of girlfriends, but it just seemed like he was overcompensating for something.
- None of the girls lasted very long.
- His damn catchphrase is “Flame On!”
But as it turns out, Johnny eventually married. So I guess he really was straight after all, just like every overcompensating man that gets married…oh wait…hmmm….
So most of the heroes that I was hoping would turn out to be as queer as a three dollar bill either didn’t work out or the jury is still out on them. That doesn’t mean that beings in the Marvel and DC Universes can’t be secretly gay. In fact, there is actually strong evidence that some long-standing characters might be legitimately among the crowd who like to have some sausage for breakfast. Some almost even came out of the closet. So, since we’re not measuring these heroes’ gayness (cause that is such a straight thing to do), let’s start with the Golden Age of Comics, and work our way towards the present…
GAY HEROES THROUGH THE AGES!!!
#1 DOCTOR MID-NITE
You think Marvel’s Daredevil was the world’s first blind super hero? Nope! That particular honor goes to DC’s Golden Age “Mystery Man” Doctor Mid-Nite. First created in 1941, Dr. Charles McNider was a physician who was blinded during an assassination attempt on a mob informant he was treating. Discovering that although he was blind in daylight, he had 20/20 vision in complete darkness. When an owl flew into his window one night, he decided to fight crime and injustice as Dr. Mid-Nite. Yeah, I know, sounds kind of familiar; but, unlike Batman, good ol’ Doc Mid-Nite was never more than a back-up hero in the anthology books of the day.
- Unlike almost all hero types from that era, Dr. McNider never had any kind of real female love interest to speak of. All he had was his nurse and personal assistant Myra Mason, who seemed to have an unrequited crush on our hero (in other words, she was his Fag Hag).
Note: That alone isn’t all that incriminating, but when the other Golden Age characters were revived in later decades, they were all shown to have married, and in many cases, married and had super powered children of their own. Not Dr. Mid-Nite, though. He apparently remained a “confirmed bachelor” throughout his life. Sure, so was Bruce Wayne, but he was a notorious poon-hound even back in the day; with a revolving door of women folk coming through Wayne Manor on the daily. One might start to have questions about the good doctor, though…
- In 1999, gay comics-writer Andy Mangels proposed a story for DC’s anthology title Legends of the DC Universe. In this story, an old lover of Dr. McNider’s, now living in a retirement home, would come forward with the story of their “love that dare not speak its name”, finally revealing once and for all that Doctor Mid-Nite was, in fact, deep in the closet back during the Golden Age. Hey, at least he could see in that closet!
DC editorial nixed the idea, for reasons unknown. While it was one thing to create new gay characters for the comics medium, something DC was pretty good at doing, maybe they weren’t ready to out one of their original characters just yet – even if it was one that no one really cared about like Doctor Mid-Nite.
#2 ELEMENT LAD: A STORY OF CHANGE
In their fifty year history, no super team has had as vocal a queer following as the Legion of Super Heroes. One can see why; a group of attractive young people from various planets united to spread the concept of unity throughout the universe in the 30th Century. And often in fashionable, brightly-colored, and revealing outfits. With never fewer than twenty members at any given time, the Legion members were pretty evenly spilt between male and female (a pretty forward thinking concept back in the sixties, as teams like the JLA, the Teen Titans and even Marvel’s Avengers and X-men only had one token female at a time). So, “naturally”, most members were paired off romantically with a member of the opposite sex…
…all except one…
- Gay Outfit: Element Lad was really Jan Arrah, sole survivor of the planet Trom. With the ability to transmute elements at will, Jan tried out for Legion membership as “Mystery Lad”. He showed up in a bright pink outfit with a giant question mark as his emblem.
Today, rampant speculation would start right then and there. However, in 1963 such things certainly were still decades away from being brought up in mainstream comics – or anywhere in any mainstream media, really…
- Ne’er a Date: Element Lad was a stalwart Legionnaire throughout the sixties and seventies, but while much of the Legion drama revolved around which character was dating which, cute, sensitive Element Lad never dated anyone. Ever. In nearly 20 years. That’s enough to fuel plenty of fan speculation. By the late seventies, when social mores had started to change, Element Lad was already starting to be referred to by many fans as “The Gay Legionnaire”.
- Dated a Tranny for a Few Decades: So, DC editorial decided to do something about it. Instead of giving him a female Legion member to date, the writers decided to create a new character for him to get involved with. In the early eighties, female Science Police Officer Shvaughn Erin was introduced. She was a hot red head in the Mary Jane Watson mold, although unlike MJ she wasn’t totally useless, and aided the Legion on several cases. This relationship lasted pretty much throughout the rest of the eighties and into the nineties, when it was revealed that Officer Erin was in fact hiding a secret of her own; she wasn’t born a woman at all.
What Happened after this?
In fact, she was taking a form of future over the counter sex change pill called “Pro-Fem,” in an effort to make herself a hot chick so Element Lad would fall madly in love with her. Finally, Element Lad revealed to the newly male officer Erin that anything physical they shared was in spite of her being a woman, not because of it. Finally, after nearly thirty years of speculation, it seemed DC was ready to out Element Lad as gay.
Or not. A year or so later, DC rebooted their 30th Century continuity in their previously mentioned Zero Hour crossover, and in the new continuity Element Lad was made to be clearly straight. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this Pro-Fem drug actually exists, ’cause someone at DC is taking it. Only way to explain how they lost their balls.
The original incarnation of the Legion has returned to the DC Universe recently over in Geoff John’s Action Comics run, and I want to use this opportunity to tell Geoff Johns to make up for past mistakes and officially bring Element Lad out of the damn closet. He doesn’t have to make a big declaration to his teammates or anything like that. Just show a panel of Superman walking in on him fucking one of his fellow male Legionnaires and just get it out of the way. You know, something tasteful and subtle like that.
Characters of questionable sexuality are not limited to the DC Universe. Marvel’s X-Men family, long a civil-rights metaphor, went from being metaphorically gay to maybe being just plain ol’ GAY gay with the character of Rictor the seismic mutant. While never graduating to any of the proper X-Men titles, Rictor has been more or less active in the secondary X books for almost twenty years now.
Rictor was introduced first as Julio Esteban Richter, a young Mexican mutant rescued by the original X-Men, then going by the name of X-Factor. Rictor drifted from X-Factor to the X-terminators to the New Mutants to X-Force to the X-Corporation and finally, back to X-Factor.
During his time with X-Force, Rictor forged a very close relationship with Shatterstar, a lame knockoff of the even lamer X-Man Longshot, leading many fans to speculate that the two D List mutants were more than friends. Rictor attempted suicide after losing his powers during the House of M crossover, but I think it was more for never making it actual X-Men status in the nearly two decades he’d been around. I mean, the X-Men even let Dazzler join. I’d jump off a building too.
In an effort to regain his lost powers, he forged a friendship with Magneto’s son Quicksilver who promised to return his lost abilities.
- While drinking one night with fellow X-Factor member Jaimie Madrox, Rictor jokes that he once slept with Quicksilver. When Jamie attempts to clarify that Rictor was joking, Rictor says “‘Of Course. Not that the guy/guy thing is…it’s just that Pietro’s semi-evil, and–Gimme a little credit, huh?” After another swig, Madrox says “God knows you wouldn’t want to make Shatterstar jealous,” to which we cut to a spit take of a stunned Rictor.
No denial followed. He is ours
Another Marvel character who could have been gay, and for all I know might still come out of the closet one day, is Firelord. Is it because nobody knows who he is? Not quite:
- He is another character who is literally on fire.
- Firelord is the third Herald of Galactus, after the Silver Surfer and Gabriel the Air Walker. Pyreus Kril of the planet Xandar was given the Power Cosmic by Galactus after the death of Gabriel, who was Firelord’s best friend (and more?…). He wields his cosmic fire energy through his giant staff. Yes, his power source is his GIANT STAFF.
Even though he is portrayed as mostly an asexual being, he was once asked by the Avenger named Starfox “Doesn’t your fire-y nature ever burn simply for pleasure?” – to which Firelord responded “Not the way you mean it! Not since the day Galactus made me the Firelord! Not since the day I lost my friend Gabriel—!” Mmmhm! You ain’t foolin’ anyone Firelord!
#5 CAPTAIN METROPOLIS AND HOODED JUSTICE
Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice are two minor characters from Watchmen, and only Alan Moore knows for sure if they are gay or not. Let’s just say it’s heavily implied that they are.
- In Watchmen, Hollis Mason, the first hero to be called Nite Owl, writes a memoir about his super hero days in the 40’s where he outs both of these members of the 1940’s Minutemen hero team as not only being gay, but also secret lovers.
- Both characters only briefly show up in flashback form. In one scene set in 1966, Captain Metropolis is made to look like an out of touch fool by the Comedian at a gathering for a new super hero team.
- Hooded Justice comes off as more of a bad ass when he beats the shit out of the Comedian after the attempted rape of the Silk Spectre in an earlier flashback to the 40’s. After beating the crap out of the Comedian, he snidely remarks to Hooded Justice “This is what gets you hot”, suggesting that maybe Hooded Justice was into a little bit of playing rough as well. Makes sense, I guess, as that whole hood look is very S/M.
- Both characters are said to have died later under mysterious circumstances. Was it a super hero hate crime?
You might be asking, “Eric, are there other suspected homo heroes of any kind out there?” Hell yeah there are! No matter how many times Conner Hawke (the second Green Arrow) denies being gay, there will always be someone to say he’s really in the closet. And, my friends, in the world of comics, all it takes is for a writer to decide otherwise. So who knows? The only thing I can gaurantee is that it won’t be any comic Orson Scott Card is writing.
Next week, we hit Paradise Island and talk about the women folk, so stay tuned for your fair share of Super Queers in the Closet!