Comics Corner — New year, new queer!

2020 wasn’t good for much, but one area that has seen an improvement over the last twelve months has been the prevalence and prominence of LGBTQ+ characters in comics.

DC launched new Green Lantern series Far Sector, with queer Black woman Sojourner Mullein in the lead role, while also doubling-down on making Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, non-straight. Marvel revealed both Kitty Pryde and Star-Lord were bisexual, launched a new volume of mutant super-team X-Factor where at least half the members are LGBTQ+, and had a gay couple, Hulkling and Wiccan, anchor the summer’s big crossover event, Empyre – which featured the central characters getting married twice.

Even away from the ‘Big Two’ of Marvel and DC, queer themes and characters were enjoying a surge. Comixology published Youth, a tale of super-powered teen rebellion and queer identity struggle that’s already heading to television, IDW’s anthology graphic novel Be Gay, Do Comics explored a host of LGBTQ+ perspectives, and Titan Comics returned to the world of Life is Strange for a new ‘season’ focussed on interdimensional lesbian love.

However, we’re greedy and we want more in 2021 – more queer comics, more queer characters, more queer stories. So we asked a panel of top creators which existing comics characters they would reinvent as LGBTQ+ if given free rein. The only character we ruled out was Wonder Woman – partly because DC seems to flip-flop on whether Diana is canonically bi or pansexual anyway, and partly because when she’s not, it’s still too obvious a pick! With that, read on for a selection of characters that could – or perhaps should – be LGBTQ+, if only they had the right creative team at the helm.

Steve Foxe, writer, Cheat(er) Code

Full disclosure: I grew up seeking out queer art where it already existed, so I never had strong feelings about needing to see it from my cape comics (though I’m thrilled at the leaps and bounds representation has taken since I came out almost 20 years ago). I do think there are very valid stories to be told with existing characters coming out, as not everyone is willing or able to be out and vocal about it from day one, and Iceman is a great example of a character who has been enriched and enlivened by such a narrative. 

Doom’s rivalry with Reed Richards hits differently when viewed from an LGBTQ+ perspective (Image ©Marvel)

If pressed, I’d want to see similar from the villainous side of things: Doctor Doom’s youthful dalliance with another morally ambiguous lad, The Leader’s unspoken love of a male mad-scientist colleague, the dutiful guy who still thinks he can tame the Riddler or Scarecrow out of their Gotham-destroying ways. When the first  Killjoys comic revealed that the arch-villain character [based on Grant Morrison] had a male partner? That. Give me that. Give me messier, more complicated queer stories along with my nice heroic depictions. 

But… putting  aside  my queer villain complex, what I’d most love to see is an established character transitioning, told by a trans creative team. The closest comics usually gets to this is something supernatural, sci-fi, and/or temporary, so I’d love to see a more faithful depiction of trans identity, as that feels like the most glaring void in LGBTQ+ representations in mainstream comics. Marvel and DC both have dozens of great underutilized characters and nearly any of them would be valid choices, especially in dispelling the notion that you can ‘tell’ who has yet to come out. There is no one transition story, but I think it’s about time we got at least one. 

Check out more of Steve’s work here.

Sonia Leong, creator, The Chronicles of Ciel series

Jaskier/Dandelion of The Witcher should definitely be bi or pan. Despite all of his female conquests in the books, games, and Dark Horse’s comics, his relationship with Geralt is very entertaining.

Dandelion: typical horny bard. Also bi? (Image ©Dark Horse Comics, CD Projekt Red)

He needs a good rough night with Geralt at least once – and he would lap it up as a willing bottom, I’m sure! He’s a bard, he will sleep with anyone!

And if any publisher would be interested in commissioning a short story Yaoi/Bara Manga of such, I can free up my schedule…

Check out more of Sonia’s work here. A Spell Of Scarlet, the latest Chronicles of Ciel book, is coming soon.

Joe Glass, creator, The Pride

If I was to get free reign to write an existing character from a queer perspective and as a queer person, I think it would probably be Jon Kent/Superboy.

Jon Kent, son of Superman, current Superboy – and conceptual queer? (Image ©DC Comics)

I just remember early in the characte’s trajectory kind of relating to him and feeling like there was a queer vibe coming from him, and at that time, having a queer pre-teen character, particularly in the Superman books, would have been a huge deal. He had this whole arc about not wanting to be a disappointment and also struggling with being his own person, and I think a lot of queer folks can relate to that.

In recent years they’ve kind of steered away from that, both aging him up and giving him opposite sex romantic interests, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be queer! Plus, having a character who is ostensibly the next Superman be bi or pan would just be excellent, and I think really speak to the modern and future generations.

Check out more of Joe’s work here. Joe’s latest comic, Glitter Vipers, can be found here.

Hamish Steele, creator, DeadEndia; writer, Croc and Roll

I’d go with Tintin.

It’s not exactly a new idea to head-canon heroes like Tintin as gay. There’s easy, semi-homophobic jokes to be made about characters with his boyish innocence – “Ha ha, he has a small dog and lives with a sailor.” But I’d argue that a gay reading of Tintin actually gives him what he sorely needs: a personality. As he stands, Tintin’s simple, “line claire” art style and intentionally neutral disposition allows him to be a great audience surrogate. But in Tintin in Tibet, we get one of our few instances of the story being driven by Tintin’s own personal, emotional stakes.

Tintin and Chang’s reunion is “tearful, desperate and one of the very few times Tintin is a character” (Tintin created by Hergé; cover from Egmont Publishing’s edition of Tintin in Tibet)

Outside of Captain Haddock, the strongest bond Tintin ever establishes is with Chang, who he spends only a short time with in The Blue Lotus. Despite being unmentioned for the next 25 years, Tintin has a dream that Chang is in danger in Tintin in Tibet, leading to him climb mountains, brave tundras and fight yetis just to see him again. Their reunion is tearful, desperate and one of the very few times Tintin is a character beyond our vehicle through the world.

The story was [Tintin creator] Herge’s most personal work, inspired by his real life friendship with Chinese sculptor Zhang Chongren who he had also not seen for decades. There is some speculation the pair were more then just good friends but regardless, I believe a queer reading of Tintin in Tibet only strengthens the story and finally makes Tintin human.

If Peter Jackson continues to delay on directing that Tintin movie sequel, I’ll be doing what I can to swoop in and direct my own overtly-gay Tintin in Tibet adaptation.

And just briefly while we’re speaking of ginger journalists, I would be remiss to not mention Friend of Superman (and Dorothy), Jimmy Olson. I always felt that a love triangle between him, Clark and Lois was a missed opportunity. The boy is FLAMING.

Check out more of Hamish’s work here. Croc and Roll is published in March, and the animated adaptation of DeadEndia airs on Netflix in 2021.

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Matt Kamen

Matt Kamen is a veteran media writer based in the UK, specialising in video games, film, and comics. If found, return to nearest coffee shop.