From Batwoman to Miss America: These Characters Are Queering the Superhero Genre
When it comes to LGBTQ+ representation, film and TV have a long way to go. There’s a lot of queer-baiting — when creators hint at queer characters and storylines to gain viewers but don’t follow through — and a lot of straight-washing — completely nixing a preestablished character’s queerness. And while Marvel and DC’s big-screen blockbusters may currently be lacking in terms of representation, there’s hope yet.
Now more than ever, there are queer superheroes — sidekicks — populating TV screens, and, in some cases, movie theaters. And, for a genre that prides itself on characters owning their identities — and, in many cases, loudly proclaiming them (e.g. "I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman.") — it’s great to see queer superheroes proudly declaring those aspects of their identities as well. Here’s a look at the superheroes who are bringing much-needed LGBTQ+ representation to the screen.
Valkyrie | Thor Series & Avengers Series
Tessa Thompson first donned her Valkyrie armor in Thor: Ragnarok, the third Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) installment about the Nordic god of thunder-turned-Avenger. In the comics, Valkyrie has a relationship with Annabelle Riggs, among others, which led Thompson to portray the character as bisexual. The actor reportedly convinced director Taika Waititi to shoot a scene that would confirm Valkyrie’s bisexuality.
Nia Nal a.k.a. Dreamer | Supergirl
Known by her code name Dreamer, Nia Nal is a character from The CW’s television series Supergirl. Dreamer is an ancestor of the DC Comics character Nura Nal, who went by the alias Dream Girl, and both characters share abilities of astral projection and precognition. Nia is also known for being the first transgender superhero on television.
Nico Minoru & Karolina Dean | Marvel’s Runaways
Marvel’s Runaways, a Hulu series based on the superhero team of the same name, follows six teenagers (and one dinosaur) from different backgrounds as they unite against a common enemy — their criminal parents, who are collectively known as Pride. Two of these teens are Nico — a Wiccan who wields the arcane Staff of One — and Karolina — a human-alien hybrid who learns she can fly and shoot beams of light from her hands. You know, typical teen stuff.
Kate Kane a.k.a. Batwoman | Batwoman
Batwoman, the newest addition to The CW’s Arrowverse — a robust collection of DC shows that includes Supergirl, Arrow, Black Lightning, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash and a few web series — hit screens in 2019. The show stars Australian actor Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin who returns to a Batman-less Gotham and decides to don (her version of) the iconic suit.
Garnet | Steven Universe
Rebecca Sugar’s animated series Steven Universe has been praised for the overwhelming amount of positive queer representation, so it’s hard to narrow our list down to just a few of the show’s characters. One of our favorites is Garnet (left), a Gem — or alien being that exists as a magical gemstone that can project a body — who is actually a fusion of two other gems, Ruby and Sapphire (right).
Anissa Pierce a.k.a. Thunder (or Blackbird) | Black Lightning
The CW’s Black Lightning portrays retired superhero Jefferson Pierce, the titular hero, and his family. His eldest daughter, Anissa Pierce, has been written as an out lesbian in the comics, and this new live-action version does right by the character. In the show’s second episode, Anissa is shown lying in bed with her girlfriend, just hanging out — which feels both refreshing and revolutionary at a time when representation has a far way to go.
Yukio & Negasonic Teenage Warhead | Deadpool 2
Ellie Phimister, more often known as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, is a mutant with telepathic and precognitive powers — though those abilities manifest a bit differently in the Deadpool series due to deals between the then-seperate 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios. In Deadpool 2, Yukio, a skilled fighter and long-standing friend of Wolverine and the X-Men, also manifests electrical powers.
Stevonnie | Steven Universe
As mentioned, Steven Universe’s Gem characters can fuse together when needed, often to become a stronger being and ward off baddies. But Steven, our half-Gem and half-human protagonist, has the uncanny ability to fuse with his human friend Connie Maheswaran. Together, the duo make up Stevonnie, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, notably the singular "they."
Harley Quinn | Birds of Prey
Harley Quinn isn’t exactly a hero — although Suicide Squad may’ve angled for that argument. Nonetheless, she’s still one of the most beloved DC Comics characters. Harley really owns who she is, which is admirable, and, in the upcoming Birds of Prey, viewers will get to see her ditching the (ever-abusive) Joker in favor of flexing her own agency. What viewers probably won’t get? A Harley/Poison Ivy romance.
Danielle “Dani” Moonstar & Rahne Sinclair a.k.a. Wolfsbane | The New Mutants
Marvel’s first foray into silver screen queer representation was more than lacking: Up to this point, none of the main characters — or even supporting characters — have been explicitly queer. (There was just that near-background character in Avengers: Endgame who offhandedly mentions his husband.) So far, 20th Century Fox has proven itself to handle things a bit better with the introduction of on-screen queer partners Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio in Deadpool 2.
Adora, Catra & Basically Everyone Else | She-Ra & the Princesses of Power
Developed by Noelle Stevenson, one of the writers behind the Eisner-winning comic Lumberjanes, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a reboot of the 1985 animated series. (Yep, that He-Man spinoff.) Here, a teenager named Adora gains the power to turn into the titular heroine and uses that ability to lead a group of other magical princesses against the evil Horde.
Curtis Holt a.k.a. Mr. Terrific | Arrow
When audiences meet him, Curtis Holt is an Olympic athlete-turned-tech employee of Palmer Technologies, the rebranded version of Queen Consolidated — Oliver Queen’s family company that deals in all things biotech and cutting edge. Of course, Oliver is the vigilante Green Arrow on the side, so it doesn’t take Curtis too long to connect the dots.
Sara Lance a.k.a. The Canary/White Canary | Legends of Tomorrow
Sara Lance has had a lot of drama in her life: While having an affair with her sister’s boyfriend Oliver Queen — a.k.a. Green Arrow — she is presumed dead after the pair are caught in a storm. After a brief union with Oliver, Sara’s presumed dead again and then, as happens, is trained in the ways of being an assassin by Nyssa al Ghul, Sara’s mentor-turned-lover.
Pearl | Steven Universe
Like the aforementioned Garnet, Pearl is a Gem — a member of the world-saving Crystal Gems, in fact. Along with Garnet and Amethyst, Pearl helps raise Steven Universe, the show’s namesake and protagonist, after his mother (sort of) passes away. Steven is half-Gem and half-human, which means he spends a lot of his time figuring out how to use his magical abilities. Through all of this, Pearl is around for him.
Alex Danvers | Supergirl
Although the Sara Lance-fronted Legends of Tomorrow hit screens earlier, Supergirl has made a name for itself by consistently putting the relationships between women first. Namely, the bond between sisters Kara Danvers, a.k.a. Supergirl herself, and Alex Danvers, an agent for the Department of Extranormal Operations (D.E.O.). In the first season, Alex fails to stay committed to romantic relationships with men, blaming her demanding job.
Halo | Young Justice
A fusion of Gabrielle Daou, a deceased Quraci girl, and the spirit of a Motherbox, or "living computer," Halo joins Nightwing’s team of heroes in Young Justice. Halo doesn’t view themself as Gabrielle anymore, instead going by the pseudonym Violet Harper. In addition to harnessing their multi-colored aura powers, Halo is dating Brion Markov, a.k.a. Geo-Force, a hero with the ability to control gravity and Earth’s terrain.
John Constantine | Legends of Tomorrow
John Constantine, the warlock-detective, has made several appearances on film and TV. (We all remember the Keanu Reeves movie, right?) Since a ‘90s-era run in the comics where he mentions having both ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, Constantine has been canonically bisexual. It’s just taken a while to get that representation onscreen — and made more explicit than an offhand remark. Luckily, fans can thank CW’s Arrowverse — yet again.
Korra | The Legend of Korra
Although she doesn’t wear a cape and tights, Korra, from the Avatar: The Last Airbender spinoff The Legend of Korra, definitely has super abilities. She saves the world — well, both the Spirit World and the physical world; she can bend, or control, the elements of fire, water, air and earth; and her eyes go all glowy when she harnesses what’s known as the "Avatar State." Needless to say, she’s at least superhero adjacent.
(Potentially) Hercules | (Hopefully in) The Eternals
Marvel hasn’t given up too many details when it comes to Chloé Zhao’s upcoming Eternals film, which will surely help crack open the new phase of the MCU post-Avengers: Engame. However, there are rumors that the film will star Hercules, the immortal strongman from Greek mythology and long-standing Marvel hero. (Not unlike Thor.)
Trini a.k.a. the Yellow Ranger | Power Rangers (2017)
The 2017 reboot of Power Rangers, which starred Elizabeth Banks as the villainous Rita Repulsa, didn’t quite get the positive reception producers were aiming for. Rotten Tomatoes’ aggregate review consensus says the film has "neither the campy fun of its predecessor nor the blockbuster action of its cinematic superhero competitors." Nonetheless, Power Rangers did try for some LGBTQ+ representation, which was more than Marvel could say at the time.
Canonically Queer Characters Who Shouldn’t Be Straight-washed for the Screen
Comic books are known for exploring multi-verses and alternative timelines, for being remade time and again. Although different iterations of fan-favorite characters exist, it’s always exciting to see a character rebooted in an effort to represent a marginalized or underrepresented group. For the most part, characters — like folks in our very own world — are often presumed straight and cis until it’s explicitly stated otherwise.
Okoye & Ayo | Blank Panther Series & Avengers Series
In the same way Valkyrie’s bisexual moment ended up on the cutting room floor of Thor: Ragnarok, a queer romance between Dora Milaje warrior Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and Dora Milaje general Okoye (Danai Gurira) was filmed for, but later cut from, Black Panther. Of course, film audiences will remember that Okoye is romantically linked to a man named W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya).
Wonder Woman — or Any of the Amazons | Wonder Woman & Wonder Woman: 1984
Since her debut in the 1940s, Diana, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, has been associated with feminism, agency and empowerment. She grew up on Themyscira, an island paradise inhabited only by women — the fearless Amazon warriors. Since there aren’t any cis men in Themyscira, there are undoubtedly queer relationships, and it would be great to see some of that on the big screen.
Loki | Thor Series, Avengers Series & Loki (Forthcoming on Disney+)
Loki’s perhaps best known for his shapeshifting abilities, which allow him to take on both masculine and feminine forms. In 2014, Marvel writer Al Ewing posted on Tumblr (R.I.P.) about Loki’s sexuality and gender identity. "Loki is bi," Ewing wrote, "and I’ll be touching on that. He’ll shift between genders occasionally as well." Confirmed: Thor’s brother is both gender fluid and bisexual.*
Wade Wilson a.k.a. Deadpool | Deadpool Series
Although Deadpool is one of Marvel’s most beloved characters, he technically hasn’t shown up in the MCU yet. But thanks to Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox — now 20th Century Studios — we might see Deadpool and some of the X-Men crop up in future MCU films. And while Fox was pretty open with introducing a queer romance between Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio, they didn’t quite commit when it came to Deadpool himself.
Midnighter | Midnighter & the Wildstorm Universe
Midnighter would probably describe himself as more of a super soldier than a superhero as he’s known to go a bit rogue as a member of the team The Authority. Logo has hailed Midnighter as "a gay vigilante who makes Batman look like a pacifist." Despite being the epitome of a tough-as-nails "masculine" character, Midnighter subverts that paradigm — and its toxicity — by queering it.
Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel | Captain Marvel Series & Avengers: Endgame
In the wonderful wide web that is Marvel, several characters have taken up the mantle of "Captain Marvel." The MCU has chosen to focus on the Captain Marvel that is Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a canonically straight character. Other iterations, however, see Phyla-Vell — the artificially created daughter of Carol’s mentor Mar-Vell — take on the code name.
Raven Darkholme a.k.a. Mystique | X-Men Series
Raven Darkholme, better known by her alias Mystique, is a mutant with the ability to shapeshift. She’s been portrayed by two actors now — Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence — in various film adaptations of the X-Men series. Sometimes a hero, sometimes a villain and most often an anti-hero, Mystique made her debut in Ms. Marvel before becoming the perpetual thorn in the X-Men’s side.
America Chavez a.k.a. Miss America | America, Young Avengers, A-Force & West Coast Avengers
A member of the West Coast Avengers, A-Force and more, America Chavez is also Marvel’s first Latinx LGBTQ+ character to star in an ongoing series. Raised by her mothers in the Utopian Parallel, a reality that exists outside of time, America possesses super strength, the ability to fly and the uncanny talent of being able to kick open holes in reality, making multiverse travel a cinch.
Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman | X-Men Series
When the X-Men debuted in 1963, Bobby Drake — better known as Iceman — was one of the founding members of the mutant team. For decades, readers and critics alike have noted the parallels between mutants and the LGBTQ+ community. Unlike other Marvel superheroes, who are often suddenly transformed into powerful beings, mutants are born with their powers and struggle with being accepted by society, "cured" of their innate abilities or even hunted down.
William “Billy” Kaplan a.k.a. Wiccan & Theodore “Teddy” Altman a.k.a. Hulkling | WandaVision, Young Avengers & New Avengers
Son of Avengers teammates Scarlet Witch and Vision, Wiccan is a Young Avenger with magical abilities. His teammate, Hulkling, is of course mirrored on Hulk, with his shapeshifting abilities allowing him to mimic Marvel’s infamous green monster. Although the two were portrayed as close friends at first, readers began writing in to Young Avengers writers — some excited about the idea of the two being romantically linked, while others were against the portrayal of gay superheroes.
Jean-Paul Beaubier a.k.a. Northstar | Alpha Flight & the X-Men
Northstar first appeared in X-Men #120 as a member of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight. As a mutant, Northstar has some uncanny traits, such as superhuman speed, flight and the ability to project photonic energy blasts. But, outside of his incredible powers, Northstar made a name for himself as one of the first openly gay superheroes in American comic books.