Gay comic book characters have come a long, long way since Michael and Justin scribbled the rough cuts of Rage (i.e. Brian in Spanx) on Queer as Folk. In recent years, mainstream comic book publishers have collectively revamped in an effort to be more inclusive (and thus, expand readership), and some smaller publishers that have already been trailblazers, employing gay characters and story arcs for quite some time now, are beginning to take a more prominent role.
As cosplayers frantically hem their last stitches in preparation for Comic-Con International, which begins tomorrow in San Diego, publishers are promoting a greater selection of gay-themed comic books than ever before.
According to the New York Times, industry insiders agree that the trend “mirrors the country’s evolving attitudes toward gays and lesbians,” most notably in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in favor of same-sex marriage last month.
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“Our main directive is to make these characters as modern and reflective of the real world,” said Jim Lee, a co-publisher of DC Comics. In 1998, DC first introduced iconic gay superhero Midnighter, who has since garnered a significant readership and praise from fans and critics alike. In 2006, an ongoing Midnighter solo series began, and just last month returned to print.
By the same token, fans have become outraged in recent years when LGBT characters were not included. The CW’s quiet erasure of leading man Constantine’s bisexuality in their TV interpretation has landed them in hot water.
Boom! Studios editor and author Shannon Watters agrees that the strides being made on behalf of queer people in the comic book industry are vitally important, especially to younger readers.
“It is very encouraging to see the decisions that DC and Marvel have made in giving marginalized creators more of platform to tell their stories,” she said, “but we still have a long way to go.”