DC, Marvel showcase queer superheroes

Mattie Buckley, Tempo Editor

 Many central themes found in superhero comic books are associated with the struggles of marginalized groups, and equal representation of these groups in DC and Marvel properties has vastly improved over the past several years. The LGBT community, although slower to gain representation than other minority groups, is no exception. Queer superheroes are finally becoming major characters in films and on television.

According to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will finally have main characters who are openly queer after 10 years and 20 films. Specifics have yet to be released, but Feige promised they will be new characters as well as characters that have already been introduced. Valkyrie, Tessa Thompson’s character from “Thor: Ragnarok,” was hinted at being bisexual in a deleted scene, and the character is bi in the comics. Thompson, who recently came out as bi herself, tweeted, “She’s bi. And yes, she cares very little about what men think of her. What a joy to play!”

Marvel’s television series lacked LGBT characters entirely until “Jessica Jones” introduced Jeri Hogarth and her female lovers. Jeri became a recurring character in the various MCU series on Netflix. Hernan “Shades” Alvarez and Darius “Comanche” Jones became Marvel’s first gay couple on “Luke Cage,” but their relationship was only referenced in a handful of lines. It wasn’t until “The Runaways” hit Hulu that the MCU had strong queer superheroes on television. In the first season, the show included Marvel’s first lesbian superhero kiss between Karolina and Nico, and the second season featured their relationship.

Even though the Deadpool films are separate from the MCU, the character is known to be pansexual. In “Deadpool 2,” Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukia’s relationship was introduced as commonplace, and their scenes together involved the pair simply hanging out and doing things average couples do. Additionally, two transgender actors were cast to play friends of Peter Parker in the upcoming sequel “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Worlds of DC, the official branding of DC’s big-screen multiverse, has yet to establish any LGBT characters. There have been some rumors that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn will be bi in the upcoming “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).” For now, those are only speculations based on Robbie verbalizing a desire to explore Quinn’s sexuality. The film will be a spinoff from “Suicide Squad” and will follow Quinn as she assembles an all-female group of DC characters.

The CW network television series based on DC superheroes have by far been the most inclusive. “Black Lightning” features the black lesbian crime fighter Thunder.  Collectively known as the Arrowverse, “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” include several openly LGBT characters such as White Canary, John Constantine and Mr. Terrific. Most recently, Supergirl is aided by television’s first trans superhero, Dreamer. Portrayed by trans actress and activist Nicole Maines, Nia Nal’s storyline has a lot of potential to resonate with trans viewers. Nal will suit up as Dreamer in the Feb. 17 episode titled “Menagerie.”

“Elseworlds,” the most recent annual Arrowverse crossover event, introduced Kate Kane aka Batwoman. Although casting Ruby Rose as the caped crusader’s cousin initially caused backlash, the character was well-enough received to garner a pilot for a new series. If it gets picked up, “Batwoman” will be the first live-action superhero television series with a gay lead character.

Increased representation of marginalized communities is important because it helps people—particularly children—of these communities explore their own identities. Having stories that speak to them personally allow a deeper understanding of themselves while normalizing their situation. This is especially true with superhero fiction, since oftentimes the themes involve the humanization of these powerful beings. People from these communities suffer from the same things as the superheroes they idolize. Better representation allows these superhero stories to be even more relatable. After all, who hasn’t wanted to be a superhero at some point in their life?