Flag from Marie Claire: https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/g32867826/lgbt-pride-flags-guide/
Flag from Marie Claire: https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/g32867826/lgbt-pride-flags-guide/ New York Times

by Fiat Knox

October 11 2021 was Coming Out Day: the day where LGBTQIA+ people are encouraged to identify their place on the spectrum.

DC Comics, the owners of numerous superhero titles from Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman onwards, chose Coming Out Day to make a huge announcement.

The current Superman, Jonathan Kent, son of the original Superman Clark Kent, is bisexual.

Breaking The News

The New York Times broke the news in this article:-

NYT, October 2021

Here’s how the BBC broke the news on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-58879161

Symbol of Hope

DC Comics’ biggest star, Superman, is the company’s most important character. As the DC Comics character page explains:-

From his blue uniform to his flowing red cape to the “S” shield on his chest, Superman is one of the most immediately recognizable and beloved DC Super Heroes of all time. The Man of Steel is the ultimate symbol of truth, justice, and hope. He is the world’s first Super Hero and a guiding light to all.

The tip of the spear in a revolution that would change the landscape of pop culture, Superman has spent the last eighty years redefining what it means to stand for truth, justice and the American way. The last survivor of the doomed planet Krypton, raised in the quiet heartland of Smallville, Kansas, Superman is as much a legend as he is a man: the gold standard of heroism, compassion and responsibility.

Though his powers make him god-like next to his human compatriots, Superman’s story is not one of greed or conquest. Instead, he strives to represent the inherent goodness of the human spirit, and the capacity of every living thing to do right by their neighbors.

Representation

Created in the 1930s by Siegel & Schuster, two Jewish writers, Superman was intended to be a beacon of hope against the rising toxic tide of fascism, burning away racism and bigotry. An ordinary kid could grow up in America, and later worldwide, and feel that there was someone backing them in their corner.

No matter who they were, no matter their creed, colour, or country of origin, Superman – himself an immigrant and refugee – was always there to stand up for them.

As of today, that now includes people of different sexualities.

Other LGBT Superhero Characters So Far

Superman is by no means the first superhero to come out as LGBT. Some of the more memorable LGBT+ superheroes include (from DC Comics) Apollo, a Superman analogue from The Authority; Midnighter, Apollo’s husband and The Authority’s Batman analogue; Pied Piper, The Flash’s former foe; Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn; Alan Scott (the first Green Lantern, before Hal Jordan); and Jenny Sparks from The Authority. Arguably, Wonder Woman has often been cited as a lesbian icon, though her sexuality has become somewhat more closeted recently, despite one of her early catchphrases being “Suffering Sappho!”

And on the Marvel side, we have Black Cat, Black Widow, Deadpool, Fantomex, Hercules, Hulkling, Iceman from The X-Men, Moondragon, Mystique, Northstar (a Canadian superhero), Kitty Pryde, Psylocke, Pyro, Red Sonja (yes, the Red Sonja from the Conan setting), Spider-Woman, Stacy X, Valkyrie (from the Thor comics which also give us Loki), and Wiccan.

Not to forget Loki.

Social Change Icons

The first four-colour Spandex heroes came at a time of great social upheaval. One war had ended; another war was brewing; and in between, there were times of great financial and social disruption. People thought that their world was ending.

The heroes of these early comics could not have come at a better time. People then were looking for something to believe in, and they found it in the pages of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

Changing Battlegrounds

When The X-Men emerged in 1963, there was a new battleground – the Civil Rights movement. People needed heroes who stood for social acceptance and equality, and The X-Men represented everybody who faced persecution just for being born different.

More recently, heroes such as The X-Men became representatives of the LGBT+ communities, making the message more relevant and focused on queer representation as much as representation of race and creed.

And now, Superman has stepped to the fore yet again, to be a hero of another new battleground – the fight for social change, recognising the struggle of immigrants, the detoxification of the modern media, and climate change.

The Future

Superhero comics have always been about the present day, and looking ahead to the future. In a world where we are coming out of a pandemic, and people are starting to be held to account for the excesses of the 2010s, perhaps the emergence of a bisexual Superman is a sign for us all, and a call to arms.

Because, in the end, it’s not up to the Spandex characters to make the future happen. It’s up to us. They are only telling us to take those steps to make the bright futures happen.

Superman is about telling us that it is we who must be the heroes in our world.

One thought on “The Sexuality Of Superheroes”
  1. Interesting and well researched. Thank you Fiat. I grew up on superhero comics. No Playstations in those days. And precious little TV. My one issue with the entire superhero genre is that it is encouraging us to think that ordinary people have no agency, they can be saved only by a superhero. The real superheroes are not spandex wearing, they are the ordinary women and men who give up their time to work together to improve their communities.

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