In case you haven’t looked at a screen in the last 20 years, superheroes have become a huge part of modern pop culture. Once dismissed as stories meant for children, today the highs and lows of a whole galaxy of characters have come to mean a great deal to generations of readers and viewers. Their fantastical adventures help us make sense of our world, and give us someone to look up to. 

On the big screen in particular, the world of heroes is only just beginning to give everyone a voice. It’s only been three years since Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther became the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Black lead character, while over at DC Gal Gadot was the first female lead in the modern era of comic book movies when she starred in 2017’s Wonder Woman

Progress is slow, but it is being made, so many have wondered: where are the LGBTQ+ heroes out of these vast ensembles? Believe it or not, many established names have been portrayed as LGBTQ+ in their comic book iterations – Deadpool, X-Men’s Mystique, and Loki all had identities that were either erased or left out of their movie versions. As the saying goes, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it” – and many LGBTQ+ comic book fans are calling for characters who will give their communities an icon to rally behind. 

But who could answer that call? We rounded up an Avengers-style team of superheroes from various media who haven’t yet been portrayed on TV or film (or if they have, only in passing), and discuss their potential for taking our culture forward. Surprisingly, the list mainly includes Marvel characters, as rivals DC have included openly LGBTQ+ heroes and villains in shows such as The Flash, Gotham and Batwoman. Let’s see if the makers of the Avengers can catch up?

Jean-Paul Beaubier, AKA Northstar

We begin with a superhero who made history in the comic book world. Northstar is a part of the X-Men Universe, a Canadian ski jumper who is also a mutant with the ability to fly almost at the speed of light. Many heroes have to shoulder responsibilities, and Northstar’s was the responsibility of being the first character to come out – and to have a same-sex wedding – in comic books. 

The character was introduced in the late 1970s, but by the early-to-mid-1980s, storylines began to hint at his sexuality. It wasn’t until 1992, however, that the character came out as gay. The storyline attracted attention, both positive and negative, although the issue in which he came out (Alpha Flight #106) sold out quickly. His sexuality would be mentioned on and off for the next 20 years, until a 2012 issue of Astonishing X-Men which showed him marrying Kyle Jinadu, with whom he was depicted as having a relationship since 2009.

Frustratingly, despite the X-Men movies spanning two decades and 13 films, Northstar is yet to appear on the big screen. He featured in the 1990s X-Men cartoon series, although no mention is made of his sexuality. The X-Men franchise has had a long history with LGBTQ+ issues – along with Northstar, several X-Men characters have been portrayed as Queer following his coming out, most notably Mystique and Iceman (neither of whom are portrayed as such in the films). 

Director Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men films also drew heavily from the experience of LGBTQ+ youth, drawing unspoken parallels between being mutant and being gay (at one point in X-Men 2, a parent asks their child if they had “tried not being a mutant” during a point where Bobby/Iceman ‘comes out’ about his abilities). Bringing Northstar into the fold as the X-Men reportedly enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be a bold and welcome step forward. 

America Chavez AKA Miss America 

Introduced in 2011, America Chavez represents a more modern version of the country that shares her name. Capable of flight, superhuman strength and inter-dimensional travel, perhaps her most surprising ability lies in being a hero that makes so many comic book fans feel seen. She is Marvel’s first Latin-American LGBTQ+ superhero, canonically born to two mothers and portrayed as lesbian in her own comic book series America, written by Gabby Rivera. 

Making appearances in Young Avengers and Ultimates, America saw Chavez as a teenager balancing college with intergalactic heroism, and maintaining a relationship with trainee EMT Lisa Halloran. The America series in particular has been praised for offering a new perspective on the way Latin-American women are portrayed in media, as well as exploring issues of race and the Queer community.

“I get to tell this story any way I want,” Rivera said in an interview with SyFy Wire. “I get to infuse into it my lived experience of being a Brown human in the world, and what that means – what’s funny to me, what’s exciting to me, what my love relationships are like. I can share that, and put that into America’s story.”

She seems like the perfect candidate to lead a new generation of heroes as the Marvel Cinematic Universe moves forward, and it seems like the film studio might agree. Chavez is reportedly being brought to the big screen in the forthcoming sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, portrayed by Xochitl Gomez, the teenage star of Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club. It remains to be seen whether Chavez will be explicitly portrayed as LGBTQ+ in the film, which one would hope given that it’s a part of her character from the beginning. We’ll have to see when Sam Raimi’s film hits cinemas in early 2022!

Lena Oxton AKA Tracer 

This hero originated on a games console, but her appearance in a comic book is what gets her on this roster. The first-person shooter Overwatch is one of the most popular games on the planet, and their most recognisable character is Tracer, a British character with capabilities that include teleportation and time travel. She’s a fan favourite, often appearing on promotional material for the game, and inspiring many tributes through cosplay and fan art. 

As it turns out, this fan favourite happens to be gay. In a comic tie-in for the series, themed around the holiday period, Tracer is depicted as in a happy relationship with a woman named Emily. It’s a relaxed and natural reveal, praised by LGBTQ+ commentators for being part of the character’s story, rather than used as a plot device. It immediately made the ‘face’ of one of the biggest games in the world represent a community that was not accustomed to being thrust into the cultural spotlight.

There have been animated spin-offs of the game, but a big-budget live-action film has been discussed ever since Overwatch hit the big time. Online rumours and fan casting have put Star Wars actor Daisy Ridley in the frame to play Tracer, given her English heritage and what many see as a potential resemblance to the character. 

At this point these are just rumours, but a film led by an LGBTQ+ superhero would be a huge moment for Hollywood. It’s still rare to see a Queer character on screen at all, let alone in the lead, and given that Tracer’s sexuality has been embraced by the game’s fan base, it would have to be a part of any cinematic adaptation. 

Angela and Sera

Many people have said they would go “to hell and back” for the people they love, but Angel and Bounty Hunter Angela can boast to have done exactly that. Created by Neil Gaiman and introduced in the Spawn comic books, she was integrated into the Marvel Universe during the 2013 comic book crossover Age of Ultron, and she is later revealed to be the sister of Thor and Loki.   

It’s in her Marvel interpretation that the LGBTQ+ connection comes to light. In storylines from 2015 and 2016, it’s revealed that Angela has a lover named Sera, a transgender woman. Sera is Marvel’s only transgender character who doesn’t possess the power of shapeshifting, and her identity is depicted as part of her strength, rather than a source for narrative tragedy. A fellow angel, Sera is killed in battle and sent to Hel (a version of hell in the comics), prompting Angela to travel there in an attempt to free her.

We include both in this entry, partly because Sera is a relatively new character, but also because the portrayal of their LGBTQ+ love is as dramatic and passionate as those of their heterosexual counterparts. In Sera, there is also the possibility to give the transgender and non-binary community representation in the biggest movie franchise on the planet. In January 2020, Marvel Chief Kevin Feige revealed that a transgender character was due to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe ‘very soon’. Given that we are entering a new era of the Thor franchise with the forthcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, it’s possible that the characters may unite with their on-page family earlier than expected.  

Billy Maximoff AKA Wiccan

Our final entry has famous lineage, as the son of Scarlet Witch and Vision. In the Marvel comics, Wiccan has been part of the Young Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s for his private life that the character has been most embraced by readers. Wiccan is canonically in a relationship with fellow superhero Hulkling, in one of the highest-profile LGBTQ+ relationships in the world of superheroes. Certain timelines have portrayed them as married and proud parents to a daughter.

First appearing in 2005, Billy was always intended to be a gay character, introduced by writer Allan Heinberg who himself is gay and wished to introduce more LGBTQ+ characters (Heinberg would go on to write the screenplay for the first Wonder Woman film). Wiccan and Hulkling’s relationship was the subject of much speculation, but ultimately in the comics the couple decide to reveal their love and have since been embraced as a part of the Marvel Universe, and pioneers in this form of storytelling. 

We’ve got to hold our hands up and say that this entry does slightly break our own rules, as Wiccan was recently represented on the small screen. While the name wasn’t used, he appeared under his birth name alongside his brother Tommy in Disney+ show WandaVision, as younger children who turn out to be a projection of Wanda’s grief. Given that Wiccan was technically not real, we include him with the potential to be introduced as an adult, with his relationship with Hulkling represented in all its glory. It could well be a relationship that mirrors his parents’ own love story, which blossomed on the big screen. Although we would hope that it might end less tragically! 

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