Diversity Smack Down: Sexuality

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that DC Comics has once again rebooted their universe with their aptly titled DC Rebirth line (for the full list, click HERE). This fresh start allows DC to simplify storylines, revamp origin stories, bring back old favorites, and introduce brand new characters.

Not to be outdone, Marvel has already begun teasing their All-New, All-Different revamp which will take place in October of 2016 (for the full list, click HERE). Unlike DC, Marvel is not trying to simplify their line; however, they are trying to bring a wave of new titles and characters that better reflect their changing audience.

Both publishers are responding to criticisms from fans that the comic industry does not reflect the real world and are attempting—by degrees—to even the playing field. So which publisher ranks higher in diversity of sexuality among characters and creators in their new line ups? Let’s take a look, so you know where to put your hard-earned pink dollars.

Author’s Note: Since DC is essentially erasing every character history and starting anew, it’s difficult to determine which characters who had been identified as queer-leaning previously would still be written as such.

DC

While DC lost several titles that focused on queer characters (the very queer Secret Six, Midnighter and Bunker from Teen Titans), LGBT characters are still represented in Rebirth.

The sexually open Harley Quinn does double duty in her own solo title and in Suicide Squad, Batwoman returns in Detective Comics as co-lead of the young Bat-family team, our favorite bisexual magician—Constantine—is back with The Hellblazer, Midnighter and Apollo, everyone’s favorite queer couple, are given a 6 issue mini, and Wonder Woman (headed up by GLAAD award winner Greg Rucka) is being written more queer than ever, albeit in a coded degree. If we’re to include our favorite Amazon, we would add three more titles to the list: Wonder Woman, Justice League, & Trinity.

The problem is that Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman aren’t canonically queer (as Harley’s open relationship with Poison Ivy hasn’t been seen since Rebirth), so the coded nature of their sexuality ends up feeling like a cop out—like authors who claim a character was queer all along while expressing it didn’t fit the story to be open about it (looking at you, Rowling).

However, DC wins points for including the most openly queer writers: Phil Jimenez (Superwoman), James Tynion IV (Detective Comics), & Steve Orlando (Supergirl and Midnighter and Apollo). And two of the titles that have queer characters are handled by queer writers, adding authenticity to the writing.

Marvel

Similarly, Marvel will be losing/rebranding a few titles with queer characters (New Avengers, Vote Loki, Spider-Man/Deadpool and Deadpool vs Gambit) while maintaining representation in other titles.

Just announced as being released one month after the relaunch, Black Panther: World of Wakanda is an exciting title that focuses on the lesbian Dora Milaj guards in the current Black Panther series. The series will focus on a lesbian couple which will be a first for Marvel.

Our favorite kick-ass Latina—America Chavez—continues to hold down the fort in The Ultimates, Iceman (time-displaced young one and older one) give queer love in * All-New X-Men* and Extraordinary X-Men respectively, the pansexual Deadpool pops up everywhere in Deadpool, Deadpool & Mercs for Money and Uncanny Avengers, and Flatman returns in the all-new Great Lakes Avengers.

The problem with Marvel’s main queer spokesperson—Deadpool—is that his vaunted pansexuality was dropped online and not explicitly said in the comics. On the page, Deadpool’s flirtations with men are always played for laughs and never considered serious attempts to establish relationships. In fact, has never been shown attempting sexual or romantic relationships with anybody but women and is currently married to a woman.

With Marvel rebranding New Avengers to exclude gay couple Wiccan & Hulkling, Marvel is soon-to-be lacking queer romance (which DC will have with Midnighter & Apollo). While it’s important to have queer visibility in comics, it’s also important that those characters be more than just set dressing—that the presumably straight, cisgender, male audience get to see queer characters acting and interacting romantically just like everyone else.

The Verdict

While both companies are making headway on their queer representation, there is still a long way to go. Of all the titles listed, only two feature a queer person of color (and seven are white men). Of all the solo titles, one will be devoted to openly queer women. Similarly, none of them feature a trans, asexual, or gender-fluid character. And of the characters that are presented, many of them are denied romantic interactions, which, in essence, demotes them to token status.

However, DC is moving in the right direction by tapping queer creators to write queer characters (while, to my knowledge, Marvel is employing no one) and devoting a book (albeit a mini-series) to an out, gay couple. Additionally, DC has a book headed by a bisexual man and a team co-lead by a lesbian. Marvel not only hasn’t written a flagship queer couple book, it has yet to have a single solo series devoted to a queer person who actively pursues those queer desires (although it remains to be seen if World of Wakanda will fill this void). And, when queer characters are included, they are mostly relegated to background status (see the images of the X-Men covers as proof).

So, for the 2016 season, consider not Making Mine (or Yours) Marvel; instead, get Dem Comics at DC. Did we forget your favorite queer creator? Did we overlook a queer book? Let us know in the comments below!

And join us next week for Diversity Smack Down Marvel v DC part two where we’ll look at how gender and racial diversity show up in the new company relaunches!

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