5 Comic Book Characters that have Come Out

Renee Montoya – Gotham Central #6-10

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Although she was technically publically ‘outed’ and we don’t actually see Renee come out to her parents, Montoya coming out to her parents is an important moment of LGBT issues in comic books. The experience turns out not to be the greatest one, however what makes this so significant is actually the pure emotion it portrays and not the act.

Before she does so there is a scene where she is asked by her brother why she wants to tell their parents as it will only make them ‘suffer’ and she defends herself by telling him that being a lesbian is part of her and that she refuses to lie to them anymore. This is made even more symbolic by the way she repeatedly shifts between speaking English and Spanish. The Spanish represents her heritage or identity whereas the English represents her ability to conform or seem ‘ordinary’ to everyone else in Gotham as well as the reader. This automatically can be paralleled with her hidden lesbian identity in relation to the heteronormative façade she portrays.

After coming out to her parents we are presented with her experience of how it went. Already aware that her parents will most likely not take her coming out to them well, we feel Renee’s pain and sense of loss the moment she tells her girlfriend what happened. Her mother’s extreme religious view towards her own daughter is heartbreaking yet depressingly realistic to some people’s own experiences with coming out to their parents. What adds to this heart crushing scene is when Renee breaks down into tears; until this moment Montoya has been portrayed as a hard faced cop who hasn’t let anyone get to her including her homophobic colleagues. The gritty realism of Renee Montoya’s coming out not only sheds light on homophobia in the workplace but also homophobia in strict religious households where the hate of homosexuality can overpower the love of a child.

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Iceman – Uncanny X-Men #600 (present drake) & All-New X-Men #40 (past drake)

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With the LGBT connotations that can be easily made between homosexuality and the struggles the x-men face in the comics, it would have been remiss not to have mentioned an x-man in this list. Not only is it an x-man but it is one of the first; Iceman, however his coming out is one of the most complicated due to time travel. In short, there are two versions of iceman; one from the past and one from the present.

The past Bobby Drake (Iceman) is 1st outed by Jean Grey through telepathy who questions him as to why he acts overly straight when she knows he is gay. Attempting to deny his sexuality, she confronts him with his own thoughts. In this sense, Jean Grey allows the past Iceman to truly be honest with himself.

Later on, the past version of Iceman confronts his present self over his discovery of himself and questions him why he hasn’t come out yet. The present Iceman repeats the same reason his younger self gave that he is scared of having to deal with being both a mutant and gay and one is easier to hide than the other. Again, this ‘coming out’ creates something that one battles with mentally into something physical, the past Iceman representing his honest self and the present Iceman representing the straight façade that a lot of gay people put on before coming out.

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The Pied Piper – The Flash #53

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This scene is given a strong impact as it is actually the first opening pages of the Fast Friends story line. It is brought about by a discussion between The Flash and the newly reformed Pied Piper talking about the rumours that the Joker being gay is true or not. The Flash naively states that there are telling features before Pied Piper claims that he can’t think of any villains that are homosexual other than himself. This automatically counters the Flash’s idea of the gay stereotype and ultimately breaks down the stereotype and stigma behind being gay with the suggestion that homosexuality isn’t evil.

Although The Flash is taken aback by the Pied Piper’s revelation and appears to leave him standing on the rooftop alone straight after, his coming out is handled very well. The Pied Piper’s coming out scene accepts that sometimes it can be an awkward situation to have however; it portrays Piper as being comfortable in his sexuality, stating his sexual orientation in a matter of fact way. Most importantly, DC doesn’t define the character by his sexuality but more his coming out is an addition to his character already.

Northstar – Alpha Flight #106

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Perhaps the most influential of all these gay comic book characters, Alpha Flight’s Northstar’s coming out is pretty blunt. However, what it makes up for in frankness it makes up for in pure bravery.

After adopting an abandoned baby girl born with AIDs who dies a few weeks later, Northstar uses his fame as a superhero and Olympic medal winner to publicly announce that his is gay in order to give media attention to HIV and how to prevent it. Although not a disease that only affects gay men, it was considered at the time of his coming out as one. Additionally, Northstar’s coming out was also Marvel’s first attempt at introducing a gay superhero into the universe, completely disregarding any trace of of the Comics Code Authority having ever prevented homosexuality from being discussed in comic books. Moreover Northstar also became the first X-Men to have a gay wedding showing that Northstar is a significant character in discussing gay rights in the Marvel universe.

By saying ‘I am gay’, Northstar not only represents how coming out can feel like you are being judged by everyone but also it gives hope that by coming out you can not only help yourself but help others around you; whether that be them going through the same feelings as you have or in some other way.

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Anole – New Mutants vol. 2

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Not an actual representation of coming out but one that would have made a big impact if it had gone ahead. There were plans for the Marvel writers to give Anole a coming out scene where his family and friends are horrified by his sexuality and ultimately reject him entirely. This would have lead Anole to have committed suicide. It would have been interesting to have seen the repercussions of such a negative experience of coming out as it would have drawn light on the gay teen suicide rate. However, by scrapping these plans, Marvel have still given Anole an important role in LGBT comic book history as he has slowly become recognised as a gay character who is comfortable in his own sexuality and at times has helped others around him come to terms with their own as well as shed light on some of the other experiences that the LGBT community have had.

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Why Watch… ‘Arrow’

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Set as playboy millionaire Oliver Queen is rescued from an island he had been shipwrecked on for 5 years, the series centres around his return to Starling City. Oliver is intent on fulfilling a promise he made to his father before his death when he gets home and, using the survival skills he gained while on the island, dresses as a hooded archer who targets those that have corrupted his city. Due to his unlawful exploits he becomes known as the Vigilante and must lie to all those around him including his mother, sister, best friend and love interest causing a rift between them all for being dishonest with them. Nonetheless, Queen does gain help from his bodyguard John Diggle and an IT expert Felicity Smoak who both see the importance of what he does and not only helps with Queen’s mission to right the wrongs of his father but also help Oliver escape the isolation he became accustomed to on the island.

The series constantly moves between the past and present with the events that occurred during those 5 years on the island and Oliver’s vigilante activities in Starling City. During the scenes set on the island it becomes evident that Oliver’s account as to what happened there is not as true as he wants people to believe and as the series progresses more of the truth is revealed to the audience. Additionally, the programme also introduces other characters from the DC universe such as Deathstroke, Deadshot and Black Canary. Not to mention introduces Barry Allen in season two, creating the new The Flash series thus sharing the same television universe.

A city owned by the wealthy and a devious plan that connects the Queen family right in the centre of it. Packed with lies and family secrets, Arrow constantly refreshes its narrative by adding more to Oliver Queen’s past. This is cleverly made possible through the use of his decision to keep his past a secret; perhaps due to a sense of trauma he suffered there. However, with his past refusing to remain just that, Arrow will leave you wanting to know more.

Why Watch… ‘Gotham’

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Similar to the short-lived Gotham Central comic book series which focussed on the Gotham City Police Department rather than Batman, Gotham centres on Jim Gordon’s first year attempting to fix the corrupt Gotham City before Batman existed. As one of Gotham’s few ‘clean’ cops, Gordon gets tasked with the murder of a young Bruce Wayne’s parents which leads him to the mob; most specifically Carmine Falconi. Since Falconi owns the police force and there cannot be “organized crime without law and order” Gordon is tasked to prove he is ‘part of the programme’ by killing a whistle-blower lackey named Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin). Keeping to his moral code, Gordon pretends to kill him and orders him never to return to Gotham. Unbeknownst to anyone, this action is the beginning of a big change in Gotham. With mobsters such as Fish Mooney and the Moronis attempting to overthrow Falconi, Cobblepot returning to create his own mob and Bruce Wayne beginning to train with Alfred, the only thing clear is that Gotham will never be the same again.

The programme mixes the gangster genre with comic book elements in order to create a gritty portrayal of a city in need of a saviour, allowing for people uninterested in comic books to enjoy a police drama. That is not to say that Batman fans will be disappointed as the show is filled with characters from the Batman mythos such as Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya and Edward Nygma. Some characters are obvious but there are many hidden allusions to the DC world such as the introduction of Thomas Elliot (Hush) and even Harley Quinn’s costume (seen on dancers within Fish Mooney’s night club). These ‘easter eggs’ add to the programme’s appeal for die-hard Batman fans while those who are not familiar with the comic books will not truly feel excluded from following the plot.

A gritty police drama filled with plenty of plot twists and betrayal Gotham will leave the audience unsure who to trust in a city where the police are just as corrupt as the criminals. The show bypasses the expectations of a simple series to set up a world before Batman by making sure that each case Gordon and Bullock do tackle are just as difficult to solve as any other crime drama. The viewer won’t be disappointed by the judiciary narrative or the connections with one of DC’s most recognisable superheroes.

5 Most Underrated Marvel Characters of all Time

Squid-Boy (Sammy Paré) 

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A mutant who had the ability to speak and breathe underwater and the unfortunate appearance of a fish, Squid-Boy may not have had the most exciting mutant powers. However, what he lacked in powers he made up with his unquestioning belief that people can change as evidenced by his trust towards Juggernaut (Cain Marko). Squid-Boy arguably was the driving force behind Juggernaut’s sense of conscience and reformation after saving him from drowning and becoming friends. It was this friendship which led Marko to remain with the X-Men.

Squid-Boy only appeared in the X-Men from 2002 to 2004 due to his untimely death by the hands of Black Tom (Tom Cassidy), and the guilt Juggernaut feels for unwittingly leading him to his death is arguably one of the factors as to his decision to join the Thunderbolts.

However, what truly makes his death so saddening was that Sammy Paré died unaware that Juggernaut had neither betrayed him nor the X-men but was in fact tricking Black Tom. Squid-Boy dies hating Juggernaut for something he had not done.

Bova Ayrshire

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Known as the Old Woman on the Hill, Bova is actually a genetically evolved Guernsey cow who is simply a nanny to the High Evolutionary (Herbert Edgar Wyndham) and his ‘New Men’ – other genetically evolved animals Wyndham has created. Originally situated on Wundagore Mountain, Bova helped a sanctuary seeker named Magda give birth to twins before the mother continued up the mountain and perished from the extreme weather. The twins were the mutants Quiksilver (Pietro Maximoff) and Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff). Trying to give the twins a normal life, she unsuccessfully attempted to give the children to Whizzer (Robert Frank) after his wife (Miss America) passes away giving birth (another woman that Bova was midwife for). Therefore Bova fosters the twins as her own until she is able to find a suitable foster family such as the Gypsy couple named Django and Marya Maximoff. Bova once again became a foster mother when Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) woke up on Wundagore with no memory of her past, looking after her until Hydra rescued her from a fleeing mob and brainwashed her into the Hydra agent Arachne.

Bova can be seen as a character that is neither good nor bad; she is simply a midwife and foster mother that looked after a number of future superheroes. She can be seen as a vital character to a number of Marvel heroes but is barely known because she doesn’t regularly appear in the Marvel world. Nonetheless, she is the key to a number of Marvel’s family connections, most significantly Quiksilver and Scarlet Witch’s father.

The Ghost

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A man who uses his ‘ghost-tech’ to turn himself and others he touches invisible or intangible, very little else is known about Ghost including his actual name as well as his true origin. Ghost claims that his boss’ capitalist greed led him to wearing the ‘ghost-tech’ when they killed his girlfriend (who he later found out was hired by the company to keep him working on new technology they could sell for their own profit). However, what makes the Ghost so dangerous is that his anti-Capitalist views added to his knack for computer science and his ghost-tech makes him the ultimate saboteur. He can easily enter high security areas and hack their computers to either gain its information or destroy it. Places such as the Pentagon would be vulnerable to attack as well as the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier (if not for its ability to fly). Additionally, he makes a threatening hit-man for the same reasons which is why so many shady businesses have hired him for corporate jobs (only to discover that their own corporation would be next).                 

In a country that is the epitome of capitalism, the Ghost is an intimidating enemy who is able to escape arrest time and time again. With very little way to defend against him, it is fortunate that the Ghost seems obsessed with Tony Stark (Iron Man), the one man who can protect against his attacks.

Doop

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The product of a Cold War era U.S. military experiment, Doop is the camera man for the celebrity mutant super team X-Statix. Despite this, he should not be underrated. Doop has the ability to access a nightmare dimension named ‘Doop-Land’ that exists insides himself as well as an untested level of energy projection that can prevent psychic attacks. Additionally, Doop has regenerative powers as well as several other abilities connected to time and space distortion. Although an ally to the X-Men (protecting students at the Jean Grey institute for higher learning) Doop is rather violent character showing no remorse or mercy in killing others as shown in the torture he puts Corkscrew (a mutant driven insane by his power) through before killing him with an axe while smiling. What also makes Doop underrated is the fact that he can hold his own against one of the Avengers’ powerhouses; Thor (Thor Odinson).

It is too easy to see the ‘Slimer-like’ appearance of Doop and assume from his appearance he is simply there to add comical effect but in truth he is more dangerous than most of his associates. An anti-hero in short, he has also been responsible in exposing scandals such as El Guapo’s (Robert Rodriguez) threesome with two models that led to his girlfriend leaving him and his sentient skateboard violently attacking him. It is evident that Doop should not be underrated as to how much damage or good he can ultimately do especially in connection with the amount of power he possesses.

Korvac (Michael Korvac)

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Originally a computer technician that welcomed the hostile invasion of the Badoon on Earth on a parallel universe (Earth-691), Korvac was ‘improved’ by the aliens and made into a cyborg to be a more efficient worker which led him to revolt. After a number of battles with various superheroes, Korvac found himself able to use his cyborg abilities to download Galactus’ central computer information evolving him into a God-like being. Using the Power Cosmic for himself, he gained the potential to wield almost infinite power. He could resuscitate life, time travel, disintegrate foes absorb power from any force and use a variety of mental powers. These skills ultimately made Korvac invincible and invisible to any scans. He was so powerful that the Avengers could not defeat him and most of them perished in the battle until he realised that his wife (Carina) began to doubt him. Korvac decided to commit suicide as he had done everything for Carina and resurrected all the Avengers that had died in the battle. Cheesy as it is, it proves love conquers all.

Despite holding ultimate power and doing the impossible; defeating all the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Korvac is almost forgotten today. In part this is due to the fact that Korvac was not evil but truly thought his powers could help mankind and was thought to be noble by Moondragon (Heather Douglas). However, if in some way he was resurrected and continued with his plan to conquer Earth, the Avengers would in fact find him a deadly nemesis.

Not just Pulp: A Comic Book Conundrum

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Comic books. Just the words bring to mind an image of a socially inept spotty teenager with too much time on his hands. Seen as a nerdy pastime (just look at The Big Bang Theory) comic books and graphic novels alike have both been misjudged and undervalued by the everyday public. There is more to them than meets the eye than simply the out-dated assumption that they are for kids. In fact, quite a vast array of graphic novels portray within them images I certainly wouldn’t want my kids exposed to due to its mature material. They are not something to scoff at simply because of the stereotypical and ultimately negative images society has assigned onto comic book readers. After all, leading bookshops such as Waterstones are expanding the number of shelves they allocate for graphic novels in their stores so surely they must see something in them that others do not.

Graphic novels have recently become integrated into popular culture than you might have originally guessed. Obviously they have been used as the core material for an abundance of movies such as the Batman and Spiderman film franchises. Yet, comic books have permeated into filmdom much more than these frankly obvious examples. How many people knew that V for Vendetta, Sin City, Constantine as well as 300 were all adapted for the big screen from graphic novels? These adaptations were created because their original media platform were thought to be worthy of captivating a much larger audience in the cinema. Additionally, comic books are also used in some cases to continue already aired TV programmes that were extremely popular but too expensive to screen continuously; two examples of this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which began publishing ‘seasons’ through graphic novel format after the season 7 finale on television, and another cult television series Farscape which has so far released 8 graphic novel volumes since 2003. Additionally there have been some examples where films have also been adapted into comic book format such as the Star Wars franchise; however there are very few compared to television adaptations.

Graphic novels are also used because they can express views on key social issues more easily than other forms of literature due to the blurred lines they draw between word and image. Comic books have already been used to discuss mental illness (Batman), anarchy (V for Vendetta) and even environmental issues as seen in Swamp Thing just to name three. A key figure in this approach to using graphic novels as a conduit to discuss important subjects that were originally thought as too complex for comics is Alan Moore. Moore is thought to have helped add a greater respect for the medium by evolving them out of the simple pulp comics of the 1950’s and into mediums which stand on their own due to their social critique.

Just as comics have evolved from simple pulp, so has literature. It is a fluid concept that constantly changes over time. Arguably graphic novels are simply the next evolutionary step of literature; moving contemporary texts away from the post-modern writing style. What other alternative can literature make after post-modernism which is defined as a style that attempts to be different than any other form of literary movement that has preceded it? Additionally, classic texts such as Brontë’s Pride and Prejudice have been converted into graphic novels suggesting an attempt to ‘modernise’ old classics. Other popular texts which are not renowned for being classics such as Meyer’s Twilight saga have also been converted into comic book format, again suggesting a leap towards a future where graphic novels are viewed as a key form of literature rather than a form of low art only geeks and adolescent boys read. Proving that comic books are NOT just for kids!