Mainstream comics have had more than their fair share of homosexual subtext almost since their inception — look no further than Wonder Woman’s all-female homeland of Paradise Island or Bruce Wayne’s overly comfortable relationship with his ward Dick Grayson. But, until relatively recently, being “out” in comics had been a somewhat iffy subject. In honor of the news that Archie comics introduced its first openly gay character last week, here’s a look back at the evolution of open homosexuality in mainstream comic books.
It’s not exactly a stretch to see the anti-mutant bigotry found in the world of the X-Men as a thinly veiled metaphor for homophobia — mutants are called “homo superior,” after all. It’s strange, then, that the first openly gay major character in the Marvel stable hails from the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight. Northstar, a mutant with the ability to fly and move at tremendous speeds, eventually joined the X-Men, gaining greater status in the Marvel pantheon. First introduced in 1979, his sexual orientation was only first hinted at in the early ‘80s (and, even than, his lack of interest in women was dubiously attributed to a consuming drive to win as a ski champion) and he didn’t come out until almost a decade later. Still, it’s not as if his orientation is exactly accepted: in over 30 years of publication, Northstar has never been depicted kissing another man.