LGBT heroes and villains have been making the realm of superheroes a more colorful place for nearly 30 years. From gay martial arts masters and lesbian detectives to badass bisexual antiheroes and transgender magicians, these are 52 characters that’ve left their mark and helped change the genre.
Originally introduced in 1956 to silence critics who claimed Batman and Robin were gay lovers, Kate Kane was reintroduced in 2006 as a lesbian who became one of Gotham’s caped crime fighters after her service in the U.S. Army was cut short when her sexuality was discovered while the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell "policy was in effect.
Introduced as a member of the covert strike team Stormwatch, Apollo draws energy from the sun and is able to store it within his body. His powers include flight, thermal vision, near invulnerability, and super strength. Though he is currently single, the character has been romantically involved with Midnighter throughout much of his history.
The first superhero to utter the words “I am gay” in the pages of a mainstream comic (1992’s Alpha Flight #106) made history once more 20 years later when he married his partner, Kyle, in Astonishing X-Men #51 — the first same-sex wedding in the Marvel Universe. Northstar’s abilities include super speed and flight.
The son of the Scarlet Witch and a key member of the teen superhero team Young Avengers, William “Billy” Kaplan is a powerful magician with powers only limited by his own imagination. His romance with teammate Hulkling is one of the few ongoing gay teen relationships depicted in mainstream comics.
A key member of the teen superhero team Young Avengers, Teddy Altman possesses shape-shifting abilities and super-strength. As one of the few out gay teen superheroes in modern comics, Hulkling (along with his boyfriend and teammate Wiccan) quickly became one of the biggest LGBT icons in the Marvel Universe.
Making his first appearance in Detective Comics #311 in 1963, Thomas Blake was given a modern update by writer Gail Simone in 2005. Since DC’s company-wide reboot in 2013, the clever criminal has been depicted as a lover of both men and women, solidifying his status as a badass bisexual among Batman’s array of villains.
Roxy Washington is the daughter of hip-hop artists Roy “Daddy Libido” Washington and Angel “Sexy Mutha” Depres — rap royalty in the Marvel Universe. Turning her back on the music industry, she joined the X-Men, where she learned to hone her mutant abilities to produce diamond shards from her bone marrow that can be fired as projectiles and also gives her skin superhuman durability.
Able to create seismic waves and topple buildings, Rictor has been in and out of the X-Men universe since the late 1980s. While he, like many other mutants, found himself temporarily without his powers, Rictor found his calling as a private investigator and comfort in the warm embrace of Shatterstar.
Shatterstar was genetically programmed to become a machine-like arena gladiator in the distant future. After traveling to the present and numerous adventures with X-Force, he developed a relationship with fellow mutant Rictor. While Shatterstar still struggles with understanding human emotions, the couple have faced demons and survived death together.
Making her debut in Runaways #1, Karolina Dean joined a group of teens who discover their parents are part of an evil crime organization known as The Pride. She is able to absorb and manipulate solar energy which she can then use in many ways, including flight, creating force fields, and producing laser blasts.
Sometimes a friend to the X-Men but more often a foe, shape-shifting assassin Mystique is a character who defies categorization when it comes to her sexuality. Mystique was written so as to have a relationship with confidante Destiny, but the editorial authorities at the time prevented it from being displayed on page.
A martial arts expert trained by the League of Assassins, Sara Lance took on the code name Canary and had romantic relationships with both Oliver Queen (The Arrow) and the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, Nyssa Raatko, on the CW series Arrow. She is the first LGBT superhero to appear in a mainstream TV series.
Once a member of the Brotherhood of Mutants, Irene Adler possesses the mutant ability of precognition. For many years she was in a relationship with her shape-shifting teammate Mystique, and the two raised an adopted daughter together — a young mutant named Anna Marie who would later become the X-Man known as Rogue.
Making his first appearance way back in The Flash volume 1, #106, Hartley Rathaway was once a member of the Scarlet Speedster’s villainous rivals the Rogues who wielded a flute with hypnotic powers. An expert in sonic technology, he later reformed, came out of the closet, and aided the Flash in several adventures.
The fastest human alive on Earth 36, this dimension-hopping hero is a self-professed “comic book nerd” who found love with his Justice 9 teammate Flashlight. He was later recruited to join President Superman of Earth 2’s super team, Justice Incarnate, to defend all of creation across the multiverse.
Introduced in the pages of Doom Patrol, Danny the Street is an actual sentient stretch of roadway with the power to teleport and integrate himself into a city’s geography. He is described as a transvestite with a flamboyant personality whose sidewalks are often lined with stores such as gun shops and sporting goods shops, which he decorates with traditionally feminine objects such as pink lace.
Debuting in Adventure Comics #66 (1941), Shining Knight is a sixth-century English Knight of the Round Table and a member of King Arthur’s Court with magically empowered armor and weapons as well as a winged horse named Victory. The character was reimagined in the 2005 miniseries Seven Soldiers and was later revealed to be the first intersex character in the DC Universe.
Daughter of the immortal villain Vandal Savage and a member of the super team Secret Six, Scandal Savage has enhanced durability and can regrow damaged organs. A ferocious fighter, she often employs a set of wrist-mounted blades — weapons that have remained in her family for several generations.
Recruited by Green Arrow’s former sidekick, Roy Harper (Arsenal), to join a reformed version of the super team known as the Outsiders, Grace Choi is half Amazon and carries the gifts of the gods Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Hera, and Hestia, which give her increased strength, durability, speed, and stamina.
A vastly different take on Supergirl’s pet Comet the super horse, this version of the character was introduced in Peter David’s Supergirl #14 (1997) and was a winged centaur Earth-born angel that was the combined form of bisexual female Andrea Martinez and the heterosexual male jockey Andrew Jones.