While gay characters have been sprinkled sporadically through comic books for years, DC Comics signaled a sea change when it announced its upcoming Justice League series will feature not one, but two main characters who aren’t super-straight: a lesbian Batwoman and a bisexual alien named Starman.
The news is all the more remarkable considering that before 1989 the Comics Code Authority -- sort of the Motion Picture Association of America for comics -- banned all depictions of gay people. Since then, comic artists have made up for lost time; here are seven of the most memorable queer heroes:
Batwoman: Originally introduced as a love interest for Batman. She was killed off when Batgirl became more popular but resurrected in 2006 as a nice Jewish lesbian in DC’s weekly series 52.
Renee Montoya: Former Gotham City police detective and ex-girlfriend of Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman. Outed in DC’s GLAAD Award–nominated Gotham Central series (in the “Half a Life” story arc) by arch-villain Two-Face in 2003.
Holly Robinson: Former prostitute and sapphic incarnation of her friend Selina Kyle, the original Catwoman.
Northstar: Lightning-fast mutant in Marvel’s AlphaFlight series. Rebuffed women for years on the grounds that he was too busy training as a competitive skier. Came out in 1992 after his adopted infant daughter died of AIDS complications.
The Rawhide Kid: The Kid first appeared in the ’50s, only to come back in 2003, drawn by the 86-year-old original artist, as a gay cowboy. Marvel branded the updated series with an “Adults Only” label.
Hulkling and Wiccan: The relationship between these two male youths helped their title, Marvel’s Young Avengers, win GLAAD’s Outstanding Comic Book Award in 2006.