The funny thing about comics in 2015 is that it’s just as hard to find successful same-sex relationships as it is to find lasting opposite-sex relationships. For the last few years, the trend at Marvel and DC has been to keep its heroes and heroines romantically unhappy. Who would choose to don tights and beat up criminals and tyrannical aliens when you could curl up on the couch with a significant other and watch Netflix?
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s the perfect time to celebrate comic couples that have not only beaten the romantic odds, but have done so within the much-smaller dating pool of LGBTQ characters. You won’t find dearly departed characters like X-Statix’s Vivisector and Phat, former flames like Mystique and Destiny, or problematic pairs like The Runaways’ Karolina Dean and Xavin, but you will find a whole lot of same-sex love and romance.
This formerly-married couple is more of an honorary mention: the New 52 started them over at square one and pushed Apollo back into the closet. After 30-odd issues of rotating writers and timeline foolery, they may or may not be an item again, just in time for Steve Orlando and ACO to launch a new Midnighter solo title in June.
Regardless of their current status, Mark Millar broke new ground in 2002 when, after a string of shockingly violent stories, the pair married and adopted a child in the pages of The Authority. Even if that marriage has been annulled by corporate command, it’s unlikely that any two characters so closely connected in the minds of fans can stay apart for long.
Consider Kate and Maggie another honorary mention, as DC infamously axed the pair’s impending nuptials and eventually drove them apart, a final straw of creative interference that saw cowriters J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman quit the book.
Even with an immediate resolution for these two looking unlikely, their relationship should be recognized for what it accomplished while it was still around: Williams III and Blackman had the unenviable task of convincing Batwoman’s fiercely dedicated fans to accept Maggie over Renee Montoya, Kate Kane’s former love interest who was smudged out of continuity in the New 52 reboot. They succeeded so well that many fans dropped the title when Williams III and Blackmen left, leaving the book to limp toward its cancelation this March. That’s love.
These two Lumberjanes are the youngest couple on the list, and probably the most supportive and unconditionally accepted, too. Writers Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Shannon Watters and artist Brooke Allen perfectly capture innocent preteen relationships, where trust and confidence in each other are the most important factors.
Mal and Molly’s relationship is understated, but it’s a huge deal that an all-ages book features a young same-sex couple, and it helped earn the title a GLAAD Media Award nomination. Lumberjanes was one of 2014’s most talked about books, making it likely that we’ll see a lot more of these two in the year ahead.
This frisky pair sits on the far, far, far opposite end of the spectrum from Mal & Molly, and that’s awesome. Too often in mainstream media, gay and lesbian characters are neutered from the start or instantly paired off for life. It’s refreshing for writer Kurtis J. Wiebe to give Betty the Smidgen a more…active personal life.
The on-again, off-again duo are likely to get plenty of attention when prolific artist Stjepan Šeji? joins the series — fresh off of publishing Sunstone, his lesbian BDSM erotica graphic novel. That’s certainly one way to audition.
Everyone knew a couple like Billy and Teddy in high school, so perfectly matched they’re almost insufferable, with drama that feels monumental to them even though everyone knows they’ll never break up. It’s almost hip to hate these teen boyfriends, but they’ve seen each other through several ends of the world and you can’t ignore that kind of young love.
Original writer and co-creator Allan Heinberg was famously surprised when Marvel gave him the go-ahead to create a gay teen couple; it took them more than five years to actually kiss on-panel, but Billy and Teddy have played a huge role for a decade now in helping young gay readers see themselves on the page, tangibly influencing the course of the Marvel universe.
Okay, so it’s not canon, but if Legend of Korra taught us anything, it’s that it’s not hopeless to ship your favorite same-sex children’s cartoon couples. Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb (along with guests) helped completely change public opinion on licensed comics when they launched Adventure Time for BOOM! Studios, telling original and innovative stories that stand alongside the show in terms of quality, and their PB and Marceline tales have been no exception.
Both the show and the comic have developed a nuanced, supportive relationship between these two ladies, often giving fans the impression that they’re more than friends. Even if it’s never confirmed, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline will likely always have a place in the hearts of fans and are a wonderful model of female friendship and support….
...but really, they’re totally made for each other.
Northstar hasn’t had an easy road, from his incredibly clunky (but groundbreaking) coming out in 1992 to a Star Wars Holiday Special-level aborted storyline about secretly being an elf with a magical incurable degenerative disease (a.k.a. magic AIDS). He has definitely earned his pleasantly boring relationship with his manager, Kyle, and his more or less constant presence in the X-Men books.
While Kyle pretty much went straight from cameo to fiancé, Marvel threw the full weight of its publicity department behind making the wedding issue a mainstream event, especially in New York, where same-sex marriage had only recently been legalized. Writer Marjorie Liu also used the couple to explore immigration rights, as Kyle was at risk of being deported to Canada. With the Big Two’s reluctance to marry off its major characters, Kyle and Northstar have one of the only high-profile marriages — gay or straight — left in comics.
Love and Rockets
There’s something to be said for two people who keep coming back to each other. Over the course of the expansive, decades-long Love and Rockets saga from the Hernandez brothers, Jaime Hernandez’s Margarita Luisa “Maggie” Chascarrillo and Esperanza “Hopey” Leticia Glass collide over and over, sometimes as friends and often as lovers.
Although Maggie falls in love with many men and Hopey occasionally goes back to her former girlfriend, the connection between these two chicanas drives much of the Locas half of Love and Rockets. After more than thirty years of publishing, the Brothers Hernandez continue to produce accessible, acclaimed stories that serve as gateway comics for readers otherwise underrepresented by mainstream publishing.
Depictions of male bisexuality in comics (or any media) are few and far between. Peter David’s fan-favorite second run on X-Factor gave plenty of attention to Shatterstar, an inter-dimensional being who falls for Rictor but can’t grasp our rigidly binary definition of sexual attraction, and Rictor, who must reconcile his love for Shatterstar with his frustration over Shatterstar’s inability to commit to a label.
It’s easy to focus on a gay-or-straight dichotomy, but sexuality is often much more nuanced than that. While David eventually made things a little too complicated in an attempt to explain Shatterstar’s origins, he still left X-Men fans with one of the most compelling and carefully considered mutant romances in years.
The Sandman/Death: The Time of Your Life
For years, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman was one of the most touted LGBTQ-friendly comics for the entire medium, with prominent characters from across the spectrum. It’s come under scrutiny in recent years for leaning on Tragic Queer tropes, but the series, in context of when it was published, is a favorite of LGBTQ-identified readers.
Hazel and Foxglove debuted in Sandman: A Game of You before taking the spotlight in the second Death miniseries, which charts a relationship in decline before offering a predictably hopeful and profound Gaiman-ism: “You followed me into Death, because I needed you. What do you think love is?” Damn, Neil.
No, no, these two aren’t together — Karma is a psychic lesbian former New Mutant with a bionic leg and Anole is an acrobatic lizard-skinned gay teenage X-Man with one giant arm. What’s awesome about these two is that neither has been pushed into the romantic boxes usually allotted for characters with same-sex attractions.
Anole was slated to commit suicide in a story that would teach (straight) character Hellion a lesson about bullying, but survived that poorly conceived plot to become one of mainstream comic’s least typical gay characters — one not defined by his romantic relationships. He’s best friends with hetero-bro Rockslide and has mentored fellow gay teen heroes Graymalkin and Striker, a nice acknowledgement that not all gay men must immediately date each other. Anole’s patience paid off: he recently got a human date in a one-off Amazing X-Men story from GLAAD Media Award-nominated writer James Tynion IV and artist Jorge Jimenez.
Karma lived through possession-related obesity and a decade of underuse to become a mature, confident presence on multiple X-Men squads, all while taking care of her younger brother and sister. In the last few years, Karma has woken up next to several unidentified women, a scene usually only acted out by Gambit and other straight male characters. Karma proves that you can have it all: a career, a family, a sex life and a metal leg.