Homosexuality in Comics: Here Be Lesbians

Just as in most forms of media LGBT representation has been lacking in comic books, both in the content created and those responsible for its creation. It’s a conversation that will last for decades until such a time that we can look to art and see that yes, it does reflect the world we live in, such as it is. In regards to all of this there are times when a person will look at their pull list and decide that the stars have aligned just right, and that it’s time to dust off a blog feature of sorts that hasn’t been used in years.

It began with “Homosexuality In Comics As Of May 20th”, a post in 2012 that shone some light on DC Comics’ announcement that they would be introducing a previously straight character as gay,  having that person become “one of [their] most prominent gay characters.” One year later there was “… As of July 26th”, in which I revealed the aforementioned hero-

Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of Earth-2 [an alternate universe]

-and shared my personal opinion on how not to introduce LGBT characters [ie. as a revelation after decades of established straightness]. That was where I left things, saying that we need more gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, etc. men and women and others in the medium that I love so dearly without offering much of a solution.

Thankfully two of this week’s titles helped a) me out in this regard and b) improve the pop culture landscape of which comic books are only a small part of.

Issue #1 of Silk drops readers right into the life of Cindy Moon, a Korean-American woman who was bitten by the very same spider that gave Peter Parker the powers we all know him for today. It’s a fantastic introduction to the character for anyone unfamiliar with her, and while I could go on and on about how excited I am for the continuation of her solo title I’m instead going to call attention to the 7th page of her book [excluding ads] which contains the following panels:

thirdwheelin

“You should really just go with Rafferty. [. . .] It’s obvious you want to ask her out.”

In the thread on /r/comicbooks discussing the issue there were a couple of people who this didn’t go over with too well. I’ve copied and pasted their comments below, and in an attempt to be fair to them I will reiterate what the first said in a follow-up, which is that they are in fact “pro-lesbians”.

“And why did her two co-workers have to be lesbian? I’m torn on this because the answer is there’s no reason they couldn’t be, but at the same time, it feels forced. Like, that whole scenario was ONLY there to appeal to an LGBT reader. It didn’t serve the story as a whole at all and made no difference. I’m NOT saying the scene should have been a heterosexual pairing. That’s not the point. I’m saying the scene as a whole was unnecessary and pointless and making those two characters lesbians was a “just because” choice. I hope I articulated that right.”

“Also, as it has been said before, the lesbian friend thing feels totally forced. I’ve got nothing against it, but why?”

The answer, of course [and as another redditor responded], is: “Because they exist.” More to the point, the fact that lesbians are should be, and I’m speaking very optimistically here, normal. In a perfect world we should be able to view these panels and think no more of them than if they involved a man and a woman, or even a man and a man. For the sake of the argument I will add a follow-up comment that the first person above made, stating that their concern is that:

“This is a high profile #1 that has the potential to be a big seller for Marvel. Yes, the joke helps establish tone, but I think it also proclaims, ‘Hey, lesbians! Look, Marvel thinks you’re real cool and all, so here’s a shout-out!’ Just seems shoehorned.”

When taking into account the full context of the two characters’ presence in the issue it becomes that much clearer that there’s no real agenda being pushed here. Their only other “appearance”-

ohlola

-is actually beneficial to the plot, not in that it reveals Cindy to be a homophobe [she’s not], but that she values solitude and her own personal space [she lived in a bunker for 10 years, long story] and needs to move out. Yes, this could have been accomplished with a straight couple, but the fact that it isn’t shouldn’t be raising any eyebrows. It should also be mentioned that their inclusion doesn’t appeal to just LGBT readers, but to anyone searching for more representation in media and everyone who doesn’t know they need it. Lesbians are a thing, everyone. Not just in New York City apartments, but in New Jersey high school dances as well.

In Ms. Marvel #12 [which I actually reviewed two days ago!] a bowl of truth serum-spiked punch courtesy of the Asgardian god of trickery resulted in a romantic evening falling apart fast. Among the various couples spilling their guts are the following two girls, who are conveniently located front and centre on the panel [others blurred out by yours truly]:

hsdrama

“I was lying. I really am mad that you forgot our six-month anniversary.”

That’s right, here are two lesbian high school students who have been dating six months, and their relationship is showcased right alongside a jock telling his girlfriend that he likes math and another boy telling his date he would rather be attending a screening of an early 90s Baz Luhrman movie. In other words, adolescent drama as [I assume] it typically goes.

Both Silk #1 and Ms. Marvel #12 feature lesbian characters in minor roles, and do so in such a way that their orientation is made apparent. The method used is not particularly overt, especially when keeping in mind that a person’s orientation is only ever made known when their relationships or related preferences are stated or seen. It could be argued that almost any background character in any comic book is an LGBT person, but unless it’s more directly communicated they could just as well be straight. This is something that both Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were very aware of when they included the following image in their heavily-lauded work Watchmen:

A1.Rafael-couples

Regarding the question of how to increase the representation of those with sexualities other than straight the answer, at least when it comes to both gay and lesbian people, appears to be: present them as normal, everyday people in normal, everyday situations. Whether it’s two men holding hands or two women realizing their mutual affection for one another their sexual identity is presented in a manner that shouldn’t, and again I’m being optimistic, take anyone out of the story being told.

Unfortunately this isn’t as easy for other LGBT people, namely those who represent the “T” of said acronym. Transgendered people, particularly in the visual medium of comic books, have much more trouble having their sexual identity made known. It’s the topic of my next installment of Homosexuality in Comics, and while I wish I had a better name for the feature I hope you’re looking forward to it just as much as I am.


Silk #1 was written by Robbie Thompson and illustrated by Stacey Lee. Ms. Marvel #12 was written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Elmo Bondoc. Both were published by Marvel. As mentioned, Watchmen was written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons, and published by DC Comics.

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3 responses to “Homosexuality in Comics: Here Be Lesbians

  1. Don’t know if you’re still reading questionable content (You were the one who introduced that to me yes?), but they’ve just developed a trans storyline.

    • Yeah, I do still keep up on it. I know Marten is dating that redhead now. I hadn’t planned on including QC in the next installment, but now that you mention it I just might-

  2. Pingback: Aaron Sorkin and Flash Boys: The Difficulty with Bringing Asian Heroes to the Big Screen | Culture War Reporters

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