Revisiting Marvel Comics' Pride History
We look back at the milestone comics that have inspired change, all on Marvel Unlimited.
“I am gay.”
In the year 1992, a single comic panel featured these words from Alpha Flight’s Northstar, breaking never-before-trodden ground in the mainstream comics industry.
Since then, Marvel Comics has gone on to represent, and celebrate, LGBTQ+ identity through our growing roster of queer characters and creators. And, over the course of decades, their stories have expanded in numbers and reach.
[RELATED: Celebrate Pride with These Marvel Heroes]
From history-making kisses, starring solo turns, and even a wedding, here are a few moments that have showcased, and honored, Marvel’s pride.
NORTHSTAR COMES OUT (ALPHA FLIGHT #106)
Mutant speedster and superhuman flyer Jean-Paul Beaubier was a stalwart member of Alpha Flight, Canada’s government-sponsored super-team not unlike the Avengers. Alongside high-flying sister Aurora, Northstar used their powers in concert to burst through opponents with concussive light energy.
Although Northstar’s sexual orientation had been implied from the series’ start, it took one hundred and six issues to confirm on panel. After adopting an HIV-positive infant, Northstar attracted the wrong kind of attention from a Major Mapleleaf, a retired Super Hero who was still reeling from the loss of his adult gay son to AIDS. Northstar took the brunt of this emotional battle, eventually leading to his confession that he too understood what it was like to be gay and underrepresented.
In the following issues, and even in years to come, Northstar’s sexuality was handled tentatively.But the impact had been made. This single issue generated an enormous amount of publicity, even selling out within a week. It now stands as an iconic chapter in LGBTQ+ storytelling, the first of its kind under the Marvel name.
MYSTIQUE AND DESTINY: FROM FRIENDSHIP TO PARTNERSHIP
Since Mystique’s co-creation by Chris Claremont and artist Dave Cockrum, the writer intended on pushing important boundaries when it came to Raven Darkholme’s gender, and sexual, identity.
In their first on-panel interaction in UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #141, Mystique referred to Irene Adler, AKA the mutant precog Destiny, as a “friend.” As their relationship progressed over the years, it became clearer to readers that Destiny and Mystique’s dynamic was romantic, and that in addition to sharing an adoptive daughter in Rogue, they also had a near-century of history.
It was in Claremont’s X-TREME X-MEN (2001) #1 that we first heard Destiny called out as Mystique’s “true love,” a progression that wasn’t physically seen on panel until HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE (2019) #2.
It was in this single, one page spread that writer Mark Waid and artist Javier Rodriguez at long last confirmed what creators had been unable to do decades prior. And, in X-MEN (2019) #6, Destiny and Mystique’s love was given its full weight when writer Jonathan Hickman established the pair as wives.
SHATTERSTAR AND RICTOR’S KISS (X-FACTOR #45)
Rictor, AKA Julio Richter, is an earthquake-inducing mutant who can control seismic activities through the Earth’s core.
Shatterstar, AKA Gaveedra-Seven, is a genetically modified arena gladiator from Mojoworld with a healing factor, extrasensory perception, and the uncanny talent to open portals between dimensions.
But in 2009’s X-FACTOR #45, these mutants were just two men in love. After a longstanding friendship stretching back to X-FORCE (1991), Rictor and Shatterstar took their relationship to the next level while members of Multiple Man’s mutant detective agency. Their love was cemented with a kiss, albeit a record-making one. This moment between Rictor and Shatterstar marked one of the first same-sex kisses in a mainstream comic, a moment that you can read in full here.
WICCAN AND HULKLING BECOME OFFICIAL
(AVENGERS: CHILDREN’S CRUSADE #9)
Popular with readers from Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung’s 2005 YOUNG AVENGERS run, Wiccan, AKA Billy Kaplan, and Hulkling, AKA Theodore "Teddy" Altman, had chemistry from their first issue, YOUNG AVENGERS #1.
It wasn’t until the finale of super-powered coming-of-age saga AVENGERS: CHILDREN’S CRUSADE that Wiccan and Hulkling could finally act on their feelings, embracing a relationship that was as equally embraced by their friends, family, and Super Hero peers.
This normalization of two teen heroes in a queer relationship perhaps reflected a shift in attitudes, or else encouraged readers to seek out, or aspire to, this same acceptance in their own lives.
THE MARRIAGE OF NORTHSTAR AND KYLE JINADU
(ASTONISHING X-MEN #51)
The revolutionary Northstar makes our list for a second round, this time as a groom in the first same-sex wedding depicted in a mainstream comic!
In a beautiful New York City ceremony, Northstar wed his longtime partner (and former business promoter) Kyle Jinadu… but not before reflecting on all the hair-raising times his Super Hero career nearly sacrificed their love. As far as comic book weddings go, this one is hiccup-free, a welcome change of pace from creators Marjorie Liu and Mike Perkins.
THE MANY FORMS OF LOKI (LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD #5)
Any fan of Marvel’s resident Asgardian trickster god will want to read LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD (2014).
While serving as Asgardia's singular secret service, Loki lied, cheated, stole, bluffed, and snogged, their way through the twistiest, turniest and most treacherous missions that the All-Mother could dish out... all while inhabiting a myriad of forms.
This series established Loki’s many versions of self, all transformations of the same being. Loki’s female form first appeared in THOR (2007) #5, and was frequently revisited in the DARK REIGN event and SIEGE. Since then, Loki has appeared across a range of gender, age, and even species.
Hard to keep up, but we do love to try!
THE ORIGIN OF THE MIDNIGHT ANGELS
(BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #1)
The entire WORLD OF WAKANDA series is now free on Marvel Unlimited, so it’s an excellent opportunity to read the original love story between duo freedom fighters Ayo and Aneka, the Midnight Angels.
Creators Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey , Rembert Browne, Alitha E. Martinez and Afua Richardson united to further develop the mythos of Coates’ BLACK PANTHER (2016), offering an origin to the many characters introduced in his monumental run.
Former Dora Milaje, or soldiers to Wakanda’s Royal Family, Ayo and Aneka rejected their post to forge their own path. Together, they inspired democracy by creating a military force to address the violent rebellions that nearly buckled Black Panther’s throne.
[RELATED: The Big Players in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘Black Panther’]
But, it was BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA (2016) where their romance first blossomed, a secretive love that grew outside the disciplined walls of the palace. New York Times best-selling author Roxane Gay introduced this pair as polar opposites… who found each other over a shared sense of justice.
ICEMAN’S SOLO SERIES (ICEMAN #1)
Although one of Professor Xavier’s Original Five students from way back in UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #1, it took Bobby Drake decades to embrace his truest self, an important chapter in ALL-NEW X-MEN (2012) #40.
Here, a teenaged version of the character confronted a long-buried secret of his identity: that he was gay. With the encouragement and support of Jean Grey, teen Bobby opened up to his adult self about his sexuality, a time-bending exchange that took place in UNCANNY X-MEN (2013) #600.
Since then, Iceman has thrived.
Read an adult Bobby’s solo adventures in ICEMAN (2017) by Sina Grace, Marvel’s first gay lead in a solo character comic. Continue with Grace’s second volume, ICEMAN (2018), covering everything from family drama, Super Villain drop-ins, some “old” Amazing Friends, and even dating.
Or, get up to speed with Iceman’s latest appearances as a brigadier (and Omega-level mutant) in Dawn of X series MARAUDERS (2019)!
AMERICA CHAVEZ AND THE MYTH OF PLANETA FUERTONA
Portal-jumper America Chavez hails from the Utopian Parallel, a lush, wonderland dimension of female-only inhabitants that was once threatened with destruction. After both her mothers died to save their world, America upheld their legacy as a Young Avenger and member of the Ultimates, growing into a team player mentality as she broke away from loner habits.
In 2017, America became Marvel’s first openly queer female hero to star in a solo book. In this gorgeously-illustrated run, writer Gabby Rivera brought Chavez to vivid life, paired with artists Joe Quinones, Stacey Lee, Jen Bartel, Ramon Villalobos, Flaviano Armentaro, and more.
Issue #7, America’s birth and the origin of Planeta Fuertona, is a standout. In this technicolor fable, we finally got to meet America’s parents, and witness their remarkable choice to protect not only their family, but a home world too.
KAROLINA DEAN AND NICO MINORU (RUNAWAYS #12)
Runaways Karolina Dean and Nico Minoru share more than Super Villain parents who practiced blood-letting cult sacrifices to worship ancient gods.
Now, these two young women share a love also, a relationship that was first established in Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka’s RUNAWAYS (2017) #12.
Read Nico and Karolina’s “it’s official” issue here.
DARKVEIL’S DEBUT (UNCANNY X-MEN: WINTER'S END #1)
Writer Sina Grace made history yet again with the introduction of Darkveil, the first drag queen Super Hero! Although she initially debuted in ICEMAN (2018) #4 with a different name, Darkveil adopted a new persona to match her mutant mission in Iceman-centric one-shot UNCANNY X-MEN: WINTER’S END (2019) #1.
By day, he is Darnell Wade of Crown Heights. By night, she is Darkveil, a performer imbued with the power of the Darkforce to share joy and create light from any stage she takes.
DR. CHARLENE MCGOWAN (IMMORTAL HULK #33)
Introduced in IMMORTAL HULK (2018) #6, McGowan is a scientist who was responsible for experimenting on Bruce Banner’s zombified Hulk ego while working with the Shadow Base organization, an initiative started by General Reginald Fortean.
While speaking with Doctor Leonard Samson in issue #33, McGowan disclosed that she was trans. In his creation of McGowan, writer Al Ewing partnered with artist and author Crystal Frasier to bring a more authentic voice, and experience, to the character.
MARVEL’S VOICES ASSEMBLE! (MARVEL’S VOICES #1)
Which brings us to the present!
In anthology one-shot MARVEL’S VOICES (2020) #1, now free on Marvel Unlimited, artist Luciano Vecchio penned and drew “Assemble,” a celebration of real-life heroes and Pride founders Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
A wide assortment of LGBTQ+ heroes from Koi Boi, to Daken, to Loki, took their Pride to the streets, epitomizing the “community and shared cause” of queer activism.
To hear more about this work in the artist’s own words, check out Luciano’s interview here!
[RELATED: An Interview with Luciano Vecchio]
As for the future of Marvel’s Pride? It’s still being written!
Continue your celebration of Marvel Pride with our Marvel Unlimited character spotlight.
Looking for more classic arcs and Marvel must-reads you can read for FREE? Read online here, or download or update the Marvel Unlimited app for iOS or Android at the Apple or Google Play app stores today.
For more of Marvel’s greatest comic books in print, please reach out to your local comic book shop to ask about services they may offer, including holding or creating pull lists, curbside pick-ups, special deliveries and other options to accommodate. Find and support your local comic book shop at http://comicshoplocator.com.
The Hype Box
Can’t-miss news and updates from across the Marvel Universe!
Marvel Studios Announces New Premiere Dates for ‘Loki’ and ‘Echo’