Trading blows with supervillains is all well and good, but that only scratches the surface of what it means to be a hero. Some of the most iconic superheroes in the world are also champions of civil rights; these characters don’t just fight crime, they fight for change by bringing important social issues to the forefront. In my opinion, that’s what truly makes a character truly legendary — not just talking about ideas, but embodying them.
“Hope will never be silent” is a quote from the late activist Harvey Milk. It’s not just some pithy line to post on social media, and then forget about when July rolls in — it’s a promise. To honor Pride Month this year, I’d like to highlight 12 amazing LGBTQ+ superheroes who’ve made waves in the vast, ever-expanding world of comic books.
Jean-Paul Beaubier/ Northstar
Debuting in X-Men #120 (1979), Jean-Paul Beaubier, codename Northstar, is often touted as the first openly gay mainstream superhero in comic book history. Flight is this X-Man’s main ability; Northstar can achieve 99% the speed of light (or 186, 272 miles per second) if he really puts his mind to it. He’s also got the durability to match, as his body can effortlessly shrug off gale-force winds.
Jean-Paul is also an internationally beloved skier and a renowned businessman. In Astonishing X-Men #51 (2012), Northstar made history once again when he married Kyle Jinadu, marking the first same-sex marriage in a mainstream comic book. I’d be remiss not to mention this hero’s incredible bond with his sister Jeanne-Marie Beaubier, codename Aurora. When the two of them work together, their powers ascend to incredible heights.
Katherine “Kate” Kane/ Batwoman
Katherine was a military brat who excelled as a cadet at West Point military academy. Shortly after starting a relationship with another cadet, she was expelled due to the Army’s dubious “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Kate eventually became a vigilante and trained with her father, Colonel Jacob Kane, to handle Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals.
It was only a matter of time until another vigilante operating in Gotham City piqued Batman’s interest. Kate’s skill, determination, and ingenuity caught the Dark Knight’s attention, but it was her restraint and compassion that ultimately earned his admiration — and a place in the Bat Family. Batwoman has been a household name in DC Comics for years, and she’s been going strong with Renee Montoya, aka The Question, for just as long.
Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman
Oh yeah, Wonder Woman is a queer icon 1000% of the way. Most of the time, she’s presented as heterosexual, but her creators always intended for her to be queer. Think about it; Wonder Woman hails from Themyscira, an island modeled after Ancient Greece and exclusively populated by women. On numerous occasions, it’s been implied that Diana has had romantic relationships/ experiences with amazons from her homeland. And let’s not forget Wondie’s “procreation” quote from Patty Jenkins ’ Wonder Woman (2017).
One of Wondie’s creators was William Moulton Marston, a psychologist and (I kid you not) the inventor of the polygraph machine. Martson envisioned Wonder Woman as a hero whose greatest attribute was her immense love for people — embodied the age-old “kill ‘em with kindness” maxim. Over the years, she morphed into a sex symbol who occasionally snaps peoples’ necks. Comics do what comics do, I suppose.
Theodore “Teddy” Altman/ Hulkling
Teddy is a half-Skrull, half-Kree hero who was originally believed to be linked to the Hulk. In reality, he’s a shapeshifter of immense talent — prone to mimicking the appearances and mannerisms of others down to a tee. In recent years, he’s come into possession of Excelsior — a mystical blade of alien origin.
Hulkling is the oldest son of Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel. He also married William Kaplan, aka Wiccan, as of Empyre #4 (2020). Considering that Captain Marvel, the Kree, and the Skrulls have appeared in the MCU, I get the sense that Hulkling’s live-action debut is on the horizon.
Imagine Batman, but much scarier and much more prone to acts of extreme violence. I’d say that’s Midnighter in a nutshell, but that’d be a lie. This character is incredibly complex, as his bloodlust is only matched by his immense love for children, especially his adopted daughter Jenny Quantum, and his husband Apollo. Midnighter originally hails from the independent WildStorm comics before he, and the rest of The Authority, was brought into the DC Comics universe.
Midnighter possesses several uncanny abilities (superstrength, durability, speed, and accelerated healing), but battle precognition is his claim to fame. Midnighter can mentally envision countless outcomes to a conflict before it even starts, effectively cluing him into his opponents’ next moves before they take action.
John Constantine/ Hellblazer
John Constantine is as irreverent and rough-around-the-edges as they come. Then again, what would you expect from a chap who regularly consorts with inhuman entities — emphasis on the word “consort”. Even by comic book standards, John’s pretty lascivious; angels, demons, witches, succubi — you name it, John’s probably slept with it.
Still, there’s more to the Hellblazer than meets the eye. John’s a hero through and through, risking life and limb for the safety of others more times than I can count. He’s also a mystic of phenomenal prowess who’s respected by the likes of Dr. Fate, Zatanna Zatara, Giovanni Zatara, Phantom Stranger, and Lucifer (begrudgingly). Speaking of which…
Any fans of Tom Kapinos’ Lucifer (2016 – 2021) already know just how debonair this devil can be. In terms of bedroom exploits, Lucifer could give Constantine a run for his money. Lucifer Morningstar is a Neil Gaiman creation; he first appeared in The Sandman #4 (1989), where Dream of the Endless learns that he’s ditched his role as the ruler of Hell.
I could sit here and rattle off a list of mind-boggling feats to illustrate how powerful Lucifer is, but do I really need to? Dude’s The Devil. Nuff said. Drawing out peoples’ inner desires is one of Luc’s most interesting abilities, namely because he never forces people to do anything they don’t want to. He also never lies to people outright, though he loves to stretch the truth.
Wade Wilson/ Deadpool
Once upon a time, a couple of madmen from Image Comics decided to poke fun at DC Comics’ deadly assassin Deathstroke. They created the rudest, weirdest, most violent, over-the-top character they could think of. Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld were the madmen in question, and Deadpool was their gift to the world.
Ryan Renold’s spirit animal probably deserves his own sexual orientation, but pansexual hits the nail on the head the most. Deadpool’s two most famous abilities are his healing factor and something I’ll call “medium awareness” since he’s not just limited to comics anymore. Wade can heal just like Wolverine, and he’s aware that he’s inside of a comic book/ movie/ TV show/ video game. He also blabbers enough to annoy the likes of Spider-Man, She-Hulk, and Thanos.
Katherine “Kitty” Pryde/ Red Queen
Many readers might remember Kitty Pryde from 21st Century Fox’s X-Men films, where she was portrayed by actor Elliot Paige across two films. Creator Chris Claremont had always intended for Kitty to be bisexual, but the Comics Code Authority stifled that attempt.
In lieu of this, writers had to drop myriad hints and nods over the years. It wasn’t until Marauders #12 (2020) that Kitty Pryde kissed her tattoo artist and confirmed that she was indeed bisexual. Concerning her mutant abilities, Kitty has some jaw-dropping feats under her belt — namely phasing an enormous bullet through the entire planet.
America Chavez/ Ms. America
America Chavez is one of Marvel’s most prominent Latinas as well as one of the most talented Multiversal travelers in the game. She was portrayed by Xochitl Gomez in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (2022), though her role was rather downplayed in my opinion.
In the comics, America identifies as a lesbian and was romantically linked to a paramedic named Lisa Halloran. She’s also much older, much bolder, and much stronger than her MCU counterpart currently is. America can still create star-shaped portals to other multiverses, but she’s gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Galactus in print.
Anissa Pierce/ Thunder
DC Comics has aired plenty of shows over the years, from Smallville (2001 – 2006) to Supergirl (2015 – 2021). The quality of these shows certainly fluctuates, but each of them moved the dial in terms of representation or storytelling in some way. Enter Black Lightning, a show centered around the titular hero Jefferson Pierce and his two daughters, Anissa and Jennifer.
Anissa is Jefferson’s eldest child who moonlights as the superhero Thunder. She can manipulate her density to become sturdier than a diamond and as implacable as a mountain. In the comics and in the Black Lighting TV show, Anissa’s girlfriend is Grace Choi — a half-Amazonian warrior who’s a member of Batman’s Outsiders.
Nia Nal/ Dreamer
Nia Nal is unique among her contemporaries in this article, as she debuted on the Supergirl show first before appearing in the comics later. Nia is a half-human, half-Naltorian hero with a slew of abilities. Her namesake comes from her ability to see glimpses of the future.
Nia’s actress, Nicole Maines, is a renowned LGBTQ+ activist and the namesake of the book Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family. Her tenure as Dreamer also marked the first time that a transgender character starred in a superhero TV show.