Comics and Cosplay
Good Riddance, Fred Phelps: 5 Pivotal Moments For LGBTs In Comics

Ross Lincoln | 21 Mar 2014 17:00
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The First Openly Gay Super Hero

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Once the gay rights movement had started to become mainstream in the late 80s and early 90s, the major comic publishers began to take steps to meet the new reality half way. This included creating openly gay superheroes. There's apparently some debate about who technically got there first, but there's no question Marvel was the first to make it official when Alpha Flight member Northstar officially came out in Alpha Flight #106 (1992).

The character, created by John Byrne in 1979, was apparently always intended to be gay, but for whatever reason - rumor has it Jim Shooter had a "No Gays in the Marvel Universe" policy when he ran things - it was never stated outright. The closest he came during the 80s was a vague disinterest in women, a trait characterized at the time as the result of his devotion to other pursuits like skiing. Northstar's coming out was a huge event at the time, but unfortunately, this remained the only real mention of Northstar's sexual orientation for the rest of Alpha Flight's run. It would be almost a decade before Marvel would commit to the characterization. (Though it gets better - Northstar married his partner Kyle in 2012 on the pages of Astonishing X-Men, and Marvel didn't bat an eyelash when anti-gay hate group One Million Moms complained.)

Of course, that's still better than DC, whose first attempt to create a gay superhero was a half-assed mess that also dripped with unfortunate implications. I speak of Extraño, introduced in 1988 as part of New Guardians, a character that was, without hyperbole, an embarrassment. Embodying perhaps the largest collection of stereotypes contained within a single character, he was: a spicy hispanic; a flashy, Liberace-esque dresser; a mincing showman prone to referring to himself as "auntie". And in case you hadn't got the message, his name means "strange" or "odd" in Spanish.

Making things worse Extraño never once talked about his sexuality in any way. But that's OK, because his enemies included an "AIDS vampire" called Hemo-Goblin, and he was later confirmed to be HIV positive himself. Oh right, that's not OK at all. FAIL, DC. DC must think so too, however: New Guardians was cancelled after 12 issues, and Extraño has since been for the most part quietly absent from DC comics. Read more about him here.

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