Len is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has had a fascination with games and media that has lasted a lifetime.
There have actually been quite a few highly publicized lesbian characters in comic books over the years. Compared to gay males they're quite well represented. This is mostly due to the double standard where it is cool for straight males to like lesbians but taboo for homosexual males to be considered "tough" or "badass".
Still, these pioneering superheroes have proven to be positive role models for LGBT youth across the world. Follow along as we discover the history of lesbian superheroes.
Let's hear it for women! Here's a sneak peek:
- The Question
- Karolina Dean
- The Amazons
- Scandal Savage
- Sarah Rainmaker
- Grace and Thunder
As a member of the New Mutants, Karma was always part of the "next wave" of the superhero crowd. She was usually the most mature member of the team and, arguably, one of the most powerful. With the ability to take over another person's mind and control their body, she could potentially take down the largest of threats as long as she was able to keep safe while grabbing the reigns of their psyche.
Karma came out of the closet after finally admitting an attraction to fellow X-Girl, Shadowcat. Unfortunately, while open-minded, Shadowcat was just not able to return the feelings. However, it led to Karma being able to be open about herself in public and hold her head high.
Unfortunately, Karma hasn't had the luckiest life. During the 80s, there was a rather distressing period where she was forced to become monstrously overweight. Although she recovered from her obesity, she would later lose her leg in a heated battle.
If you're interested, you can read about her regularly in New Mutants as well as appearances in various X-Men titles.
I've already said plenty about Batwoman comics. But the fact remains that she is the highest-profile gay or lesbian character in all of mainstream comics. Not only is she an openly lesbian superhero, but she carries her own popular and critically acclaimed title.
Motherly, butch, sensual, and moral, she defies labels. A promising military student, she was given the choice to either deny her sexuality in writing or be kicked out of the marines due to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Rather than break her oath to never lie, she told the truth and began to seek out an outlet for doing good in the world through superheroics instead.
Check her out in Detective Comics and her upcoming title, Batwoman!
The Question (DC)
Of course, you can't mention Batwoman without mentioning The Question. The successor to the original holder of the name, Renee Montoya is a familiar face for Batman fans. Originally introduced on Batman: The Animated Series, she made her way into the comic books and soon after came out as a lesbian. At this point, she was one of the most high profile lesbian comic book characters, and her elevation to superhero status only reinforces her groundbreaking role.
She is also important to Batwoman's backstory, as the two have shared an on-again/off-again romantic entanglement. The two broke up initially because Renee was unwilling to out herself to her police coworkers. They struggle to find common ground while they both deal with their busy lives of stopping psychos from destroying the world.
Mystique? A hero? Well... sometimes. More often than not, this self-serving shapeshifter is working with villains like Magneto but she will just as regularly work for the X-Men. Really, her mood is just as mercurial as her form. She never stays in one spot for too long and quickly gets bored with the people she spends time with.
Except for one person: Destiny, her long-time lover. Mystique was unique in that even as far back as the 70s writers were pretty open about her romantic relationship with another woman. The fact that the pages of Marvel would show off a lesbian comic book character (villain or not) was a big deal.
The two of them lived very happily together for years. While Mystique stayed young and vital due to her superpowers, eventually Destiny grew old and died. Although gone, Destiny's love and affection still hangs over Mystique and informs her of every action.
Karolina Dean (Marvel)
Found in the pages of Runaways, this teenage superhero/alien came to terms with her sexual identity early in the series. She briefly flirted with a fellow teammate, but the relationship didn't go anywhere. Eventually, she found out she was betrothed to a Xavin, a Skrull prince from another world. Skrulls have the ability to shapeshift, and in order to convince her to stay with him, Xavin took a female form.
The two actually embarked on a rather daring and thought-provoking romance. Karolina was happy to have a beautiful woman to date but was often concerned that Xavin still thought of himself as a male. That's comic books for you—adding a transgender subplot only available through superpowers.
Her comic is currently on hiatus but should be back sometime next year. Rumor has it that a major motion picture featuring Karolina and her underage superhero friends will begin production shortly as well. Cross your fingers!
The Amazons (DC)
Yes, the Amazons. As in the group of people Wonder Woman hails from. But, then, what did we really suspect. Their entire culture is based on never, ever allowing themselves to be around men, ever. If you think they haven't discovered a Sapphic side over the years, you're out of your mind.
Of course, recent comic books have really played up the lesbian angle for these iconic comic book characters. In fact, some writers have even implied that Wonder Woman herself is bisexual. Straight out of Greek Mythology, this island of Goddesses beyond the touch of men show what a lesbian community is like, instead of just having a lone character represent an entire sexual orientation.
And hey, they live on Paradise Island! Sounds like Paradise to some folks I know, right?
Another anti-hero, Scandal is the daughter of the immortal supervillain Vandal Savage. Featuring a retarded metabolism herself, she is able to heal from wounds quickly (in hours and days, nothing like Wolverine) and is one of the best melee fighters in the DC universe.
Her homosexuality was not much of a secret. In fact, she was in a very long term relationship with super villain Knockout before the two of them became anti-hero mercenaries in the popular Secret Six title. Unfortunately, Knockout was killed a few years back. Scandal has started to move on and has begun dating a woman with remarkably similar looks to her deceased partner.
Uncompromising and tough, Scandal is a take-no-BS kinda woman. However, she does have her softer side and has shown a great paternal affection for her teammate and friend Bane. Check her and the rest of her wild team of psychos out for some real laughs!
A few more high profile, mainstream lesbian superheroes to consider:
- Sarah Rainmaker (Gen13): A Native American activist and out lesbian comic book character, she is comically but endearingly in your face about political correctness issues. Also, you know, controls the weather.
- Sunfire (Marvel): An alternate universe version of a male character, Sunfire appeared in the dimension-hoping Exiles book.
- Grace and Thunder (DC): These two lesbian lovers have been active with the DC supergroup The Outsiders.
There are plenty of great comic books out there with LGBT characters, so if you're interested, go out there and support them! After all, no one will know you care if you don't vote with your wallet.
For more information about LGBT characters in geek culture, read on to find out about Gay and Lesbian Characters in Video Games
Gadfly from Olde London Towne on June 01, 2019:
Don't mess with Grrrrl power either !
kato the slave. on June 01, 2019:
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF WOMEN !
Gadfly from Olde London Towne on May 31, 2019:
Xena the Warrior Princess whom we've all but forgotten now ! She was heterosexually portrayed until she finally 'came out' as being in a relationship with Gabriella.
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on May 13, 2019:
Move over Wonder Woman ! The New Bat Woman is here.
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on April 27, 2019:
We can't live without them !
Gadfly from Olde London Towne on April 17, 2019:
I enjoy interaction with Women of all persuations.
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on April 16, 2019:
Along the life time journey i've gotten to know a few Ladies of the Sapphic persuasion who have befriended me however they have never mentioned any fictional characters. The one exception, Charlie's Angels.
Gadfly on May 02, 2018:
I maintain that the premise only be suggested in a subtle vein and not overdone to the point of 'in your face'.
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on May 01, 2018:
I've a feeling the women readers of the graphic novels and women viewers of media want to see strong independant women who can defeat any male adversary. The man hating feminist and or lesbian provide that tease and denial concept within the plot line.
Harle3651 on April 29, 2018:
what about Fire and Ice from the JLU? aren't they lesbians and involved with each other?
Gadfly on October 14, 2016:
Just been visiting Elvira the Mistress of the Dark. Having got as far as the gate house the zombie in attendance ushered me to Elvira's dungeon and the sight of a laughing skeleton frightened the living wits out of me. Elvira's warning 'the foolhardy need not venture here.'
Limpet on September 17, 2016:
Greetings my little Darklings
Yes, i do like Batwoman for her 'gothique' overtones and the sinister plot lines. Where as Wonder Woman did happen to have popularity with girls and younger women as an inspiration and role model her sexuality was not that obvious. Modesty Blaise was a woman who enjoyed defeating males and romantic connotations emerged very rarely.
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on December 03, 2015:
The only female super hero's in comics during my adolescence were Wonder Woman and Batwoman. There was Lois Lane but she was as yet to be elevated to super status. Wonder Woman dominated with her own comic books whilst Batwoman seemed to be an adjunct of Batman comics. I never regarded W.W. as any one sensual, just doing her job in the cops n robbers genre. And. Wonder Woman evolved into the Wonder Woman saga. Getting back to Batwoman though i regarded her costume as a garment of particular sexuality. It was tight, shiny and came with a cape. The name Gotham City conjures up 'Gothique ness' as many lesbians are into the Goth with some Goths into the dominatrix scene.
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on July 25, 2015:
Error: redeming should read redeeming!
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on July 24, 2015:
I think Wonder Woman's most redeming characteristic was that if she considered that an adversary she had triumphed over was worth rehabilitation then he would be conveyed to Transformation island to undergo reforming there.
Soyinka on July 23, 2015:
Nice work.....there is a need for more diversity in the world with so much intolerence
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on July 07, 2015:
The premise of Wanda Von Kreesus in the Oh wicked Wanda comics was murdering her father to claim an inheritance and systematicly defeating as many males through sadistic torment and cruelty for her amusement. The only redeaming feature of this glossy porn strip was lampooning many of the world's corrupt politicians and tyrants of the era.
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on August 12, 2014:
I recall a serialised version of the first Modesty Blaise novel in a daily tabloid as early as 1965. This was certainly a new innovation as a superheroine. The book came out in 66 and the rather campy film in 67 with a B grade remake in the 80's. The strip endured and the Modesty Blaise anthology enlarged. I read only one account of a physical liasson with a male and it was because she felt sorry for him but distinctly i remember a relationship with an adolescent girl. Anyway Emma Peel who predated Modesty Blaise by six months was a better superheroine. Full of self confidence, witty quips and a saucy smile. Mrs Peel is a legend.
Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on April 11, 2014:
But didn't Wonder Woman have a boyfriend in man's world?
Rae Saylor from Australia on November 03, 2013:
Awesome list ;-) Your hub makes me want to read more comic books. I especially love Batwoman. Voted up!
Kristy Escoto from Minnesota on January 27, 2013:
This is wonderful, this really makes me want to get into comics. If I had knows I'd probably be geekin out by now!
rjbatty from Irvine on January 20, 2013:
This pretty much validates the fact that comic books really are not for children any more. If, when I was 12 years old, and understood the intimations of lesbianism, I would have up-chucked my Oscar Myer hot dogs, potato chips, and Jell-O. Sorry if I'm not being PC, but that's just the way I feel. Why DC and Marvel feel it's necessary to push this down the throats of its readership is because its audience has become so old and decadent.
scentualhealing from Georgia on January 27, 2012:
thank you for their information
jake13edward from Redlands Ca on July 25, 2011:
I already knew all these lesbians were lesbians.
Pam Harrison on July 18, 2011:
Best lesbian indie comic so far: A Deviant Mind!
edw4rdcull on June 28, 2011:
I think it is to approach an audience of a different taste and identify the characters with the gay community
MathLizard from Reading PA on June 14, 2011:
The marvel character Phyla-Vell, the sister of Captain Marvel who eventually acquires the quantum bands to become the new Quasar, is also a lesbian. She had a relationship with Moondragon. Not one of the more important characters, but worth a mention.
RedElf from Canada on May 30, 2011:
Who knew? I should never have given up reading comics! ...and what amazing art work! Thanks for this fascinating and informative hub.
PR Morgan from Sarasota Florida on February 14, 2011:
I think it would be interesting if some of the movies would delve into this sub genre. It could bring new life into an overplayed superhero movie market...I may have to read some of these comic books!
Nightweaver on January 30, 2011:
I'm going to go check out Batwoman now, thanks!
Klena from England on December 28, 2010:
Fantastic, informative hub with a few figures I didn't know before now! Thank you for the hub and recommending new titles for me to look into :)
Right On Time from Australia on December 27, 2010:
There was nothing about this hub that I didn't like
Best Games on December 18, 2010:
What about Wonder Woman ? http://wonder-woman-movie-2013-trailer.blogspot.co...
EmoBarbie520 on November 13, 2010:
What about Cassie in "Hack/Slash"?
eddgrr from NYC on November 07, 2010:
I never knew that Mystique had a female lover! Learn something new everyday haha.
guest on August 07, 2010:
Hmmm, I thought that Wonder Woman was portrayed as clearly lesbian but open minded enough to play with the idea of male lovers...and over time clearly disappointed with male attitudes and weaknesses.
mosaicman from Tampa Bay, Fl on July 20, 2010:
Wow, i'm not that into comic books. I'm a casual reader and follower of characters. I didn't know they had homosexual characters. Interesting though. Thanks for the info. Cool Hub.
MollyMiigwan from Naples on July 18, 2010:
I didn't know there were so many! Thank you for the awesome hug-- great job!
Len Cannon (author) from Brooklyn, NY on June 24, 2010:
Well, Mystique is kind of hard to classify. Is someone who can be anyone of any sex even really a woman? I guess it is all self-identification. If you really think about it too hard your head might pop.
jasonycc from South East Asia on June 24, 2010:
Wonderful compilation. I love reading X-Men comics. I didn't know Karma and Mystique were lesbians. Now I do.
John B Badd from Saint Louis, MO on June 24, 2010:
Jorge Vamos on June 23, 2010:
A good list. I didn't know about most of these; thanks for sharing. (I was half-expecting Poison Ivy to make it on here, but I guess that aside from being a villain and not a hero, her affection for Harley Quinn is more subtext than anything else.)
Len Cannon (author) from Brooklyn, NY on June 22, 2010:
Yeah, Batwoman is definitely my favorite new hero introduced in some time.
Kasey Rubenstein from California on June 22, 2010:
Wow. Your articles make me want to read more comics like nobody's business. Especially Batwoman.
Gilbert Smith from New Mexico on June 22, 2010:
Lesbian indie comics: No thank you. Lesbian superheroes: Hubba hubba!
No but seriously, I think independent comics specifically about gay issues tend to marginalize and categorize, rather than promote, their characters. Putting gay characters into mainstream comics and making sexual preference a non-issue seems much more progressive.