The new year brings a tide of LGBT comic-book characters and storylines—some are existing characters moving to the forefront, others are new creations, and some have just burst out of the four-color closet.
From DC and Marvel to independent publishers, here’s a rundown of queer characters to look out for in 2017.
This light-powered hero has been a part of DC Comics since 1940, but he’s being revamped for the CW Seed’s Freedom Fighters: The Ray, where he’ll be the first openly gay superhero in an animated show.DC Comics
In comics land, the Ray (real name: Ray Terrill) will be joining the Justice League of America in February. Before that, he’ll get a one shot, reintroducing the character to the DC Universe.
It’s written by queer JLA writer Steve Orlando (Supergirl, Midnighter and Apollo) and drawn by Stephen Byrne (Green Arrow).
At the moment, Marvel has two Icemen: the adult Bobby Drake and his teenage self, who time-traveled from the past. At the end of 2015, BOTH Icemen came out as gay. More recently, the younger mutant hero has been exploring his sexuality—even visiting a gay bar.
But this year, the more mature Iceman is getting own series—the first ongoing comic for a gay male character in the company’s history. His adventures will be told by a largely queer team, too, with writer Sina Grace (Self-Obsessed), cover artist Kevin Wada (She-Hulk) and artist Alessandro Vitti (Secret Warriors).
Miss America Chavez has been out-and-proud pretty much from the get-go, and a fan-favorite since her time with the Young Avengers. In 2016, we saw the character— who can fly, create interdimensional portals, and pretty much kick ass—take on greater prominence as the leader of The Ultimates, the premier Marvel team for tackling cosmic-level threats.
This year, Chavez gets her own comic book, titled simply America. A series with a queer Latina is a first for Marvel (well, any Latina, really) and comes from Gabby Rivera (Juliet Takes a Breath) and Joe Quinones (Howard the Duck).
Dennis “Demolition Man” Dunphy has a long history with Captain America, but was only recently revealed to be gay in a recent issue of Sam Wilson: Captain America. (We have to wonder if Marvel saw the irony in making a character named “D-Man” gay.)
After years of being seen as a joke, D-Man recently resurfaced as a more nuanced supporting character, one in a loving relationship with another man.Marvel
With both Captain America titles building to some big events in 2017, we expect Dunphy to have a prominent role.
Not so much a new character, Extraño—a.k.a. Gregorio De La Vega—is a Peruvian magician first introduced to the DC Comics universe back in 1988.
One of the first gay characters in mainstream comics, Extraño was, well, problematic: He wore a flamboyant costume, called himself “Auntie,” and fought an AIDS vampire called Hemo-Goblin who infected him with HIV. (I’m not making this up.)
It was presumed Extraño and his teammates in the New Guardians died when their island base was destroyed, but the character has returned with a pretty significant role in the current Midnighter & Apollo mini-series.
Thankfully, things are much improved: He’s a Doctor Strange-type now, and more of a mature, handsome daddy. (Literally—he has a husband and child.) Given that Apollo and Midnighter are a couple themselves, he’s no longer relegated to token character status.
It’ll be interesting to see how much of Gregorio’s previous continuity will be rolled into the current take on the character.
In September, Aftershock Comics launched Alters, a new series by writer Paul Jenkins (Spectacular Spider-Man), artist Leila Leiz and colorist Tamra Bonvillain that’s the first superhero series with a transgender protagonist.
Chalice was introduced in Alters #1 as a still-in-the-closet trans woman, presenting as male with her family but living as a woman in her superhero identity.Afetrshock
Alters has faced criticism for lacking a trans writer, and for focusing too much on Chalice’s struggles being trans, but it’s also garnered a solid fanbase. And, it has to be said, this is a level of inclusion that not even Marvel or DC have attempted.
Batwoman has been a part of the DC Universe since the 1950s, and was revamped from Batman’s girlfriend to a lesbian caped crusader back in 2006.
Kate Kane still comes from a wealthy Gotham family, but she was a decorated soldier until she was kicked out of the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She’s a lead character in Detective Comics, where she trains some of the city’s younger heroes, and will headline her own book again starting in February.
As with the Ray, her adventures will be chronicled by queer writers—Marguerite Bennett (DC Comics Bombshells) and James Tynion IV (Batman and Robin Eternal). She’ll also be appearing on The CW’s Supergirl.
Natasha IronsDC Comics
The niece of John Henry Irons, a.k.a. the armored superhero known as Steel, Natasha has been a supporting character in the Superman titles since the 1990s. In the current DC Universe, though, she just made a resurgence in Superwoman, where she saves lives in her own powerful armor and is in a relationship with teen sorceress Traci 13.DC Comics
A classic pulp adventure hero from the 1940s, Lance Valiant is returning after 80 years courtesy of Chapterhouse Comics.
This time, though, the Canadian hero is openly gay.
Along with companions Tasha Kolchak and John Cabot, Lance undertakes Indiana Jones-style adventures with a sexy, spy-meets-sci-fi twist, courtesy of writers Jim Zub (Thunderbolts) and Andrew Wheeler (Another Castle) and artist Vaneda Vireak.
Freelance will run for just four issues starting in January, but the team is hoping for more stories featuring the hunky gay adventurer. With enough support, perhaps an ongoing series will materialize.
Kim & KimBlack Mask Studio
These intergalactic bounty hunters came onto the scene in 2016—Kim is trans, and Kim is her queer partner in crime and mischief.
Part Tank Girl, part Star Wars, all fun adventure, Black Mask Studios’ Kim & Kim was created by writer Magdalene Visaggio, artist Eva Cabrera and inker Claudia Aguirre, who present us with a queer-positive narrative including a trans lead character, a rarity in media of any kind.
Vassagio created Kim & Kim while she was transitioning, and it’s a fun, heartfelt and meaningful story that doesn’t belabor its inclusiveness.Black Mask Studio
Aqualad has been part of the DC Universe for decades, usually as part of the Teen Titans, though more than one character has used the name. The newest Aqualad, Jackson Hyde, briefly appeared some years back as part of the “Brightest Day” crossover. He was then MIA until last summer, when he was reintroduced in a DC Rebirth one-shot.DC Comics
But this seemed to be a new version of Hyde: For one thing, he’s gay—and sadly, living with a mom who berates him for his “unnatural” behavior.
The Jackson Hyde Aqualad will be joining DC’s teen crusaders in Teen Titans #6 this March.
Patsy Walker has actually been around since 1945, but didn’t become a superhero until the 1970s. In the current series Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat, she’s roommates with Ian Soo, a bisexual bookstore clerk who discovers his telekinesis—and his Inhuman lineage—after contact with the Terrigen Cloud.
Initially, Ian didn’t want to be a hero, but he took to using his powers to help Hellcat when they crossed paths with his abusive ex-girlfriend.Marvel
Telekinian is an interesting character: A positive representation of bisexuals, a guy who has made mistakes and is relatable, and who’s also been a victim of domestic abuse but has risen above it. Plus, he’s in an adorable relationship with Patsy’s old friend, Tom Hale, his boss at Burly Books.
Queer comics fans have always loved Wonder Woman, the warrior princess who breaks gender stereotypes and stands up for the downtrodden—and looks fabulous while doing it.
Diana’s origins have been revised many times since her debut in 1941, but she’s always hailed from an island solely populated women. Over the years fans have wondered if Paradise Island (or Themyscira) was just ignorant of romantic love. But in 2016 writer Greg Rucka introduced Kassia, a lover Diana left behind when she entered Man’s World.DC Comics
This makes Wonder Woman both one of the oldest and newest LGBT characters in comics. And certainly the most prominent—especially with a major motion picture on its way. Whether the movie will touch on Diana’s queerness remains to be seen.