Representation is important. And if you’re a woman, a person of color, and/or someone who identifies somewhere on the spectrum of “not straight,” representation can be pretty damn hard to come by – especially when it comes to the ass-kicking world of comic books.
Comics have had their own interesting history with representation. Marvel’s Stan Lee, in a 2000 interview with The Guardian, discussed his ideas behind creating the X-Men, saying, “I couldn’t have everybody bitten by a radioactive spider or zapped with gamma rays, and it occurred to me that if I just said that they were mutants, it would make it easy. Then it occurred to me that instead of them just being heroes that everybody admired, what if I made other people fear and suspect and actually hate them because they were different? I loved that idea; it not only made them different, but it was a good metaphor for what was happening with the civil rights movement in the country at that time.”
Luke Cage (both the comic book and Netflix version!) and the Black Panther, for example, are notable as having been groundbreaking in their representation of black superheros. Indeed, the newest rendition of Black Panther is being written by none other than Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the companion series is being written by the first black women Marvel has ever hired, feminist writer Roxane Gay and poet Yona Harvey.
While diversity is an uphill battle in general, LGBT representation seems to be the next frontier in the movement for equality in comic books. Until 1989, the Comics Code Authority had a ban against depicting queer relationships, and while some comic Marvel has demonstrated a growing commitment to increasing diversity within its pages, DC has not expressed an equal amount of attention on the issue.
The sexuality and gender of the following superheros, as in life, can be more complex than the label “lesbian”; however, all of them are pretty bad-ass and groundbreaking in their own right.
Xavin of Runaways/Marvel
Xavin is the extraterrestrial love interest of Karolina Dean, daughter of alien supervillians. The two were originally promised to be married to stop a fifteen year space war. Though originally Xavin takes the form of a black man, she changes form in order to accommodate Karolina’s orientation.
2. Bling! (Roxanne Washington) of Marvel
Roxanne Washington is what Blue Ivy would be if she lived in the Marvel Universe. As the daughter of popular hip hop artists, she made appearances in her parents’ music videos. As a teenager, however, she decides not to go into the music industry and instead becomes a student at the Xavier Institute. Her mutant ability is to form diamond shards from her bone marrow, which covers her skin in a crystal-like substance and makes her able to expel shards from her body.
3. The Question (Renee Montoya) of DC Comics
Renee Montoya, daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, is a former detective of the Gotham City Police Department. In her role as detective, she came into frequent contact with Batman, and after she is outed as a lesbian, she resigns from the police force. Vic Sage, the first “The Question” trains Montoya to be his replacement before he dies of lung cancer.
4. Sunfire (Mariko Yashida) of Marvel
In the alternate universe of Earth-2109, Mariko Yashida is Sunfire, a mutant who can generate superheated plasma and fly. Yashida, who grew up in Japan, joined the X-Men in spite of her family. Her parents were ashamed of her being lesbian and believed the manifestation of her mutant powers showed she was cursed, and later disowned her. Yashida’s true love is Spider-Woman (Mary Jane Watson) and when she passed, she was buried on Spider-Woman’s planet Earth.
5. Scandal Savage of DC
Scandal Savage is the daughter of villain Vandal Savage and an unknown Brazilian woman. She is a skilled fighter, uses impenetrable Lamentation Blades, and has regenerative abilities. She first met her partner Knockout while they were working together in a team called the Secret Six. Her father (being who he is) attempted to kill Knockout in order to force Savage to pursue a heterosexual relationship in which she can produce an heir. Later, Knockout does die, and Savage enters into a relationship with Liana Kerzner. She eventually goes to the underworld to try to rescue Knockout, but Knockout convinces her to find happiness with Liana. When Savage returns, she discovers that Liana’s ex-boyfriend has kidnapped her in an attempt to pray away the gay. After discovering he was torturing Liana, Savage retaliates by torturing and killing him.
6. Grace Choi of Marvel
Grace Choi, who is the daughter of a Bana Amazon, has metahuman powers of strength, resilience, and regeneration. She is the survivor of a childhood prostitution ring (of which she used her powers to escape). Choi is a member of the Outsiders, and has an open relationship with her sexuality. She dates freely, and among her past and present lovers are Green Arrow and Thunder (Anissa Pierce).
Anissa Pierce comes from a family of crime-fighters. She is the older sister of Lightning, and is the daughter of Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) and Lynn Stewart. Her parents did not want her to follow in her father’s footsteps and pursue crime-fighting; after she graduated college, however, she chose to become Thunder. Pierce has the ability to make her body incredibly dense and strong enough to be impervious to bullets. She can also create shockwaves by stomping on the ground. Pierce is a member of the Outsiders, and she is in a romantic relationship with her teammate Grace Choi. Her father has expressed some discomfort about her orientation and relationship with Choi, but in response to this, she has stated that Choi has been there for her when her father has not.
8. Nyssa al Ghul of DC
Nyssa al Ghul (نيسا رعتكو) is the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, and from an early age was trained to be member and heir of the League of Assassins. In the version of the character presented by the Arrow television series and tie-in comic book series, al Ghul’s ex-lover is Sara lance, aka the Black Canary. Al Ghul first meets Lance in Lian Yu, when Lance is dying of starvation. Al Ghul nurses Lance back to health, and in return Lance decides to join the league. When Lance dies, al Ghul attempts to hunt down her killer.
9. Karma (Xi’an Coy Manh) of Marvel
Xi’an Coy Manh, who is the daughter of a Vietnamese colonel, is a mutant who has the power to possess minds. Her family and she are refugees who left Vietnam’s communist regime, and her parents are murdered on the boat trip over to America. Xi’an later enrolls at the Xavier Institute, and comes to work extensively at the school. She heads the New Mutants, though she leaves to search for her siblings Leong and Nga (who keep getting kidnapped by various evildoers). She has had an unreciprocated romantic interest in Kitty Pryde.
Author: Nina Ki