Marvel vs DC: who has better LGBTQ+ superheroes?

When it comes to LGBTQ+ superheroes, who has better representation: Marvel or DC comics? We've compiled all the info you need to decide.

From left to right, comic images of Marvel's Northstar, DC's Catwoman, and Marvel's Jessie Drake.
Image: Marvel and DC comics

With the continued success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the rebirth of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), as well as other successful superhero programs like The Boys, Gen V, and Umbrella Academy, it seems like the superhero craze isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. More than ever now, fans are looking for positive LGBTQ+ superhero representation.

With that in mind, we’ve scoured our comic collection to find the first gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender superheroes ever introduced in Marvel and DC comics to determine, once and for all, who has the better LGBTQ+ superheroes.

Northstar – Marvel’s First Gay Superhero
Jean-Paul Beaubier, also known as the superhero Northstar, was the first ever major comic book character to come out as gay. Northstar made his first appearance in Marvel Comics in 1979 in Uncanny X-men #120 as a member of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight. In his first appearances, Northstar’s powers were revealed to be the ability to fly at superhuman speeds approaching the speed of light. Similarly, Northstar was equipped with superhuman stamina, endurance, and reflexes. 

Northstar made history in 1992 when, in Issue #106 of Alpha Flight, the superhero became the first to utter the words “I am gay.” While Northstar’s sexuality had been hinted at prior to this issue, it had never been confirmed. The specific issue of Alpha Flight would go on to sell out despite it not being a particularly popular title prior to Northstar’s coming out. 

Over the years, Northstar’s character has been romantically involved with other superheroes, including a long-time, unrequited crush on Iceman from the X-Men and an alleged relationship (sexual or otherwise) with Hercules. 

In 2012, Northstar became one half of Marvel’s first ever same-sex marriage when, in Issue #61 of Astonishing X-men, he married his partner, a human named Kyle Jinadu. Marvel’s first-ever same-sex marriage between two superheroes wouldn’t come until 2020, when Wiccan and Hulkling were married in Empyre #4. 

Since the days of Northstar, more Marvel heroes have come out as gay, including Iceman (ALL-NEW X-MEN #1) and super couple Wiccan (Avengers: Initiative #1) and Hulking (Young Avengers #1). 

Extraño – DC’s First Gay Superhero
Entering the comic book world nearly a decade after Northstar, DC’s Extraño, also known as Gregorio De La Vega, was the comic’s first ‘unofficially’ gay character. We say ‘unofficially’ because the comics never explicitly stated that Extraño was queer, however, the writers made it incredibly obvious through the character’s actions and mannerisms. 

Extraño made his premier in Millenium #2. While he was originally affiliated with the mythos of the Green Lantern, Alan Scott (who similarly came out as gay in 2021 in DC Infinite Frontier #0), the character was later classed as a sorcerer. 

In 1989, Extraño’s storyline took a turn for the worse when, in New Guardians #1, the superhero was forced to fight an “AIDS vampire” supervillain called the Hemo-Goblin. While the storyline is problematic enough as it is, it gets worse when Extraño, an obviously queer character, gets scratched by the Hemo-Goblin and contracts HIV as a result. While it is impossible for this to happen in actuality–HIV cannot be spread through a scratch–at the time that the comic was published, little was known about how the disease was spread. 

In a 2016 DC collection titled Love is Love, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio confirmed that Extraño later died as a result of AIDS-related complications, though this was never confirmed in the comics. 

In 2016, DC launched its Rebirth, reviving certain characters that had previously been killed off, such as Extraño. In the new DC universe, the character was more well-rounded as opposed to the walking gay stereotype he had been previously. More recent comics have shown Extraño as the founder and leader of Justice League Queer, a loose network of LGBTQ+ superheroes who work together to fight crime.

Today, Extraño is alive and well on the pages of Midnighter & Apollo, a story focusing on two of DC’s other openly gay heroes. He is also married to Hugh Dawkins, a.k.a. Tasmanian Devil, DC’s second-ever openly gay superhero. 

Other openly gay heroes in the DC universe include Hero Cruz (Superboy and the Ravers #1) and Achilles Warkiller (Wonder Woman #16). 

Who did it better?

While DC’s Extraño is debatably one of the first major LGBTQ+ superheroes in comic history, the incredibly problematic HIV storyline associated with the character makes Marvel’s Northstar the clear winner in this matchup. While Marvel writers admitted to considering an HIV storyline for Northstar during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, they ultimately scrapped the idea–and thank goodness they did. 

While Northstar might not be a massive name in the Marvel universe, the superhero’s quiet coming out is much better LGBTQ+ representation than Extraño’s problematic history in DC. 

Victoria ‘Vicki’ Montesi – Marvel’s First Lesbian Superhero
Marvel welcomed their first lesbian superhero in 1992 when they introduced the character of Victoria ‘Vicki’ Montesi in The Darkhold #1. More recent fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will recognise the Darkhold from projects like WandaVision and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness as the tome of dark magic that Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch, uses to grow more powerful. 

The Montesi family, including Vicki, were long ago tasked with protecting the Darkhold from falling into the wrong hands. However, when pages of the Darkhold are stolen and distributed to mortals, Vicki’s lover, Natasha Salvato, finds herself rendered quadriplegic and comatose as a result. 

While Vicki never has a formal “coming out” scene in the comics, her queerness has never been denied or hidden by writers. Vicki seemingly disappeared from Marvel Comics after the early 90s, but recently returned in Crypt of Shadows #1, a one-shot Marvel horror anthology that was released in 2023. 

Other Marvel characters who have since come out as lesbians include America Chavez (Vengeance #1), Ayo (Black Panther #8), and Aneka (Ultimates #1). 

Batwoman – DC’s First Lesbian Superhero
When it comes to DC’s first lesbian character, things are a bit messy. Technically, Batwoman, a.k.a. Kate Kane, is the first openly lesbian superhero in DC. When Batwoman was originally introduced in Detective Comics #233, her character was intended to squash rumours that Batman and Robin were in a homosexual relationship. It is ironic, then, that when Batwoman was reintroduced to the world in 2006, she would go on to become the first-ever lesbian character to headline a mainstream comic series. Batwoman would similarly become one half of the first-ever lesbian engagement featured in a mass-market comic. 

There are, arguably, older lesbian characters that exist in the DC universe, with characters like Maggie Sawyer, Superman’s point person at the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit, first appearing in Superman (vol. 2) #4 in 1987. While Sawyer was understood to be implicitly queer, comic book characters were not allowed to be explicitly queer at the time due to restrictions exercised by the Comic’s Code Authority (CCA) which, until 1989, imposed de facto censorship on comics sold at United States newsstands that forbid any mention of homosexuality. 

Ice Maiden (Super Friends #4) and Grace Choi (Outsiders #1) have also since come out as queer women in the DC universe.

Who did it better?

Both DC and Marvel were fairly quick when it came to introducing queer women to their lineups of LGBTQ+ superheroes when the CCA altered their censorship rules in the late 1980s. While Marvel certainly got the ball rolling faster than DC, who waited until 2006 to reintroduce Batwoman as a lesbian character, Batwoman has certainly left a larger legacy for LGBTQ+ comic book readers than Marvel’s Vicki Montesi. 

Despite her origin as a method to squash rumours of homosexuality between Batman and Robin, we’d have to give the point to DC’s Batwoman, if only because of the immense legacy that actresses like Ruby Rose have brought to the role since its origination in 1956.

Loki – Marvel’s First Bisexual Superhero
Determining the first bisexual superhero to grace the pages of Marvel Comics is a challenge, primarily because the vast majority of Marvel characters who identify as bisexual today were not originally written as queer characters. Heroes like Kitty Pryde and Mystique, who are now out and proud queer women in Marvel Comics, were not queer when they were originally introduced in 1980 and 1978 respectively. Nor was Loki, the Norse god of mischief, a queer character when they first appeared in Journey Into Mystery #85 in 1952. 

Of all the Marvel characters who have since been confirmed to be part of the LGBTQ+ community, however, Loki is the oldest, having been originally introduced all the way back in 1952. That being said, Loki’s bisexuality wasn’t confirmed by writers until 2013 with the release of Young Avengers #15. In the issue, Loki has a conversation with fellow superhero, Prodigy, in which he says, “My culture doesn’t share your concept of sexual identity,” suggesting that his enjoyment of sexual acts has nothing whatsoever to do with the gender of the sexual partner. 

Loki’s bisexuality was expanded upon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2022 when, in Season 1 Episode 3 of the dedicated TV show, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki confirmed that he has been in relationships, both sexual and otherwise with men, women, and those who identify as neither. 

Loki has since been joined by other bisexual Marvel heroes such as Mystique (Miss Marvel #116), Valkyrie (King in Black: Return of the Valkyries), and Hercules (Young Allies #16).

Catwoman- DC’s First Bisexual Superhero
While many might immediately consider Diana Prince’s Wonder Woman as DC’s first bisexual superhero, technically, Selina Kyle’s Catwoman beat her to it. Catwoman came out as bisexual in 2015, and was introduced to DC Comics in 1940 as part of Batman #1–one year before Diana Prince’s Wonder Woman – made her first appearance in All Star Comics #8

While Kyle’s bisexuality has been conjectured about by fans for years, the character’s queerness was not confirmed by writers until 2015 when Catwoman #39 hit the newsstands featuring a kiss between Kyle and the current Catwoman, Eiko Hasigaway. 

The confirmation of Catwoman’s queerness was incredibly affirming to fans of the hero who have seen show-stopping women like Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, and Zoe Kravitz portray the latex-ladden sex kitten on the silver screen over the years. 

In addition to Catwoman, DC characters like Jonathan Samuel Kent (Convergence: Superman #2), Timothy Drake/Robin (Batman #436), and Poison Ivy (Batman #181) have also come out as bisexual.

Who did it better?

While the impact of Catwoman’s queerness has been undeniable in film, we’re giving the ‘W’ for this round of our  LGBTQ+ superheroes matchup to Marvel’s Loki. Not only does Marvel utilise Loki’s character to discuss bisexuality as an attraction regardless of gender, but the character similarly opens up conversations about gender fluidity and cultural gender and sexuality expressions beyond those of the Western world. This is not to say that the MCU doesn’t still have a long way to go with LGBTQ+ inclusion with their superheroes, but the impact of these conversations in projects like Loki cannot be understated. 

Jessie Drake – Marvel’s First Transgender Superhero
Marvel’s first openly trans superhero came to us in Marvel Comics Presents #150 in 1994. In the now 30-year-old comic, Jessie is kidnapped by the Fortress, a superhuman research facility. Professor X and Wolverine later send Typhoid Mary, a mutant, to rescue Jessie from the facility. 

Mary eventually succeeds in rescuing Jessie and transporting her to a women’s shelter. When one of the shelter workers misgenders Jessie, however, Mary’s man-hating alter, Typhoid Mary, fronts and attacks Jessie. 

When Jessie regains consciousness, she explains to Mary that she is a trans girl. The misandrist Typhoid Mary accepts this, allowing her calmer, more helpful alter to front once more. 

Other openly trans heroes in the Marvel universe include Shela Sexton and Reed Fox (Marvels Voices: Pride #1), and Sera (A-Force #5).

Kate Godwin a.k.a Coagula – DC’s First Transgender Superhero
First introduced in Doom Patrol #70 in 1993, Kate Godwin, later known as Coagula, is a trans lesbian and former sex worker. After sleeping with Rebis, a member of the superhero crime-fighting team Doom Patrol, Coagula gains alchemical powers, with the ability to disintegrate things with one hand, and coagulate them with the other. 

Coagula later joins Doom Patrol after being rejected from the Justice League due to her trans lesbian activist identity. While Coagula supposedly was killed off in the 1990s, fans were excited to see the character return in DC Pride 2022 #1

Since Coagula’s introduction, DC has produced a few more trans heroes, including Julian Jourdain (Lazarus Planet: Dark Fate #1), Masquerade (Blood Syndicate #1), and Taylor Brazelay (Galaxy: The Prettiest Star).

Who did it better?

Both Marvel and DC provide great trans rep and LGBTQ+ superheroes in the forms of Jessie and Coagula. For the most part, both characters’ trans identities are outright accepted and their queerness is highlighted rather than hidden away. Unfortunately, neither Jessie nor Coagula became mainstays of their respective franchises. That being said, Coagula is far more explicitly queer, identifying as both trans and a lesbian, than young Jessie Drake. The point goes to DC on this one. 

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