best gay comic book character?
I’ll adjust this question a tad to: “Best LGBTQA superhero?” My expertise is obviously superhero characters, and now we’ve covered the entire spectrum of queer. Now, the best queer superhero? The answer is actually really easy: Batwoman.
*disclaimer: I am a DC fan and my knowledge of Marvel is limited, and even my knowledge of Batwoman herself is not up to date.*
Sadly, it’s really not even a contest. Granted, she really doesn’t have much competition. At DC especially. I’d say her biggest competitors are Wiccan and Hulkling at Marvel. And then after them it’s Renee Montoya. Correct me if I’m wrong, but off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure Batwoman is the only openly queer superhero to ever have a mainstream ongoing title. And even if I’ve forgotten someone, hers is undeniably the most successful.
Anyway, so Batwoman/Kate Kane is awesome. And she’s especially awesome because she is everything a lesbian superhero or queer character should be. Firstly, she is a character. She isn’t just “DC’s token lesbian character,” she’s not a stereotype, and most importantly, she has consistently been written with respect, depth, and been given actual plots and directions. And that really hasn’t been done many other places. Most gay superhero characters are members of teams and are back up plots. Batwoman has the luxury of having her own series to actually explore her character and be fleshed out.
Secondly, her lesbianism is important but not overshadowing. The thing with including LGBT characters as opposed to characters of color, is that you can’t immediately visually distinguish if a character is gay. There needs to be some storytelling in order to “out” characters. And in a lot of cases in media in general maybe not necessarily in comics (since it’s so rarely addressed) when characters are “the gay character” that’s all they become, and that’s all their character or story is. And while sexual identity is an important part of who a person is, it is not the entirety of their identity. And Batwoman’s story, in my opinion, does a good job of balancing that. She’s a superhero that deals with justice, crime bibles, and the evil twin sisters, but she also had to deal with being dishonorably charged from the military because of her sexuality and she has romantic relationships with women.
Thirdly, she is a superhero. A lot of queer characters in comics are supporting or minor characters that are often civilians. Kyle Rayner’s friend Terry, Holly Robinson was just Catwoman’s buddy
(though she was Catwoman for like a minute), Maggie Sawyer was just a cop in Metropolis and later Gotham, Alysia Yeoh is just Batgirl’s roommate, and even Renee Montoya was just another detective on the GCPD before she became the Question. And even the other superheroes that are gay are just back up players. Batwoman is a superhero. Even though she wears the Bat, she’s very much her own character. She is a heroic, protagonist in her own story. And I think that’s incredibly important.
Fourth, Irony. The original Batwoman was created to dispel myths of Batman/Robin’s alleged homosexual relationship, and here she is years later, revived as the best gay character in comics. Sweet, sweet irony.
Batwoman has been fortunate enough to get creators and stories that respect her, and treat her like a character and that is shockingly rare for LGBT characters. We’ve seen more new LGBT characters being included in mainstream comics in recent years, an uphill battle for sure, but hopefully we get the chance to see more non-straight characters step into an actual spotlight.