A Brief History of Gay Superheroes and Other Musings

Batwoman by artist J.H. Williams.

Last month The CW, the television network responsible for “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” and other live action superhero shows announced that a “Batwoman” series was in the works staring Australian model, actor, VJ, recording artist Ruby Rose as the title character Kate Kane/Batwoman. For those of you who have never heard of the character the original Batwoman was created in 1956 as a romantic foil for Batman amid concerns that a hot rich guy in his early 30’s who dresses up in a bat costume and who had adopted as his ward and crime fighting partner an orphaned circus trapeze artist who he dressed in a mask, a cape, and tight green short shorts might just be a homosexual. Go figure. The Batwoman character only lasted until the early 1960’s when DC Comics took the Batman in a darker and grittier direction. In a true sense of irony DC Comics brought back Batwoman in 2006, only this time as an ass kicking superhero who just happens to be a lesbian and is also Jewish. The Jewish part will become relevant shortly.

Detective Comics #233 (July 1956) Batwoman’s first appearance.

I read a lot of comic books growing up, actually I still do. When I was a kid comics like “The Uncanny X-Men” were a metaphor on the treatment of people who happened to be different. The title started out as creators Stan Lee & Jack Kirby tackled racism by using the metaphor of teenagers who were born with special powers into a world that hates and fears them. By the time I got around to reading “The Uncanny X-Men” it seemed to me that maybe the metaphor had shifted to how the LGBT community was treated, especially in the in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. The X-Men and other books would go on to show how bad humanity could be. The book also showed how noble people could be by going high when ignorent people filled with hate go low. Lessons that we can still learn from today.

Northstar by John Byrne

But the actual debut of a gay character especially a major character was years off. Writer/artist John Byrne who created the Canadian super hero team Alpha Flight always meant for their member Northstar to be gay, but he couldn’t come out and say it in print so there were lots of hints dropped. Northstar didn’t end up coming out until “Alpha Flight” No. 106 that hit the comic shops in 1992. Byrne also created Captain Maggie Sawyer of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit for the Superman comics that he went to write and draw in the 1980’s. Again, it was heavily hinted at that she was a lesbian by drawing her in a way to show it in her mannerisms but not actually coming out and saying it until the mid-1990’s. Gays in comics had always been a hot button topic since 1954 when the book “Seduction of the Innocent” by Fredric Wertham, M.D was released. In his book Dr. Wertham would argue that comic books had a negative effect on children and by exposing America’s youth to the medium was the cause of sexual perversion and juvenile delinquency. This book became a best seller and it energized Congress to start an inquiry into the comic book industry. Thankfully over the years Congress has moved on.

Now we have out and proud gay superhero’s in comics. DC not only has Batwoman in her own comic but the Superheroes Midnigher and Apollo. The X-Men’s Iceman who has been around since the early 1960’s just “came out” in the last couple of years. The previously mentioned Northstar’s same sex marriage was published in “Astonishing X-Men” No. 51. Now we finally have an out and proud superhero getting her own show and it’s not a lame character like the Pied Piper from The Flash comics. Batwoman kicks serious ass in the comics and from what I’ve read the show is not going to be that much different. So you would think that comic book nerds both gay and straight are excited. But wait not so fast, there’s dumb fuckery afoot.

Captain Maggie Sawyer by artist Tom Grummett from Adventures of Superman #498

So apparently hyper masculine nerds are pissed because the actor cast to play Batwoman, Ruby Rose who is a real life lesbian is not “gay enough” to play a lesbian superhero and she’s not Jewish. After a backlash of angry Tweets with the hashtag #RecastBatwoman towards her Ruby Rose deleted her Twitter account and stating in her last Tweet “When women and minorities join forces we are unstoppable.” Let’s break this down to common sense. Ruby Rose is an actor cast to play a part. Acting is when you play a part in a TV show, movie, or play. You are pretending to be something you are not. As a Jew I have no issues with a non-Jew playing a Jew. It’s called acting. Actor John Hillerman, who played the British character Jonathan Higgins in the 80’s TV show “Magnum P.I.” (not the 2018 reboot) was born and raised in Texas and is not really British. It’s called acting. Sir Patrick Stewert who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek the Next Generation” is actually British and not really from France were Picard grew up. It’s called acting. Eric Stonestreet who won a Prime Time Emmy for his portrayal the gay character Cameron Tucker and on the TV show “Modern Family” is not really gay. Again, it’s called acting. Although Gal Gadot gave the definitive performance as Wonder Woman, should this “logic” have been used in the casting the part of Wonder Woman? Instead of casting Gal Gadot who is Jewish and from Israel as Wonder Woman then maybe Warner Brothers Studios should have tracked down an actual daughter of the Greek God Zeus and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons or depending on which Wonder Woman origin you prefer maybe they should have tracked down an actress who was formed out of clay and brought to life by the Greek Gods. Sounds kind of ridiculous doesn’t it? Don’t stop to think about it, it’s ridiculous.

I needed a gay superhero when I was growing up and so did a lot of other kids. I needed someone to tell me that I could be a good guy and that I wasn’t a bad guy just because I was gay. Batwoman is coming whether you like it or not. I’m guessing if even after reading this you have an issue with a lesbian superhero swinging over the streets of Gotham City maybe Batwoman isn’t the superhero for you, maybe a gay supervillian is more your speed, may I recommend Milo Yiannopoulos?

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

Author: John Livelsberger

John Martin Livelsberger is a writer. He lives in Michigan City Indiana with his husband Chris, four pugs, and a couple of cats that just happened to wander in.

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