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In the month celebrating Pride, one of literature and screen’s favourite Norse gods, Loki, was revealed to be non-binary in a teaser launched in the run up to Disney+Hotstar’s show Loki, which is now airing on the platform. His gender fluidity was embraced with open arms by Twitter, as fans fixated on the blink-and-you-miss moment in the video, where the God of Mischief’s Time Variance Authority document marks his “sex” as “fluid”.

While theories about the character, played by Tom Hiddleston, being androgynous always did the rounds, his shape-shifting quality was suspected to have been signs of his gender fluidity. Besides, in episode 3 of the show, the Asgardian reveals to his fellow trickster Sylvie (played by Sophia Di Martino) that he is bisexual, during a conversation on love that takes a rather intimate turn. In the scene, one can even spot the bisexual Pride flag colours in Loki’s backdrop. This unequivocally makes Loki the first canonically queer character from the Marvel Comic Universe (MCU) on screen.

On the other hand, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman landed in Twitter hot water earlier this month, when the announcement of its Netflix show’s colour-and-gender-blind cast was called out by fans as ‘woke’ and as trying too hard. While self-proclaimed fans of the comic book series (which defied all rules of genre and gender) objected to characters like Death €” that has conventionally been illustrated as a pale grey/white, goth female entity €” being portrayed by Black actress Kirby Howell-Baptiste, others have accused Gaiman of being “a sellout like DC”. The writer, however, remains unperturbed and continues to support the casting choices.

Amidst these conversations on comic books and their representation of the LGBTQIA+ community, a look at some queer characters from comic-verses that have captured popular imagination through the years €”

Coagula, DC

Portrayed as transsexual and a lesbian in Doom Patrol, Coagula is a superheroine capable of coagulating or congealing any fluid, while melting any solid object into its liquid state at will. Created by Rachel Pollack €” a science fiction writer who identifies as transsexual €” the character’s real name, Kate Godwin, was borrowed from the names of trans rights activist Chelsea Godwin and transsexual writer Kate Bornstein.

Northstar, Marvel

The Canadian character who was introduced in 1983, as a part of a government-backed spy group named Alpha Flight in the X-Men series, Northstar became the first canonically gay character in the Marvel comics. In 2012, he was shown to marry his husband Kyle Jinadu, thereby celebrating the first same-sex marriage in MCU. Their wedding was featured on the cover of the June 2012 issue of the comic titled Astonishing X-Men to commemorate the event.

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, DC

One of the most popular couples from the DC universe, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s romantic relationship, across the characters’ various iterations on screen and in print, has garnered much attention and adulation from fans. In celebration of Pride month, Harley Quinn’s artist Chad Hardin revealed on Twitter the original and uncensored illustration of Harley and Poison Ivy’s first in-continuity kiss. The moment had clearly undergone a small but important change before its final publication, as can be seen in the tweets.

Wonder Woman, DC

The pop and comic book icon is queer, confirmed her writer Greg Rucka in 2016, who had worked on Wonder Woman through the 2000s. The superheroine with her Amazonian roots was speculated to have pursued romantic relationships with other women by fans for long, and the question was finally put to rest by Rucka who certified that she was canonically bisexual. He also added that her queerness was “important to the narrative because Themyscira [her homeland] was represented as paradise, and with that came diversity,” according to the report by The Guardian.

Batwoman, DC

Batwoman’s now-iconic sexuality reveal as a lesbian on her eponymous live action show in 2020 (in the episode titled How Queer Everything is Today!) was decided upon in order to ensure that it had its desired positive impact on the LGBTQ community in Gotham, even at the cost of her true identity being divulged.

In the comics, however, Kate Kane’s Batwoman is a distinct homosexual figure who was in a same-sex marriage. She was, however, humiliated and expelled from the United States Military Academy prior to it, after Kate was reported to be in a lesbian relationship with a fellow student.

Kitty Pryde, Marvel

An X-Men who never quite assumed solo and central space in the narrative, and yet, continued to capture the imagination of readers, Kitty Pryde’s canonical bisexuality was finally confirmed in Marauders #12 by writer Gerry Duggan and artist Matteo Lolli in September 2020. This came 40 years after Pryde first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #129 in 1980, and continued to hint at her sexuality through her relationships with Rachel Summers, Emma Frost, Illyana and others.

John Constantine, DC and Vertigo Comics

Constantine’s sexuality was first alluded to in the issue Counting to Ten from his series Hellblazer in 1992, written by John Smith. He debuted in 1985 as a recurring character of a “supernatural advisor” in The Saga of the Swamp Thing €” a horror series. The occult detective €” who is a suave and smooth-talking anti-hero €” has mostly worn his bisexuality on his sleeve, even though show-makers had for a while decided on erasing his queerness, much to the chagrin of comic nerds and fans.

Valkyrie, Marvel

In July 2019 at Comic Con, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige confirmed that Valkyrie, played by actress Tessa Thompson, will pursue an openly queer relationship in the next film instalment of Thor: Love and Thunder, slated to release in 2022, on account of being bisexual. The actress playing the Asgardian superheroine €” based on the Norse mythological character of Brynhildr €” is bisexual herself.

Thompson’s Valkyrie debuted in Thor: Ragnarok in 2017 and struck a chord with viewers, who also wondered out loud if her character would go on to explore her bisexuality, as is stated in the source comics, in the upcoming films.

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The above list is not exhaustive, but only indicative of the wide range of LGBTQIA+ characters living in the various comic universes.

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