DC Comics’ Stormwatch Features Gay Male Couple

By: Jase Peeples

Gay superheroes in mainstream comic books have often had an easier time beating the bad guys than they have gaining visibility. Marvel Comics made history in 1992 when Northstar uttered the words, “I am gay” in Alpha Flight #106. While the issue sold out, the controversial nature of a superhero sailing the same-sex seas proved to be a hot-button issue for the comics company and no reference to Northstar’s orientation was made for several years.

 Since then, gay characters have been introduced in a variety of comic books, and while they have been allowed to come out of the closet, very few of them have done little else. Because of this gays have become like many minority characters in pop culture—portrayed as tokens or, even worse, eventually removed from books altogether.

However, the way gay characters were handled in comics changed forever when Jim Lee’s Wildstorm Productions published the superhero team book titled The Authority. The comic introduced the world to Apollo and Midnighter, two lager-than-life superheroes who happened to be gay and in love. For the first time comic fans witnessed a male gay couple whose romance wasn’t treated as a sales stunt, or something to be forgotten in future issues. Instead, their relationship was handled in the same style as their straight counterparts and the two eventually married.

When news surfaced that DC Comics planned to incorporate the first gay power couple of comics into the new DC Universe, queer fans became concerned that they would be losing two of their icons. DC was quick to reassure readers that while the characters are not exactly the same as the ones who starred in the original Wildstorm series, the DC Universe (DCU) versions of Apollo and Midnighter will indeed have the same sexual orientation as their namesakes and will star in a new series titled Stormwatch as well.

“I keep being asked if they’re still gay,” said Stormwatch writer Paul Cornell. “Yes, they’re still gay, and to give DC credit there was never a question of them being anything else. They specified that to me. I would say I wouldn’t have taken the job otherwise, but that was never the case. These new versions were always going to be gay.”

Not content with simply keeping the queer comics status quo, DC intends to make their own historic mark with Apollo and Midnighter. “Readers were previously introduced to these men as a couple, but we’re doing something a bit different,” said Cornell. “Apollo and Midnighter will meet for the first time in Stormwatch #1. We’ll see them as individuals in the beginning, but over time a romance will blossom between them. I think that’s better for diversity. I think that’s more real. No, they’re not all over each other in the first issue, nobody is, but it is the start of something. We’re going to watch two men fall in love with each other.”

Cornell’s matter-of-fact handling of the fan-favorite characters seem to be echoed throughout the halls of DC Comics. When the responsibility of designing new costumes for Apollo and Midnighter was given to artist Cully Hamner, he said the fact that they were gay never crossed his mind. “To me it was just a simple costume redesign,” Hamner said. “Their sexuality really didn’t come into play. They are who they are and that’s what makes them interesting to me. After all, their look isn’t defined by sexuality.”

Stormwatch #1 hits store shelves tomorrow (September 7) and will also be available for digital download on the same day. With DC’s commitment to include LGBT characters throughout their line of comics, it looks like the fight for truth, justice and all that good stuff just got a little bit bigger.