An Entertainment Feature
Look up in the sky! DC and DK Publishing unite to turn the spotlight on the comic book community's most colorfully powerful LGBTQIA+ superheroes across the multiverse as we skate into PRIDE Month amid a growing backlash and “real life” pushback on all our rights.
Heroes. They’ve never been more important than right now in these crazy times we’re living. The “real world” has never been more chaotic and regrettably, it gets worse with every passing day. It feels like at every turn of the corner human rights and civil liberties are under attack, or fanatical hate-mongering is leading to tragedies like the 2016 shooting at PULSE Nightclub in Orlando. Once upon a time, hate groups kept their ideologies in check and subversively operated in the shadow. Today, they’ve found a platform and even embedded themselves in government threatening our democratic way of life with their autocratic bigotry, giving free rein and lease to ignorance and conspiracy theories.
Women, minorities, and transgender Americans are currently the most vulnerable and in the crosshairs of the Right, who are forcing through laws targeting bodily autonomy, a woman’s right to choose what to do with their reproductive health care, and imposing restrictions and access to gender-affirming medicines to families of young people seeking gender-reassignment, while forcing voter suppression in certain areas primarily making it more challenging for people of color to vote.
Yes — we’ve never needed heroes more! All kinds of heroes from all walks of life, to stand up for the injustices in the world.
With summer just moments from launch, June will herald in PRIDE Month and the world will celebrate the infinite diversity of its LGBTQIA+ community and the historically significant moments that propelled the movement into the mainstream. From the civil unrest that lead to the Stonewall Riots, the marches that were warranted to honor those needlessly lost to the AIDS epidemic, to the happier landmark moment when Marriage Equality became the law of the land. This is a time to remind ourselves of how far the community has risen, and how it will not be forced back into the closet!
Culturally the LGBTQIA+ community has only grown and enhanced its visibility across all forms of media including film, television, and music, and ascended to positions of leadership holding seats in various institutions of government. The acceptance of gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals has become relevant in our stories. There have never been more characters in primetime that identify as LGBTQIA+ and even more films that have centered on gay/lesbian story arcs. Even the hallowed halls of the Hall of Justice are home to some of the most powerful superheroes who are fighting for truth, justice, and love in all its infinite combinations.
When DC Comics, the publishing imprint responsible for bringing the continuing adventures of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, abandoned the archaic tenants of the Comics Code Authority in 2011 (their competitor, Marvel had also parted with the CCA in 2001), it opened the door to granting creators the opportunity to tell stories that were not only reflectively of our contemporary society, but suddenly long-time readers were finding reflections of themselves inside the comic books stories that they’d cherished all their lives. Suddenly superheroes were showing up in every color of the rainbow!
Creators’ hands were no longer cuffed to prohibitive expressions of sex, orientation or love, and suddenly character personalities and stories were taking on a new depth that made them all much more dimensional beyond the page. In honor of those milestones DK Publishing, in collaboration with DC has just released The DC Book Of PRIDE: A Celebration of DC’s LGBTQIA+ Characters written by Jadzia Axelrod (@planetx) and heavily researched gathers up an impressive who’s who of the heroes and important figures proudly embracing their authentic selves in the DC multiverse.
The tome explores the rich history of DC Comics characters that have identified as LGBTQIA+ including Jackson Hyde, the Aquaman, power couple Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and perhaps the most recognizable among the pantheon, Gotham City’s Batwoman, whose alter ego Kate Kane is first cousin to Bruce Wayne. Listed in A - Z, with properly listed pronouns and Data Files that reveal First Appearances, each entry features art from the comic books, quotable captions, and a short wrap-up with a background specific to each character’s journey.
DC has well-established a cavalcade of gay and lesbian heroes over the last two decades that have headlined their own titles including the aforementioned Batwoman, who made a very splashy debut in 2006’s crossover epic 52 #7 and would move on to her own primetime series joining Arrow and The Flash on The CW. The vigilante Midnighter and his partner Apollo have also fought a never-ending battle with allies at their side like Nightwing and The Huntress. The book opens the iris on some other players on the landscape that fans may not be acquainted with and others to get more familiar with.
A Diverse Assembling
It’s a mighty impressive feat to see such an impressive collection of heroes and equally inspiring that many of the characters profiled by Axelrod play significantly into many of the current DC comics adventures. Jackson Hyde shares the name with the original King of the Seven Seas and isn’t just following the undertow of the OG Aquaman. The one-time rogue who plagued Central City’s Flash has turned a new leaf, and now Hartley Rathaway as The Pied Piper is among the speedster’s greatest allies. First introduced in primetime, Dreamer fought side-by-side as a super friend of The CW’s Supergirl but the transgender heroine materialized in the pages of Superman: Son of Kal-El #13.
Controversies ensued when DC Comics decided that after some years, established fan favorites would discover new sides of themselves. As one of Batman’s most dedicated allies, Tim Drake stood apart from the rest as Robin, but recently he’s charted a path all of his own and found love with Bernard Dowd. While learning the ropes as one-half of the legendary Super Sons, Jon Kent went from Superboy to Superman of Tomorrow. Fighting for truth and justice in an alternate earth, when Jon rejoined his parents, Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s little boy experienced a growth spurt and was no longer a boy. Jon also discovered he was bisexual and began a loving relationship with the activist Jay Nakamura.
The decision to out Robin and the Son of Superman raised many eyebrows at the time but has only increased their profiles making both of these characters the cornerstones of a movement that has only propelled creatives in more exciting directions. No longer having to relegate to tricky innuendo or b-story subplots, LGBTQIA+ characters are proving as textured and interesting to write for as fans are to join in and follow their evolving adventures. At PRIDE, DC also releases its annual anthology DC PRIDE with the 2023 edition featuring original stories from Grant Morrison, Nicole Maines, Josh Trujillo, and a forward written by comics legend Phil Jimenez.
In a world where some would dare to hinder a child from determining who they authentically were meant to be, where there exist pocket areas of the United States where laws are in place preventing the word “gay” from being said in schools, and where the longtime regarded art of “drag” is protested, it’s never been more important to show our pride. It’s comforting to know that we won’t stand alone and that our greatest allies are heroes, super-powered or not, who will march forward and guarantee that truth and justice have a meaning, and indeed are inclusive of us all!
This season, show your pride and wear a cape!
THE DC BOOK OF PRIDE A Celebration of DC’s LGBTQIA+ Characters | by Jadzia Axelrod | DK Publishing | is available now and available at bookstores, comic book specialty shops, and online retailers including digital formats for $19.99. Link to purchase on Amazon here.
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