Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top 10 Queer Comic Book Badasses

In the world of comic books, particularly superhero comics, we are used to seeing any number of characters who we usually consider "badasses." These are the heroes and antiheroes who are willing to do what it takes to get shit done, even if it means going beyond the conventional bounds of right and wrong. Batman, Wolverine, Elektra--we expect to have some darker, kick-ass types to turn to when we get tired of the more straight-laced capes.

In the world of all things LGBTQ, however, there are perilously few characters in any form of media that could be considered a badass based on even the most lenient of rubrics (see these excellent videos by Rantasmo for more on this topic: here and here). Likely just due to the higher density of badassery, we fare a little better in comics than TV or film.  Particularly in recent years, there have been a few obvious standouts, like Batwoman and Dakken. As I have tried to show with this blog, though, the history of LGBT characters in comic books is a long one. If we look closely, we can find queer characters capable of going toe-to-toe with the Dark Knight going all the way back to the 70s at least.

So here are my top 10 premillennial queer badasse:

10. Suu of Xoo (1987)

Hotspur #2
Eclipse Comics' comedic fantasy series Hotspur by John Ostrander and Karl Waller gave us all kinds of delights, including lizard-man Fu Manchu and ghostly flapper actors. One of its greatest contributions to the comics canon is Suu of Xoo. Suu is a gay barbarian--the most ethical people in all of Xoo. After Hotspur helps him fight off a group of ruffians, Suu decides to assist him on his quest to recover a stolen sex goddess and proves that he is as capable with a sword as he is with his...sword.

9. Cannon And Saber (1984)

Vigilante #5
 Assassins and lovers, Cannon and Saber kill the heads of each other's respective mobs in order to seize control in the page of DC's Vigilante, created by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard. The two are more opportunists than evil and loyal only to each other. In a later issue (#35) they get one of comic books first off-camera gay sex scenes after a steamy massage and bottle of champagne.

8. Masquerade (1993)

Image from worldofblackheroes.com
Masquerade was one of the founding members of Milestone Comics' Blood Syndicate team, created by Dwayne McDuffie, Ivan Velez, Jr., and Denys Cowan. He has the power to turn into any animal form, which he often uses to claw the shit out of people, sometimes even his teammates. Before he left Blood Syndicate he revealed that he was born female and used his powers to live as a man. If being a Black transman in the 90s isn't badass enough for you, go look at those bearclaws again. Rawr.

7. Maggie Sawyer (1987)

Metropolis S.C.U. #2
Maggie Sawyer first appeared in Superman #4 by John Byrne in 1987, as captain of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit. The SCU handled supervillains when Superman was away or unable to help. Naturally, this leads to all sorts of occasions when Captain Sawyer has to kick some series butt. On top of being a strong leader and not afraid to get caught up in a gunfight, Maggie also raised her daughter as a single mom and is currently dating Batwoman.

6. Colt Varney (1993)

Nomad #11
Colt is another one-off character, but I would be remiss if I left this ex-special forces drag queen off the list. He is the creation of Fabian Nicieza and Rick Mays for Marvel's Nomad #11 (titled "Dressed to Kill"). Initially, our hero Jack Monroe thinks that Colt has been murdering other drag queens, but it is revealed that he has actually been investigating their deaths to find the real killer. He's an expert at hand-to-hand combat, deadly with a sniper rifle, and combines the best of early 90's ladies' fashion with a bushy cop-stache. Truly a shady badass to be feared.

5. Mystique (1978)

Wolverine #302

 Ohhh Mystique. Most of you are probably familiar with this character thanks to the epic screentime she has received in all of the X-Men movies. I doubt I have to do much to convince you of her badass status after watching Rebecca Romijn or Jennifer Lawrence, but here's a picture of her beating the shit out of Wolverine just in case. Mystique was created by David Cockrum, Chris Claremont, and Jim Mooney, and first appeared in Ms. Marvel #16 in 1978. She was in a very long-term relationship with Destiny (Irene Adler of Sherlock Holmes fame), with whom she raised Nightcrawler and Rogue.

4. John Constantine (1985)

Hellblazer #42
John Constantine--originally from the pages of Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben--is not someone who would traditionally be classified as a "badass." In fact, he would most likely tell you he's a bit of a coward and a git. On the other hand, the most famous bisexual man in comics is also frequently thrust into situations that require him to step up and destroy some demons. And he's into BDSM (he's a Dom, naturally), which never hurts...these are the jokes, people.

3. Midnighter (1993)

Stormwatch #4
Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch created Midnighter in Stormwatch #4 to serve as a parallel of Batman, but in reality, he out-Batmans Batman. By which I mean he is stronger (once kicked a tank shell out of his way) and generally far more ruthless (everyone could use a little torture now and then). Unlike the unlucky-in-love Batman, though, Midnighter has been in a successful relationship with his husband Apollo for over a decade now.

2. Marisa Rahm (1994)

Deathwish #4
Lt. Marisa Rahm of the Dakota City Police is quite possibly my favorite character in all of comics. Although she only existed for the span of the 4-issue Deathwish miniseries, creators Maddie Blaustein, Yves Fezzani, and JH Williams III, gave her more character than most superheroes see over the course of a hundred issues. She's a transwoman who takes absolutely zero guff from her co-workers or from the criminals she brings down. In Deathwish, she works with the eponymous antihero to bring down a madman killing transwomen. After the killer kidnaps her girlfriend, Marisa goes a little over the edge but gets her sweet revenge.

1. Toro (1974)

Our Fighting Forces #148
Toro was a one-off character starring in a short story by Sam Glanzman in issue 148 of DC's Out Fighting Forces in 1974. Glanzman beat us over the head with Toro's sexual orientation using every stereotype for a gay man that existed in the 70s: he wears jewelry, his walk and speech are "peculiar," he ties his shirt so his belly shows, and he is surrounded by butterflies and literal fairies. Despite that, when his squad stumbles on a group of Japanese soldiers while on liberty, Toro leaps into action and kills them all before jumping off a cliff to his death.


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