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Monday, October 18, 2021

Revelation of Superman’s bisexuality is a win for LGBTQI+ representation in the superhero genre

LGBTQI+ fans of the comics have long lobbied for the queercoding in the stories — double lives and multiple identities, the homoerotic overtones of many of the male relationships, notably between Batman and Robin — to be elevated from subtext to text.

By: Editorial |
Updated: October 14, 2021 7:50:34 am
LGBTQI+ fans of the comics have long lobbied for the queercoding in the stories — double lives and multiple identities, the homoerotic overtones of many of the male relationships, notably between Batman and Robin — to be elevated from subtext to text.

To the surprise and delight of many fans — and the grumblings of a few — Superman has come out as bisexual. Jon Kent, who has recently taken on the burden of the good fight from his father Clark Kent, is in a relationship with a male journalist named Jay Nakamura, according to publisher DC Comics, which shared some artwork from the fifth issue of the Superman: Son of Kal-El series this week.

It may seem to some that the writers are merely jumping onto a bandwagon of a sort — as alleged by Dean Cain, who played the character in the 1990s TV series. After all, Superman isn’t the first superhero to come out of the closet, especially in the last two decades. The list of queer heroes in DC alone includes Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Batwoman and the third Robin, Tim Drake, who came out as bisexual in Batman: Urban Legends in August.

Yet, the Man of Steel’s bisexuality is a big deal for many reasons, not the least of which is that this is yet another blow against the sexism and queerbaiting that has plagued the genre. LGBTQI+ fans of the comics have long lobbied for the queercoding in the stories — double lives and multiple identities, the homoerotic overtones of many of the male relationships, notably between Batman and Robin — to be elevated from subtext to text. And recently, it seems like the writers have listened, making explicit the queer aspects of existing characters, introducing new LGBTQI+ characters and canonising pet fan theories and “ships”. Still, a fuller representation was slow to come, especially as the largest populariser of the superhero genre, the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU), has stayed rigidly heteronormative (except in the case of Loki who was recently identified as gender-fluid and bisexual, like he has been in the comics). In such a context, a bisexual Superman — still the most popular superhero, despite the MCU juggernaut — is well worth celebrating.

This column first appeared in the print edition on October 14, 2021 under the title ‘Super and queer’.

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