Pride Profile: Element Lad & Shvaughn Erin. Fans reading comics and detecting something unwritten about their favorite characters sexuality or identity is not a recent phenomenon. Legion of Superhero fans were so convinced that Element Lad was gay the question was asked of a DC panel at a 1976 convention. As early as 1964, stories suggested that Element Lad was either uncomfortable or uninterested in romantic entanglements with women. Writer Jim Shooter admitted that he assumed Jan Arrah was gay. Later writers would seemingly backtrack on this by involving Jan with Science Police Officer Shvaughn Erin. Eventually, even this was squared with the original belief in Element Lad’s sexuality when Tom and Mary Bierbuam revealed that Shvaughn was actually a transgender woman who had transitioned in the hope of attracting Jan. When the drug that transformed Shvaughn was no longer available and he reverted back to Sean, Jan said that whatever they shared was in spite of the drug, not because of it. Sure it’s convoluted, but sometimes so is love.
Pride Profile: Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass. Vi and Lightning Lass are a prime example of a time in comics when two women could be a couple, without being officially coupled. Salu ‘Vi’ Digby, a Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney creation, dates from 1961’s Action Comics #276, while Ayla Ranzz, the twin sister of Lightning Lad, came along in ’63 thanks to Edmond Hamilton and John Forte. Both spent years as part of the Legion family saving the universe, falling in love with one of the guys, and going through traumatic personal events. By the mid-1980s, this shared history of trauma brought them closer in books first written by Paul Levitz. Through different series and multiple writers, the pair were often drawn in close physical contact, confiding in one another, and professing their admiration and affection. But, an unseen line was never crossed, there’s no confession of love, no kiss, no true romantic moment. And yet, most of their writers and many of their fans considered Vi and Ayla to be a loving couple.
Coding: And, sometimes they mean it…
The two examples from the Legion of Superheroes of Element Lad & Shvaughn Erin, and Shrinking Violet & Lightning Lass show sometimes that coding is not entirely in the eye of the reader. In the case of Element Lad, some readers had detected something in the character that suggested he was gay. Whether this was the original intent or not, it certainly became incorporated into his depiction by writer’s in the '70s and 80s. The example of Shinking Violet & Lightning Lass comes from a little later in the '80s, but several writings of the series have stated that they wrote the two women as a couple. Now, until it turned explicit with Element Lad and Shvaughn a reader could have understood these relationships differently, but the writers were attempting to portray LGBT relationships and identity through coding.
Then of course there’s baiting, but that’s a whole other topic
Those Wonder Woman covers are AMAZING!!!
I have read her story on a few sites and I have to mention how sad it is. The artwork posted here makes me wonder if it reflects the inner turmoil that Jeffery Catherine Jones had.
Thank you for doing all of these wonderful profiles!
Thanks. For most profiles we kept images to a minimum, but with Jones those creations are the story
Pride Profile: Danny the Street. Introduced, once again by Grant Morrison, in Doom Patrol #35 Danny the Street was originally described by the now outdated term as being a transvestite. But, with his brilliant inclusion into the Doom Patrol television series Danny was depicted as genderqueer. We would tell you all about Danny, but we there’s no way we can do better than Rosie Knight in her DC article ‘5 Reasons We Love DOOM PATROL’s Danny the Street.’ Spoilers, it’s because Danny is kind, genderqueer, a former Teen Titan, unfathomably powerful, and totally unique. And, we couldn’t agree more as Danny proved that a sentient, transporting, genderqueer street makes for compelling storytelling and a great loyal friend to have.
Pride Profile: Rebis. When Grant Morrison writes a title, you never quite know what you’re going to get. In his first issue of Doom Patrol with #19, Morrison created what may have been the first gender non-binary character in comics. Separated from one another, Patrol member Larry Trainor and the Negative force reunited in a flash of energy that also pulled in Doctor Eleanor Poole creating a new, unique person that was simultaneously male and female. Referring to themselves using plural pronouns, Rebis confused their fellow Patrol members, particularly Cliff, but was ultimately accepted. Rebis also helped create another history breaking hero when they had sex with prostitute Kate Godwin, passing power to her and creating transgender Patrol member Cougula.
Pride Profile, Rachel Pollack. Rachel Pollack had the unenviable task of following Grant Morrison on Doom Patrol #64. But, the transgender writer rose to the occasion with her own contributions to the team and DC history. Perhaps most memorably, she created the short-lived character of Kate Godwin, aka Coagula, one of comics first transgender characters. Pollack is now best known for authoring books on Tarot Cards.
Pride Profile: Coagula. Created by transgender writer Rachel Pollack and given the name Kate Godwin after two of Pollacks transgender friends, Coagula is arguably the first true transgender superhero published by DC Comics. Coagula gained her ability to turn solids into liquids, and the reverse, after sleeping with Doom Patrol member Rebis (who you could argue is non-binary). She eventually joins the Patrol and adds a relationship with Robotman to her previous interest in women. The series also depicts Robotman dealing with the idea that his girlfriend is transgender. Although she was fridged by Doom Patrol’s next writer, Coagula deserves recognition as a truly ground breaking character.
These are great videos @msgtv, I totally want to take a class with her, and in a way we all have thanks to you! I’ve wanted to get a hold of a copy of “The Seduction of the Innocents,” for years, and they are available on Ebay, I just haven’t found one in my price range, but I want it my collection and want to read it, very badly.
Stan Lee, when asked about Whertham, would always say, paraphrasing Stan, that Whertham would point out 90% of kids in juvenile detention read comics, but they also drank milk, though he didn’t go after the dairy industry. Lol!
@stefanie.m as @msgtv points out, the code did have periods of revision, the first was in 1971, the famous Harry Osborn drug story in “Amazing Spider-Man 96-98.” Where the government ask Stan to do an anti-drug issue, so they did, then the code wouldn’t let Marvel print it, which was ridiculous, since it was against drug use.
From the Wikipedia about these issues:
Lee recalled in a 1998 interview:
I could understand them; they were like lawyers, people who take things literally and technically. The Code mentioned that you mustn’t mention drugs and, according to their rules, they were right. So I didn’t even get mad at them then. I said, ‘Screw it’ and just took the Code seal off for those three issues. Then we went back to the Code again. I never thought about the Code when I was writing a story, because basically I never wanted to do anything that was to my mind too violent or too sexy. I was aware that young people were reading these books, and had there not been a Code, I don’t think that I would have done the stories any differently.
This lead to a loosing of restrictions in the '70’s, which is why you see all the horror titles from Marvel and DC in the Bronze age, and as has been pointed out, by '89 it was pretty much watered down. So that Northstar from “Alpha Flight,” could come out in the '90’s as one of the first, if not the first, openly gay superheros.
@discordia57 bringing it strong there. Never thought of Seduction as a collectors item but that would be a cool conversation starter. On Whertham, I just feel compelled to keep pointing out that he was lying. That’s not what his 2 gay young men patients said, but I guess he didn’t want to kill off Tarzan movies.
It’s a collectors item to me, as an arm chair comics historian. I feel like it’s something I should own and read, to be better versed in comic history. I’d also like to add to my previous post, I think it’s funny how quickly the code changed it’s self after the Spidy stories, so that in the same year, Denny O’Neil and Neil Adams were able to have a cover of GL/GA depicting Speedy shooting up!
Pride Profile: Marguerite Bennett. This GLAAD nominated self-identified queer writer has been a dynamo at DC Comics and beyond. Starting with co-authoring a Batman Annual with Scott Synder, she started writing regularly the next year with Earth 2: World’s End. But, it was her launching the DC Bombshells comic universe that cemented her not only as a fantastic writer but an historically important proponent of Pride representation in comics. She wrote the series with the straight forward idea that “if you write stories that tell folks that queer people can live without shame, they just might grow up believing it.” She followed up with a stint helming Batwoman, and projects outside of DC including A Force, Josie and the Pussycats, and creator owned InSeXts. Stay tuned, because there’s no way Bennett is done yet.
Pride Profile: James Tynion IV. You see the name Tynion on a comic cover and you trust it’s going to be good. Tynion earned that trust with his DC work on Batman comics, including the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossovers, and an A+ run on Justice League Dark. Tynion can also be added to the growing list of successful writers introduced into the DCU by Scott Snyder. He has been nominated for Eisner and Harvey Awards, and won the 2016 GLAAD Media award for Outstanding Comic Book for his creator owned The Woods with IDW. Openly bisexual himself, Tynion enriches his stories with representation across the spectrum, including Batman’s new rival Ghosthunter.
Pride Profile: Mariko Tamaki. This Canadian writer and artist made an indelible impact with her 2008 graphic novel Skim, drawn by her sometime collaborator and cousin Jillian Tamaki. This and subsequent works often explore ideas “about living in the moments of wrenching transition …[and] the conflicting need to belong and desire to resist.” Themes seemingly drawn from her own life and identity as a lesbian growing up in Canada. Tamaki joined the DC family with highly praised Supergirl: Being Super, Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, and I am not Starfire. She has also written She Hulk and Lumberjanes novels, and is now currently writing Detective Comics.
For more on Mariko Tamaki, see the DC History Club’s look at Supergirl: Being Super and Her Creators
My personal take is that Tamaki does a fantastic job building and making you care about the characters in her books. She’s also proving a standout writer of a more conventional superhero book with her current run of Detective Comics. Really like where she’s taking Batman, Huntress and the rest of Gotham in that series.
Also, there’s a copy of Breaking Glass in the house here. I just may have to borrow it.
Pride Profile: Marc Andreyko. In 2004, DC Comics relaunched Manhunter with a new hero and a writer that would prove capable of creating complex, entertaining, modern comic book super hero stories. If Marc Andreyko had stopped with creating Kate Spencer and an openly gay relationship for Obsidian he would have done enough to earn his spot in DC History as a prominent gay writer. But, he wasn’t done. He would go on to helm titles staring Batwoman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman as well as organizing DC and IDW Comics celebration of the LGBTQ community Love is Love created in answer to the horrific attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Pride Profile: The Ray. The son of the Golden Age Ray, Raymond Terrill was literally kept in the dark to prevent his light-based powers from activating when he was too young to handle them. And, it is an impressive array of powers from light rays, hard light constructs, invisibility, light healing, and law breaking faster than light speed flight. Created by Jack Harris and Joe Quesada for The Ray #1 in 1992, the hero would appear as a member of the Justice League, Young Justice, the JSA, and naturally Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters. The Ray’s Justice League Rebirth issue highlights some of his struggles as a young gay man isolated from society.
The Ray has also appeared in the CW’s Arrowverse crossover “Crisis on Earth-X,” where he is married to an alternate earth version of Captain Cold, Len Snart. Russel Tovey reprises his role as The Ray in CW Seed’s animated show Freedom Fighters: The Ray which pits the gay superhero against Nazis.
When it comes to mixing Pride representation with a cracking good story, Gail Simone’s three volumes of Secret Six is tough to beat. Let’s give this writer some love for these characters.
Pride Profile: Scandal Savage. Retractable claws, able to regrow organs, considers a sometimes dysfunctional team a family, of course we’re talking about Scandal Savage. A Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham creation for 2005’s Villains United, Scandal is best known as a mercenary often at odds with her immortal father Vandal Savage. Scandal organizes the third iteration of the DC team the Secret Six in three highly entertaining comic series. Not completely villains, but certainly not heroes, the Secret Six are just trying to make a buck in the gray space between. Scandal displayed her skills as a ruthless strategist when she used her girlfriend, Knockout, to infiltrate the Secret Society of Supervillians.
Living dangerously finally caught up to Knockout, who was killed by an unknown assailant. After climbing into, and eventually out, of a bottle Scandal found love with Liana Kerzner, a Knockout look alike. Which could have been a problem when Knockout returned from the dead, if the women hadn’t decided that all three could be in love.