A few post back, I talked about Wiccan and Hulking from the Young Avengers finally kissing in an issue of their limited series “Children’s Crusade”. In addition to their recent public display of affection, long time X-Men member, and openly gay superhero, Northstar is set to be married to his partner. In the past few years, more and more LGBT characters have gained greater exporsue, from The Question and Batwoman’s on-again-off-again relationship, to the Authority’s Apollo and The Midnighter tying the knot. At the risk of sounding like my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or simply anyone that I’ve ever talked to that is older than me, it wasn’t always like this.
While many characters’ sexuality is being recognized and celebrated, older LGBT characters experienced problematic depictions and were often the product of tired homophobic innuendo. In fact, Wiccan, Hulking, and Northstar, the three characters who have had arguably the best exposure of all queer superheroes had relatively off-putting beginnings. For Northstar, creators decided not to simply tell readers that the Canadian mutant was gay. Perhaps the heads of Marvel thought it was bad for business, or the writers couldn’t muster the courage to introduce Northstar as gay character; regardless, the X-Man wasn’t identified as gay until the not-so subtle hints started to pile up. One such helpful hint was the way Northstar was frequently drawn and described, a French-speaking, pointy-eared fairy. Yep, the gay guy is a fairy. But at least he had a cool name.
Wiccan is not the first codename Billy Kaplan…Wait, let’s back up. When the Young Avengers were introduced, both Wiccan and Hulkling were written with a sexual ambiguity. They were not out, which led to the heterosexist assumption that they were straight, but they also had a weird relationship. In many early issues, whenever Wiccan or Hulking was injured, the other shouted their name in fear and concern. In one famous instance, Hulkling was willing to attack a teammate suspected of hurting Wiccan. When the writers decided to make the characters’ relationship an established part of the canon, as move they planned before the first issue went to print, they changed Billy’s codename to Wiccan. His previous codename was Asgaurdian.