Theory of Cap’s Bisexuality – Intro

Marvel_GIF_by_missacheeseThe Marvel Comics universe has a handful of characters that have identified themselves as gay or lesbian, which portrays a realistic demographic as seen in the real world. However, not much can be said for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which is terribly lacking in LGBT representation. Even the Comics universe doesn’t have any big name superheroes that have identified as homosexual (1).

In one of Marvel’s most recent films Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the movie audience is introduced to Captain America’s struggle in a more modern time. The audience gets several moments of screen time as he reminisces in his past friendships and his new ones, and we get a more human, grounded feel to a person that is glorified by thousands and practically treated as the almighty saint. Captain America is hailed as a hero in both the fictional and real world, with a wide demographic of fans from nearly every background.

A section of the fandom for the Marvel universe has come up with their lots of analysis for reading in-between-the-lines that would make their high school English teachers proud. The fandom has found reason to believe that America’s #1 superhero has plausible means for having a non-heterosexual identity. They even went as far as conducting a twitter campaign to catch the attention of media and fellow fans (2). Something that these fans wish to be made canon, or official, is proper representation of the LGBT community in the Marvel films, especially since that is the world that younger generations are being exposed to, although claims and evidence derive from both the comic book and cinematic universe. Although Steve Rogers shared a relationship with Margaret “Peggy” Carter in the 1940s, his sexuality is questionable because of his relationship with James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes during that time period and interactions with Samuel Wilson in modern time.


1. Leilaosman. “Top Ten LGBT Marvel Characters.” ComicVine. GameSpot, n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014. <http://www.comicvine.com/profile/leilaosman/lists/top-ten-lgbt-marvel-characters/51789/&gt;.

2. “Bisexual Steve Rogers Twitter Campaign.” Web log post. Tumblr.com. N.p., 9 June 2014. Web. 6 Aug. 2014. <assemblerepresentation.tumblr.com/post/87901319807/bisexual-steve-rogers-twitter-campaign>.

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Introduction & Thesis

From 1954 to 1989, the Comics Code Authority forbade the inclusion of certain themes within mainstream comics published in America. Alongside excessive gore and rape, “sexual abnormalities” and “perversion(1)” were also forbidden, which, in 1954, included any overt reference to homosexuality. These rules were formulated during the heyday of many comics that have experiences a renaissance through motion pictures, and for a time, restricted who the superheroes could be as people and what the artists could do with comic books as an art form. Despite these restrictions, the representation of LGBT themes comics endured, and are prevalent throughout both independent and mainstream comics today.

We seek to analyze the presence of LGBT themes in comics first by looking at Captain America, the embodiment not only of ‘good,’ but of ‘right.’ Next we’ll observe a range of LGBT characters present across both independent and mainstream comics, from the 1970’s today. Finally, we’ll look closely at two popular LGBT supervillains, and investigate how the role they play in the LGBT comic community may differ from that of the superheroes.


 

  1. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency, Interim Report, 1955 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1955). http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Comic_book_code_of_1954

Theory of Cap’s Bisexuality – Peggy Carter and Bucky Barnes

Of all the heroes and villains that are well-known and recognized even in our reality, the most likely candidate for LGBT representation would be Marvel’s Captain America.

CaptainAmerica4-TFAHe is considered as the poster boy for the American government. The perfect role model citizen: a white, cis, heterosexual, male Christian. He is not only a hero to those in the Marvel universe, but to our world – the real world – as well. Lots of children, now adults, grew up reading the comics and the impression they have of him as a war hero will stay with them. But if this poster boy turns against those strictly placed values, and he discovers himself to be bisexual, then that would help show that it is okay. It’s normal. Anyone can be a different sexual orientation other than straight. This is the kind of representation that is needed.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, the main love interest for the protagonist is Peggy Carter – a female British officer.

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The official Marvel wiki even states that “Rogers felt passionate about Peggy Carter” and she eventually becomes Steve Rogers’ World War II girlfriend. They maintained an established romantic relationship and were even able to display a bit of physical affection just before he disappears for the next seventy years.tumblr_mxgdc5KSZl1slp42bo1_500

While there is absolutely no denying that Steve fell in love with Peggy, he shows a very close relationship with his childhood friend Bucky. While living in Brooklyn as children, Bucky would take care of his weak, sickly friend and protect Steve from bullies.

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The film immediately introduces the audience to the pair when we see Steve getting beat up in an alley. Then Bucky storms in out of nowhere and knocks the guy out, which quickly gives us the idea of how protective Bucky is over Steve and how willing he is to defend him. Bucky had no obligation to stay for as long as he has with Steve other than being friends, and yet they stayed close even up until Bucky Barnes was shipped off to war.

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Fast forward to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the film give us a flashback to Bucky Barnes offering pre-serum Steve Rogers some comfort as they are leaving Steve’s mother’s funeral. Steve insists that he can “get by on [his] own” and Bucky retorts that by letting Steve know he “doesn’t have to”. This then leads to a recurring line in both Captain America films: I’m with you, ’til the end of the line.

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This definitely falls into the “I Know You’re In There Somewhere” trope which applies to best friends but more so the long-standing love interest.tumblr_inline_n6eqot9nE41rbol4qtumblr_n655hjV4IA1r9lwdpo2_500

Bucky was brainwashed for a majority of the film, but gets back his memory of Steve upon hearing this line that only his super close guy friend could’ve have said to get through to him. That’s pretty romantic.

Back to the first movie, a lot of evidence can be found from visual cues, camera angles, and acting choices. Bucky Barnes, played by actor Sebastian Stan, looking at Steve for the first time in weeks after being tortured and experimented on by the enemy.

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Then when the two soldiers get separated by a fiery pit of doom, Steve calls out to Bucky and tells them to go on ahead. And of course, this brings up another romantic trope of not wanting to leave behind a person you truly care for.

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The absolute desperation and stubbornness in Bucky’s face is frightening. It’s like he really cares. But of course, nothing can really beat the ever-in-love stare-and-smile, bonus points if the other person isn’t looking.

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So it’s stars and stripes not stars or stripes.


Captain America: The First Avenger. Dir. Joe Johnston. Perf. Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, and Sebastian Stan. Paramount, 2011. DVD.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Dir. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Perf. Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie. Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2014. Film.

“Steven Rogers.” Marvel Movies. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014. <http://marvel-movies.wikia.com/wiki/Steven_Rogers&gt;.

Theory of Cap’s Bisexuality – Sam Wilson

Not even a full five minutes into Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it was like watching a romantic comedy. If you don’t see it, then let’s go over it shall we?

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Steve Rogers decided one morning to wear the tightest shirt he owns, and go out for a jog to tease the only other guy running this track at some weird hour. And keep in mind that this is their first meeting. Unsurprisingly, Sam does not respond to this stranger running past him.

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Steve makes it clear that he is teasing Sam by circling around him again. This time, he gets acknowledged. But that isn’t quite good enough.

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This makes for an amusing “running gag” trope pun totally intended, and this line will come up again near the end of the movie. Sort of like the repeated lines from Captain America: The First Avenger were foreshadowing this. (Won’t give any spoilers on that yet.)

Shortly after their jog, Steve approaches Sam and strikes up casual conversation with Sam. Then they even exchange some definitely flirtatious banter.

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If you don’t see it yet, then just pretend that Sam was a girl. Wow. Whole new perspective, huh? And just look at those faces. So precious.

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Stars and stripes.

 


 

Captain America: The First Avenger. Dir. Joe Johnston. Perf. Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, and Sebastian Stan. Paramount, 2011. DVD.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Dir. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Perf. Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie. Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2014. Film.

“Steven Rogers.” Marvel Movies. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014. <http://marvel-movies.wikia.com/wiki/Steven_Rogers&gt;.

These Ten LGBT Superheros will make you rethink comicbooks entirely

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Daken, Wolverine’s son, yields the power of controlling his body’s pheromones. He uses this ability in order to seduce, lure in, and manipulate members of both sexes in his favor. He is on the border of good and evil, he is witty, intelligent, quick-thinking, and incredibly fit. He has to this day never officially came out as being bisexual, gay, or even straight, although he appears to be quite comfortable with luring in both men and women when using his superpowers.

Northstar

When Northstar was first created, Marvel had a strict “No Gays in Marvel Comics” ban, created by the editor-in-chief during the early 1970s. However, the comic’s illustrator and writer had always intended for Northstar to be openly gay. He received much of his characterization in the early 1980s, when Marvel shifted corporate power and the comic company was open to new ideas. North, who is capable of moving at the speeds of light and blinding flashes when working in unison with his twin sister, has maintained subtle references to his sexuality for more than three decades of comics. Comics can thank Northstar for breaking many of the original boundaries of representing gays and the lgbt community in comicbooks. If it weren’t for him, as well as creators Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, superheros may not be as expansive and representative of diversity as they are today.

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Hulkling and Wiccan are two superhero fan boys that just happen to have special powers. Originally, Hulkling was supposed to be a woman who transformed into a Hulk body. However, the creators of the comic decided they would try something different by having two of the newest Avengers be gays who were not defined by their sexuality — this was just to be one specific trait the two possessed. Their relationship with each other is personal and realistic. They are not what most media outlets generally characterize gay relationships or people by. They are bold, daring, and in love. It is an admirable relationship to respect, and they contribute to the newest league of superheros, which has been designed to challenge some of the standard norms in the comic book industry.

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Anole was originally set to have a very short lifespan in the comic book world. The creators at Marvel would have done quite the injustice to his character if they had gone with their original plan, which was to merely have him come out to his closest superhero friends regarding his sexuality and immediately be rejected. From his inception into the Young Mutants, Marvel had planned to have him commit suicide. Instead, he began to receive popularity in fan bases for his unique reptile features and fast-paced superpowers. He has since remained alive, been put in the spotlight a number of times, and challenged the norms of lgbt representation. One of his most famous moments was when he helped another young gay superhero come to terms with his sexuality, notably helping him cope with it and ultimately doing exactly the opposite of what the creators originally had designed him for — suicide.

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Xavin may perhaps be the most complex superhero in any comic. Readers are unsure is she was even born a man or woman. She is capable of breaking gender roles by morphing from man to woman seamlessly. Originally, she was dating another superhero as a man and fell in love. When she morphed almost permanently into a woman, they continued their love for each other and had a healthy relationship as women. Her nonconformity into any specific gender provides trans representation, and is an important lesson for comic book creators and readers that there is truly no need to place a label or representation on any of their superheros, except for good and evil. She truly represents and depicts everything Judith Butler had noted in her essay on gender insubordination. She refuses to be defined by her one specific trait; instead, she uses it as an entity in order to further expand her capabilities and unlimited potential as a superhero.

Karma

Karma is one of the most wildly popular lesbian superheros in Marvel comics. A refugee from Vietnam, the caretaker of her family, a doer of justice and good across the globe, and a fighter for global peace, Karma deserves her name for fighting for justice and putting evil in its place. She gained popularity for her original appearances in comics in the 1980’s, and Marvel is planning on bringing her back into the limelight in a series of new works and possibly even films. She has always been an outwardly lesbian superhero, and her sexuality is just one of the many dozen attributes that fans list when describing her on social media and popular superhero websites as “one badass chick”. 

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Apollo and The Midnighter are essentially to Indie comics what Superman and Batman are to DC comics — One epic cape wearing seeker of justice, the other a street vigilante equipped with fast cars, ammo, and a passion for taking down evil. The two fell in love in the first series of their comic, and their wedding was even shown within their first several issues. While they are quite notably referenced often for being gay, and their representation of the LGBT community is strong and apparent, it serves as a friendly reminder to the rest of the comic book industry that gays in comics are just as capable of having plot-thickening story lines which readers will enjoy, and take delight in reading. These two characters may come from different walks of life, but together they are absolutely unstoppable: isn’t that what superhero love is all about?

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Batwoman may be the most notable LGBT representation in comics due to her close ties with Batman. This isn’t the original straight-laced 1950s batwoman, either. This is the tattooed, gun-toting, black and red leather military brat who doesn’t take sh*t from anyone, and is often vocal about her opinions when it comes to the league. As DC’s highest profile LGBT rep, she was redesigned in 2006 in order to expand the company’s diversification, however, she does so much more than that. Batwoman serves as a bigger picture to anyone who reads comics, gay or straight: She reminds us that, no matter who we are, and what traits we have that others may define as flaws, we’re all pretty badass in our own right. We should be exactly who we are, and constantly fight to make sure we never give up on the things we believe in.

All of these representations of the LGBT community do so much more than simply diversify our comics. They provide an insight to the true capabilities our media has in breaking down the walls and norms which confine our television, movies, books, etc. These comics provide some of the first visuals into how an outlet for entertainment can also be a threshold for new norms and standards in society. They teach us that superheros, like all other people, come in various walks of life. Their sexuality is merely one trait in a long list of qualities superheros possess, and shouldn’t simply be judged by who they choose to love — or, in some cases, who they choose to lure in with mind-bending pheromones in order to get what they want.

Sources:

Abelove, Henry, Michèle Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” The Lesbian and gay studies reader. New York: Routledge, 1993. 307-320. Print.

“Keeping Up With the Gays of DC and Marvel.” Out Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014. <http://www.out.com/entertainment/popnography/2012/10/11/keeping-gays-dc-and-marvel?page=full&gt;.

“Top Ten LGBT Comic Superheroes | TQS Magazine.” TQS Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014. <http://www.tqsmagazine.co.uk/top-ten-lgbt-comic-superheroes/&gt;.

Queer Villainry – An Introduction

Villains have always been a central part of the comic book industry, as the superhero would be unnecessary in the absence of a worthy opponent. Often villains are depicted as single minded, hellbent on destruction, world domination type characters. However, the villains we remember and who reappear to torment the superhero are bursting with personality, charm, and wit– often more than the superhero has his/herself. Alongside these attractive aspects of the villain, madness or insanity is a popular inclusion. No supervillain epitomizes this phenomenon to a greater degree than the Joker, a maniac whose humor is punctuated by grotesque violence and an unnerving obsession with his superhero, Batman. Loki is another popular supervillain whose personality contrasts with his stoic brother and mortal enemy, Thor. Writers for both the Joker and Loki have come out claiming that their characters are gay and bisexual. We will investigate how this aspect creates a more compelling character within their comics, and their impact on comic books as a whole.

Queer Villainry – Loki

Loki is a supervillain created by writer Stan Lee for the Thor series of comics, where the personalities and abilities of many if the individuals are based off a counterpart from norse mythology. Loki is no exception; he echoes many of the traits of the deceitful, shapeshifting norse god, Loki.

Crossdressing and gender ambiguity are both themes present in many nordic poems involving Thor and Loki, such as Þrymskviða (Larrington 101), where Loki convinces Thor to crossdress as his mother in a bridal gown in order to retrieve his legendary hammer, Mjöllnir. Loki himself is concealed as a handmaiden during the ordeal.

Elmer Boyd Smith’s 1902 illustration “Ah! What a Lovely Maid it Is” depicting Thor in his mothers garb.

In another nordic piece, Gylfaginning, Loki actually gives birth to the legendary 8 legged horse Sleipnir after being impregnated by a stallion (Faulkes 36). Although the Loki of the Marvel comics does not engage in any interspecies intercourse, his shapeshifting and gender bending powers are reminiscent of his mythological counterpart. Yet at the same time, the power that Loki has changes the perspective on conventional sexuality; Is it beastiality if you have sex with a horse when you are a horse? Loki’s creators have mentioned he is indeed, bisexual (Ewing), but as of yet his sexuality has not been explored explicitly in the comics. Yet we can still investigate how Loki interacts with heroes and villains and see how his sexuality manifests itself.

Whether Loki uses his power to cause mass turmoil or assist his adoptive brother Thor is dependent on the situation (most of the time, it’s the former). Loki does not have any sort of romantic counterpart (possibly because a villain capable of romance would diminish the legitimacy of the hero), so his most developed relationship is between him and Thor. Here, Thor reminisces about the death of Loki, even after he was a source of calamity within their homeland, Asgard.

Loki was raised with Thor as brothers, and often he pulls at Thor’s emotions to further his plans; In one such instance, Loki disguises himself as Thor’s lover, Sif. Here he is, speaking to Thor.

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Note her half-lidded, tempting gaze. Here Loki is again, speaking with some companions in their homeland of Asgard.

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A finger rests on her painted lips as she asks the men about their plans. Eyebrows raised, a slight smile… Loki seems seductive, almost flirty. Watch how she changes once her desires are made clear.

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Her face becomes completely different from the first pane; Dark circles beneath her eyes and a lack of eyebrows almost give her a skeletal appearance. What Loki’s interactions reveal is that he will abuse the desires of those around him to fulfill his own needs at practically any cost. Gender bending is less about being a woman, or a desire to be a woman for Loki; It’s that appearing as Thor’s lover will influence those around him. Loki’s compulsion is to cause mischief and mayhem, and occasionally we see hints that his need to instigate chaos is a part of him that he cannot control.


 

Ewing, Al. Web log comment. SCREAM, ROBOT, SCREAM! N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2014. <http://alewing.tumblr.com/post/64893876355/hello-mr-ewing-we-will-see-lokis-dad-odin-your-comic&gt;.

Faulkes, Anthony, and Snorri Struluson. Edda. Everyman Paperback. 1995. Print.

Gillen, DeConnick, Lee et al. “Thor: Latverian Prometheus.” Thor #604-606 (June 1961). Marvel.

Gillen, Tan, McKelvie et al. “Thor: Seige” (January 2011). Marvel.

Larrington, Carolyne. The Poetic Edda. Oxford University Press. 1998. Print.

Straczynski, Coipel, Morales et al. Thor #5 Vol 3 (December 2007). Marvel.

Straczynski, Coipel, Morales et al. Thor #9 Vol 3 (May 2008). Marvel.

Queer Villainry – The Joker

The Batman franchise has been a mainstay in the comic sphere for decades, and for almost as long, Batman’s arch enemy, the Joker, has been there to torment him. Originally, the Joker was a brutal, demented murderer whose weapons of choice were the Tommy Gun and laughing gas. However during the 1950’s, Fredric Wertham wrote about the homoerotic undertones in his book Seduction of the Innocent, sparking a mass outcry from the public to neuter mainstream comics in order to preserve respectable morals in the children that read them.

Thus, the Comics Code Authority was formed in 1954, imposing a set of stringent rules to prevent excessive gore, sexual innuendo or perversion, disrespect of authority, and the villain actually winning, among other things. Catwoman was created to be a female counterpart to Batman. Batman himself was stripped of references to his dark past, a far cry from the modern Batman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight series. The Joker’s character transformed from a serious threat to a prankster, and faded into obscurity throughout the 1960’s.

It was writer Neal Adams who bought the Joker back with a new perspective in Andrew Manning’s The Batman Files

The Joker was back with a healthy dose of menace, and a newfound obsession for the Batman. On multiple occasions, he acknowledges that without Batman, his existence would serve no purpose; In fact, he has even released Batman after successfully cornering him because he needs Batman to be complete. This is the crux of nearly all superheros and supervillains; In the absence of a worthy adversary, what’s the reason for their existence? Yes, Bruce Wayne would continue to be, but without constant threats to Gotham City, Batman would have no purpose. The Joker realizes that it is Batman that inspires him and make him significant. Yet his obsession goes beyond the same duality that exists between other superheros and supervillains, as we have reason to believe the Joker desires Batman. See Batman Cacaophony No 1.

He mentions this desire to sodomize Batman’s dead body in the midst of a joke. But is he actually joking? Here’s a panel from later in the same issue.

Evidently, the Joker here would have no qualms accepting payment before having sex with a man who has a clown fetish. However, I struggle to believe this is what the Joker desires. Here’s a page from Outsiders #3 “Roll Call Part 3: Joke’s on You”,  where mind-reading Lex Luthor speaks with the Joker.

In the 5th panel, the Joker appears legitimately surprised. No fake laughter, no jokes, just shock followed by rage in the last panel on the page. Take a look at Heath Ledger’s interpretation of the Joker as Batman interrogates him in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Skip to 1:30.

Here, the Joker distinguishes between the rest of Gotham’s police force and Batman, but he could make the same distinction with Bruce Wayne, Batman’s unmasked identity. He wants to be chased by Batman, and relishes in the perpetual game of cat and mouse they play. But how does the Joker’s sexuality play into his character? Take a look at the Joker’s own explanation to Batman in Batman #625.

I find it difficult to think of the Joker as simply ‘gay’ as Neal Adams described him. Similar to Loki and bisexuality, the Joker’s preference is strictly Batman-centric; Even when Harley-Quinn, a peppy female villain, was introduced to be with the Joker, his focus remained on Batman despite her romantic advances. 

What we find is that the Joker could never be in an intimate, long-lasting relationship, even if he could be with Batman; It’s the distance between them, the chase, the capture, and Batman’s hatred towards him that is his inspiration. 

 

The actions of both Loki and the Joker are reinforced by their sexuality, and this additional dimension of their character makes for a more compelling and interesting individual. Loki uses his shapeshifting ability and seduction to support his schemes, and reaffirm who he is– the embodiment of guile and deceit. The Joker’s maniacal deeds are fueled by his obsession to ‘annoy’ Batman, and the idea that the Joker is in love with Batman and desires him sexually reveals a contradiction in the Joker’s life that only an absolutely insane individual can abide by.

Yet in a way, their desire to destabilize the presumption of safety and normalcy that their victims maintain is similar to how Judith Butler in her essay Imitation and Gender Insubordination describes the maintenance of a heterosexual norm in our society. The constant threat of ‘de-institutionalization’ of heterosexuality as the ‘original’ gender is similar to the constant state of peril within in comic books, brought on by the supervillains. However the desired end result diverges wildly; Butler seeks for the acceptance of ambiguity in sexuality and the separation of sexuality and gender, while supervillains tend to seek mass destruction and chaos.

Neither comic addresses a more sympathetic side of either villain regarding their sexuality; Neither Loki or the Joker indicate that being bisexual or gay is the root of their villainous deeds. The sexuality of these supervillains is used to enhance and magnify the insanity that is part of their character, without the implication that being gay or bisexual caused evil to emerge from within. The impact these characters have on society is based predominantly off their humor and penchant for massive over the decades, and less so for their respective sexualities.

 


Azzarello, Brian and Eduardo Risso. “Broken City.” Batman #625 (May 2004). DC Comics.

Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader. Ed. Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin. New York: Routledge, 1993. Print. 

Manning, Matthew K. The Batman Files. Kansas, MO: Andrews McMeel, 2011. Print.

Nolan, Christopher, dir. The Dark Knight. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2008. Digital Video.

Smith, Flannagan, Fletcher at all. Batman: Cacophony #1 (November 2008). DC Comics.

Smith, Flannagan, Fletcher at all. Batman: Cacophony #3 (March 2009). DC Comics.