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‘Rat Queens’ Wins GLAAD Award; Is This a Tipping Point for LGBT Inclusion?

 

The adventure series Rat Queens from Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch took home the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Saturday. The medieval fantasy series centers on a diverse cast of female adventurers, including lesbian halfling thief Betty.

This year’s other nominees were Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Annie Wu, and Matt Hollingsworth; Lumberjanes, by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen; Memetic, by James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan; and Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

The list of nominees are interesting for a number of reasons; first, two publishers that haven’t been nominated before, Boom and Image, edged out serial nominees DC and Archie, and left Marvel with only one nomination. This shift reflects a the rise of new and diverse voices at publishers outside the Big Two. It’s also indicative of the way the Big Two seemed to take a step backwards in LGBT representation in the past year. Perhaps most importantly, the list of nominees shows that there’s now serious competition in this category; two-time winners Batwoman, Kevin Keller, and the Young Avengers aren’t just trading the award back and forth every few years.

Second, all five nominees featured LGBT characters in major recurring roles, and three in starring roles. There was a time when a book could be nominated for the GLAAD award for featuring just one LGBT storyline in a single issue. That’s clearly not going to cut it anymore.

DC was locked out of nominations for perhaps the first time ever this year (records remain a little fuzzy at the GLAAD website), but the publisher seems to be positioning itself to rally in time for next year. Several of its titles in 2015 have LGBT lead characters, and could feature LGBT storylines, including Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Constantine, and Midnighter.

Archie Comics is currently reworking its main line with a relaunch of Archie by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples, and a relaunch of its Kevin Keller series is reportedly in the works, with Kevin potentially receiving a scruffy new look.

The future of Marvel’s line post-Secret Wars remains unclear. Many of the publisher’s prominent LGBT characters were marginalized or absent in the past year, and some characters that have been positioned as LGBT by their authors haven’t been involved in LGBT storylines. Marvel has made strides in reaching out to female readers and in diversifying its line in other ways, but its LGBT representation is currently slight. We’ll be watching future announcements closely to see how that changes. In the meantime, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, featuring Sera, one of superhero comics’ first super-powered transgender heroes, may be an obvious candidate for next year’s nominees.

But with the way the industry is changing, there could be more than five obvious choices for next year’s GLAAD Media Award. That would be a true breakthrough moment.

 

Note: Stjepan Sejic is the current series artist on Rat Quens, but the nomination was for Upchurch’s run on the title.

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