The Replacements: Celebrating LGBTQ Legacy Characters
Since the dawn of the Silver Age, legacy characters have been a staple of superhero fiction, and having a new character step into a well loved role can open up new opportunities for writers and artists to tell different kinds of stories. In The Replacements, we’ll look back at the notable and not-so-notable heroes and villains to assume some of the most iconic mantles in the superhero genre.
This week, we're celebrating Pride Week at ComicsAlliance and changing things up a little bit. Instead of looking at a singular identity and the legacy it created, we're looking at eight distinct LGBTQ+ characters who stepped into iconic superhero roles.
Starman (Mikaal Tomas)Created by Gerry Conway & Mike Vosburg (1st Issue Special #1)
Mikaal Tomas was sent to Earth to prepare it for invasion, but disillusioned by the murder of his lover after she tried to warn the people of Earth, Mikaal instead chose to stay and fight for the planet as the Starman, named after the David Bowie song. He made a life for himself, and during the heady 1970s, he fell into a life of alcohol and drugs.
He was visited by a member of his people who informed him that his planet had died, and that he had come to fulfill his mission of killing the traitor. Although Mikaal was victorious over the assassin, he was captured by a touring freakshow as their prisoner and developed amnesia due to the ringmaster who fed off his powers. He was rescued by Jack Knight and was taken in by Jack’s father, Ted.
Mikaal’s memories eventually came back and he developed a close friendship with the monster Solomon Grundy, until Grundy was killed and reverted to his usual savage self. Mikaal found love in Opal City with a man named Tony, but years later Tony was killed during a supervillain attack.
This led Mikaal to join the newest incarnation of the Justice League, led by Hal Jordan, where he developed a close friendship with the magic ape Congorilla. After the destruction of Star City at the hands of Prometheus, the team went their separate ways, but both Mikaal and Congorilla were invited to join a new incarnation led by Dick Grayson and Donna Troy.
The Question (Renee Montoya)Created by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Mitch Brian (Batman #475)
Based on a character from Batman: The Animated Series, Renee Montoya was originally introduced as the partner to Harvey Bullock in the Gotham City Police Department, but when he was promoted she began working with Crispus Allen. During the “No Man’s Land” event she had a run in with Two-Face, who became obsessed with her and eventually outed her as a lesbian, which caused her family to disown her.
Renee and Allen worked together as part of GCPD’s Major Crimes Unit, which focuses on the costumed threats within the city. When her partner was killed by a corrupt crime scene investigator, Renee went outside the law to bring him to justice, but found that she couldn’t pull the trigger and instead quit the police force the next.
In the aftermath, Renee spiralled into depression until she was hired by Vic Sage, AKA The Question, to investigate Intergang. Vic eventually revealed that he was dying, and that he had been preparing Renee to become the new Question in his absence.
Following Sage’s death, and in the wake of Renee’s ex-girlfriend Kate Kane being kidnapped by the Religion of Crime, Renee donned the faceless mask as the new Question. In this role she investigated everything from street level thugs to full-on paranormal weirdness, and in an effort to save the life of The Huntress she took on the burden of the mystical Mark of Cain, scarring her face forever.
Captain Marvel/Quasar (Phyla-Vell)Created by Peter David & Paul Azaceta (Captain Marvel #16)
Phyla-Vell was a genetically created offspring of the intergalactic hero Mar-Vell, and sister to Genis-Vell, whom she fought when he was driven insane by his cosmic awareness. She tried to lay claim to their father’s title of Captain Marvel, but Genis would not relinquish the identity.
Phyla began a relationship with the hero Moondragon, and the two found themselves embroiled in the Annihilation conflict that engulfed the galaxy. She joined Nova and Star-Lord in the final battle against Annihilus and wrested the quantum bands away from the monster, and in the aftermath of the battle decided to use them to become the new Quasar.
As Quasar, Phyla fought against the rise of the Technarcy and was a founding member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. In an effort to bring Moondragon back from death, Phyla lost the quantum bands and was instead reborn as the Avatar of Oblivion and took on the name Martyr.
Her career as Martyr went about as poorly as you might expect from the name, as it turns out her ascension to the role was merely a ruse to bring back the true Avatar of Oblivion, Thanos. Phyla was one of the first murdered at the Mad Titan’s hands upon his resurrection, and she has not been seen or resurrected since.
Shining Knight (Sir Ystin)Created by Grant Morrison & Simone Bianchi (Seven Soldiers: Shining Knights #1)
The modern incarnation of the Shining Knight was originally introduced as a male hero of a forgotten realm who journeyed to Earth in order to save everything. The big twist was that they were actually a girl the whole time. While the story could have been a great way to introduce a new non-binary character, the reveal is set up more as a Mulan or She’s The Man style deception.
However, the Sir Ystin incarnation of Shining Knight was reintroduced in the pages of Demon Knights as an explicitly non-binary character. They joined Jason Blood’s medieval team, which also includes the likes of Madame Xanadu and Vandal Savage, and fought against the tyranny and oppression of the wizard Mordru and The Questing Queen.
The first year of the book played coy with revealing too much, relying mostly on subtext and interpretation, such as Merlin referring to their “two natures”. When faced with a choice between sexes by demons, the Shining Knight defiantly chose neither, stating "I'm not just a man or a woman. I'm both." The character was later confirmed to be intersex by writer Paul Cornell.
Batwoman (Kate Kane)Created by Greg Rucka, JH Williams III, Michael Siglain, Alex Ross & Devin Grayson
When Kate Kane was young, she was kidnapped by The Religion of Crime, along with her mother and twin sister Elizabeth. Although her family did not survive the ordeal, Kate was rescued by her father and grew up to be a marine just like him. She was dishonourably discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when she would not lie about her lesbian identity.
Kate became a regular of the party circuit in Gotham, and was dumped by her girlfriend Renee Montoya because she was wasting her life. When she was confronted by a mugger in Gotham, she saw the Batman in action first-hand and decided to dedicate her life and training to becoming a vigilante.
With the help of her father’s resources and experience, Kate became Batwoman, and regularly clashed with The Religion of Crime, whose believed her death was prophesied in their bible. Her life was rocked when her sister Elizabeth reappeared as the twisted villain Alice, a discovery that drove a wedge between her and her father.
Kate took her cousin Bette, AKA Flamebird, under her wing as a protege, but she was later sidelined with an injury and came back solo under the name Hawkfire. Kate briefly found happiness with police captain Maggie Sawyer, and the couple planned to marry, but they eventually broke off the engagement, partly due to DC’s editorial policy at the time that said that characters can’t be too happy.
Wolverine (Daken Akihiro)Created by Daniel Way & Steve Dillon (Wolverine: Origins #5)
Daken’s mother was killed in 1946 by The Winter Soldier while still pregnant, and as an adult he was led to believe that it was his father James Howlett AKA Wolverine, that was responsible for his mother’s death. He hunted his father around the world, using not only his bone claws, but a coercive pheromone power, in his sadistic quest for vengeance.
Daken took the name Wolverine when Norman Osborn became head of US national security and formed his own team of Dark Avengers. As Wolverine, Daken did what no-one has managed before or since and killed The Punisher, although Frank did come back for revenge as a Frankenstein monster.
Daken became something of an antihero following the dissolution of the Dark Avengers, setting up in Los Angeles, declaring himself the new kingpin of the City of Angels. When his healing factor failed him and he realized he was dying, he returned to New York and seemingly killed himself with a bomb.
Somehow, Daken returned, and Logan was forced to kill his son by drowning him in a shallow puddle when a future incarnation of himself warned him that Daken would kill the children of the Jean Grey school. Daken was resurrected as a Horseman of Death by The Apocyalypse Twins, and later teamed up with several of his father’s allies and enemies following Logan’s death.
Ms. America (America Chavez)Created by Joe Casey & Nick Dragotta (Vengeance #1)
America Chavez was born in the Utopian Parallel, a dimension overseen by the all-powerful Demiurge. When her mothers died saving their reality, America ran away from home to another universe to prove herself a hero. She became a multidimensional hero with the ability to travel between dimensions, and co-lead the Teen Brigade alongside The Ultimate Nullifier.
After the Teen Brigade fell apart, America was sought out by Loki, who attempted to convince her to kill Billy Kaplan AKA Wiccan, in what was really an attempt to make sure she protected the young hero. She joined a new team of Young Avengers who saved the world from the infection of the Mother parasite, which the adult heroes of the world could not see as a threat.
America later joined the new team of Ultimates alongside Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Spectrum, and The Blue Marvel, dedicated to fixing the most impossible threats faced by the multiverse. The rest of the team doesn’t realize just how much experience America has with protecting the multiverse; she actually joined the team to make sure that they don’t accidentally destroy everything.
Cullen BloodstoneCreated by Dennis Hopeless & Kev Walker (Avengers Arena #1)
Cullen Bloodstone was the youngest child of famed monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone, and brother of Elsa, and was raised to follow in the family tradition. On his tenth birthday, his father left him for twenty-four hours in a realm of demons, but Ulysses was killed and never returned to bring Cullen home.
Cullen was lost in the realm for over two years while his sister thought he was away at boarding school. She eventually returned home to find her younger brother possessed by a powerful force that she was able to subdue with the help of the bloodgem. Cullen was enrolled in the Braddock Academy, but was abducted by Arcade to take part in the new Murderworld, along with other superpowered teens from around the world.
Towards the end of the game’s thirty days, X-23 was driven into a murderous frenzy, so Cullen removed his bloodgem ring and unleashed the power of the demon that possessed him, but he lost control and had to be turned back to normal by his friends. After Arcade’s defeat and the survivors’ rescue, Cullen turned his attention to revenge against Arcade, which led him to join the Masters of Evil.
Cullen was taught to control his demon by Daimon Hellstrom, and when his fellow survivors infiltrated the Masters of Evil in an attempt to bring them down, Cullen switched sides to join them. During the final battle he was forced to face off against his best friend and crush, Anachronism.