Northstar: The Only Gay Superhero??? WTF?

As you may already know I LOVE Alpha Flight!!! It was probably one of the BEST comic books of the 80’s. How can you go wrong with a group of Canadian superheroes who hunted down Wolverine to bring him back as their leader and  in the process went toe to toe with the Uncanny X-Men?! Plus they were created and drawn by John Byrne-quite possibly the BEST (arguably-but he’s my all time fav) artist ever in comic books! Well even though these guys ruled and hung out with a 10 foot tall Sasquatch, they also had something else that catapulted this amazing team of superheroes to legendary status. Northstar-one of the coolest characters in the Marvel Universe and as I understand it the first openly GAY superhero ever.


I remember when this was revealed it made headlines-but it also made sense-leave it to Marvel I guess huh? It was about time that someone came out of the closet! Northstar had always been a fav of mine, he was a bad ass who took shit from no one and had one of the biggest attitudes in the Marvel Universe only to be rivaled by the likes of  Namor: The Sub Mariner himself. His most popular proclamation: Don’t fuck my sis’ Aurora (Well at least that is how I perceived it). Not even Sasquatch could get away with something like that without answering to Northstar. I found this online and found it interesting from Mr. Byrne and then others:

“One of the things that popped immediately into my head was to make one of them gay. I had recently read an article in Scientific American on what was then (the early 80s) fairly radical new thinking on just what processes caused a person to be homosexual, and the evidence was pointing increasingly to it being genetic and not environmental factors. So, I thought, it seemed like it was time for a gay superhero, and since I was being ‘forced’ to make Alpha Flight a real series, I might as well make one of them gay. . . . I settled on Jean-Paul, and the moment I did I realized it was already there. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have been considering making him gay before I ‘decided’ to do so.

Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, wary of promoting agendas from either side of the political spectrum, had decreed that there were to be no explicitly gay characters in the Marvel universe.  The Comics Code Authority also prevented Marvel from publicly stating Northstar was homosexual.  Byrne, therefore, was only able to imply that Northstar was gay.

In Alpha Flight #106, published in 1992, some years after Shooter had left Marvel, writer Scott Lobdell was finally given permission to allow Northstar to utter the words “I am gay.”  The event generated some publicity in the mainstream press and Alpha Flight #106 sold out in a week, despite the fact that the series was not a very popular title. Shortly before Northstar admitted he was gay, he was voted Canada’s most eligible bachelor, in the Alpha Flight series.

Northstar’s coming out was controversial and as a result, little mention was made of his sexual orientation for the remainder of the first Alpha Flight series, which ended in 1994. It wasn’t ignored entirely, however; one subplot dealt with his sister Aurora’s reaction, in which the “Aurora” personality was accepting, while the “Jeanne-Marie” one was not. A subsequent mini-series starring Northstar also dodged the issue.


While at least three background characters in the classic 1986 mini-series Watchmen were homosexual, making it the first mainstream comics series to feature openly gay characters,  the characters Northstar, Mystique and Destiny were all created years beforehand. And even though the editors at Marvel would not let it be openly stated, these characters were intended from almost the beginning to be gay/bisexual.

By 2001, society’s views on homosexuality had changed considerably. In that year, Northstar’s sexual orientation played a large role in the storyline in which he joined a temporary team of X-Men and faced another recruit, Paulie Provenzano, who was extremely homophobic. Though the two began their mission as enemies, they eventually made peace with one another. Northstar developed the same relationship with Juggernaut, when the two served on the same X-Team.

northstar x-men

When Northstar joined the X-Men as a regular member in 2002, writers were less hesitant to address his sexual orientation. Northstar even experienced a crush on the long-time X-Man Iceman, though it was a one-sided love.

One of his students in the Alpha Squadron, Victor Borkowski, the gay mutant Anole, looks up to him as a role model.”

So it got me to thinking, Northstar cannot be the only bad ass mainstream character that was admittedly gay right? So who then has not stepped out of the closet by the year 2009?! All you superheroes get with it already it’s almost 2010 where do you stand?




      • Christopher

        Hey man I havent gotten a copy of it yet been a bit busy. Me and my friend are gettin a couple of peeps to start a game with us. My friend is quite experinced in the DnD. I totally wish I could join your group it looks like you guys havelots of fun!

  1. Opa

    Well the Rawhide kid had his own book for a long time, and in the revamp he was gay, so he was the first openly gay Marvel Character to get his own title. Hmm Hulkling and Wiccan from “The Young Avengers”, Julie Power from “Power Pack”, Flatman from “The Great Lakes Avengers”, Living Lightning from “The Avengers”, Hector from Pantheon and Moondragon. The villains Man-Killer, Machinesmith, Electro, Shinobi Shaw, Andreas Von Strucker, The Purle Man and Kangaroo. I’m sure theres more…

      • LurkerWithout

        Of the heroes listed Julie Power was only hinted at during the terrible “Loners” book. Of the bad guys, the only one I’d heard of being openly gay is Machinesmith. I’ve never seen any reason to think the Purple Man is gay and his daughter gives SOME evidence to not being gay…

        Openly gay in Marvel books off-hand: Hulkling/Wiccan – Young Avengers, Moondragon/Phyla-Vell (who just changed her hero name) – Guardians of the Galaxy, Anole (former New X-Men), Northstar, Living Lightning (former Avenger), Hector (Pantheon), Karolina/Xavin (Runaways)

  2. phoenixburn123

    There was almost a Shatterstar/Rictor hook up in the mid 90’s but marvel shelved it.
    It would have made X-force much cooler at that point.

    • James

      I actually read a comic once where Juggernaut and Man-thing were lovers. Man-thing was going through his secondary mutation and was being overwhelmed by his new powers. Juggernaut was so worried about him he went to Xavier for help bawling like a baby. A big unstoppable baby. Wish i could remember what alternate universe or whatever so i could find it again. It was pretty good.

  3. petersaturday

    Cool. We have some more people to add to the list but does anyone argue that NORTHSTAR is by far the coolest Superhero ever that has come out?

  4. Guy Boyman

    Thanks for some nice ink on a super-queero, sir. We dorqs appreciate it. I’m more of a DC boi, although, when it comes to Bronze Age goodness, I swing both ways. Over at DC, the gay heroes are not overwhelmingly interesting, with the exception of recently lesbiatic Batwoman who has a bitchin’ costume. The newly female take on The Question is also a dyke, I believe. I think they might even have been lovers in the past. But, of course, girls are icky. I keed! I keed! On the man-on-man side, the Golden Age Green Lantern’s son, Obsidian, was subtextually gay for 15 years or so before somebody had the balls to pull the trigger and have him out himself. He’s not the most flatteringly gay superheroic role model, as he spent years as a borderline psychotic before he was gay, and I don’t really like the message that sends (i.e. all queers have mental problems). Of course there’s always Wildstorm’s Apollo and Midnighter, which are analogues to Superman and Batman and they are super-gay in the best possible way. If any gay superheroes get good ink, its probably them.

    • petersaturday

      Nice to get your imput Guy. But no matter which way you look at it Northstar is by far the coolest. Oh also Flat-man of the Great Lakes Avengers is soooo cool. Just reread that series and it’s amazing…

  5. Alex C.

    DC’s Pied Piper came out of the closet in the August 1991 issue of the Flash–that is to say, it totally predates Northstar’s admission. Although Piper started as a supervillain (one of the Flash’s Rogues) after Crisis on Infinite Earths he became an anti-hero, and then a bonafide superhero as well as one of Wally West’s best friends. He was a hero at the time he came out, but the issue where he does this handles it adroitly. Not as newsworthy as the ineptly done Northstar story, since there are no discarded, dying AIDS babies and rampaging homophobic fathers and etc. A few pages from it can be seen here:

    Unlike poor Northstar, they actually let Piper have a few boyfriends through the 1990s.

      • Alex C.

        I honestly have no idea but it’s kind of disappointing, since Piper is really a very cool character. I can only chalk it up to 1) he was not part of a team and was, instead, a supporting character in a primary solo hero’s book, which makes him less visible 2) he was a reformed super-villain so even if he was a superhero at the time, maybe he didn’t count? 3) Marvel blasted a lot of PR about Northstar and DC was low key about Piper–and I can understand this after the DC debacle that was Extrano (who first appeared in 1988 and from the start was very, very, very stereotypically “gay” but as far as I can tell never actually SAID this), perhaps they wanted to make this admission low key.

      • rochesterrambler

        Im assuming the “rampaging homophobic father” you are referring to is the original Major Mapleleaf, who in the aforementioned issue is said to be a retconned Invaders hero. All I have to say is Alex C. Clearly did not read the book as MapleLeaf went on his rampage because he felt NorthStar was not doing enough to be a hero to the Canadian homosexual community, saying that with his position in alpha flight and status as a hero, him coming out would mean the world to gay children desperate to look up to someone. He was the farthest thing from a homophobe. Was he a bit of a loon pretending to attack the AIDS baby, so he could lure north star into a fight and have his heart to heart via action scene? Yes, that part was very contrived, almost as if the editor said, we need to have an action scene, despite this story clearly not needing one. If maple leaf had just shown up at the hospital and said his piece to north star like a sane human being, it could be remembered today as a landmark comics speech. For this very reason I did not like how in volume 3 of alpha flight, they retcon the original maple leaf into being an abusive father to both Michael and the other son who would become Major MapleLeaf 2.0. This makes no sense as it was the sheer love he had for his child and hatred of homophobia that caused him to snap on north star. My apologies for commenting on a 7 year old blog entry but hey I figured why not?

      • petersaturday

        hey thanks for the comment, I am a huge Alpha Flight fan and am still hoping we get a cinematic version of the classic team, you also bring up some damn good points.

  6. Pingback: DC’s Bandwagon Gay Green Lantern Reveal: Not Impressed! « Universal Dork

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