Corporate offerings celebrating Pride Month often feel like disingenuous attempts to cash in on a social movement, but DC Pride #1 succeeds by showcasing the ways DC Comics has been pushing LGBTQ+ representation for years. Featuring nine short stories and seven pin-ups, DC Pride offers a wide-ranging view of the publisher’s queer characters and creators, executed with a lot of personality in both writing and art. The team of editors has assembled an impressive creative lineup, and there are some particularly inspired pairings, like James Tynion IV and Trung Le Nguyen telling a Batwoman fairy tale, or Mariko Tamaki, Amy Reeder, and Marissa Louise defining Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s relationship with a madcap action scene.
The rehabilitation of DC’s early gay stereotype, Extraño, continues in a new Midnighter story by Steve Orlando and Stephen Byrne, and in just four pages, Vita Ayala, Justin Partridge, and José Villarrubia craft a suspenseful crime plot for Renee Montoya that plants a lot of promising seeds for the future. The most emotional story of DC Pride focuses on Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern who was reimagined as gay in 2012’s Earth 2 series. The old Alan Scott character is back but he remains a gay man, which introduces some very interesting character dynamics between Alan and his gay superhero son. Writer Sam Johns crafts a touching narrative about living in the closet and reconnecting with estranged family, and the coarser qualities of Klaus Janson’s linework emphasize how Alan lived through an especially rough time for queer people.
While Marvel has dragged its feet in regards to meaningful LGBTQ+ representation in film and television, DC has spent the last decade expanding representation across all of its media, pushing Harley Quinn to the forefront on the big screen and populating TV shows with LGBTQ+ heroes, including the first transgender superhero on TV: Supergirl’s Nia “Dreamer” Nal. Dreamer makes her comic-book debut in DC Pride with a story written by Nicole Maines, the actor who plays her on TV, and while the script is basic superhero fare, it’s exemplary, because it allows Dreamer to be a hero and romantic love interest without making her gender the focus of the narrative.
It’s worth noting, for comparison, that Marvel also released its own Pride one-shot, Marvel Voices Pride, this month, which is more of a mixed bag. The opening recap of LGBTQ+ representation throughout Marvel history uses alien characters to highlight the trans and gender non-conforming community, which others those groups and indicates that there’s a lot more to be done with characters who reflect actual lived experiences. Some effort is put in with a few of the other shorts, with characters like Gamma Flight’s Dr. Charlene McGowan and Jessie Drake—a forgotten trans mutant introduced in the ’90s—gaining extra attention in stories that also feature trans creators. Unlike DC Pride, Marvel’s one-shot isn’t all original content, but includes a reprint of Alpha Flight #106, Northstar’s coming-out issue. It’s historically important but hasn’t aged especially well, and the book would be better served giving the other stories extra pages or bringing in a couple of new entries.
DC Pride ends with the introduction of the JLQ—Justice League Queer—a team that was part of the controversial DC Round Robin earlier this year, which pit different comic pitches against each other for social media likes. JLQ was knocked out in the first round, where it faced off against Robins, a book featuring some of the most popular characters in superhero comics. Writer Andrew Wheeler acknowledges that the JLQ name is pretty cringe in his script, but there’s a lot of potential in a team book that showcases the variety of the publisher’s LGBTQ+ characters. Many of the stories in DC Pride feel like the start of something more, and ideally there’s enough interest in this one-shot that these heroes can spend more than a month in the spotlight.