It might be hard to believe at first, but superhero comic books have long been used as a platform for airing agendas, be they socio-cultural or political. This trend is actually plainer to see in superhero comic stories these days. Marvel Comics has been pushing for diversity in their characters, often by having people of color or minorities taking up the costumed identities of originally Caucasian heroes. Case in point is Pakistani–American Kamala Khan becoming Miss Marvel after the original, Kamala’s idol Carol Danvers, became Captain Marvel.

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Its distinguished competitor DC Comics has made steps in diversification, and their focus on LGBT characters has just earned them an accolade from an LGBT advocacy in one of their awards ceremonies.

Batwoman and LGBT in DC Comics

The awarding will not take place until October 20, but the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has made advance notice that they intend to honor Dc Entertainment, the parent company of DC Comics and subsidiary to Warner Bros., at their 2017 Respect Awards. The long-running publisher of superhero comic books will be given a Visionary Award by the GLSEN for their efforts in showcasing storylines with diversity, especially when it comes to the portrayal of LGBT characters in their pages.

Superhero characters of the LGBT persuasion have become very prevalent in fiction these past years. The recent film reboot of “Power Rangers” by Lionsgate had the Yellow Ranger Trini (Becky G) be into girls. DC Comics itself has no shortage of these characters such as the anti-heroine Harley Quinn, who is intimate with fellow Gotham super-villain Poison Ivy.

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In terms of superheroes, there is also Batwoman (Kate Kane) a lesbian socialite and West Point dropout whom the GLSEN specifically named in their citation for the publishing company. In addition, they included the supporting character Alysia Yeoh, currently the roommate of Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) and a transgender woman. Alysia’s marriage to her girlfriend in 2015 was a wellspring of discussion for comic fans.

Celebrating diversity

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, remarked on the powerful influence of superheroes in popular culture. “Equally powerful is for LGBT youth to see themselves in our world, and DC enables just that.” For their part, DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson notes how their company is committed to telling stories that reflect their diverse audience, saying, “We look forward to celebrating with the LGBTQ students and activists from across the country.”

The GLSEN was founded in 1990 as an advocacy for creating safe and inclusive environments for K-12 schools in the US. They started the Respect Awards in 2004, which has since showcased what the organization sees as positive role models for LGBT youth. Aside from DC, other honorees this year include Kerry Washington, Bruce Bozzi, and Zendaya of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”