There’s no “I’m Bi” Speech Bubble: Bisexuality in Comics

17615895The world of comics has long been a haven for stories that the rest of the literary world aren’t quite ready for. Perhaps that is why a whole raft of LGBT+ characters have found a home in this medium over the years.
The first comic book series I fell in love with was Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Amongst the characters in this epic series were gay faerie Cluracan, lesbians Judy, Donna and Hazel, trans character Wanda and the quite-literally-genderfluid Desire.

It’s fair to say that Sandman was ahead of its time in terms of queer representation. However even in such an inclusive comic, there were no overtly bisexual characters. Realising this got me thinking about some of my favourite modern comic books. Here, I examine three series’, to determine if bisexuality has yet found a place in the medium. (Please note the following discussions contain some minor, character-based spoilers.)

Sunstone

sunstoneSunstone is a quirky romance that follows the story of Ally and Lisa. The two main characters first meet online in a BDSM forum and soon progress to helping each other explore their kinky side in real life. As well as taking a refreshingly non-stereotypical look at the BDSM community and roles such as Dommes and subs, I like the fact this comic doesn’t get hung up on the fact that its main characters happen to be two women who are falling in love with each other. It’s mentioned that they have both only had relationships with men before and as the series progresses, Ally starts referring to herself as gay. As yet, however, the B-word hasn’t been mentioned by anyone.

The Wicked and the Divine

wicdivThe Wicked and the Divine is a quick-witted fantasy series that scores highly on the queer quotient. The premise is that every ninety years, twelve gods from various mythologies are resurrected as human teenagers. As well as the intrigue and violence that ensue when the current pantheon start getting bumped off, the series finds time to consider the nature of fame, the blight of misogyny and issues of cultural appropriation. It also has the most characters of colour I’ve seen in a mainstream comic. Queer characters include Inanna, who bemoans the fact that their male ex Baal saw them as a “guy” and appears relatively gender-blind in their affections, aforementioned Baal who saw himself as straight before falling for Inanna, plus the feral Sakhmet and roguish Luci(fer) whose appetites aren’t constrained by gender. We know that one of the secondary characters is trans and one is a lesbian, but none of the diverse deities have yet owned the bi label.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

buffyAlthough the TV series wound up in 2003, the adventures of Buffy and friends have continued in a comic book series that is still being published today. The TV show made huge strides in same-sex-love visibility by celebrating the relationship between Willow and Tara (and later Willow and Kennedy). However, despite Willow’s previous, meaningful relationships with men, she was consistently referred to as gay post-Tara. This erasure of bisexuality unfortunately continues with the comics. In season 8, Buffy has a Sapphic encounter of her own with Satsu, one of her fellow slayers. This connection is very short-lived, as Satsu is in love with Buffy but those feelings aren’t returned. Despite Buffy calling their night together one of the best of her life, it is generally assumed, and stated by several other characters, that Buffy is straight. Of course it’s entirely possible for straight women to experiment with other women, but I can’t help but feel that this could have been a golden opportunity to explore the nuances of bisexuality.
So it appears that there are more and more characters in modern comics who could easily be termed bi or pansexual. Unfortunately there is one glaring problem – so far none of the characters in the comics I’ve mentioned have actually claimed these identities for themselves. Some may argue that this is because labels for sexuality are now redundant, and certainly not everyone feels the need for one. But at the same time, the reluctance to use the B-word while happily labelling other characters as gay, lesbian or trans does seem to point to discomfort with bisexuality rather than a genuinely labels-free approach (much the same conclusion Abigail came to in her when she considered bisexuality on TV).

Don’t get me wrong, it is great to see positive portrayals of characters who love or desire more than one gender in comics, especially when these are often so lacking in TV shows and films. But when I finally see the words “I’m bisexual” penned proudly inside a speech bubble, that’s when I will know that comics have truly embraced our corner of the LGBT+ spectrum.

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Holly Wilson

Holly writes bisexual fiction and non-fiction and is always on the lookout for positive representations of bisexuality in popular culture. Her hobbies include reading, crafting and plotting to dismantle heteronormativity.

6 Responses to There’s no “I’m Bi” Speech Bubble: Bisexuality in Comics

  • Amy says:

    There’s this comic page I’ve seen around where the character actually says I’m Bi, got to be the only one though! http://legacy.blavity.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/prodigy-ya.png

    • Holly says:

      This is brilliant! I had a dig around and this is from Young Avengers. This issue was written by the creator of The Wicked and the Divine, so here’s hoping they will do something similar in this series!

  • Tiggy Upland says:

    Your ship has finally come in, my dear Holly. Upland, the bi webcomic, at your service: TiggyUpland dot com slash Upland!

  • Holly says:

    Stop press: in issue 24 of the Wicked and the Divine, two more characters are shown to be non-monosexual, and one of them is specifically described as bi by the creator in the letters page! Woop woop!

  • Jessamy Morris-Davis says:

    Surprised not to see Strangers In Paradise here.I’d highly recommend it for general reading purposes, but also because of relevance to the topic.
    Terry Moore never really uses the word “bisexual” in the entire series. We could criticise that because of its absence but I hope that it is a concerted effort to allow the characters to be themselves without him imposing a label on what they are.

    I thought about writing more…but then thought better of it 🙂

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