With the reveal this week, that Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon’s roommate, Alysia Yeoh is transgender, DC was applauded by LGBT fans and supporters. Alysia is a rarity, in that she is a transgender, non-powered, supporting character, but she is certainly not the first character in comics to switch gender. It’s just that it’s usually handled in a more spectacular fashion. Often magic is involved. This list features characters that have changed gender, not cases where a person is replaced by a separate character of the opposite gender. (For instance, Carrie Kelly and Stephanie Brown as Robin.)
These are but a few examples. Trust me, there were plenty of others that didn’t make the cut. And please keep in mind, this is just for fun. I don’t mean any disrespect to any actual transgender readers.
10. Sir Tristan
Star of the classic Arthurian legend of Tristan and Isolde, Sir Tristan was part of the team of Round Table knights resurrected in a dystopian future, after King Arthur returns to fend off an alien invasion, in Alan Moore’s classic sci fi comic Camelot 3000. Unfortunately, the male knight Tristan is reincarnated as a woman, as is his beloved Isolde. This is one of the earliest explorations of alternative sexuality in comics, so it definitely deserves mention.
9. Starhawk and Aleta
Oh this one’s a doozy. Stakar Ogord was the adopted brother of Aleta Ogord, who had the ability to manipulate light. The two fell in love (ick!) and married, then ventured into the jungle of their home planet Arcturus IV, where a device of the Hawk God merged the two into one, granting Stakar great powers. However only one of them could exist at a time, with the other trapped in limbo. Stakar, or Starhawk, remained in the real world most of the time. They both joined the space adventurers The Guardians of the Galaxy and had many escapades with them, but eventually they wanted to have children, so they asked the Hawk God to separate them temporarily. Once their triplets were born, they re-merged, with Aleta remaining to care for the children but eventually, Stakar wanted to return to space. He set the children up in a house where they had direct access to communication with them, but then departed. Later the pair were divided, but Aleta was furious that Stakar had abandoned their children and had left her stuck in limbo for so long. Eventually, the children where used in a plot against the pair, and while they were saved, they then rapidly aged and died. This effectively ended the pair’s relationship. They continued to periodically merge and separate several times after this… I think they’re separated now. I think.
There have been numerous other cases of lovers occupying one form in comics, including Doctor Fate, Doctor Occult and Rose Psychic and the Defenders’ Cloud.
Alpha Flight member, Walter Langkowski gained the power to turn into a hairy giant, via a gamma experiment similar to that which turned Bruce Banner into The Hulk. Fellow teammates Snowbird and Shaman helped him control his temperament, and he began dating Aurora. However, Walter didn’t know his Sasquatch form was linked to The Realm of Great Beast and was slowly being taken over by an evil beast called Tanaraq. Eventually, Tanaraq gained full control and Snowbird was forced to transform into a white Sasquatch and kill him, leaving Langkowski’s spirit drifting without a body. Eventually when Snowbird died in Sasquatch form, Walter took over her body, but when in human mode, he was now trapped in Snowbird’s female form. He opted to go by Wanda Langkowski, but his relationship with Aurora obviously ended. Eventually, Snowbird returned to life and both characters regained their original anatomy.
Mantra originated as a male warrior, Lucasz, whose entire band of immortal warriors were killed, with his energy entering the body of divorcee Eden Blake. Lucasz struggled to deal with Eden’s everyday life, such as her ex-husband and two kids, while their two psyches inhabit the same body. Mantra was the lead female character from the Malibu Comics line the Ultraverse. After Marvel acquired the Ultraverse imprint, a new Mantra was introduced, but the entire line was shortly cancelled and the characters haven’t been seen since.
In the Silver Age, Comet was a Centaur who was tricked by the witch Circe, who had promised to make him a full man, but instead turned into a full horse. This Comet loved Supergirl and eventually turned human taking the name “Bronco” Bill Starr and the two fell in love.
In the 90s, a brand new Comet was introduced, a male, with pale skin, long white hair, hore-like legs and three fingers in each hand. He appeared, wielding ice-based powers, flight and super speed. He also secretly had shape-shifting and love powers. The real identity of Comet was kept secret for several issues, until it was revealed that Comet was secretly a combination of Andrea Martinez, a bisexual comedian friend of Linda Danvers (Supergirl’s secret identity) and Andrew Jones, a former jockey. Comet used her love powers to make Supergirl fall in love with him/her, but Supergirl rejected him/her when she learned that Comet was part female. This resulted in Comet betraying Supergirl, before coming back around and helping her against the villain Carnivore. Comet ended up romantically involved with Blithe, who was also revealed to be a bisexual woman.
5. Mighty Man
Mighty Man was a supporting character in the Image comic book Savage Dragon. The power of Mighty Man is passed down from person to person, at this point residing in the form of Ann Stevens. But regardless of her gender, Mighty Man always appears as a tall, blond male. This character is a major supporting character for years, but never revealed her secret to anyone. However her roommate, Phyllis discovers the truth and sexually propositions her. Mighty Man is inspired by the classic Captain Marvel/Shazam comics, with opponents like Doctor Nirvana (based on Doctor Sivana) and Wicked Worm (Mister Mind). Unfortunately, Ann Stevens was killed when Chelsea Nirvana also takes on a male body and kills her in her human form.
4. Lord Fanny
Lord Fanny was born a male, Hilde Morales, in Brazil, but was raised a girl by her witch grandmother, in order that he can inherit the witch’s mystic powers, which can only be possessed by a female. Eventually, Hilde underwent the mystic initiation Teotihuacan and adopted the patron goddess Tlazolteotl, the goddess of filth and lust. She worked as a prostitute before being raped, after which she contemplated committing suicide, before joining the team The Invisible, in order to battle evil forces.
3. Shvaughn Erin
Science Police officer, Shvaughn Erin, was introduced in the late 70s as a supporting character in the Legion of Super Heroes, and after battling the Khunds with Karate Kid, she was appointed as the Science Police’s Liaison to the super team. She quickly began dating Legionnaire Element Lad and the pair remained a couple for many years, but after the Earth is embroiled in a devastating war, Shvaughn reveals that she was born a male and that she has been taking a drug called Profem to become a woman. During the war, she is unable to acquire the drug and reverts to male form, but Element Lad continues to see him as Sean Erin.
Following Ragnarok, the gods of Asgard’s spirits took refuge in human hosts, but Sif’s was trapped in a frail dying human. When new magical bodies were created for them, and Thor summoned them all back to enter these forms, Sif”s host was too weak to return, so her new body seized the nearest spirit that didn’t have an awaiting form, Loki’s. In this form, Loki became embroiled in the schemes of Norman Osborn, The Hood and Doctor Doom, spending a lot of time manipulating the Avengers and Young Avengers. But after a battle with The Void, Loki used the magical Norn Stones to destroy it and was killed in the process. In “death” however, he was reborn as a young boy, the form he now occupies.
1. The Ultra-Humanite
Originally, the Ultra-Humanite, closely resembled Lex Luthor and was a criminal scientist who battled Superman on many occasions, utilizing his “mind energy.” But due to his constant use of these energies, his body began to degrade. He developed a procedure allowing him to have his brain transplanted into another body, that of actress Dolores Winters, reasoning that the authorities would be less likely to believe a woman in the public eye was a criminal mastermind. It was in this form that he battled the All-Star Squadron. Eventually, though, this body wore out as well. Determining that human bodies were too frail, the Ultra-Humanite took the form of a white gorilla from Gorilla City and transplanted his brain into that, his “permanent” form. So that’s a man to female to gorilla transformation.
Okay, so Lord Fanny is the only “real world” take on being transgender, but comic writers seem obsessed with gender swapping their heroes. Sometimes it’s used as a way to discuss our society and sexuality. Other times it’s just wackiness. And it runs the whole spectrum in between. Cross dressing characters date back to the 1940s, with characters like ma Hunkle, the original Red Tornado and Madam Fatal a.k.a. “Richard Stanton, retired actor and female impersonator.” I had no idea they had drag queens in 1940! But with Alysia, writer Gail Simone has the opportunity to really address the struggles that real transgender people face every day.
What do you think? Comment below!