It’s pretty much a smutty Superman/Batman fanfiction, only Batman kills and Superman glows.
A 6-part miniseries called Midnighter & Apollo was published by DC Comics last year in October, finishing up in March of this year. It has been critically acclaimed, even earning a nomination for Outstanding Comic Book in the 28th GLAAD Media Awards. The comic book features titular superheroes, Midnighter A.K.A. Lucas Trent, and Apollo, A.K.A. Andrew Pulaski, who have recently rekindled their relationship. It’s pretty much a smutty Superman/Batman fanfiction, only Batman kills and Superman glows.
Midnighter is a gritty, violence-loving superhuman with a computer-like brain when it comes to fighting and no qualms when it comes to killing. Apollo is a sun-powered, laser-eyed, super-strong symbol of hope to the people of Opal City who could give Superman himself a run for his money. They juxtapose in more ways than one, which seems to be the whole point of their relationship. In the 6th and final issue of the story, after Midnighter goes to hell and back (literally) to bring Apollo back from the dead, Apollo says that while his tormentor in hell, the demon Neron, believed his chosen superhero name to be named after a god because of his pride and narcissism in his own power – it’s actually because of the myth of Hyacinth. Hyacinth was Apollo’s lover whom, when he was killed, refused to let Hades takes his soul and turned his spilled blood into a flower instead. Apollo in the comics uses the analogy to explain that even though Midnighter believes he’s doomed, Apollo will always pull him, and anyone else who thinks they’ve fallen, back into the light.
In the same conversation, Midnighter explains why he kills and why he will continue to kill despite Apollo being uneasy about it in the beginning. Apollo does not try to change Midnighter, he understands and accepts him and that’s why their relationship is so balanced. Steve Orlando, the writer, believed a comic book focusing on a same-sex relationship was necessary and in exploring their relationship I believe it to also be necessary for the cinematic screen. There’s a lot of history to the Midnighter/Apollo relationship, some of which is touched upon in this mini-series, but it could be fully fleshed-out in a film (or possibly a franchise). The inclusivity and normalisation of LGBT+ relationships hasn’t hit the big screen in the superhero genre yet, despite the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend trending on Twitter. Let’s also not forget both Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and ex-Spiderman star Andrew Garfield made it clear they believed their superheroes should have same-sex partners (even sharing a kiss at the Golden Globes).
While the focus of the 6-part series may have been more on Midnighter than it was on Apollo, the characterisation and illustration of both characters has been praised. Midnighter is seen doused in blood for most of the series, as his fighting is mercilessly brutal, while Apollo glows during his time in hell, and the symbolism behind their shared kiss, the light engulfing both of them to pure-white, is beautiful. The religious connotations of hell are traded out for magical realism, and even though it could have been very easy for Apollo to go to hell simply because he’s gay writer Steve Orlando chose to avoid that and make his storytelling central to the characters flaws – Apollo’s pride, lust, anger and even murder are what Neron, the demon, believe to be characteristics that make Apollo’s soul tainted.
From their crime-fighting, to their mundane tasks, the couple come across as vibrantly real characters with an organic relationship that has you rooting for them to triumphantly kiss at the end (they have sex instead) after kicking the bad guy’s ass. Midnighter & Apollo is a depiction of two very masculine men being together, something that doesn’t get much light, and in one of their sex scenes (and even suggested by Apollo himself in a blink-and-you-miss-it quip) it’s made clear that Midnighter – the tougher, rougher, butcher one of the two – is the bottom. In depicting this character as a bottom, it broadens the once-narrow view of homosexuality and masculinity. Orlando himself said, in a panel on sexuality and race at Comic Con, “It feels audacious because of the drought of representation and depiction of queer romance and queer sex acts in fiction… Honestly, from my own mindset, Midnighter & Apollo is actually pretty tame, but it’s interesting because people have not seen this and have not been given what they deserve in so long.”
Hopefully, Midnighter & Apollo‘s success means more comic books portraying positive LGBT+ relationships are due. We can only hope that it also means that they’ll land on the big screen sooner rather than later.