While gay and lesbian superheroes are building their ranks with characters like Batwoman or Rictor and Shatterstar, there's a dearth of trans or otherwise gender-bending heroes on the comic scene. Not so in the 1990s, when the Doom Patrol opened its narrative to a slew of queer characters, including Rebis and Coagula.
The Doom Patrol was never a "super-hero" team: they were outcasts, misfits thrust into a superhero position by their meta-human status. First by DC Comics in 1963, The Doom Patrol went through various incarnations through the decades, reaching an editorial peak with the introduction of Grant Morrison as head writer in 1989.
Morrison has always been a "bad boy" amongst comic book writers: a genius whose cerebral wit often fly in the face of traditional "hero" stories: he's responsible for turning Animal Man into a champion of animal rights and vegetarianism and taking the X-Men in a dark direction with the destruction of Genosha.
Upon taking the reins at Doom Patrol with issue #19, Morrison used a massive alien invasion to relaunch the series and its characters, sending then in a surreal, often absurd direction that explored the limits of reality, and sexuality.
Part of Morrison's far-seeing mission included original Doom Patrol member Negative Man, an Air Force pilot named Larry Trainor who was possessed, I guess, by an immortal, sentient energy being called "Negative Energy."
In the wake of the aforementioned invasion, Trainor was weakened, and the Negative Energy took the opportunity to merge Trainor with his female doctor, Eleanor Pool. The three entities become one, Rebis. "My race is mixed, my sex is mixed. I am woman and man and light and darkness, mixed," Rebis said of itself. "I am nothing special."
In fact, Rebis, who wore high-heeled boots and a man's trench, was the most "mainstream" of hermaphroditic characters in comic history. Most importantly, Rebis lacked the brooding introspection so many LGBT characters, like Rictor and Shatterstar, embrace. Rebis also helped birth the Doom Patrol's other queer "hero," Coagula.
Frustrated by the Doom Patrol's direction, Rebis eventually left the team; so, too, did Morrison, who was replaced by transsexual writer Rachel Pollack. After picking up in 1993, Pollack revisited Rebis via a trans prostitute named Kate Godwin, who suddenly developed coagulation powers after sleeping with Rebis. Apparently some of its negative energy rubbed off on -- or in -- Gowdin, who started calling herself Coagula.
Coagula tried to join the Justice League, but that team, composed of straight-forward heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman, sent her away. "I suspect they liked my powers, but couldn't handle me," she tells a friend in Doom Patrol #70, her debut.
Coagula stumbled upon the Doom Patrol by accident: she walked into an attack by a villain called "Codpiece," who took his insecurity over a small penis out on the world with a phallic canon. Coagula, wearing a makeshift costume, a frog mask, made short work of his weapon, perhaps Pollack's nod to heterosexist fears of lesbian emasculation. With that castration, Coagula became a full-fledged member of the Doom Patrol.
Sadly, Coagula was killed off toward the end of the series, which, I admit, needed to be canceled, for Pollack, for all her queer contributions, took the title in a far too nonsensical direction, even by Doom Patrol's standards.
Doom Patrol has since been revived by a score of writers, all of whom trashed the trans and queer additions made by Morrison and Pollack. It's too bad, too, because though Rebis and Coagula didn't fit the superhero archetype, they were champions in their own right.
It's worth noting that Morrison also created another queer character, Danny the Street. Like Rebis and the rest of the Doom Patrol, Danny Street wasn't a hero in the common sense. In fact, Danny Street wasn't even a person -- he was a street, a gay one that performed "drag" by hosting traditionally masculine shops, like a gun store.
Danny Street, which teleported around the globe, would become the Doom Patrol's headquarters for a spell, before launching off to an alternate dimension. He's since been destroyed and now exists only as "Danny the Brick," a commentary on how Morrison and Pollack's queer contributions have been dismantled in the years since.