When I think about comic book romances, there is no better couple on the inked page than Apollo and Midnighter. The duo was first created by Warren Ellis for Jim Lee’s Wildstorm universe in the ’90s but were subsequently absorbed into the main DC Universe after the events of Flashpoint. They were featured in The New 52 book entitled Stormwatch which was my first introduction to these characters and their world. Apollo is essentially an alternate take on Superman but, instead of being an alien himself, he is actually the result of alien experimentation to give him the powers of the sun, achieving a power-set very similar to Superman’s. Midnighter is an alternate take on Batman, albeit with superpowers instead of unlimited access to gadgets. Midnighter possesses a laundry list of abilities including super strength, enhanced reflexes, and teleportation, but his main deal is that his brain is essentially a super computer. Able to predict all outcomes in any situation, he has an almost a psychic advantage over his opponents. Midnighter is not typically a bad guy but he is known for his gruff personality and hard killing policy which can cause him to go up against unlucky heroes from time to time. However, the most interesting thing about Midnighter is his relationship with his frequent lover Apollo and I think this is portrayed most eloquently and beautifully in Steve Orlando’s 2016-2017 series Midnighter and Apollo.
Coming off the heels of Orlando’s now cancelled Midnighter series, this 6-issue series focuses exclusively on the relationship between Midnighter and his boyfriend, Apollo. In the first issue, Apollo is killed by a demon and sent to Hell, which starts Midnighter’s quest to bring him back. It’s a classic romantic scenario we’ve seen in literature time and time again in everything from Dante’s Inferno to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and most recently in Marguerite Bennett’s run on Angela. However, here instead of a damsel, Apollo becomes the “dude in distress” with Midnighter as his “knight in shining armor.”
Orlando’s Midnighter comics are particularly great for showcasing male-on-male sex as being natural and beautiful. In other comics, it’s common these days to identify characters as gay but never show them to have sexual natures (*coff* Marvel *coff*) Robbing LGBT characters of their sexuality and making them essentially chaste characters in order to check a diversity box isn’t really a progressive method of showcasing characters, especially if heterosexual characters are shown to have intimate encounters within the same book. DC thankfully lets Orlando showcase Midnighter and Apollo’s sex life for quite a few panels and they are drawn in passionate fits of lust without being lurid or pornographic.
It certainly helps that Orlando identifies as being bisexual, too, which is important for bi visibility as well as queer writers within the comic book community. I think the best aspect about Midnighter is that while he’s a flawed character, I see him as a positive queer character. Unlike Batman (in most media), Midnighter makes no concessions about killing, which is morally wrong, but his propensity for love is limitless. His love for Apollo somewhat redeems him much like the love Batman has for his family.
As for Apollo, I wish I had more familiarity with the character but I find him to accurately represent the oppressed aspect of the queer community. Apollo is a generally positive character despite his horrible background, which serves as a metaphor for the sunny disposition generally taken by the LGBT community in the face of the AIDS crisis, hate crimes, and the dissolution of civil rights by government. However, Apollo certainly isn’t averse to a fight and even in peril he bravely resists the evil that has captured him. In issue #5, after Midnighter tirelessly fights his way through Hell, killing and tricking demons, it is actually Apollo who has to save Midnighter from the same fate. This kind of equality is what I really like about their romance. The relationship isn’t one-sided as both look out for one another in every situation. In the first issue, Midnighter even refers to Apollo as his “god” which is both a hilarious moment and a romantic gesture.
Apollo and Midnighter ends in March and I foresee it having a bittersweet ending. The fate of these two characters seems up in the air as there are no current plans for another series featuring Apollo or Midnighter. Even Orlando has since moved onto huge DC books like Justice League of America and Supergirl. However, I wouldn’t rule out seeing these characters in some fashion in the future. Midnighter has become such a fan-favorite character among longtime readers and first-timers alike so I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops in from time to time alongside his super-powered lover and best friend Apollo. I will certainly be picking up anything they appear in, especially if Orlando is writing.