Though it’s unfortunate, the perception is that cartoons are aimed at children, so it isn’t really a surprise that more often than not all the characters in a series are either straight or presumed straight. Even the shows that are aimed at adults have been known to offer unfortunate “unsuitable content” warnings if they prominently feature couples and relationships that aren't straight. Nevertheless, progress cannot be stopped. Over the last few years in cartoons like Adventure Time, Steven Universe and more, characters aren’t just showing up as not straight, but openly so. At this rate, in the future their inclusion won’t even be noteworthy, just something that’s natural and expected.
That said, even in the past there have long been cartoon characters that aren't straight. However, much like it was in real life during those past eras, sometimes it was obvious, other times significantly less so. For some cartoons, the lines weren’t put together until the creators revealed it to fans themselves. That’s why for this list CBR has decided to assemble a list of characters in cartoons you didn't know weren't straight. This list includes not just characters that aren't straight, but characters that have been in relationships with members of both genders.
The often abused, but ever-loyal butler Woodhouse doesn’t often speak about himself, too busy playing nursemaid to the utterly irresponsible super-spy Sterling Archer. But in the season two episode “The Double Deuce”, Woodhouse’s orientation becomes very clear, as the character relates a story of his deep-seated love for the man he was a personal attendant to during the First World War, Captain Reginald Thistleton.
When the character was killed during the episode, Woodhouse spent an entire montage scene utterly distraught, traveling the world and trying to find some meaning in life. He eventually runs across Malory Archer, and after helping to save her life and deliver her son Sterling, it’s implied he develops a mild attraction to her. But whatever that attraction is, it’s not nearly as strong or as enduring as his love for his old buddy Reggie.
14 HARLEY QUINN
Most people know Harley Quinn for her twisted love with her beloved “Mister J”. Introduced into canon by the Batman cartoon from the ‘90’s, she was so beloved in the cartoons that she was eventually made her comic book debut. That’s where she was truly allowed to flourish, becoming a breakout character in the Bat-universe and eventually getting her own solo book.
Still, she was mostly known for her relationship with the Joker until DC decided to build on the multiple, charming episodes where her and Poison Ivy go on adventures together and terrorize the people of Gotham. The two characters’ friendship quickly transformed into a full on relationship, with Poison Ivy becoming the healthy alternative to the abusive and psychologically damaging relationship Harleen once had with the Joker.
Between the character's bright pink fur and…unique accent, it's possible a few people already believed Snagglepuss was gay once viewed outside of the more "innocent" '60s era. The series creators got that too, which is why they gave him a girlfriend at least once...though he spent much of the episode running from her before accepting her (perhaps running away from something else?).
But in DC's recent revival of the character, creators finally decided to go all the way with having the character embrace what he is. In the mini-series Exit Stage Left by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan, the tiger is an openly gay playwright that becomes wildly popular in the early '50s at the height of the Cold War, eventually finding himself brought before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
12 SAILOR URANUS & SAILOR NEPTUNE
When the theme song said "winning love by daylight", it didn't always mean the love was between a man and a woman. Two of the Outer Sailor Scouts, Uranus and Neptune would join the team after the group had long been established.
Introducing Haruka as a cool racecar driver and Michiru as a talented musician and fastidious student of the arts, the two of them were written to be in love with one another in Naoko Takeuchi's original manga and the anime adaptation, but much of that was left out of most dub versions when the series was brought out of Japan. In most countries, including America, they were instead written to be “cousins”, as if that could explain away the two characters’ intimate level of closeness. Fortunately when the series was re-released years later, their relationship was restored to where it should be.
During Young Justice episode “Downtime”, we learned how Aqualad became a protégé of the King of the Seven Seas. Alongside his friend Garth, he helped save Aquaman’s life during a fight with Ocean Master. But while Kaldur traveled with Aquaman, he left Garth back in Atlantis, where he would eventually date his girlfriend Tula after Kaldur spent too much time away from home. And like that, fans assumed the character’s orienttion was settled.
But, quite a few times series creator Greg Weisman pointed out might not necessarily be true. First when someone lamented Aqualad was straight, he replied with a coy "Is he?" When he later explained that YJ had characters who were nit exclusively straight in it, it didn't take long to put two and two together. And DC wasted no time either, making a point to bring up Aqualad being gay when they reintroduced the character in DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
Mystique has long been established in the comic books as not having a preference of man or woman. It makes sense, too; after decades of blurring the line between male and female, attraction becomes far more…fluid? What gender her partner is could easily cease to become as important as it is to most.
This actually means Mystique is bi, though the relationship she keeps coming back to the most is with a woman. Specifically, she’s often found with fellow Brotherhood of Evil Mutants psychic, Destiny. This is hinted at in the '90s cartoon as well, as the characters are fairly close with one another, and seem to have both raised Rogue as their own after she ran away from home. The characters were even initially meant to be Rogue’s true parents in the comics, but this was blocked because of the Comics Code Authority strict policy against portraying characters.
As the bespectacled genius of Scooby Doo, Inc, it's a safe bet that most people didn't think Velma was gay. In at least one timeline she definitely isn't, having an unrequited crush on Shaggy. And in the original timeline, she always went along with Daphne and Fred whenever Fred called them to "split up" , leading more salacious viewers to believe something *else* was going on. At the very least, she followed Fred because she was in love with him.
However the director for the Scooby Doo live action film has confirmed that at least one draft of the script for that movie involved Velma being not straight. Guess when she was splitting up with Fred and Daphne she didn't have her eyes on Fred after all?
8 WAYLON SMITHERS
Mr. Burns’ subordinate spent decades as the butt of jokes about being closeted, even going so far as to appear in a gay pride parade on a float that read “Stayin’ in the Closet” in a 2002 episode. It would take more than a decade before the character finally came out, in the episode “The Burns Cage” in 2016.
There, Smithers finally admits his love for Mr. Burns after a skydiving accident nearly gets the character killed. Of course, his affections are rebuffed as Burns has never seemed to love much more than money. Frustrated at being turned down, Smithers spends the rest of the episode giving Homer and his friends such a hard time that they resolve to help find the character a boyfriend. It doesn’t work because Smithers is so attached to Mr. Burns, but at least they finally let the character be honest about who he is.
7 ENOS FRY
One particular episode of Futurama sees Fry and the others travel back in time by accident. They wind up in the '50s, where Fry runs into both of his grandparents. Or so he believes. While trying to get his grandfather to get married, Enos makes the comment that he feels like he’s only going with girls “‘cause you’re supposed to” As if that’s not enough, they later show him ogling a picture of a shirtless man on a calendar.
In that same episode, Fry ends up having...relations with his grandmother Mildred, who’d been coming on to him for most of the episode, and becoming his own grandfather. As gross as that is, it turns out Fry has a genetic defect because of it that lets him save the universe in a different episode. And it was all ‘cause his granddad found girls yucky.
6 REN AND STIMPY
Possibly the most contentious part of this list, the slapstick duo from one of Nickelodeon’s most popular nineties cartoons absolutely seemed to be in a gay relationship. The two characters -- a tiny Chihuahua and a barrel-chested cat -- are rarely seen apart. The two of them live together, share a bed together, and have both planned a wedding and had a flashback to said wedding.
There are also numerous... mature-looking clips that we can’t show you here that imply that far more was going on between them than just a simple friendship. But most importantly, when the series was revived in the '00s as Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon, the creator John Kricfalusi specifically outed the characters as being in a relationship with one another.
5 AVATAR KYOSHI
One of the best parts of Avatar: The Last Airbender was that it was never afraid to delve into the history of its’ massive world. They showed the history of not just of the previous Avatar Roku, but of his predecessor Kyoshi as well. Kyoshi was a long-lived woman who single-handedly brought a war to an end on her own, Kyoshi was cool enough to be worthy of a story of her own.
And so it was no surprise when Kyoshi got her own story in the Avatar graphic novel Turf Wars. What did come as a surprise though, was the reveal that Kyoshi was a bi woman in a lesbian relationship. She did her best to change the Earth Nation to be more accepting of same-sex couples, though the country was slow to change as she wanted.
4 MAGGIE SAWYER
Before the character became a major part of the CW’s Supergirl, she was a member of the Metropolis Police Department’s Special Crimes Unit. If you don’t remember her, it’s no big deal -- being a cop in the city of Metropolis means you’re usually only writing parking tickets while the rest of the time your job comes down to “wait til Superman shows up”. Working alongside Detective Dan Turpin, the character was brought over from the comic series where she was in a relationship with a woman.
The creators didn’t explicitly show her as gay like in the comics, but they did their best. Though left unnamed outside of DVD commentary, her partner Toby Raynes from the comics made an appearance during the episode "Apokolips…Now!" while Maggie was in the hospital.
Gargoyles was ahead of its time as an animated series, being one of the few cartoon series in the '90s to push complex characterization and long-form plotting that paid off for viewers who managed to watch the series every week. But one thing it wasn’t quite able to do was introduce the real orientation of one of its members, Lexington.
Long after the cartoon came to an end, the Gargoyles’ adventures continued in a comic book series by Slave Labor Graphics. There, series creator Greg Weisman intended to develop Lexington’s sexuality through a relationship with a new Gargoyle named Staghart, but the comic never quite got far enough to make that happen. Shame, and hopefully Disney will eventually allow Weisman to give the character the supportive relationship he deserves.
2 PATTY BOUVIER
Simpsons super-fans will recognize Patty as one of Marge’s sisters, and early on one of the banes of Homer’s existence alongside Mr. Burns and a lack of beer and donuts. The twin sister of Selma, the two characters found themselves on similar but different paths, as Marge once said that Patty chose a life of celibacy, while Selma had it thrust upon her.
But after several seasons of living a life of chain-smoking loneliness, Patty finally accepted who she was. In the episode “There’s Something About Marrying”, Patty comes out as a lesbian and reveals her intention to get married. Though surprisingly it’s Homer that is supportive of her decision (likely because he was marrying people for money), and her sister Marge that raises the objections. But by the end of the episode Marge comes to accept her sister’s orientation, encouraging her to live her life her own way.
1 AVATAR KORRA & ASAMI SATO
The creators really pulled one over on us with this one, and the world of animation was better for it. When Avatar: The Last Airbender got a sequel in the form of The Legend of Korra, the story seemed to be about who Mako would choose between the Avatar and Asami, heir of the Sato business empire. But a huge wrench was thrown into the Korra/Mako/Asami love triangle though when it was Korra who ran off with Asami at the end of the series.
The creators would later confirm Korra's ship-tastic ending as indeed the two of them being in love with one another. Makes sense; Asami was a caring, supportive person, rich, and drop-dead gorgeous. Why wouldn’t Korra be interested in someone like that?