DC Comics’ sudden reversal on Batwoman’s same sex marriage prompts the heroic departure of the comic’s co-writers. Alex Yarde investigates.
The writers of Batwoman are true superheroes. They are quitting in protest of the ban on Batwoman’s lesbian marriage, which was prohibited by the publisher, DC Comics. She is the highest-profile gay superhero in DC’s history.
I’m confused, are Batwoman and her fiancée moving to North Carolina? Or is it that a lesbian marriage is a bridge too far? The gay marriage precedent had been set in Comics years ago by Marvel when Northstar married his partner Kyle Jindau in Astonishing X-Men 50 (it was interracial marriage to boot). It’s a big betrayal of fans inside and outside of the LGBT community that embraced and loved Batwoman. And I think this will prove to be a huge mistake for DC.
In a blog post, co-authors J.H Williams and W. Haden Blackman said they had been ordered by DC to “alter or completely discard many long-standing storylines” which they felt ultimately compromised the Batwoman character and the series so issue 26 will be their last. At issue was the fact that in Batwoman #17, the hero proposed to her detective girlfriend. Inexplicably, DC banned the marriage. DC knew and approved the story arc well in advance and that the proposal would lead to an eventual marriage.
In March 2012, the very same Batwoman comic team won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book, which DC at the time touted. How soon they forget. When Kate Kane was first introduced, she wasn’t a lesbian. Batwoman first appeared in DC Comics in ‘56 when, ironically, she was introduced as The Batman’s “Beard” to combat growing homoerotic suspicions about a chiseled, handsome, wealthy, unmarried man with a penchant for capes, cowls and cruising around after midnight with the boy wonder.
But, in a classic comic book move to recycle older characters who’s origins are not well known and also increase diversity (like Sam Jackson’s Super Spy Marvel’s Nick Fury, who originally was white), DC took Kate Kane, once a campy heroine who carried a utility purse (seriously?) while clad in a full-body yellow one-piece, out of the closet and into a dark costume, with a new strength, intelligence and darker attitude to match her namesake. Batwoman reemerged from obscurity in the pages of 52, the real-time weekly limited series chronicling a year in which DC’s “Trinity” Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all mysteriously vanished. In Batman’s absence, the crime organization Intergang moves into town finding a new, formidable Bat claiming Gotham as her own.
Last month, the LGTB advocacy group GLADD published research examining the sexual diversity of Hollywood’s big budget action, sci-fi and fantasy films– Films that are the money making summer “tent poles” for studios, turns out only 3 out of 34 such films featured an LGBT character last year. So it begs the question of what the impact of the sexuality of a cultural icon means to a franchise? Andrew Garfield, star of the recent Spiderman reboots, asked a totally reasonable and valid question about Spiderman exploring his sexuality being gay or bi sexual. What might have sparked a legitimate debate instead ignited a hateful backlash by social media trolls screaming about a “gay agenda”.
My feeling is that these are the same people that hated Miles Morales, the new multicultural Spider Man. Mind you; Spiderman is a fictional character that has changed in every aspect over the years. He has been killed, cloned, made a pact with the devil and resurrected. Is it sacrilege that a new incarnation of Spiderman might not be a white, or—gasp!—even a straight, male?
The callous way Batwoman was handled by DC was hurtful to many of her fans. I know quite a few lesbian comic book geeks who love Batwoman. Seeing one of the only high profile DC lesbian character’s marriage invalidated is something that resonates in real life with many fans and affects them directly. DC seems to be saying, in essence, “you and your issues don’t matter to us, and marriage equality doesn’t matter to us.”
This hard-line position is made even more crystal clear in the wake of DC provoking readers by hosting a drawing contest to recruit new talent in which they ask artists to draw Harley Quinn, a popular villain, preparing to commit suicide. Naked.
Hate women much?
Can I just say I’d be great if I could open a comic book and share it with my daughter and son and not fear that it will resemble a police blotter? I date myself here, but it used to be fun reading mainstream books, but that is another topic. This creepy contest marks a new low for an industry that regularly sensationalizes female character deaths, over sexualizes and objectifies women characters. Just in time for National Suicide Prevention Week. Ugh, Stay gold DC Comics.
At one time, the straight, white, male, square-jawed hero was the norm and, because the vast majority of the executive decision makers that produce mainstream media are still white, straight and male, they continue to see hyper-realized representations of themselves as the archetype. However, today you have a greater racial, gender & sexual preference mix of consumers at the comic book conventions, in the comic book stores and the multiplexes than ever before. This huge mixture of fans are embracing “geek” culture and spending billions of dollars, even though, and in spite of this mix not being adequately represented in the board rooms, the producers of the comics nor on the comic book pages themselves. You would think someone at the decision making level would see the obvious benefits of stories reflecting more of their fans and their unique experiences and embrace them back in a small but meaningful way.
If I could speak to the decision makers at DC comics directly, I’d say this:
Fellas, far as I can tell, Batwoman readership was up or stable. If it isn’t broken, why fix it? You won an award, deservedly so, last March from a group that represents the very people you are now choosing to marginalize. Why mess with the only high profile, lesbian character when she is about to do the one thing many of her fans wish they could do in reality? Marry the person they love. There are so many SWM characters. for Rao’s sake, tinker with one of them if you wish.
Because if you continue down this road, you may find your writers aren’t the only people walking out on you.