Wow! As much as I am wholeheartedly a Marvel girl, I want to applaud DC comics for giving a gay superhero the lead in their oldest comic title, Detective Comics. Especially with the franchise enjoying the post-Dark Knight boom in popularity, taking the initiative to not only kill off (kinda) the ManBat but replace him with the comic double-threat of a woman and a lesbian is a big step.
Before I run my mouth about how I’m totally stoked my new girlfriend has 12 issues of kickin’ ass and lickin’ vag (I had to) coming out (double zing!), I just need to address the comic book deaths. Big titles have seen superheroes drop before. Captain America, Robin… hell, even Superman bit the dust for a little while. In fact, this isn’t even the first time Batman has died and/or Bruce Wayne has quit. (Batman #300 “Last Batman Story” in 1978, Batman Annual # 15 “The Last Batman Story”… they like that title, Batman: Knightfall in ’93-’94, etc.) But just like the goddawful ending to the last Harry Potter, they always manage to come back. So this time, cult legend Grant Morrison took it to a Passions extreme. Maybe even a Passion of the Christ extreme. If you haven’t read Batman RIP, I suggest you pick it up.
Honestly, I just wanted an excuse to bang out that Li’l Formers strip. God, Li’l Formers fucking rules!
For the new Batwoman-driven Detective Comics, DC has brought out one of their best writers, Greg Rucka, to run the book for “at least” twelve issues, starting in June. The art will be handled by J.H. Williams who happens to be one of the reasons, in recent years, I have started giving DC Comics titles a chance. His work is spectacular.
June marks a Batman Blitz, of sorts, where a good eight titles will be hitting shelves and mucking up the storylines further. Personally, I’m looking forward to the Battle of the Cowl series they are going to be doing this spring where the three Robins (yes, there are three… actually four and one is a girl but one is also dead…anyway…), Batgirl, Catwoman, Knight and Squire, Damien (who is my favorite just based on the name), and more will fight it out for rights to be the next Batman.
Okay, but back to my new girlfriend! Batwoman aka Kathy Kane hasn’t really seen much action since the 1960s (funnily enough, she was killed off in 1979 by the League of Assassins and the Bronze Tiger) until the 2006 release of 52 so re-imagining her wasn’t much of a big deal in terms of plot and continuity. When 52 hit shelves, the news media went crazy and conservative talk radio had fun yammering on about ‘gay brainwashing in childrens’ media’. Reinventing characters as minorities has been the comic craze in the past 10 years and, when done well, it does a lot to encourage real-life acceptance of others by comics primarily young male audience. But just like any multicolorwashing (the opposite of whitewashing, get it?), it can be done with insensitivity or the characters can be made into tokens. (Marvel, I won’t lie, you are assholes for giving the Rawhide Kid a mature rating when there was nothing raunchy in the book aside from the fact that superhomeboy was gay.)
The landmark nature of this isn’t so much that they have a hot lipstick lesbian in a comic. There are lots of gay and bisexual and even a few transgendered superheroes. (John Constantine, anyone? Hellblazer #51 and what?) Even Robin (one of them) was half-outed in Frank Miller’s incredible Dark Knight Returns when he admits he turned to the dark side as the result for his unrequited love for Batman. As I mentioned above, Batwoman has been written as a lesbian since 2006. GLBT heroes (and villains) have been steadily moving up the ranks from one-shots to sidekicks to minor heroes to non-active members of major teams to the big leagues… in fact, the Justice League! (Is Batwoman in Justice League? Anyway, bad joke.) The new Detective Comics marks the most high profile title with a gay main character in the history of comics. We have come a long way since Perry Moore wrote ‘who cares about the death of a gay superhero anyway?‘ (Even though it is out of date, it fascinating to see how gay characters were initially integrated into big titles then maimed, killed, and turned into jokes. Sidenote: has Northstar been kissed YET?)
Now the question is will DC comics be able to pull it off? The book shouldn’t be about a lesbian superheroine. It should be about a superheroine who also happens to be gay. Just like any good soap opera comic book, the interpersonal relationships – romantic and otherwise – are integral to the story. The Wolverine/Jean Grey/Cyclops love triangle makes XMen so much more dramatic. Would Superman be as great without the romantic misadventures of Clark Kent and Lois Lane? Would you feel so on edge if Spiderman was fighting to save some random ho as opposed to MJ? The relationships Kathy Kane goes through should be an important part of the book, just like any other. But if it is written like “Batwoman looked up from between the legs of her amazon love woman, sensing danger. Dropping her strap-on and Batlube, she left her FEMALE lover to go fight MEN because they are evil and wicked and she only likes the pink taco!” then there will be hell to pay. However, I doubt that will happen because no one will read garbage like that no matter where on the sexuality scale they fall and DC isn’t stupid enough (I hope) to let their main title get wrecked. As I said before, the writer for the book is one of their heavy hitters so I think he will handle it well. Too well? Will her sexuality get swept under the table and relegated to one non-plot-related line in the second issue? Only time will tell.
Personally, I’d love to see GLBT characters written about just like any other character. Batwoman should totally fight Scarecrow (the only DC villain I can remember in a pinch because he is AWESOME) after he has kidnapped and gased her lady love just like Batman did in Batman Begins and it shouldn’t be weird or written any differently. This goes for all newly multicultural superfolk. It is cool that DC made Blue Beetle a Mexican but should his superpower be shooting tacos? Okay, they didn’t really do that (it would have been kinda awesome if they did, actually) but have most people even heard of the Blue Beetle? Same goes, Firestorm and the Atom are now black and Asian…. cool! Who are they? And then there is the Chinese superhero team The Great Ten. Cool. Why do they have to have their own team? Why can’t they be on the Justice League? (That is the only DC team I know, okay? Oh wait! Teen Titans! See, I know two! What? Marvel forever!)
People of different colors, creeds, sexualities, and whatever else you can come up with to separate us show up everywhere. I have to mosey on down to Walgreens to get my antibiotics for this goddawful cold and I will bet money that I will see at least five people from different racial backgrounds, three people of different religious beliefs including at least one who is not a Christian, Jew or Muslim, one disabled person, one person 20 years older than me and one 20 years younger, and three people not in my economic bracket. I live in a major city. If the Justice League was headquartered in Larned, Kansas then maybe everyone would be white and (pretending to be) straight but these teams are supposed to be in major cities. The ability to write books with a varied cast of characters without making it cliche, boring, or making a big deal out of what would be normal occurance for the typical ‘white, straight superdude’ is still lacking. In their efforts to be more multicultural, DC and Marvel have both made the mistakes of making too big of a deal out of their newly diverse characters. Equality isn’t pointing out what makes us different. It is finding out what still makes us the same – our hopes, our dreams, our fears, and our gamma-ray induced superspeed and laser eyes.