Saturday, June 24, 2006
You're Not Going to Want to Miss Bat-Thanksgiving THIS Year...
There's been a lot of excitement lately over which super heroes are and are not gay. While some may argue that anyone who would get dressed up in colorful tight leather/spandex and hit other similarly garbed people could not be anything but gay, let's assume that most are motivated by a genuine desire to fight evil and move on.
Of particular interest these days is the reintroduction of Batwoman as a lesbian (seen above). Now, lest this already send you into an uproar, be sure not to confuse this character with Batgirl (seen here in comic book and TV form).
Batgirl was Barbara Gordon, daughter of Police Commissioner James Gordon, who fought crime (often alongside Robin the boy/teen wonder) until she was paralyzed by a bullet from the Joker and became an aide to Batman from behind the scenes as "Oracle". She was played by Yvonne Craig on T.V. and rode a nifty motorcycle. She is not, and has never been, a lesbian (well, she may have experimented in college a little bit...)
On the other hand, the original Bat-Woman was someone who today would probably be deemed a mildly offensive character, a vivacious lass with a hideous costume who followed Batman around using such items as a "utility purse" and "charm bracelet handcuffs" and generally seemed more interested in getting Batman to marry her than in fighting crime. This was a character desperately in need of an update. Further complicating matters is the presence of two other "Bat-Girls", One a mute martial artist(really) and the other the boy-crazy niece of the original Bat-Woman, who chased Robin around in a similar fashion to her Aunt's pursuit of Batman.
All that bookkeeping aside, what does the reintroduction of this character mean? I don't believe that it is a cheap publicity stunt of the kind seen commonly on television these days, throwing in a gratuitious gay character to boost ratings. Comic books have often been on the cutting edge of current events. DC comics dealt front and center with counter culture issues such as drugs and civil rights in the late 60s and early 70s in books such as Green Lantern/Green Arrow and the Teen Titans. Marvel Comics similarly has dealt with the issue of racial discrimination for decades in their X-Men titles, and in its "Civil War" series, is presently attacking the very current issue of how much right the Government has to invade our privacy in order to protect its citizenry. (I think our founding fathers would probably say "none" but unfortunately they aren't around to ask).
So I don't have an issue with Batwoman "coming out". Except she's not really coming out. Kathy Kane, the Batwoman, has been a defunct character for around 40 years. If you want to make a statement, how about having Batman come out as gay? Or Superman? Or the Flash? OK, maybe it's too big a risk of the mainstream audience to take their flagship characters in such a direction. But did they at least consider giving Aquaman a boyfriend?
This could be a personal bias, since I always feel that comic books, and even T.V. shows, miss the boat when they're making a major change, hedging their bets, as it were. When they decided to kill off Superman (of course they brought him back), did they have the dastardly deed pulled off by Lex Luthor or Braniac, who had been taking their shots at the Big Red S for years? No, Superman met his fate at the demise of a hulking alien brute named Doomsday. When Bruce Wayne's Batman was taken out of the picture for a year, did the Joker mastermind the scheme? Nope, his back was broken by a musclebound clod named Bane. My point being that often these publishers are willing to take chances, but too often they're not willing to go all the way (Lex Luthor or the Joker could never really BEAT their arch nemeses, could they?)
While I applaud the efforts by major comics publishers to shake things up, I expect in the case of Batwoman, the press is making a mountain out of a molehill. If she even gets her own title, I imagine most of it will be about fighting the good fight, and fairly little about not being allowed to marry her significant other. Now that I think about it, that's probably as it should be.