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A Batwoman Timeline

By Joe Palmer

If you think Midnighter’s sexuality is problematic in his solo book, then the case of Batwoman seems no less challenging. With the former, the character debuted as a teammate in the popular  AUTHORITY. The idea of a Batwoman series first appeared as a rumor eight months before confirmation of thecharacter arrived, followed by appearances as an ensemble cast member in 52. In comparison, Batwoman has made few appearances, especially after 52 concluded.

The appearance of problems for DC arose with Midnighter and Apollo when references to the gay Batman and Superman became more frequent. Likewise, the proximity of a lesbian character to the Batman franchise, especially in the minds of the general, movie-going public, has seemingly created a similar instance for Time Warner to attempt control of a situation.

Others, notably Valerie D’Orazio, Ragnell, and Kalinara, have kept the Batwoman topic going from time to time. I don’t know how much I can add to the discussion, but I thought it might be helpful to use a timeline to look at events. There may be other noteworthy items that escaped my attention during research.

[June 15, 2005 – Batman Begins is released. The box office receipts are high enough to warrant a sequel.]

September 26, 2005 – The earliest reference to a rumored Batwoman book that I can find without spending hours searching comes from Rich Jonhston’s Lying In The Gutters. Under the header “Back to the Bat”, it simply read: “After “Infinite Crisis,” look for a new “Mystery In Space” series and a new Batwoman series. Should provide lots of wiggle room.”

September – October 2005 – This is what I think is a probable date for the start of project development. Devyn Grayson mentions that she learned her Batwoman project is scuttled by reading a newspaper article. See the entry for July 19th, 2007.

The Sunday New York Times piece (May 27th, 2006) mentions that Batwoman will appear for the first time in 52. The following day’s Newsarama interview with Dan Didio may be the real source. See the entry for May 28th, 2006. The initial rumor reports may help to substantiate this probable time frame.  A Google search contains references in links to USA Today also running an article. Searching the website’s online archives doesn’t yield any useful information.

October 23, 2005 – First rumor report in the old All The Rage column, attaching the names Gail Simone and John Byrne to the project.

December 27, 2005 – Under the header “Gay Award”, Johnston attaches homosexuality to the rumored Batwoman series, and suggests it will beat the Midnighter comic to the shelf, making it the first ongoing title with a gay lead.

December 27, 2005 – Writing for All The Rage, John Voulieris, reports a similar rumor. In the “Not That There Is Anything Wrong With That” section, he writes:

“One of the big rumors coming out of DC these days is that one of the existing DCU superheroes will come out of the closet during the One Year Later event next summer. This is supposedly a silver age character who has been part of the DCU for decades. Let the speculation begin!

DC has also hinted that they will publish a new series that features a brand new superhero character whose civilian identity is openly gay, as well as a new solo series from Wildstorm featuring the Midnighter.”

February 6, 2006 – The rumor resurfaces again in LITG. “And right now, DC have plans to publish a Batwoman series, with a lesbian character in the lead.”

March 5, 2006 – All The Rage, under “Bats Aplenty”, reports that Dan
DiDio said Barbara Gordon wouldn’t resume her career as Batgirl, but it doesn’t exclude another character from using a similar [costume] in the forthcoming Batwoman.

May 7, 2006 – All The Rage wonders if Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner are working on a Batwoman mini series. Not right at all though the rumor did involve a Batwoman. The book in question is a one-shot tie in to COUNTDOWN, the long-winded title: COUNTDOWN PRESENTS THE SEARCH FOR RAY PALMER: SUPERWOMAN/BATWOMAN #1.

May 27, 2006 – Partial confirmation of the rumor appears in the New York Times article with Dan DiDio talking about more diversity and Batwoman’s sexuality in DC Comics. Religious conservatives and many straight fan boys share in the cascading aneurysm that follows.

I wonder if Warner Bros executives had any idea its little subsidiary DC had a lesbian Batwoman comic in the planning stages before the newspaper article exploded the news. Did Warner Bros assume the worst and wanting to protect its investment and income potential, call up DiDio or Paul Levitz sometime between the Sunday Times piece and DiDio’s interview with Newsarama the following day and tell DC to put the project on the backburner immediately?

May 28, 2006 – Newsarama’s Matt Brady interviews Dan DiDio about the newly confirmed Batwoman. Quotes from DiDio include:

“We’re always looking for ways to reinvigorate the Batman franchise, and look at other characters to inhabit his world.”

“We wanted to find a way to make her feel different, and give her a different personality, a different ideology, and a different backstory, so that she wasn’t just another Batman or Bruce Wayne clone. She’s a member of high society and she is gay. But her sexuality is not the main thrust of the character; it’s just another aspect of her personality, one that helps her to determine her choices that she makes as she’s fighting crime in Gotham City.“

“Basically, what it means is that we have another very strong female character, and how her private life plays against her heroic life is going to be where the stories play in; as well as different types of adventures and different types of dramas that she gets caught up in.”

“…one of the things I’d like to see, at least in the beginning, is to see her as a character who will be appearing primarily in 52. Then, we’ll be exploring things in different ways.”

“I think this is a character that can really benefit from appearing in different books first before we test the waters with her on her own.”

“We’ve introduced a lot of characters in a very short period time, and we’ve got a lot more coming down the pipeline, but I’d like to believe that mostly everything we do now is coming out of other things so that we’re not just throwing books and ideas and concepts at people cold. I want it to be where it feels like everything has time to take root.”

“So what we wanted to do is have a DC Universe that was more reflective, not only of our readership, but as society as a whole. Everything that we’re doing, every step that we’re taking, we’ll keep on pushing that, not only because I think it’s the right thing to do, but also because it allows us to create those points of difference.”

“The same thing with Renee Montoya or Kate Kane being gay – that doesn’t matter who they are, but it does help give their stories a different point of view, a different perspective on the DCU that other characters might not have. It’s trying to attack these things on a personal level, so we can get much richer, more emotional stories from them.”

June 5, 2006 – Only eight days after the New York Times piece, LITG’s Johnston attaches Devin Grayson and Dustin Nguyen as the creative team on the book. Not much time at all between the Times story and being given names, one of which we know was indeed connected to the project.

Johnston notes “…the coverage has been generally positive and welcoming. Some have seen this as indicative of a sea change, especially in American society. It’s certainly different from the mauling Marvel received over “Rawhide Kid” which made them rather risk-averse in this area.”

Well, there was some evidence that Batwoman wasn’t welcomed by all as seen in this video from CNN reporter Jeanne Moos. Perhaps of more concern to WB was a podcast from Concerned Women for America’s Robert Knight. The last thingWB would want to avoid is a backlash fueled by the Religious Right similar to what Marvel experienced.

July, 2006 –Batwoman makes her first cameo appearance in 52 #7, followed by a more prominent role in 52 # 11. Other appearances in tandem with Renée Montoya follow throughout the series.

July 24, 2006 – Writing for AfterEllen, Michelle Helberg adds to the Batwoman discussion.

December 10, 2006 – Under “Yuletide Rage”, All The Rage reports Greg Rucka and Joe Benitez are slotted to work on a five issue story featuring Supergirl and Batwoman to run in SUPERMAN/BATMAN.

December 10, 2006 – The DCU Infinite Holiday Special one-shot includes a short story written by Greg Rucka that features Batwoman. It is the first and to date only solo story for the character.

[April 18 – 24, 2007 – Filming begins on The Dark Knight in. The cast and crew return to Chicago for filming from June 9th to early September. Robert Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times remarks on how widely known the filming in Chicago is, despite an attempt at secrecy.]

May 2, 2007 – DC Direct Batwoman action figure available for the price of $18.99.

July 16, 2007 – In the ”Prince William” section, LITG tentatively names JH Williams III as new Batwoman artist.

July 19, 2007 – In the “Homosexuality in Comics” article on CBR, Devin Grayson publicly confirms being the writer and eight months in to the developing stage of a Batwoman comic before finding out through a newspaper article that her project was dead. The only remaining unconfirmed part of the rumor is whether Dustin Nguyen was the artist. Nguyen went on to other assignments while presumably none were offered to Grayson.

Grayson’s comments have, to my knowledge, never been acknowledged by anyone at DC and likely never will be. Still, with few exceptions comics pros aren’t known for publicly biting the hand that feeds them, so to speak. I’ve no doubt her account is 100 % accurate. The courtesy of an apology is the least DiDio could do.

August 17, 2007 – Some of the same points made by Grayson in the CBR article are reiterated by AfterEllen’s Editor in Chief Sarah Warn in an article ironically titled “Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever.”If there is a silver lining, it’s that the article brought the matter to the attention of the greater LGBT community.

October 8, 2007 – DC solicits in advance a Batwoman bust, calling her the “crime-fighting partner of Batman.” Jim Maddox sculpts the bust from a Terry Dodson design. The item is scheduled to go on sale May 7, 2008.

October 8, 2007 – LITG reports the rumor that Greg Rucka will join JH Williams III on Batwoman. Under “Two Men and a Lesbian”</a>: “This was meant to be announced during the summer conventions. It’s still being delayed – a mixture of managing professional workload, and DC’s nervousness about potentially damaging a brand with the publicity a title lead gay Bat-character may bring, and the release of “The Dark Knight” movie.”

Dark Knight was filming in Chicago during the height of the summer convention season. Wizard’s Chicago convention is one of the big summer events.

November 5, 2007 – LITG reports a rumor that the Batwoman series is held back because of the impending Batman movie in summer 2008.  “And what of Batwoman? Well, I’m told the launch of the Rucka/Williams series has been pushed back yet again because of the movie, and fears of ‘unacceptable media coverage.’ I’m told four issues are fully completed.”

[November 6 – 11, 2007 Dark Knight films in Hong Kong. Post-production phase begins.]

November 11, 2007 –  A podcast interview with artist JH Williams III. The artist alludes to “working on stuff on the side for a couple of years now”, “having a couple of different writing partners that we’ve got a cachet of material…” and hints at a mini series and a pitch for an ongoing both for DC that are stalled. The mention of these projects begins around 16:50 into the interview. Whether these unnamed projects include Batwoman is a matter still yet to be confirmed.

February 23, 2008 – At Wonder Con, Dan DiDio corrects a statement from the previous day. In essence, he mistakenly said “Batwoman” when talking about an upcoming Batgirl mini series. DiDio states there is no Batwoman series coming soon and later adding that Batwoman “will be an integral part of the DC Universe in 2008.”

February 25, 2008 – In response to DiDio’s comments, blogger and former DC staffer Valerie D’Orazio wonders Whither Goest Batwoman? D’Orazio posts a pic of Ellen DeGeneres as an example of how the public can and does support a lesbian in the entertainment industry. Ironically, DeGeneres’ show is produced in associated with and distributed by Warner Bros. In one instance the media giant took advantage of the lesbian entertainer’s popularity when it hawked episodes of the WONDER WOMAN TV show with a banner ad prominently displayed on the DeGeneres show website. This wasn’t a single incident, but at least four times. It also featured a banner ad for the SUPERMAN RETURNS video game. See dates below.  I also think a banner ad promoting Jodi Picoult on WONDER WOMAN was featured, but resurrecting pages through the Internet Archives is a bit problematic.

The WW banner ad linked to IN2TV, an AOL service, where episodes of the 70s Wonder Woman show are available to watch for free. AOL is a subsidiary of Time Warner. The company hopes viewers will be enticed to buy the DVD set for $29.95 by using its handy dandy links to its Warner Home Video website. So, yeah, in some instances Warner Bros isn’t afraid of lesbians if there’s money to be made, or maybe only Ellen.

Wonder Woman
12/19/2006
12/25/2006
1/15/2007
1/20/2007

Superman Returns
12/14/2006

In other entries, D’Orazio has compared Marvel’s handling of lesbian
Phyla-Vell as Quasar, a C-list character, to reinterpreting an old character branded with the Bat symbol.

The Bat office was once not so long ago very queer friendly. Bob Schreck was the franchise’s main editor, Devin Grayson wrote Nightwing, and Holly Robinson and her girlfriend were once supporting characters in Catwoman. Schreck’s editorial duties switched along with many others around the time of “One Year Later.” Grayson stopped writing Nightwing in favor of developing Batwoman. Holly temporarily became Catwoman and then the character was moved out so she could join Countdown.

February 28, 2008 – Taking his cue from Dan DiDio, Tom Bondurant, in a Grumpy Old Fan entry for Newsarama, speculates on how Batwoman “will be an integral part of the DC Universe in 2008.” Bondurant nicely points out the dichotomy between Didio’s comment about building a grass roots appeal for the character through exposure in other books and the nearly complete lack of same in the following years. Neither does he forget the scuttled Grayson book or the rumored Rucka/Williams stalled project.

March 15, 2008 – At Wizard World LA, writer James Robinson announces at a panel a new Justice League book that he is writing. Team members include Batwoman and one-time Starman Mikaal Tomas, a bisexual, blue-skinned alien.

March 17, 2008 – Robinson elaborates some on his decision to use Batwoman and Supergirl is “to get the iconic emblems on the team.” Mikaal Tomas’ inclusion warrants a little more discussion from the writer. I am looking forward to the dynamics creates between Batwoman and Starman.

No release date, tentative or otherwise, is given for the book. The only clue to its scheduling is that its heroes come together as a response to events in Final Crisis. I say don’t look for this comic to be in your shop before the Dark Knight is released in July.

Robinson’s Starman is a comic I greatly enjoyed and dearly miss. The prospect of him writing two queer characters intrigues me. However, two and a half years have passed since the first rumors of a Batwoman comic and what I believe to be the project’s inception by Devin Grayson. In those two and a half years we’ve learned the project was unceremoniously killed and a change in attitude from solo series to building grass roots appeal ensued. Well, the latter approach was barely followed through on with a smattering of recurring roles once 52 finished. After a scuttled series what we have now is the prospect of yet another gay character relegated to the role of teammate/ supporting character. This and DiDio’s words that the character will be integral in 2008. The proof behind DiDio’s words remains to be seen.

[July 18, 2008 – Scheduled release date for The Dark Knight sequel.]

Seems like everything you’d want to know about the previous incarnation of Batwoman can be read in this Newsarama article.

February 6, 2009 – Newsarama reports that Batwoman will appear in a run in Detective Comics starting with issue #854. The New York Comic Con program contains a five page preview with art by JH Willaims III. Writer Greg Rucka interviews with Comic Book Resources .

 

 

April 30, 2012
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