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Cooke Controversy

“…I don’t want to see characters who’ve been straight for 60 years become lesbians overnight because the writer was too stupid or uncreative to come up with something decent…”

Seems like the makings of another controversy, this time from Darwyn Cooke (New Frontier, The Spirit, Parker – The Hunter). The comment came to my attention this morning following a link while reading through my Google reader.Whoever it was, they pointed to this Youtube video that was posted on 4th Letter. Apologies for not giving appropriate credit though Valerie D’Orazio has blogged about the incident. You can read her comments here. I might agree with some of Cooke’s sentiment if, as D’Orazio posits, part of what he was referring to involved the publicity that resulted from Batwoman’s sexuality.

Oops! Credit where it’s due. Postmodernbarney is the blog where I first read about Cooke’s comment. Dorian makes a valid point when he says he finds Cooke’s attitude disappointing given how much of Cooke’s work is backward looking.

I don’t believe that Greg Rucka, who’s implied here, was either too stupid or uncreative when the decision was made to revive and recast Batwoman into a superhero who happens to be a lesbian. That decision was made when Devin Grayson was given the character to develop, but that’s another story. It’s a shame that we’ll probably never know what Grayson’s plans for Batwoman were, but Rucka gave his best to write memorable stories.

Now it’d be easy to think from that quick comment Cooke is being homophobic. He wasn’t. And isn’t, as he clarified in the comments section:

“My comment about making a character a lesbian has outraged some so I thought the following clarification might help-

Consider this- After sixty years of being a lesbian, a beloved character is made straight for sales or creative purposes- wouldn’t that be wrong as well?

I think gay characters are an important and welcome part of any contemporary expression. What I want is to see creators and publishers creating new characters that are gay and lesbian, and spend the decades needed creating and supporting stories about these characters. It strikes me as opportunistic and somewhat wrongheaded to take someone else’s creation and afterdecades of established character action make that drastic a change.”

Up to a point I agree. The hypothetical question of turning a 60 year old lesbian character precludes the fact that gay and lesbian characters don’t have such a lengthy history. Off the top of my head, Maggie Sawyer has 22 years of history which is actually remarkable.

Art by Cooke and J. Bone

I’m all for new LGBT characters! The reality is that for any number of reasons new characters of any kind face significant hurdles to survive and thrive in comics today, touching on a lot of other related issues.

But Darwyn Cooke isn’t homophobic. If he were, he wouldn’t have created Argo Bones and Kimball Richards, a little known couple seen during his run on The Spirit. It’s just too bad they’ll never be seen again because they were quite interesting. So much for that long running history.

A couple of updates. G. I. Jolie wrote to let me know the video originated from the folks at Comic Book Syndicate. There, if you scroll down just a bit, you’ll find a note from artist J Bone, colleague and Spirit collaborator, setting the record, um, straight, as it were, about this tempest in a teapot. In case you don’t know, Bone is also gay and you should check out his NSFW Man’s Adventures blog. Bone also alludes to the character in question as being The Question and not Batwoman. Personally, I prefer Renee Montoya in her former detective days, but I also hate it when LGBT characters languish in limbo.

Here’s a surprise in the morning! In going through my routine of reading comics news sites first thing I find Rich Johnston from Bleeding Cool has linked to this article. Said link being coded in “however measured” in the following sentence:

“But in light of criticism, however measured, from certain people spying potential homophobia in Darwyn’s comments, certain creators rallied round.” Just to be clear… I don’t think Darwyn Cooke is homophobic. Certainly not based on comments in this video and his association with J Bone.

Around the blogosphere –

David Brothers shares thoughts on 4th Letter and lots of comments follow. Michael May of Robot 6 weighs in. Liana from Nerd Girl Pinups FTW!

September 2, 2010
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