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Gotham’s New Guardian

The secret is out now. Which secret is that? The one about the secret identity of the lesbian Batwoman character. Well, not so much out as it was confirmed in a New York Times article about diversity in comic books. Rich Johnston got it right again when he included a bit in his Lying In the Gutters column. It seemed to me that Renée Montoya would become this new Batwoman, not because I want to see her wearing a cape, but because it seemed like a logical possibility at redemption for her drunken fall. Oh, well.
Instead Batwoman will be a new character with an old name, Kathy Kane. George Gustines, the article’s author, describes her as “a lesbian socialite by night and a crime fighter by later in the night.” That makes her seem like Bruce Wayne except the Times article is calling her a lipstick lesbian which is already being objected to by some. Wonder if she’ll appear at fundraisers for the Human Rights Campaign or GLAAD. Will her secret identity become compromised when someone compares her pics from OUT’s “Scene” page to newspaper photos of Batwoman? Will writers or readers resist the urge to give her a villain named the Scissors Sister?

Okay, that joke is old already. It won’t come from me again.

At the moment we don’t know a lot about this Batwoman. Her real name is Kate Kane. She’s a socialite who has some history with Bruce Wayne and Montoya. I think people may assume that she and Montoya will be sexually intimate, but this may not be the case. Her first appearance will be in 52 #11. At some point she’ll have a run in with the Question. She’ll have nearly a year’s worth of experience behind her by the time Batman returns from his year long vacation with Tim and Dick. There was also a hint that Bruce and Kate will deal with each other on multiple levels because of their social connections and history and her decision to become a superhero. Kane isn’t completely out to family and everyone in her circle.

That’s just enough info to be teased with. C’mon DiDio! How about cluing me in with some more secrets about her?

Regardless, I’m looking forward to the character and reading how she’s handled in stories and developed.

Newsarama’s Matt Brady posted an article about the New York Times piece. Posts about a lesbian Batwoman are generating the usual comments whenever a homosexual character or story is introduced in comics. “The boots make her look like a dominatrix!” “They look like Batgirl’s (Barbara Gordon) boots.” They do, and they’re no more practical now than they were then. Did anyone ever think Babs was dominatrix for wearing them? The usual does anyone else find this sick…” objection is raised and then the poster excuses himself with “No offense to gays—who anyone sleeps with it their business.” Thanks for the glib lip service, but that was a privilege we didn’t win until the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws a few years ago and some people still think it’s their business. Cries of “agenda this” and “agenda that” and “no homos in my comics!” and “comics are for kids!” and “Silver Age throwback or Silver Age masterbation [sic].” Thank God you don’t have to spell it correctly in order to be able to do it.

Hoping to come to the rescue, the defenders rush in with counter comments. Thank God for people like you. Message boards aren’t always, or should I say often, forums for discussions, and I don’t have enough patience to engage people whose minds were made up years ago. It seems every time the topic of gay characters or plot lines is mentioned the straight guys get in an uproar. They turn the boards into a pissing contest by eagerly whipping out their dicks and hoping to shut up the gay guys and gals by drowning them with their collective urine streams. You can knock it off.

I’d offer a reassuring hug to the straight guys to let them know they’re not really being threatened, but it might be mistaken for something more. That reminds me of a time an old boyfriend had a party. I’d gone to bed, and was woken a couple of hours later by the yelping of a scared straight boy who’d drunkenly crawled into bed next to me. How about a friendly punch in the arm instead? Or maybe not.

People had similar opinions about Apollo and Midnighter, Terry Berg, Northstar, Rawhide Kid, and Hulking and Wiccan in Young Avengers. People threatened not to buy comics these characters appeared in, and I think that’s fine. No one should buy comics they’re not going to enjoy, and I don’t spend a penny on comics written by Chuck Dixon or published by Mike S. Miller.

The closet door of mainstream comics started to be pushed open eighteen years ago with an obviously effeminate Extraño, and the 1989 revision of the Comics Code Authority guidelines finally let publishers identify characters as LGBT. Yes, there are hints in ALPHA FLIGHT about Northstar’s sexuality, but I’m arbitrarily deciding to mark the appearance of an unmistakably gay character, stereotype aside, over contextual clues. The cries and objections over queer character are old, but an opinion is an opinion. Even bigoted ones.

Let’s be fair to the paranoid. With this news and characters such as Holly Robinson stepping in as Catwoman, Hulking and Wiccan, and a solo Midnighter comic on the way it does seem like we gay comics readers are poised to take over the industry. Let’s get ready for the big push of the gay agenda right into the homes of the vast comic reading population! Our efforts will be validated with new converts from the formerly straight life style, and we’ll all have more than enough men to form polygamous relationships that groups like the American Family Association has been warning people about lately. Right.

Back to more serious matters. It’s interesting that DC decided to let the New York Times article announce news about Batwoman. Typically DC and Marvel make their important announcements in press releases to comics news sites, all the while wishing for some exposure in the non-comics media. Despite both recent and old successes in movies and television comics remain a niche media. This has an advantage though in that companies can be freer to experiment if they want because less attention is typically paid to them than to television or film. One trick is to fly under the radar as much and as long as possible. If you’ve read the Times article you’ll notice that Joe Quesada mentions race. Storm, Luke Cage, and Araña are mentioned. Reginald Hudlin talks about Black Panther. These characters are safe to mention. There isn’t a word about Hulkling and Wiccan in Young Avengers. Sure, Judd Winick incidentally refers to Sunfire as a Japanese lesbian superhero in Exiles. And she’s dead, too.

The other tack, I suppose, is to say to hell with it all, and try to let as many people as possible know by telling it to the New York Times. It wasn’t so long ago that Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada courted national attention and controversy over the Rawhide Kid matter. The outcry from family groups was loud and I assume organized. I say “assumed” because for the past few months I’ve subscribed to the AFA’s newsletter and I swear, if any group is organized and has an agenda, it’s the AFA. One can imagine the flood of angry emails that one of the AFA’s action alerts might have generated to Marvel’s offices and shareholders. The irony here is that DC, often considered to have been on the timid side in the past, is acting self-assured.

Marvel points to its efforts at racial diversity, which is still an important topic to address, while remaining quiet on the issue of sexual diversity. Marvel should be commended on its efforts, but it also dodges the bullet. Let’s be realistic. There won’t be any flak from conservative groups about the inclusion of non-white characters.

Will a lesbian Batwoman and Catwoman and the impending solo Midnighter comic cause a similar reaction with the same groups as Rawhide Kid? The AFA is a bit obsessed with Ford Motor Company and the vote in Washington on the Marriage Protection Act, but I’ll be paying attention.

The great irony here is that the characters of Kathy Kane and Batwoman were created and first appeared in 1956 as a love interest for Batman, just two short years after the height of Frederic Wertham’s campaign that led to Senate hearings and the creation of the Comics Code Authority itself.

Haven’t read the New York Times article yet? You can find it here. You will have to register if you don’t have an account already.




April 30, 2012
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