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Media & Design

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lesbian Batwoman: Deal or no deal

Lesbian BatwomanDC Comics is attempting to diversify its superhero roster by reintroducing Batwoman as five-feet-ten-inches of hot lesbian vigilante packed into a skin-tight black leather suit. Complete with cape, of course. Inevitably, there's a huge amount of mixed reaction to anything gay that might reach the impressionable minds of our youth.

In addition to being a point of controversy, it's also the sort of thing the media pounces on because of all the opportunities for clever headlines like "Batwoman's other secret identity turns heads" (CNN), "Batwoman is back and she's gayer than Robin" (The Celebrity Cafe), "Batwoman comes out of the cave" (ABC), "Batwoman says no to men" (Cinema Blend), "Holy Rosie O'Donnell Batman, Batwoman is a lesbian" (American Chronicle)and the ever straight forward "Batwoman returns as lipstick lesbian" (Daily Telegraph). Cheekiness aside, what's all the hub bub, bub?

Let's examine what's already happened out there along these lines. DC Comics has touched upon "the whole gay thing" when writer Judd Winick (former MTV Real Worlder) crafted a serious tale in which one of Green Lantern's friends is severely beaten because he's a homosexual. Granted, the victim wasn't a superhero, but it potentially made many people more aware of the terrible nature of hate crimes. On the flip side, in a much less serious manner (and with much comedic success), Marvel Comics reintroduced hero Rawhide Kid as a gay cowboy. Without any background research, I'm curious if Annie Proulx's "Close Range: Wyoming Stories" (which contains the story of "Brokeback Mountain") had any influence on Marvel's gay cowboy concept which was also published in 2000.

So gay characters, even gay superheroes, aren't unheard of in comic books. So let's set that aside for a moment and think about the diversification side of things. DC Comics has also been a big proponent of this. Let's look at the recently reinvented Blue Beetle (now Hispanic), Firestorm (now African-American), Atom (now Asian), and Speedy (now HIV positive). If you go back a few years, you'll see that they attempted to elevate Latino heroes with characters like El Diablo and Vibe. If you go back even further to the 1970s, DC Comics was already driving the cultural diversity bandwagon with their Superfriends cartoon showcasing characters like Black Vulcan, Samurai, Apache Chief, and El Dorado. (However, it should be noted that while trying to display their racial acceptance, they did manage to promote and accentuate cultural stereotypes in many instances.)

So, where was I and what was my point? Well, perhaps I shouldn't be all over the media for jumping on this as it was DC Comics who actually announced the reintroduction of Batwoman in attemnpt to generate hype. Which, of course, is fine too... it's a business, right? Perhaps, my point is that it's really not a big deal (particularly considering that the largest comic book reading demographic probably consists of 25-30 year olds and not children of homophobic parents). If the media really wants to hype comic books that handle "alternative lifestyles" realistically, tastefully, and in an UNDERSTATED way, they might consider reporting on Marvel's Runaways and Young Avengers titles.

To circle back around... yippee, they brought back Batwoman. Whether this is a good thing or not depends entirely on the writing and not on the character's sexual orientation. (Insert lame joke about fanboys drooling over hot bat-on-bat action here.)

Topics: Batwoman, lesbian, gay, DC comics, hype, comic books, controversy, and media.

posted by silinx | 10:04:00 AM

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