Letters to Holly

Tuesday, June 6

About the Batwoman debate ...

About a week ago, the New York Times unleashed an article about DC Comics' effort to make their cast resemble minority demographics. The new Blue Beetle is a Latino teen. China has a team of superpeople. And the company is dusting off Batwoman and giving the name to an already established gay woman. The conservative news outlets saw this and went apeshit. There is some confusion about what DC is doing here.

First, of course, it's a marketing ploy. DC is trying to get buzz by pushing their first mainstream gay character and making her part of the Batfranchise. Now, they've had gay characters before. The Vertigo wing of DC is geared toward an older, more literate audience and has included gay characters now for about 20 years. Also, another DC wing printed a comic with very obvious copies of Superman and Batman involved in a gay relationship. Eventually though, DC squashed the clear depictions of their affection, much to the chagrin of the writers. Marvel Comics, the competitor, has also featured gay characters for about a decade now, some within the mighty X-franchise. When the company recently decided to court mainstream audiences, they reimagined an older Western character called Rawhide Kid in a winking, gay miniseries. And independent comics have gay characters all over the place. Much like network TV, comic publishers they can catch eyes if they toss in a wacky gay character or use one to add pathos for dramatic effect.

Second, this isn't BatGIRL. This is BatWOMAN. Batwoman was never a mainstream character. The redhead in the 1960s TV show, the female cartoon character incarnations, and Alicia Silverstone were all Batgirl. She's a female Robin. Batwoman was the intermediary between Batman and Catwoman. Many outlets are confusing the two female characters, and its understandable. Comics often call any female spinoff character a "girl."

But the most egregious confusion lies in the constant comparison of comics to the 1960s Batman TV show. Inside the comic community, this is as outdated a standard as you can find. That version of Batman hasn't been seen in a DC comic since the 1970s, when the company purposefully veered away from that TV depiction to return the Caped Crusader to his roots as a spooky scourge of villainy. That show has done more to create expectations of comics than any other adaptation, and it's obsolete in every way. Whenever a newspaper runs an article on modern comics, they take the stance that "comics aren't for kids anymore" and add POW! BOFF! effects in the headlines. It's lazy writing. It's been done for decades. Even when I submitted an article for the daily newspaper about an upcoming convention, they used the sound effects in the headline. Even after I asked them not to. And I worked there at the time.

Anyway, the conservative indignants try to rouse their rabble by saying comics are supposed to be like the Batman TV show. They then say DC is deliberately steering their books in a more mature, amoral direction, and then they of course assume comics are only read by eight-year-olds. DC then sounds like they've decided to peddle smut to your little angels. Just not so. Mainstream comics in general have gotten much darker, much more adult and graphic over the years. It's the nature of the pulp media. Add to that the growing readership that's college age or older. The indusrty wrings its hands every few months as it tries to figure out a way to win over some of those eight-year-olds. But they're too busy playing video games.

Me, I don't care about the debate for two reasons. First, there's no need for a Batwoman. There's already Batman, Robin, Nightwing (the first Robin) , Batgirl, Oracle (the first Batgirl), and Huntress, who's Batwoman in everything but the name. What does Batwoman bring to the table? Nothing new, except her interest in women. Now I haven't read the new Batwoman comic. No one has. But I like a simple approach to franchises, and the Bat-umbrella already has too many people underneath it.

The other reason why I don't care? I've read gay characters in comics for years now. While I like seeing new takes on stock characters, I've never said "yes, that's an interesting gay woman, but she needs some outrageously large ears and a cape to be a fully developed character." I'm not calling for a boycott. I just don't have any interest in buying the comic. The general online geek reaction is a big shrugged shoulder. It's yet anotehr Bat-character, and she's gimmicked as a lesbian. No one sees this as anything than a marketing ploy.

We watched two hours of "House" last night. It's becoming a favorite show, a testament to the writing and acting. The characters rarely leave the hospital, so it ain't the vistas luring us to the show. We learned that my parents will not make it this weekend to visit, but it's for the best. Your Sister realized just yesterday that graduation is Saturday. She wouldn't be able to do anything with them if they had driven up. But this means the annual post-graduation teacher party is a few days away. That's always fun. Your dad came by the office to drop off some Africa souvenirs. He also invited us to go back with them next year. This is something to discuss at home; we don't think we can mange a Chicago trip this summer and Africa the next.

Picture of the Day
This comes out on June 19, and we're definitely catching it. It looks great.

No comments: