Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Batwoman, Superhero Decadence, Darwyn Cooke, etc.

I mostly agree with Darwyn Cooke's comments at FanExpo Canada (see video below) regarding the mainstream comic book industry's pandering to 45-year-old hardcore fanboys, and everything that ensues from that (ultra-violence, ultra sex, general stupidity).

I only partially agree with his comments about (who I assume is) Batwoman. I think he meant that by suddenly making Kate Kane a lesbian, DC was doing more of a "buzzworthy" gimmick rather than really taking the time to organically develop her homosexuality as part of her personality. The way that Batwoman was originally covered by the mainstream media -- as literally a "lipstick lesbian" -- kind of made it worse. Was this character made gay to increase diversity in the DCU, or to titillate male readers?

Then again, for any criticism I might have regarding Batwoman, I am far happier with her inclusion in the mainstream DCU than not. She is, in my opinion, probably the most high-profile gay character the mainstream DCU will ever have. She might not have her own Barbie doll, but she received a lengthy starring role in a major comic book.

The bigger question is: is homosexuality a theme too "adult" for mainstream comics? When we are sickened by all the excess sex and gore in books featuring our most beloved heroes, do gay characters fit into that as yet another inappropriate element?

If we have heterosexual characters kissing and falling in love, we should also have gay characters do the same. I don't see homosexuality in-and-of-itself as something "adult." Explicit sex, both hetero- and homo-, is adult. A gay male character having a crush on another man is not "adult.," in my opinion, and Batwoman as a lesbian character is also not "adult," a "mature readers" theme.

Let's return to Darwyn Cooke. I do not believe he is a homophobe who doesn't want any gay characters in comic books. I would hate to see an Internet "witchhunt" against him for something taken out of context.

I worked with Darwyn on Selina's Big Score, and the comic was very influential on me for the work I did on Punisher MAX: Butterfly. That said, "Punisher MAX" is a mature readers series, and my story contained everything that might be classified as "comic book decadence" -- extreme gore, heavy cursing, and explicitly sexual themes. And Butterfly was a lesbian.

If Butterfly was adapted as a mainstream Marvel character, would her sexuality no longer be appropriate? I feel her sexuality is still appropriate. But she is a dead character, she was conceived and approved as an ultimately dead character, dead-on-arrival, a plot constructed around the idea of her ultimate deadness, unable to exist outside of a one-shot, called a "man-hater" by some readers, a dirty fucking lesbian. She was so withholding from the fantasies of the hardcore fanboy audience that she wouldn't even give them tits on the cover to her book. The one-shot sold pretty decently, but the demographic Darwyn refers to in that video aren't the ones who supported it.

And that leads into the only other thing I would disagree with Darwyn about characters like Batwoman. Regardless of what DC's intentions were with Batwoman, the 45-year-old "babyman" fanboy contingent are NOT titillated by a confident lesbian woman who does not ultimately want to have sex with them. These fanboys might like the cursing, the tits, the gore, the literal raping of their childhood heroes and heroines. But not confident gay characters. If DC or Marvel has tried to purposely use these characters to attract that demographic, it's a big FAIL.

So anyway, those are my three cents. Please don't hate on Darwyn, as he is one of the most kind and open-minded persons I've had the pleasure of meeting in this business. Also, please keep my Punisher one-shot away from him, as I would like him to remember me as that chipper kid who put together his reference for New Frontier and not the person with the record for the most C-words within 30 pages.

UPDATE: Darwyn's comments on one of the first blogs to break this story might help clarify things:
"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 after decades of established character action make that drastic a change.
I’ve always believed that if another creator’s character can’t bear the spectrum of expression I need to reach, then I don’t use that character. Find another or create a new one."

UPDATE 2: And by "C-words," I obviously mean "cookie," "car," and "conundrum."

UPDATE 3: And I would also hate to see online dialogue regarding this Darwyn Cooke thing to end up being a group-bash against "overly sensitive lesbians." Which is what I'm starting to see, and it's not cool.

UPDATE 4: Aaaaaaand of course because I don't automatically have a reactionary black-and-white opinion about a women's issue, my opinion is worthless. Glad to see nothing has changed in four years. Yay clap clap clap. OK, back to the real world where things are complicated and can't be summed up in 140 characters or less.