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.


  1. 2 Things:

    1) Love the new make-over

    2) I think you should stick to long entries from here-on-in. You make much more sense and it allows me to quote your wise words around my easily titillated friends.

  2. Darwyn has a history of ranting against comics being aimed at only an adult market and the juvenile market being left behind. I saw his comment as probably showing that he hadn't actually read the comic--he saw the hype and advertising and assumed it was a cynical decision to titillate those "perverted desires of 45 year old men" he talked about. He's not talking about gay characters--because he knows that they would not be aimed at the male audience who buys most superhero comics. And yes, being female and not freaking out abt his comments can be very dangerous...I've been slagged as a homophobe for suggesting that we need to understand the context of his comments.

  3. "I mostly agree with Darwyn Cooke's comments" I don't.

    "DC was doing more of a "buzzworthy" gimmick rather than really taking the time to organically develop her homosexuality as part of her personality."

    I like Willow just fine! Besides I am a fan of making personality first and then sexuality/gender later, like was done with Willow. Otherwise you run the risk of making a character who is defined by there sexuality. Having Colossus come out of the closet was cool so long as you don't screw it up by changing his personality.

    "Was this character made gay to increase diversity in the DCU, or to titillate male readers?"

    Don't really care myself. Would one negate the other? I think this is what is called a win-win situation.
    If they made Sowyer from lost gay to appeal to women why should that phase me?

    "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?"

    First, who is we? I would take it to mean everyone other then the 45 year old manchilds who get hated on
    but I see little to indicate that the "we" you refer to is any more entitled or even larger then the nitch 45 yearolds.

    If you are talking about mainstream then the answer is yes and no depending on what part of the USA you are in. If the question is should it be then I can answer that my opinion is guy/guy love is just as acceptable to me as guy/girl love.

  4. I'm the "target" audience, a 20 white male whose intersts include graphic novels and computers, and I was not interested in DC comics at all until I was introduced to Batwoman in that entry role in detective comics. It feel much more caring, and I honestly believe it's because of the work people have put into the characters personality. Look at runaways, the series that got me into Marvel comics, it has lesbian characters and even some pseudo trans-inclusion, an even much rarer occurrence.

    I personally say this is the progress the comics industry needs to get the broader audience it needs to survive.

  5. They actually make an action figure of that Batwoman in DC's Crisis line of figures. My daughter has it and loves it. It's a really great looking figure. Love the red and black.

    I agree with both Val and Cooke but one thing I would add is that I think it is totally okay for publishers to make comics for multiple audiences even if that means multiple versions of characters. It's what that TV thing in my living room does and it seems to work out okay there.

  6. AAAAACCKKK! Valerie--Ty was looking at his blog on my computer so when I commented on your site, it signed me as him. Patriarchal computer clearly! Anyway, Ty just wanted me to make that clear given that I mention being female in my comment! But he would like to also say that he completely agrees with what I said...