Monday, June 04, 2007

Why The Current Batwoman Is "Invisible"

Before I continue I want to say that this examination as to perhaps why the much-touted lesbian Batwoman reboot has been somewhat hidden does not reflect my personal view on the subject.

My personal view: there should be major superheroes of all stripes, colors, creeds, religions, and sexual orientations. *Major* superheroes, not just publicity stunts and second-stringers.

But if I had to read the business end of it and divine why the highly publicized Batwoman character seems to be a bit on the invisible side -- as lamented by poster "BR" on the Beat (found via the ever-stalwart Manstream Awards) -- the following is what I would guess:

Batwoman is essentially the female counterpart of Batman. Not thematically, not as-written in the comic books, but to the general observer. You've got a "Bat-Man" and a "Bat-Woman."

Batman is, in a strictly corporate sense, a Brand.

I know it makes you get the heebie-jeebies to hear it that way. It's rather gauche. "Batman is not Nike!" you might exclaim in horror. But here is a better example.

Time-Warner is the mega-corporation that owns the candy-bar company. The candy-bar company is DC Comics. The candy bars are Batman, Superman, et al.

Batman is a Brand.

Had DC's first major lesbian superheroine not been part (by default) of the Batman family, she most certainly would be getting more exposure now. Heck, had she been a non-"Bat" named character but still part of the Bat's Fam she would be getting more exposure right now.

But her name is "Batwoman." To the public whose only contact with comic book lore is through movies, TV series, and the occasional cartoon, Batwoman would be very closely linked to Batman. And Batwoman is a lesbian. Homosexuality intimately linked with a million-dollar Brand. And the corporates get the shakes about things like that.

When Renee Montoya "came out" in the pages of "Gotham Central," it caused a little bit of a "burp" for the Powers That Be. I'm not talking the usual Powers That Be. The usual PTB's are a bit more liberal than that. I'm referring to the PTBs beyond the PTBs. And here's why.

Renee Montoya was in the "Batman Adventures" cartoon. "Batman Adventures," part of the overall marketing/licensing machine that aggressively catered to kiddie konsumers at that time. And now a lesbian was being attached to that machine.


So how did "Gotham Central" ultimately get away with this?

Foist, you have editors with BALLS OF STEEL. (or a womb of steel. whatever works for you.)

Second, you have a President who has worked with and known and respected a great number of "out" members of the industry, and to whom the idea of shooting down the Montoya storyline based merely on sexual preference issues might have seemed somewhat distasteful. This is purely conjecture on my part, but I do know that if the Prez is against it, it just ain't going to happen.

Third, you play this game where you sorta "ease" the storyline in there without too much fanfare or initial attention. You don't jump up and down and scream "LESBIAN PLOTLINE! GET YOUR FRESH LESBIAN PLOTLINE HERE!" You more sorta walk softly and whistle and pray that it gets through.

So that was Montoya.

With Kane, you have several complicating factors:
2) Her name "Batwoman" intimately connects her with the Batman Brand
3) She's been positioned as a "lipstick lesbian," thus weakening the support from groups like, I dunno, WOMEN, who might have championed the character.
4) She was initially aggressively promoted through the mainstream media, which must have sparked a small but passionate patch of feedback from the Usual Suspects who hate Tinky Winky and want to re-program Spongebob so he's more of a manly sponge.

My guess? Batwoman is not being used to her full potential because of a fear of "affecting" the overall Batman brand by association.

And that's sucky.

What I think will happen for Kate Kane further down the line?

Most likely, her name will be changed away from the "Bat." Then she might be allowed to flourish as a strong "B-list" character.

The deep cynic in me can also anticipate a scenario where she's just either retconned or killed off completely or hardly used at all.

But I will bet you dollars to donuts on the name change somewhere along the line.

And yes, this is all cynical.

And no, this is not the way it *should* be. And if you're pissed and you want get angry about it, do so.

Paging Alison Bechdel.

Next Week: "Why Stephanie Brown Will Never Have A Trophy Case"

and the week after that: "Captain America really dead? Are you f**king kidding me?"

and the week after that: "Lost: My Youthful Idealism. Small and furry with big expressive eyes. Answers to the name "Champ." Startles easily."


  1. While there's no excuse for her not being used *now* (other than any issues with her in maybe just not being out yet), the rule during the course of 52 was that any characters used in the weekly series couldn't be used in any of the other "One Year Later" books. They wanted to keep it secret as to who lived and who died.

  2. I did like that in the Superman cartoons made by the same people who created Montoya, Maggie Sawyer was visited in hospital by a 'close lady friend'. Anyone who was aware of the character's lesbianism from the comics knew what was inferred by their on-screen hand-holding, but otherwise it was just two characters holding hands.

    Kathy Kane's niece Betty (the Batgirl from the 1950s comics) is still knocking about as Flamebird, so I suspect you're on to something with the renaming thing.
    Sad, really.

  3. i hated the whole idea of being a knock off of a male character thing and the obviously to get headlines lesbian bullshit. they started off so bad it almost feels good she disappeared during 52 though her reappearance could have been alot better. like maybe she would come back with a new identity or at least toned down the bat crap. instead we got 'injured and near death' thats DC shitting the bed on something that even i could do in a better way and i'm a hack. next up montoya gets raped by many a starro. DC can eat me.

  4. A few of the "52"-reserved characters are now showing up elsewhere - the newly-announced "Black Adam" and space heroes series, for example. Let's see if Batwoman comes along (she was on the cover of Countdown 51, but then so were lots of people).

    A related cause of invisibility might be the lack of comics written by Greg Rucka lately. Didn't he write the Question/Montoya/Batwoman thread?

  5. Good point. I'd expect her to show up in his upcoming Crime Bible series.

  6. I predict the very best Kate Kane/Batwoman story will be an Elseworlds story taking place on one of the Parallels. That way it won't "count".