When Bob Kane and Sheldon Madoff created Bat-Woman back in 1956, I doubt that they would have expected DC, almost exactly 50 years later, to take a character specifically created to be a love interest for Batman – to fight charges of a homosexual relationship between Batman and Robin, no less! – and turn her into the very thing she was created to disprove. Now she is not only not the love interest of Batman, but a skin tight, glossy leather wearing bright red lipstick lesbian. Welcome to the new diversity of the DC universe.
Batwoman Vol. 1: Hydrology
Collecting: Batwoman #1-5
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III
I admit that I’ve been out of the DC Comics loop for some time, reading only a select few graphic novels from that publisher, so I was unprepared for the sexual orientation of Batwoman. And though I did realize the sexuality inherent in the pulp comic book market – I was a teenager who wanted to buy Marvel Illustrated Swimsuit Edition back in the day – but I didn’t recognize the extent to which graphic sexuality had insinuated itself into the mainstream. Let me be clear here: there are parts of Batwoman that should be considered porn and should have a ban on under 18 purchasers.
Issue 4 for instance has several two paged splash panels where a lone character is fighting for her life all the while inserts show Batwoman, as Kate Kane, undressed to her bra on a bed with another female who then goes down on Batwoman, until she graphically achieves orgasm. (All the while the poor other character in the fight is beaten nearly to death.) Ironically, this issue embodies exactly the concern that Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent – a book and movement that nearly brought down American comics for good, and that is credited with the creation of this character in an effort to disprove such allegations – warned of.
This brings me to another point: the comics code authority was used to voluntarily clean up comic books (read: censor them, something I am against), but that so-called authority is no longer in place. Instead a rating system similar to TV’s is now used that aims to give retailers, parents and purchasers an idea of what to expect. This issue received a “Teen+” rating, which is a joke. If DC wants to have a lesbian character and even if they want to produce a comic with graphic sexuality, including sex acts, they have a legal right to do so, but it shouldn’t be under the banner of a Teen+ book and it shouldn’t be marketed through mainstream DC characters off the shelf next to Superman and Batman giving the false impression that this book is like those.
Diversity is great. Make new characters that show the racial mix that modern America exhibits. Give us characters that embody heroism while fighting disabilities (like the one DC took away from Barbara Gordan’s Batgirl). But forcing diversity to include actions that people take, like homosexuality, opens the door to other activities that likewise should not be glamorized in graphic novels or comics, like for instance bestiality (Beast Boy would be a natural candidate here). Just because a segment of the population exists doesn’t mean that the segment should have a character that popularizes their pastimes.
The worst part? All this overt sexuality and appealing to so-called diversity is distracting for a title that is superbly drawn by J.H. Williams III with a creepy, deep storyline from Williams and W. Haden Blackman that crosses over several other titles and characters, including Batman and the Teen Titans. That DC felt the need to muddy the waters of a great story with these sad side shows mystifies.
There is no way that I would recommend this trade paperback or the ongoing comic series. It is a cheap attempt to sell comics to hormonal male readers by showcasing nudity, overt sexuality and borderline porn. Shame on DC for publishing this as a Teen+ title.
Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.