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Sep 11

Afro Commentary: DC’s Perpetual Road to Stuck on Stupid

gsb_batwoman-headerBravo DC Comics, bravo! In the span of a few months, you have completely lost yet another reader. It was a long time coming mind you, however the whole “Batwoman not being able to marry her girlfriend” thing was the final nail in the coffin for me.

For those unaware of the incident, here is the recap of what went down. Last Thursday, CBM reported that the entire creative team of the Batwoman title quit in protest of DC’s decision to not allow the character (who’s alter ego is Kate Kane) marry her long-time girlfriend, GCPD detective Maggie Sawyer. The team also released a statement which included that following:

Unfortunately, in recent months, DC has asked us to alter or completely discard many long-standing storylines in ways that we feel compromise the character and the series. We were told to ditch plans for Killer Croc’s origins; forced to drastically alter the original ending of our current arc, which would have defined Batwoman’s heroic future in bold new ways; and, most crushingly, prohibited from ever showing Kate and Maggie actually getting married. All of these editorial decisions came at the last minute, and always after a year or more of planning and plotting on our end.

We’ve always understood that, as much as we love the character, Batwoman ultimately belongs to DC. However, the eleventh-hour nature of these changes left us frustrated and angry — because they prevent us from telling the best stories we can. So, after a lot of soul-searching, we’ve decided to leave the book after Issue 26.

Three days later at BaltimoreCon, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio made an “off script” response (ie. “don’t quote me, bitches”) during the DC Nation panel. His response to DC’s decision on the situation was the following:

Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests.

Huh. I am going to just stop right there and call bullshit on that for a couple of reasons.

First, the rationale behind this editorial decision is utter crap and a cop out. No hero, especially the Bat family, can be happy? THAT’S the reason DC is going with? My 10 year-old nephew, who apparently is way more creative than DiDio, could come up with a half dozen ways of making the scenario work while having her married.  Spider-Man was married to Mary Jane for the longest time in the comics, putting her through metric tons of crap until Marvel’s head-desking storyline where Peter struck a deal with Mephisto to erase it from occurring. DC’s own Superman was married for the longest time to Lois Lane before that continuity was destroyed by the New 52; a concept I was in support of until it actually happened. Most important of all, you had the openly gay Alpha Flight member Northstar marry his boyfriend in issue 51 of Astonishing X-Men. DC has some of the best writers in the industry and the Batwoman creative team was more than able to fulfill the “mandate” WHILE writing a same sex marriage. Stop insulting my intelligence as a reader, DC.

gsb_batwoman-2This leads me to my second point. I feel DC is trying to cover up the fact that they have no balls when it comes to allowing a sophisticated storytelling, especially ones with gay or lesbian characters. I feel that the gay and lesbian characters – some of the more interesting heroes in the New 52 – are treated as token by the organization. Case in point: When the company revealed that Alan Scott was to be brought to the New 52 as a gay man, a lot of people scratched their heads (mostly due to the relative obscurity of the character), but the news was generally well received. However, as soon as they introduced Scott in Earth 2 #1, he proposed to his boyfriend ONLY for DC to kill him in an exploding train crash one panel later. This was supposed to be the catalyst for Scott to become that dimensions Green Lantern. I feel that between him and Batwoman, DC is appeasing the gay community by saying that have gay characters rather than actually doing something with them. It’s a shame really, Batwoman was really enjoyable book with that creative team… convoluted at times, but enjoyable.

But this is not the first time DC has made really terrible editorial decisions this year. The other equally head shaking news item from the company this week is Harleygate. You’re probably asking “Whats that”, so I will tell you… DC advertised a contest last week, where potential artists could draw panels for the upcoming Harley Quinn #0. It was straightforward until DC released the 4 panel script for the contest, where they have Harley sitting in a bathtub, naked, while waiting to kill herself in a dream sequence. Now note they released this contest panel days before Suicide Prevention Week. Needless to say, the internet was furious enough to have Jim Lee trying to play it off in tweets. Then there was the decision to change Lobo from the hulking heathen bad-ass we all know and love to a scrawny, Edward Cullen-esque character without the whole sparkling like diamonds thing (and don’t get me started how all the top tiered DC heroes look like they need a cheeseburger or three.) Then there was the news in May that Joshua Hale Fialkov had left the Green Lantern Corps title because he was asked to kill off John Stewart, a prominent black character in the DC universe. And finally, there are plans to either kill off or severely change Nightwing during the Forever Evil run. This shows me DC would rather kill people, especially children, than have their heroes have relationships.

I think the best analogy on how I feel how DC is being run is that the prison is being ran by the inmates… more specifically, Arkham is being ran by the inmates. The editorial decisions DC have made since the New 52 inception have left a bad taste in my mouth, however the Batwoman decision is a breaking point with me because it isn’t like she is a top tiered character. They really had no reason to wish such a change on her, outside of their childish “no superhero can be happy” stance. DC had a perfect opportunity to not only bring positive attention to a book that is relatively unknown and was produced well, but to make a bold statement about same sex marriage to all generations of readers. Instead, they neutered the book by doing this and lost what little credit – if there was any left after these two years – they had with their readers. It is like they have given up trying to pull in a new and diverse readership and instead focused on the key demo group of young white hetero males. It is either that, or DiDio and Lee are really inept and clueless in their publishing roles. Instead of letting creative teams doing their jobs and write these characters with all their facets, baggage and happiness included, they settle on the angst ridden, angry characters that are one-dimensional.

gsb_batwoman-1And really, this is why DC is being schooled by Marvel. Marvel is confident with their properties and allows their creative teams to produce stories that are enjoyable. Their characters are multi-faceted and interesting; with their editorial staff not afraid to have stories such as Northstar and his boyfriend getting married. I think Northstar is a prick personally, but damn is he interesting as a character. DC has that potential in their cadre of heroes, but lack the conviction to let great stories happen.

At the end of the day, these comic characters are supposed to be identifiable or sympathetic. How can we, as an audience, empathize with them if all the characters have the same mindset, are all angry in some way and have detached relationships with each other (like in Death of the Family) or with those around them? If DC truly feels their ideal of a hero is supposed to be that then I am sorry, humans are NOT that way. Ultimately, DiDio’s reasoning is not only flawed it’s straight up ignorant.

Well, I feel better now! But I’d like to know what you all think of this topic. I would love to hear from you.

1 comment

  1. Robert Monroe, Jr.

    Making stupid decisions that led to losing the creative team behind “Batwoman” was a huge mistake on DC’s part. Not only because of how it will effect the book and lose them readership but also because it’s another example of how they are pandering to straight white boys instead of expanding their readership by embracing diversity. I introduced my children’s old art teacher and her wife to “Batwoman” and that led them and their sons to visit a comic book store for the first time. THAT’S how to attract readership…introduce characters who reflect the world around us and not the world of isolated white boys who living in their mother’s basement and get off on superheroines in Frederick’s of Hollywood outfits & Penthouse magazine poses because they’re too afraid to go out and actually get a real woman. In about a decade, white people are going to be a numerical minority in the U.S.A….it makes no sense that they continue to be portrayed as most of the heroes in comic books when that happens. Only willful ignorance will get in the way of positive change. If comic book companies refuse to embrace diversity, in the future the comic book stores will look like the Jazz or classical sections of music stores…mostly older people milling around looking for something interesting while the younger people are looking at their screens and finding other sources of entertainment.

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