My DC Comics Pull List Purge

The only comment that DC Comics has made so far about the epic fuck-up that they have made with Batwoman and refusing to allow her to be married [Batwoman writers leave DC Comics over ban on same-sex marriage] is this:

“As acknowledged by the creators involved, the editorial differences with the writers of BATWOMAN had nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the character.”

This has been their statement to many media outlets, and is, apparently, in reference to this tweet by J.H. Williams:

Annnnnd here’s why that is complete and utter bullshit on the part of DC

Like it or not, comics are not immune to the political realities of the real world we live in. Comics don’t exist in a vacuum; they speak to us as readers because they have some significance to our everyday realities. Otherwise, why bother to introduce a gay character into a comic book at all? The point of course, is that we want to identify with the heroes of comics – that we want to related to them and imagine being them. For gay people, seeing a character like Kate Kane existing, carrying out her job and also balancing the realities of romantic relationships is appealing because it touches on our real lives. She has to go through some of the same difficulties and triumphs that we do in order to keep our attention.

And like it or not, same-sex marriage is a huge, emotionally-complex thing that we as LGBT people are dealing with. It has relevance to gay characters in comic books as much as it does to us in the real world. There’s just no way to side-step that issue with any gay character right now. And because of that, there is simply no way that you can separate the subject of Batwoman’s romantic relationship from her sexual orientation.

Because the character’s sexual orientation and romantic life are on the table as subject matter for the comic book, allowing or disallowing her to marry is inextricably bound to the current global climate on the subject of same-sex marriages. And banning her from getting married has a very different connotation than it does for heterosexual characters. There’s no way that doesn’t resonate with real people being banned from getting married and amplify the issue to all readers, no matter whether DC wants it to do so or not.

As Williams said, specifically for this character – “but it still should not be a story to be avoided, but embraced fully.” If you are going to have gay characters in comic books, marriage HAS to be addressed. There’s no way this subject CAN’T come up.

Two days have passed since this news hit the press. Comic Book Resources is running a poll – Will You Be Interested In “Batwoman” Once J.H. Williams & W. Haden Blackman Exit the Series? The current results stand at 83.6% – No. 16.4% – Yes.

Batwoman Rain

Given that there are 6,697 news articles on this issue currently out there on the web, almost all with some completely damning version of a headline like “Batwoman Writers Quit as DC Comics Prohibits Lesbian Marriage” I would have expected a much more complete and thoughtful response on the part of the company at damage control. But… apparently not. I’m not inclined to give the company any more time to craft a satisfactory response, given that they have been wrangling over the issue with Batwoman’s authors for quite some time on the issue, and they didn’t seem to be prepared with any sort of complete or statement about their position.

I can’t imagine they didn’t realize what a massive mistake this would appear to be, and yet… no real acknowledgement of their LGBT readers at all other than a terse statement.

My pull list from my local comics shop yesterday was this:

  • Ame Comi Girls
  • Batgirl (I’m so sorry to do this, Gail Simone)
  • Batwoman
  • Birds of Prey
  • Captain Marvel
  • Fearless Defenders
  • Katana
  • The Movement (Again, really sorry, Gail)
  • Red Sonja
  • Supergirl
  • World’s Finest (Power Girl & Huntress)
  • X-Men Now
  • Young Avengers Now

And my pull list as of this afternoon, when I dropped in to change things around:

  • Batwoman (until issue 26, the last Williams/Blackman book)
  • Captain Marvel
  • Fearless Defenders
  • FF (the fantastic four spin-off by Matt Fraction)
  • Hawkeye
  • Red Sonja (I had to keep at least one Gail Simone thing)
  • X-Men Now
  • Young Avengers Now

There are some other independent books that I’ll probably add in, too. I’ve been meaning to investigate other publishers, and now I’l have time for that.

It kills me that my childhood favorites – Wonder Woman and Batgirl – are no longer in my comic book reading, and that the thing that pulled me back into comic books after I stopped reading in college was the DC New 52 reboot. They got me back into comics, and then turned around and kicked me out again. So – good job, DC at attracting women to your readership, only to alienate them again and push them on to better work.

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Batwoman writers leave DC Comics over ban on same-sex marriage

J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman — longtime writers of the Batwoman comic book — are leaving DC Comics over a dispute about editorial changes to their planned story lines, including being forbidden to show the main character marrying her same-sex partner. Cross-posted by the authors to both author sites:

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.

In response to questions about the issue, J.H. Williams clarified:

Batwoman Kiss

DC Comics has had serious problems in the past with public disputes with authors over comic book story lines. In December of last year, the comic book company fired fan favorite Batgirl writer Gail Simone only to turn around and rehire her after an embarrassing public backlash. Simone didn’t delve too deeply into specifics, but did say that last-minute editorial decisions and push-back on treatment of a transgender character were involved.

Back in 2010, DC Comics also had difficulties with the previous Batwoman writer/creator Greg Rucka over editorial control of his work on Batwoman. Except for saying ‘he realized that he “needs to [tell] the stories he wants to tell again,” rather than getting complacent at DC,’ Rucka didn’t get specific about what the issues with DC were, but in retrospect it seems safe to speculate that Batwoman’s love life may have had something to do with it.

DC Comics has also been embroiled in controversy about same-sex marriage issues in the past after they hired famous homophobe and same-sex marriage opponent Orson Scott Card to write a single-issue of a Superman comic. Public backlash caused the book to eventually be put on permanent hold when no artist was willing to work on the book due to the publicity.

For DC Comics, this is a fuck-up of epic proportions. The blog DC Women Kicking Ass suggests that it’s not necessarily a problem with homophobia but an anti-marriage-in-general stance on the part of DC, since they’ve broken up Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane and some other prominent super-hero marriages. I’m not sure whether I believe or care if that’s the issue. Another set of tweets between authors Gail Simone and J.H. Williams support that theory:

Tentatively, my plans are to keep getting Batwoman through the end of Williams/Blackman’s story arc – issue 26 – but after that, I’m going to cancel it. Based on the news over the next few days about this, I’m probably also going to cancel – right away – every other DC title I’m currently getting. I’m not going to continue supporting a company that seems to have such a public problem with gender and sexuality issues. I have better places to spend my money – like Marvel and independent publishers.

UPDATE: the only official statement from DC Comics, so far:

They may wish that, but it isn’t the case. The fact is that one of the only same-sex marriages in comics was just banned; there’s no way it could be about anything other than sexual orientation. It has huge implications. It was, as I said above, a fuck-up of epic proportions.

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Wonder Woman, Batwoman and the new DC Comics

I’ve always been on the verge of being a comic book geek, without every quite arriving. As a kid I was a fan of the girl super heroes — I loved Wonder Woman, Isis and Batgirl on television, but my family wasn’t much into comic books and my lack of transport to a comics shop as a kid meant neither was I.

Wonder Woman Lynda Carter
Wonder Woman Lynda Carter

I was so disappointed that my Wonder Woman halloween costume at six years old looked nothing like this!

The closest I came in my formative years was having a friend in college who had gobs of them that I read obsessively. But I was too poor to buy any myself at the time.

Me in College

Oh look, me reading the Green Arrow in college. Nice hair!

As an adult, pop culture has kept me vaguely aware of the developments around my childhood superhero favorites. My first online fake identity was a Batgirl anonymous account. I have my own superhero nickname (obviously!) and logo – even t-shirts. Many years ago, I fantasized about being Batgirl. I wanted to kiss Wonder Woman (wow, that page needs an update). I even have an awesome college-era t-shirt of Batgirl performing oral sex on Wonder Woman over the handlebars of her motorcycle in my t-shirt archive. (I should post a photo of that, shouldn’t I?)

Bat Girl On Bat Cycle
Bat Girl On Bat Cycle

Seriously, the TV show motorcycle had lace on it? I totes did not remember that at all.

But venturing into comic book stores always seemed like too steep of a time commitment/ learning curve for a hobby that seems to appeal mainly to teen boys. Too many titles, too many diverging story lines – how do I tell what I’ve read and what I haven’t? I vaguely knew that there was a Batwoman comic, and that the character was gay, but I didn’t go out of my way to research that much.

But things have changed… I started reading (A Guide to Girl Geek Culture) several months back – (how did I not know about this site before?!) and they cover female comic book heroes pretty extensively, which means I’ve jumped over a bit of the learning curve. And there are some major changes going on at DC Comics right now that make a difference. The company has been struggling financially with many of their titles for awhile, and so is doing a reboot of the every product they have – called the New 52 or DCNU, they’re streamlining their titles and hitting the reset button on story lines.

Beginning in September, all of their comic books will start with a new issue #1. There will be new Batgirl, new Batwoman, new Birds of Prey, and new Wonder Woman story lines among many others – and an easy way for me to jump in and wrap my head around the characters.

Unfortunately, there will be fewer female characters in the New 52, and fewer female writers. This was an issue that brought up by several female fans in panels at Comic Con recently [How Batgirl took on DC Comics: the anatomy of a PR crisis] – and DC reacted rather poorly to the challenge, with one co-publisher blaming women for not voting with their dollars. Not really a valid argument, but still, I can counter that by supporting my favorite super hero characters by setting up series subscriptions.

So I went into the local comic book shop (Downtown Comics – the Castleton Branch) on the recommendation of my friend Jason, who is an occasionally employee there, and I set up subscriptions to collect my favorite comic book characters:

Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman
Bat Girl
Bat Girl
Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey

While I was there, I picked up some of the graphic novels for recent story lines for each of the characters. All of the stories will get a reboot in September, but I’ve been catching up on many of the recent incarnations.

And there’s another pressing question in the world of comic book women: whether the new Wonder Woman will be allowed to keep her (recently acquired) pants. Art from the new series has been drawn both ways – pants on and pants off.

Wonder Woman With Pants
With Pants
Wonder Woman Sans Pants
Sans Pants

One comic book fan (Mario Pieda) suggested this alternative:

JLA No Pants
Who’s wearing the pants now?

In the question of “pants or no pants” I’d like to throw in my vote of (shockingly!!) “pants” because she looks more badass wearing them. Note that this would be the only situation that I will ever vote in favor of “pants” over “no pants.” It would be nice if Wonder Woman were to continue on without looking quite like such a hooker, frankly. Not to slut shame Wonder Woman or anything, but really, don’t those star-spangled underwear ride up your butt when you’re kicking ass, woman? How much fun could it be to save the planet with a Wonder Wedgie?

I’m aware that at 43 years old, a new comic book obsession is probably a mid-life crisis of sorts. But it’s cheaper than a sports car. I hope.

Bat Girl Return Books
Bat Girl Return Books
Continue ReadingWonder Woman, Batwoman and the new DC Comics