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SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK



I made a comment in a previous column that came back to haunt me, in a manner of speaking. I made a joke at the expense of the Klu Klux Klan (not that there’s anything wrong with that) in which I insinuated (okay, I came right out and said) Batman and Robin were gay. ‘Cause, hey – two bachelors living together, dressing in tights and running around in a little sports car all night … come on.

No, I don’t really think they’re gay. Bruce Wayne surrounds himself with pretty socialites, after all, and I have it on good authority that Robin had the hots for a curvy young alien chick named Starfire. (Comic inside joke.) Oh, and by the way, let’s remind ourselves that these are fictional characters.

But maybe my aim was a little off. Here’s the first line of an Associated Press article I read just days later:

“Batwoman is coming out of the closet.”

Oh my. It seems DC comics, in a bid for diversity, is resurrecting the classic character of Batwoman, who first emerged in 1956 and was killed off in 1979. She’ll be the same Kathy Kane underneath, but … different. As in “likes girls” different.

I collected comic books for many years, and never really gave diversity a second thought. Yes, I noticed the female characters – most were built and dressed to be noticed -- but I didn’t worry much about their race, creed, color or orientation. In fact, back in those days the biggest question about male or female characters had to do with their powers. We’re talking teenage boys here, who liked to see fights in their comics and usually reserved thoughts of womanliness for pilfered editions of Playboy. (Loved those articles, by the way.)

So back in my collecting days, the questions usually started with “who would win in a fight?” That often came down to contests between characters of the two major comic book companies, DC and Marvel. Who would win? Batman or Spider-man? The X-Men or the Teen Titans? Sgt. Rock or Sgt. Fury? Sure, they would have gotten more readers by having Wonder Woman and Marvel Girl battle it out nude in a mud pit, but the Comics Code Authority prevented such contests.

Eventually, diversity became an issue, and forced changes in comics, although many readers didn’t really give a hoot. It was seen as unfair – and it was unfair – that there were no black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. superheroes, so some were invented. Kitty Pryde of the X-Men was Jewish, for instance, but it went far beyond that with the New X-Men, who were so diverse they were almost a cliché in themselves. There was an African, Native American, German, Russian, Irishman, and Canadian, joining Professor Xavier, who was bald.

Hey, there weren’t a lot of bald heroes back then. At the time, the captain of the USS Enterprise had hair.

It reminds me of one comment I read, from a reader who suggested ugly superheroes would be truly groundbreaking. Imagine Captain Marvel with a spare tire, a big nose, and male pattern baldness, and you get the idea. The problem is – let’s be honest here – no one would buy the comic. It would be like putting me in a Playgirl centerfold, and let’s all be thankful that’s not going to happen.

I didn’t know a thing about this trend until one day, in the late 70’s, when a black character was introduced to my favorite comic, The Legion of Superheroes. Comics were turning from general camp silliness into something that could be thought of as serious literature, and would eventually evolve into the very adult and serious graphic novels of today. Me, I was just looking for a little escapism.

So this new hero shows up and accuses the LSH of being prejudice because there were no black members, and I thought: Well, that’s just dumb. First of all, the LSH is set a thousand years in the future. No way will any but the narrowest minded care about skin color a hundred years from now, let alone a thousand. Second, while it was true the LSH had no blacks among its two dozen odd membership, they did have people with green and blue skin, and wings, and NO skin. What’s the big deal? Did I mention these were fictional characters?

I didn’t see it because to me comics were about escaping from real life, not dealing with it. Besides, fantasy geeks with no life tend to think ahead of their time, so they don’t have to think about their time. To put it another way, I was clueless.

But things do change. Comic characters of color are now normal, so I suppose a lesbian superhero was inevitable. Some people will decry this, saying children shouldn’t be exposed to such an idea at an impressionable early age. Well, I no longer collect comics, but from what I’ve seen and heard comic books haven’t been made for kids for a long, long time – not to mention kids aren’t kids for as long as they used to be. I suspect adult readers will accept the change, and younger readers will have no idea there’s even a fuss, just as it was with me.

It was three decades ago that DC defied the Comics Code Authority by having Green Arrow’s teen sidekick become addicted to drugs, an event that became an effective anti-drug message. The comics haven’t looked back since. They’ve tackled every kind of social issue there is, with the possible exception of body odor -- this is just the latest.

One thing that hasn’t changed about the comics is that the women are still stunningly beautiful. If they wanted to make Batwoman a truly original character, they wouldn’t make her lesbian: They’d make her ugly.

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
kazzy_cee
Jul. 6th, 2006 07:17 am (UTC)
Not only are the women in comics stunningly beautiful, they also have such enormous breasts that they'd be in danger of toppling over if they didn't have super powers! They've probably not seen their feet for years.

If you wanted to make Batwoman truly original she'd be a lone parent with three kids to entertain, have to attend parent events at school, organise swimming lessons, piano lessons and clothes and food shopping between heroic adventures. Oh and she'd also be fatter than a stick with no boobs.
synaptikchaos
Jul. 6th, 2006 07:24 am (UTC)
The men are usually just as bad though. I'm pretty sure there aren't 24 muscles in the upper arm. :p
ozma914
Jul. 6th, 2006 09:28 am (UTC)
24 muscles
Not that I can recall from my anatomy classes. I prefer the "realist" approach to comics. One of the reasons I stopped collecting (besides the cost) was that DC was getting too much into the overly muscular and/or endowed, and Marvel's books were starting to look like impressionist paintings.
synaptikchaos
Jul. 6th, 2006 05:15 pm (UTC)
Re: 24 muscles
yeah... i'm not a big fan of the drawing, but for some reason, i just can't stay away from them. The two I really like are Iron Man and the Amazing Spider-Man.

ozma914
Jul. 7th, 2006 03:13 am (UTC)
Re: 24 muscles
I liked war comics, then graduated into the Legion of Superheroes and Teen Titans, and finally discovered X-Men. I guess I'm just a team player. :-) Even after I stopped collecting I used to leaf through the comics whenever I'd be in a store that stocked them, but they're not that easy to find around here, anymore. No book stores in Noble County sell them, that I'm aware of, and they're not in other kinds of stores, anymore. So sad ... But the point is, I probably wouldn't recognize any of the old characters, anymore.
synaptikchaos
Jul. 7th, 2006 04:22 am (UTC)
Re: 24 muscles
B.E. Comics, Cards and Rockets in downtown Columbia City. I always used to go there. :)
ozma914
Jul. 7th, 2006 05:20 am (UTC)
comics and cards
Shows you how seldom I get down to Columbia City! I'll have to visit sometime.
synaptikchaos
Jul. 7th, 2006 10:23 am (UTC)
Re: comics and cards
Well, in all fairness, I haven't been there in over 3 years, so I don't even know if they are still there. :p
ozma914
Jul. 8th, 2006 12:42 am (UTC)
still there?
Small businesses do tend to come and go; but I'll check when I get a chance.
ozma914
Jul. 6th, 2006 09:25 am (UTC)
bras would be her kryptonite
I don't know how they could fight with such large boobs -- unless that was their super power, of course. There's a character I'd like to see!

A Japanese character named Katana (who worked with Batman some) had two kids, but their death is what got her into the hero biz, conveniently getting them out of the way. Then there was Terra from the Teen Titans, who had small boobs and was kind of plain looking ... Then there's -- um -- that's about it. Most were more like Robin's alien girlfriend Starfire, who had her own golden globe awards, if you catch my drift.

Do you think the fact that most comic book fans are male has anything to do with it?
zenofthesword
Jul. 6th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
Re: bras would be her kryptonite
To borrow a line from resident evil 4.

"I didnt know the president outfitted his daughter with such... Great balistics!"

"My figure is not a topic of discussion."

ROFL.

Its why I dont read comics anymore. Unrealisitic humans. Psh. who wants that right?
ozma914
Jul. 7th, 2006 02:55 am (UTC)
comics, TV or movies
In physical appearance I want them realistic. For entertainment purposes, I don't want them TOO realistic; I go to entertainment to get away from that.
cbtreks
Jul. 6th, 2006 04:59 pm (UTC)
One of the alternate rags here (Las Vegas has at least three) just ran an article about the new Batwoman. Apparently she's not the first gay character in mainstream comics (as opposed to the small and independent press comics that the general public wouldn't be aware of). She is the first one they're making a big deal about, though, and the first the mainstream media is paying attention to. If I pick up another issue - it's a freebie - I'll try to scan the article to you, if you're interested.

And for fun, nothing beats http://www.superdickery.com The guy who runs the site scans comic book covers that, taken out of context, are appalling or hilarious - or appallingly hilarious. There's an entires section devoted to sexual innuendo and Batman and Robin have several entries of their own in that one.
deborahw37
Jul. 6th, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC)
I love that site!! It's amazing to me that some of those covers ever got printed ;)
ozma914
Jul. 7th, 2006 03:25 am (UTC)
I was talking to a writer friend just yesterday about how good the comics writers were at hiding their meaning, back in the days of severe censorship. Great examples, huh?
ozma914
Jul. 7th, 2006 03:08 am (UTC)
Oh, yes! I'd forgotten about that web page; I spent a funny hour on it once, finding out why Superman is a dick. :-)

I've been trying to think of overtly gay characters from mainstream comics, but I couildn't come up with any. However, it could be they were introduced after I stopped reading regularly, which -- after all -- was over 20 years ago.
cbtreks
Jul. 12th, 2006 12:25 am (UTC)
I'm not sure how well-known the characters are - I'm not very comics-literate - but the characters the article (which is at http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/2006/06/29/batlesbian.html) mentions are a character in The Young Avengers and one in The Runaways, X-Man Colossus (in the "Ultimate" line), "Iron Man's butler Jarv" (ok, I doubt the butler is a superhero - but one never knows!), Renee Montoya from the canceled line "Gotham Central", and Obsidian. They're all either Marvel or DC characters, which makes them mainstream in the comics world - but not, I suppose, in the publishing world at large.
ozma914
Jul. 12th, 2006 06:24 am (UTC)
What -- Colossus is gay?! But he was dating Kitty Pryde! Now he's dating Kitty Gay Pryde? Sheesh, things have changed. Of the characters you and the articles mentioned, I believe he's the only one who's really well known.

I had known about Renee Montoya, but only because the original article I read mentioned her and Batwoman being an ex-couple.

As the article you linked to mentioned, only in the comics world did anybody even know about this stuff until the Batwoman story broke. Who knows? Maybe it'll lead to an upswing in comics reading.
jillyh2009
Jul. 6th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
Your a nerd...
ozma914
Jul. 7th, 2006 03:14 am (UTC)
you're just now figuring that out?

Nice icon!
deborahw37
Jul. 6th, 2006 07:48 pm (UTC)
Holy sapphism Batwoman!
ozma914
Jul. 7th, 2006 03:16 am (UTC)
Careful talking about holes, there. ;->
frimfram
Jul. 6th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
The Thing is Jewish too. Well, lately.

Some people will decry this, saying children shouldn’t be exposed to such an idea at an impressionable early age.
Feh. Is homosexuality toxic to the under-sevens?
ozma914
Jul. 7th, 2006 03:18 am (UTC)
what's toxic?
Depends on who you ask. :-(

The Thing's Jewish? I wonder if he and Kitty Pryde ever sit around, complaining about the commercialization of Christmas or something?
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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