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    Wednesday, May 31, 2006

    Holy Lesbian Batwoman!

    That's right; Batwoman's gonna be a dyke.

    Another effort to link old and new characters centers on Kathy Kane, the gay Batwoman who will appear in costume for the first time in a July issue of "52." Batwoman was introduced in 1956, but she was one of several, often silly additions to the Bat family, including Ace the Bat-Hound (1955), Bat-Mite (1959) and Bat-Girl (1961). In her latest incarnation, Batwoman is a wealthy, buxom lipstick lesbian who has a history with Renee Montoya, an ex-police detective who has a starring role in "52."

    More bits from the article in NYT:

    At DC Comics, an effort is under way to introduce heroes who are not cut from the usual straight white male supercloth. A mix of new concepts, dusted-off code names and existing characters, the new heroes include Blue Beetle, a Mexican teenager powered by a mystical scarab; Batwoman, a lesbian socialite by night and a crime fighter by later in the night; and the Great Ten, a government-sponsored Chinese team.

    Over at Marvel Comics, Black Panther, king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, will soon marry Storm, the weather-controlling mutant and X-Man. Luke Cage, a strong-as-steel black street fighter who married his white girlfriend in April, plays a key role in "New Avengers," the company's best-selling book.

    Comic books have featured minorities before, but the latest push is intended to be a sustained one, taking place in an alternate world that nevertheless reflects American society in general and comics readers in particular, in much the same way that the multicultural casts of television shows like ABC's "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy" mirror their audiences. "I'm glad we're at the point when they're being rolled out without flourish — not 'Minority Heroes Attack!,' " said Judd Winick, who has written many comics for both Marvel and DC. "It's important just to see them as characters and not a story line about race." ...

    "We're trying a lot at the same time," said Dan DiDio, DC's vice president and executive editor, "but we don't know how it's going to be accepted."

    The concern is understandable given DC's uneven history with introducing minority characters en masse. In 1988 it published "The New Guardians," about a super-powered team that included an aboriginal girl, an Eskimo man and Extrano, an H.I.V.-positive gay man who wanted to be called Auntie, who was dismissed online by a fan as a "limp-wristed caricature."

    In 1993 DC printed and distributed the work of Milestone Media, an African-American-owned company specializing in comics with black, Asian, Hispanic and gay heroes. Some of the titles ran for nearly four years, but all ceased publication during a volatile time in the comic industry. One character, a black teenager with electrical powers, found greater success in the animated series "Static Shock."

    Amanda's kind of annoyed but I like these changes. Y'all know I'm a total sucker for "visibility". Nothing's perfect at first, but it's a step in the right direction.


    Anonymous Luke said...

    It is a step in the right direction and they're not perfect by any means...but i shuddered after i found some prelim character outlines and drawings especially for the "Great ten, a government-sponsored Chinese team." one character draws upon yellow-peril like nothing ever seen before: "Mother of Champions, who can give birth to a litter of 25 super-soldiers about every three days." the entire thing is a crouching-tiger type mysticism to it..which is fine...but i guess i was hoping more for asian-am or asian-can characters. there's only stuff on samurai stories and whatnot in the comics...but eh, takes some wrong turns before heading in right direction. hope not too many more wrongs though

    9:27 AM  
    Blogger EL said...

    Yeah, you make a good point. How many wrong turns until it's just not worth it?

    Why is it that there never are Asian-Am or Asian-Can characters? Also, the use of the word "litter" is ... I don't have the word.

    I guess, to me, one of the best things about visibility is that it brings about conversation. Like with The L Word. Yes, the show basically sucks and there's a lot of garbage in it, but it has made people fight about it. I mean, I HATE Will and Grace. I think that, if there were no conversation about it, it actually would set queers back, but because people do talk about it, it's very existence is a "step in the right direction".

    10:47 AM  
    Blogger Amy said...

    I'll look out for her. But I have to say, mainstream attempts to 'represent' are ultimately disappointing... take the latest X-Men for example. It's a thinly veiled attempt at filtering in some pro-gay discourse but pretty much falls flat and won't sway any of the general public's opinion, I think, esp. those with their minds made up. Check this: http://www.exgaywatch.com/blog/archives/2006/05/xmen_movie_muta.html

    Tony Soprano is another recent example. On his therapist's couch, viewers can hear the writer's liberal views coming out of the character's mouth with an "It's disgusting to me but ultimately I don't care ... behind closed doors... consenting adults... etc" speech. I don't quite believe that this will sway this show's audience to 'live and let live'... nor do I really think this depiction of a mafia boss is even close.

    I suppose I pause because I don't want "tolerance" on those terms anyway -- the PC question is always framed by "how do we deal with the gays," which inherently reinforces the claim that there is indeed a problem and that the problem lies outside of the 'norm' (hetero)...

    Of course, I talk. I have no immediate ideas on how to re-frame the tolerance/acceptance debate. Even the discourse makes me shiver, "You'll tolerate me? That means you'll allow me to exist even though you'd rather my lifestyle did not?" I know this is overly-simplified, but it's late and I'm just thinking out loud...

    In the personal realm, I try to go with the "it's their issue" approach. Love me or leave me, etc. But that proverbial bigger picture is out of my hands, so to speak ... so go forth, Batwoman, and chip at the facade ...?

    But overall, I agree with your last comment: most somewhat-decent depictions mean people will at least become more accustomed to the idea of a queer "other" existing in the world around them, and not be so quick to stare and talk smack.

    1:01 AM  
    Blogger dustdaughter said...

    I'm just annoyed that in 2006 we're still taking 'first steps' in representing people from non-dominant groups. Pick any medium, we see the same characters doing the same things just with different names or locations. Is the dominant culture so enamoured of itself to think that this is still fascinating?

    5:52 PM  

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