Batwoman creators quit; say DC revoked their plans for gay marriage between characters

Batwoman has been one of the absolute best comic books out there ever since DC launched it at the start of the New 52 (the current DC universe reboot). It’s been critically acclaimed and won awards for its depiction of the main character Kate Kane (AKA Batwoman) and her relationship with Maggie Sawyer, a cop on the Gotham City police force. Having gay characters in comic books isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but the big two, DC and Marvel, are conservative enough due to their perception as purveyors of children’s entertainment that it still got headlines when Marvel had two male superhero characters marry last year and when DC rebooted the Golden Age Green Lantern as a gay man. Oddly, DC didn’t issue any self-congratulatory press releases when Kate (Batwoman) proposed to Maggie in March, following a buildup in the previous year-and-a-half.

Now artist and writer J.H. Williams III and writer W. Haden Blackman have announced they are leaving the title due to DC making last minute reversals and demanding that they rewrite the end of a two-year story to (among other things) avoid showing Kate and Maggie getting or being married. Williams has tweeted that it was never presented as an anti-gay issue, just a reluctance to have superhero characters married, and that it was the sweeping last-minute changes editorial was demanding after previously approving his plans for the character that made Williams and Blackman decide to quit.

I don’t think it matters what DC’s motivation is. They already have married superheroes leading titles (Aquaman and Animal Man). Even if they see those as exceptions to the rule, it’s a decision that I find borderline homophobic and insulting as a reader, since it implies that fans won’t embrace this particular relationship as positively as they have those other two. It shows that they want to their product to be homogeneous and unchallenging, even when they have a successful title that is artistically sophisticated and iconoclastic. (Seriously, this is an amazing comic; it’s like nothing else being published right now, despite being a mainstream superhero comic.)

A few months ago there was a fan backlash when a creator walked off his title because editorial wanted him to kill off the Green Lantern John Stewart. (Editorial apparently changed their mind, since the new creator is still writing him as being alive.) No one thought DC was anti-black for wanting to kill off a black character, but it didn’t matter because the effect was the same: to eliminate their most successful and iconic black character. Now they want to eliminate their most successful and iconic gay relationship. In neither case is it for story purposes, but in fact is in opposition to the wishes of the writers. That’s a bad thing.

What do you guys think? Have any of you been reading Batwoman? Will you stick around for the next creative team? Treating their best creators like crap is a boneheaded way to run a company (and this has been going on for a while now–even more than is typical in comics), but is this just more sausage making, or is this an issue fans should actually care about? Is it homophobic, or just idiotic?

I picked up the first Batwoman trade a while back, and had some mixed feelings about it. I loved the artwork, and I really liked the character, but was turned off by the villain. The “Alice in Wonderland”-themed villain cliche is way overdone in general, and in Batman’s rouge’s gallery in particular. And having her speak only in quotes from the book was way too precious.

Anyway, this particular story doesn’t ping my 'phobe 'dar. The character is still gay, and apparently is allowed to still be in a relationship with her girlfriend. It sounds like a general editorial directive that all hero relationships should be permanently stuck at the “dating” stage. At a guess, it’s because they think dating has more dramatic potential than marriage, and they probably want to be able to mix up relationships later on down the line, without having to deal with a big divorce and/or infidelity storyline.

It’s still bullshit, because I’m much more interested in what individual writers and artists want to create, and not what editorial thinks will grow the brand. But I don’t think there’s any prejudice in it.

After DC killed Secret Six to make way for the New 52, Batwoman was the only DC comic I was reading. Losing both writers and the artist in favour of someone more willing to toe the editorial line probably means losing me as a reader completely.

(And I give DC no credit for the Alan Scott retcon. Even if I supported rewriting an existing character for this purpose, which I don’t, they removed a gay-positive heterosexual character and his gay son to do it, and then immediately shoved the new gay Alan Scott’s boyfriend into the fridge in the first issue.)

Did you ask for this? Because I know I didn’t. There’s definitely room to give some characters this sort of romance drama, but only a talentless hack would feel the need for every character to have the same arc. There’s no reason why Kate couldn’t find the happy home life she wanted, and leave the drama to the actual superheroics.

If the creators who walked out over it say it wasn’t anti-SSM related, I don’t know why you should think it was. If I were a betting man, I’d suspect that the rationale to keep her single is essentially the same for retconning Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane.

While I’ve heard good things, I’m not a Batwoman reader. But I will say that the core DNA of some characters lend themselves to a status-quo change like marriage (Reed and Sue Richards) and others don’t (Hawkeye & Mockingbird).

For me, the most troubling part of the story is the last-minute edits of things that had to have been known about for some time. It seems like a risky way to run a business reliant on the quality of your talent.

To sum up: not homophobic, but another in a line of disconcerting editorial business practices.

I love Batwoman, and this is really disappointing. I also don’t think it’s so much the SSM issue as the constant meddling from on high disturbing long-term storylines at the last minute. I think J.H Williams needs to be given his head on this book, the art is beautiful and I like the supernatural bent. Then again I don’t know anything about selling comics, I just knows what I likes. I’ll just wait to see what happens.

What about the fact that there are already two headline characters who are married? One is a critic’s darling with limited readership (Animal Man) and one is an A-list book written by the company’s chief creative officer.

I don’t think anyone at DC heard about the marriage and said “Yuck, gay people are gross! I don’t want this in the comics!” I don’t think anyone even said, “This is too political and controversial.” But I do think it’s a case of wanting to keep things bland and play it safe and a sense that gay marriage isn’t “safe.” Otherwise, why approve it and then change their mind? It’s clearly NOT the case that they have a blanket policy of “no superhero marriages.” And it’s not like Batwoman has a long history of ongoing sexual tension that would be ruined by getting hitched. It’s not likely that they have any long-term plans for the character that will be upset. This is Batwoman we’re talking about. I won’t be surprised if they just cancel it without Williams and Blackman on board.

At the very least they seem to not realize/not care about the fact that showing these characters in a stable, supportive marriage would be a big step forward in a medium that still has a lot of catching up to do.

As I understand it, one of the problems with the Big Two comic book publishers is that their actual comics are mostly bought by adult and near-adult readers, but a large portion of their MONEY comes from movies based on those comic books, which tend to be family fare. So there’s an inherent conflict. Clearly, a lot of stuff goes on in the comics that doesn’t show up in the movies, but maybe they don’t want reviewers commenting about so-and-so being involved in a gay marriage if they show up in a movie. Of course, if that WERE true you’d think they’d avoid having gay characters altogether. So … I dunno.

Username OP combo!

Batwoman was one of the last few DC titles I was still reading, since DC fridged the Legion again. Given how DC editorial has been shooting themselves in both feet over and over and over and over and over and over again and again, this comes as no surprise. Really, it was just a matter of time.

At this point, DC has alienated most of the talented writers they had working for them who aren’t part of management/editorial. They have crammed changes and mandated storylines on the writers, yanked writers off books (without mentioning it to the writers first), and basically done everything they could to piss in the cheerios of the people writing them money. I’m actually surprised that people like Gail Simone are still willing to work for DC.

So I don’t think this is motivated by homophobia, per se. Just as I don’t think their jerking their only female writer (Simone) around was motivated by misogyny. Or their running Morrison out on a rail was Anglophobia, or whatever.

I think that DC is under enormous pressure to match Marvel’s astonishing movie – and thereby, financial – successes, and DC editorial is flailing wildly with no clue of how to accomplish this. They are, quite literally, throwing shit at the wall, starting with their “New 52” reboot, and continuing with a long line of editorial directions proudly announced and then suddenly changed, and new titles launched and then unceremoniously dropped.

Basically, take all the bad management you complain about at your work, ratchet it up a few clicks, and that’s DC editorial now.

Good point. I think one of the big reasons for rebooting the DC continuity with the “New 52” was that they wanted to dispense with the married status of Superman and Lois Lane (which had been in existence for about 17 years) so that they could have Superman hook up with Wonder Woman without infidelity (which was actually hinted at in one of the pre-New-52 storylines). Personally, I rather liked the interplay of Clark/Superman and Lois as a married couple, thought it was handled well, and hated to see it eliminated. I think the New 52 Superman stories in general are vastly inferior to the previous ones, and I think the DC line as a whole has gone downhill as a result of the reboot. I’ve been thinking lately that I might need to re-evaluate how much money I am spending on these comics every month. The few non-DC titles I buy every month have started to become my favorites.

As far as the Batwoman series, I stopped buying it after a few issues. Though the artwork was gorgeous, it was also too abstract for my taste, and made it hard to follow the storyline. For me, at least. I wasn’t enjoying it, so I decided to save a few bucks each month.

That’s exactly what it is - look, also, at Superman (no longer married to Lois Lane, now dating Wonder Woman, previously had a brief fling with Lucy Lane), Flash (Barry - no longer married to Iris West, now dating Patty Spivot; Jay - no longer married to Joan, now single), Alan Scott (No longer married to Molly Mayne, now gay).

At least Kate gets to keep the same girlfriend.

I don’t even understand why having Supes not be with Lois is supposed to be a good idea. Everyone knows that they are together. It’s just a basic part of the mythos now. Then again, they also think making Supes a jerk, both in the beginning of the New 52 and Man of Steel, is also a good thing.

And the reason I suspect homophobia? The sudden switch. If it was just about keeping characters in the dating stages, then they wouldn’t have approved the arc to begin with. I think they anticipated that people would be okay with a gay marriage by the time this came out, but now no longer think so. There’s no way they are thinking that about marriage in general.

I also cannot think of any story that was made better by editorial mandates. Why do they let the people who know the least about writing control the stories? I honestly think that has as much to do with the decline of comic readers as the new mediums.

This is a stupid reason. I’m not saying it’s not accurate, but DC is stupid if it’s true. Batwoman’s never likely to be a movie, just because she’s called Batwoman but not actually associated with Batman. If she does ever get a movie, which is unlikely, it will be because people want to see this character, not a version neutered for bigots.

We don’t know that. The whole reason Miller suggests for why DC would want her as just a girlfriend is so that they can stop her being Kate’s girlfriend with a perceived minimum of fallout.

Because they want to show Superman courting Lois. To a lot of people, that’s the interesting relationship, not what happens after they tie the knot.

I’m not advocating that POV, mind, just explaining it.

That doesn’t make much sense. Public support for SSM is at an all time high, and continues to increase. If they thought it was a good idea a few months ago, what has changed since then that would make them change their mind?

Also, Killer Croc’s origin and Batman and Batwoman’s relationships with the DEO and each other (the other two storylines that Williams complained were veto’d late in the game) are hardly gay issues.

They’re actually doing their best to push back when this will happen (it inevitably will) - they had him pining after her early on, before he hooked up with Diana, and there’ve been flashbacks to how he missed his shot with her, and a dead timeline where they were married and had a kid (it’s the origin of Superboy), but they’ve also portrayed their friendship beautifully, and Lois’s relationship with Jon is handled nicely. (As is Clark/Diana in the Super-books, and the one issue of Wonder Woman that mentioned it…JL, not so much, though it’s not terrible - both of them go a little over-the-top protective of each other, and the ‘this is a bad bad thing glare’ stuff from Batman is weird.)

To be honest, I guess I want there to be an element of homophobia, because it will draw attention and cause DC to suffer some immediate concequences for their stupidity. I still say that showing a strong gay couple married to each other would be socially progressive, and refusing to show it is … not. Whatever the motivation. And nixing an already promised gay marriage is politically tone deaf right now, to say the least.

Didio is now saying that DC is not against gay marriage, but they just don’t want their characters to be married.

Previously he was saying that DC has nothing against the handicapped, but they just didn’t want their handicapped character (Oracle) to be paralyzed.

It’s not so much homophobia as it is tone-deaf privilege.

What are you on about?