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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Thoughts on Batwoman

While doing my usual graceless stumble about the internet, I came across this post by Kevin Huxford wherein he, mostly tangentially, refers to Batwoman as a copy of a straight character with no defining characteristics other than being rich and gay.

This got me thinking and honestly, while I see where he's coming from, I completely disagree. I personally think that Batwoman has displayed quite a lot of character in the relatively few panels we actually saw her in. In fact, I quite adored her at first glance.

She was very spirited, and from their first scene together, we could see the passion, anger and left over issues between Renee and Kate. While I know that the punch she greeted Renee with bothered some folk (with fair reason I think), I liked how it added to the overall impression of the character. We've seen her be concerned, violent, petty and confident. We could extrapolate more of her personality based on the facets of her history and traits we already know. She makes a very good supporting character for Renee.

The problem, I think, really revolves around all the hype. I'm not sure how much of that was DC's doing and how much was the press leaping on the coattails of Batman Begins's popularity by latching onto a lesbian female counterpart to Bruce. But I think it led us to expect something very different.

I think the hype is behind the criticism that Batwoman has no real character aside from being gay. That's something that I don't think ever played out in the comics. While it's true that Kate's orientation was fairly front and center, it kind of had to be. She was introduced as the ex-lover of a female hero. It's fairly impossible to introduce someone as an ex-lover and then have that relationship not be the main thrust of their interaction.

It's kind of like whenever we see Superman interacting with Lori Lemaris or Lana Lang. Of COURSE the whole ex-love interest thing is going to be brought up pretty much every time, but no one criticizes those two ladies as being solely characterized as being straight even though their obvious straightness is being shoved down our throats pretty much every time they appear.

I remember one admittedly funny person dismissing Batwoman with the fictional exchange of "What's your favorite color?" "...Lesbian." But, I think that's ultimately unfair. What's Lori Lemaris's favorite color? Superman? But I suppose being straight is "normal" so it's unremarkable. Being a lesbian however, that has to be an overly flaunted plot point. Even when the treatment is exactly the same.

To be fair, I don't think the person making that critique was homophobic or in favor of downplaying alternate sexuality. I think it's more that all the hype had all of us over-sensitized to any mention of Kate's sexuality. We were already so jaded by the whole thing "Okay, we get it, she's a lesbian Batman" that any mention in the actual comics seemed like overkill. Or not enough.

I also don't think it helped that this happened simultaneously with the whole Cass Cain mess. (And I really never noticed that "Cassie Cain" was derived from "Kathy Kane". I'm so oblivious.) I'm not really a Batgirl fan, though I'm admittedly warming to her, so the notion that Kate was theoretically replacing Cass didn't bother me as much. ("what's your favorite color?" "...silent ninja girl." Heh, sorry. I couldn't resist.) I don't think DC was intentionally replacing one minority female Gotham character with another, but that's certainly what it SEEMED like. Which ultimately annoyed a lot of fans of Batgirl in particular and feminist fans in general (way to imply that female counterparts are interchangeable). It was a shame too, because I think Kate and Cass were so markedly different that they could easily co-exist.

I'd like to see how the two interact, actually. It seems like that could be a really interesting team-up.

I think basically the character just couldn't win, not with all the hype and issues surrounding her. Still, she really does have interesting chemistry with Renee, and there are clearly a lot of unresolved issues there. Renee's proven that she, at least, can sell a comic, even if the jury's out on Kate herself. So maybe there's still some hope for the character. I'd like to think so anyway. She's got a lot of unrealized potential.

14 Comments:

  • At March 11, 2008 10:22 AM, Blogger Ragtime said…

    Actually, now that I think about it in that light, it is probably a perfectly fair criticism of Lana Lang that she has almost solely been characterized as being heterosexual.

     
  • At March 11, 2008 10:36 AM, Blogger Jamaal said…

    I'm glad you see more in the Batwoman character than I do. To be fair, I think that on this (as with many issues), the Internet's ruined me for it. But I feel where you're coming from on this. I think that the debate on this issue is linked to a broader problem with women in comics, but that's neither here nor there.

     
  • At March 11, 2008 10:40 AM, Blogger Patrick C said…

    Has she appeared anywhere other than 52 and Crime Bible? Does she even have an origin? She just seems an extraneous character to me. We have enough Bats.

     
  • At March 11, 2008 10:56 AM, Blogger Flidget said…

    You make a really good point about Lana Lang.

    Still, while Kate Kane may still have a hope of being something more right now she pretty much can be summed up with 'rich' and 'gay' and, at best, 'kinda defensive'.

    I did like the implication she was still in the closet, I wish they'd go back to that. Queer characters in comics tend to be either in denial or out-and-proud with very, very little exploration of the vast middle ground between the two states. There's a lot there they could work with.

    They also haven't done much with her backstory. Why did she become Batwoman? We have no idea. What does she do in her regular life? Hell if we know.

    The lack of any sort of depiction of any sort of day job for her is especially damaging because otherwise all we know of her is that she's a rich man's daughter who apparently still lives at home. It's not the most positive stereotype.

     
  • At March 11, 2008 11:44 AM, Blogger The Random Avenger said…

    I like the character, even though I agree she needs to be fleshed out. The pairing with Renee just makes sense (and I've loved Renee for a long time). I almost hope that she can move on from being Batwoman to develop her own identity as a hero. As Patrick C above said, we do have enough bats.

    If Renee is the Question, maybe she could be the Answer. dunno.

    And I like the idea of her being in the closet at first, and slowly exploring that (though she didn't seem very closeted in 52.)

    I just worry about who will write the character now that Rucka is no longer as involved. Keep Winnick away, please.

     
  • At March 11, 2008 1:04 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    Batwoman never had a chance. The Countdown steamroller of crap crushes all characters beneath it, good or bad. The only hope to see her right now would be to give her a Lantern ring.

    However, Ivory Madison is making a Huntress: Year One (there's an interview with her on newsarama) and she mentioned having pitched a Batwoman-clone concept before, so she might get interested in the character if she keeps working for DC. Who knows.

     
  • At March 11, 2008 10:31 PM, Blogger Owesome said…

    Isn't there a Batwoman series already scripted/in some state of production that DC just keeps on not releasing? It seems to me that the longer they go without putting it out the more negative noise there'll be out there in the unncessessary/extraneous Bats/exploitation vein.

    Which irks me, just because I know that there is/was a plan and characterisation for this character that we haven't gotten to see that would enable us to talk about her more rationally and with more information. Give Kate a chance! ^_^

    (Patrick C: She had a couple of panels in Countdown. Don't worry about Countdown- focus elsewhere. ^_^)

     
  • At March 11, 2008 11:31 PM, Anonymous ETG said…

    For me, the only problem with the Batwoman character is that she's a Bat character--for no apparent reason other than brand extension.

    Mind you, I generally find franchise characters (at least, those created post-silver age) as tedious, cynical and an indication of what is bad in superhero comics. That is maybe more a matter of preference than considered opinion.

    That's one of the reasons I've found myself ... outside the fan groups who hale characters like Batwoman and Stephanie-Brown-as-Robin as steps forward, if not milestones. Those characters seem to depend to much on the benediction of Bruce Wayne, the embodiment of The Man.

    (Or maybe I just like my Batman solitary).

     
  • At March 12, 2008 1:47 AM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    I wish we could know more about Batwoman tho :( I still dunno her motivations or much of her personality or history or nething :\ She just became Batwoman out of the blue and I want to know how she got there :]

     
  • At March 12, 2008 5:57 AM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

    Great, great, great post! I'm going to link to it from my blog.

     
  • At March 12, 2008 9:57 PM, OpenID looking2dastars said…

    See, I had similar thoughts occur to me today regarding how Batwoman was handled and the new issue of Wonder Woman in which it is said outright that Amazons have courtship rituals because apparently there were enough lesbians among the Amazons for there to be a need for courtship rituals to be established.

    One was hyped to death before the comic came out and now - despite whatever else is done with the character - she is known ONLY as being the lesbian batchick.

    The other was snuck in through an exchange between two characters in the middle of a conversation. And granting that this is a revelation about an entire group rather than one individual, the approach is still dissimilar enough that I think comparisons can be made.

    I think the latter approach is the stronger, personally, because we already know who The Amazons are and know something about what they are capable of. Each Wonder Woman writer has - for good or ill - added their own stamps onto the character. And while we have seen committed Amazon lesbian couples in the past, there's never been anything that said that such things were common until now. And it is not, in fact, a big deal.

    Compare that to the Winickesque "Look At Me Mom!" approach used by the people writing and promoting Kathy Kane... and it's not surprising that she is viewed as being a one-note character.

     
  • At March 15, 2008 4:53 PM, Blogger Kevin Huxford said…

    I'm glad we can agree to disagree on this civilly. But I'm slowly coming around more to your thinking.

    My gut reaction the character is definitely informed mostly by the hype surrounding her and those who look to attribute her lack of an ongoing to her sexuality.

    What you described of her does make her a great supporting character, but (IMO) not one that is done an injustice by not having a solo series yet. Mind you, I'd pick up at least the first issue out of curiosity, but I don't get the idea that this is a character that just demands to have their own series for any reason other than the hype.

    Oh...and in answer to those who weren't sure if she was actually shown as closeted...the interaction between her and Nightwing in 52 where he's clearly flirting and she doesn't completely diffuse by revealing she's interested in the ladies is probably where the closet idea comes from.

     
  • At March 15, 2008 6:33 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    To be honest, Kevin, I'd rather see her as a major character in an ongoing for Renee Montoya than anything else, at least for this time. We know Renee can hold a series together after all, and that'd give Kate time to find her feet. :-)

     
  • At March 15, 2008 8:59 PM, Blogger Kevin Huxford said…

    Kalinara, I think we now agree to agree. :)

     

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