As comic-book message boards buzz over this weekend’s revelation that DC Comics’ new Batwoman is a lesbian, U.K.’s Metro turns to a gay and lesbian advocacy group, which says the publisher’s move is more about pandering to male fantasies than it is diversity.
“Most pre-adolescent children neither know nor care about the sexuality of their comic book heroes,” Outrage spokesman David Allison said. “And it is well known that lots of men get turned on by the idea of lesbians.”
However, DC’s Dan DiDio told Newsarama this weekend that it’s not about titillation, but character and storytelling: “If the character is gay, she might have had different levels of challenges in her life. The fact that she conceals her own sexuality to some of the people around her and to her own family is going to be a bit of a story, so there are going to be secrets within secrets. You’ll also find more and more about who she is as the story is told, and see how it plays against her lifestyle.”
Kathy Kane originally was introduced as Batwoman in Detective Comics in 1956, and appeared as an occasional guest star until 1964, when much of the extended “Bat Family” was weeded from the titles. She carried a “utility purse,” and used charm-bracelet handcuffs and an expanding hairnet.
The new Kathy Kane, who will debut in a July issue of 52, is a lesbian socialite with a connection to former Gotham City police detective Renee Montoya. Her traditional yellow-and-red Batwoman outfit has been traded in for a black-and-red costume designed by artist Alex Ross. The “utility purse,” too, is gone, replaced with a utility belt.
Update: A spokesman for the gay group Stonewall sees the new Batwoman differently:
“I think anything that promotes diversity is a very good thing and we welcome the introduction of characters like this,” he told The Independent. “A lot of lesbians and gay men are fans of these comics and it is good that the publishers are beginning to recognise that, and feature people who reflect the society we live in. Lesbians and gay men may also identify with the genre because comic book characters are often misfits who are left on the margins of society and have to fight to be accepted.”