Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Now batting for the home team: Batwoman

So now we know: Batwoman is a lesbian.

Truth to tell, I think it will come as a greater surprise to everyone — except hardcore comic book aficionados such as yours truly — that there actually is a Batwoman, and that she is not the same character as the more familiar Batgirl. (Even Batgirl isn't Batgirl any more. Barbara Gordon, the erstwhile Darknight Damsel, now goes by the code name Oracle. To the best of my knowledge, Babs/Batgirl/Oracle still swings from the opposite side of the plate.)

Batwoman, who has always been a relatively obscure character in the DC Comics superhero pantheon, goes by the name Kathy Kane when not wearing her cowl and tights. She's been around since the mid-1950s, but in a more or less subsidiary role. She became superfluous when Batgirl — popularized by the Batman television series — made her debut in the swinging '60s. So superfluous, in fact, that DC killed off Batwoman back in 1979.

Unlike many comic book characters, who exhibit a Lazarus-like penchant for returning from the grave, Kathy Kane remained a distant memory until DC decided to resurrect her — complete with updated orientation — for the currently running weekly comic serial 52.

Gay characters aren't exactly unknown to mainstream comics, though the phenomenon is still relatively recent. Northstar, a long-standing member of Marvel Comics' Canadian-based X-Men offshoot Alpha Flight, came out in 1992. But aside from the gay hero couple Apollo and Midnighter, key characters in the Wildstorm Comics series The Authority, there haven't been many who've made the kind of media splash that the revived Batwoman appears to be making. Probably the last to make this notable a "switch" was Marvel's Western hero the Rawhide Kid, who was portrayed as homosexual in an adult-targeted 2003 miniseries entitled Slap Leather. (Marvel pitched this series as an "alternate universe" story, however — the "original" Rawhide Kid is still straight, if my recollection is accurate.)

Of course, there's that whole Batman and Robin business. But let's not even go there, shall we?

2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Tom Galloway offered these pearls of wisdom...

And to get even more obscure, Batwoman had her own Bat-Girl (note the hyphen) sidekick; her niece, who flirted with Robin. No relation to the first Batgirl, who during her post-Batgirl career as Oracle became the lover of Dick Grayson in his post-Robin guise of Nightwing. Post-Crisis, Bat-Girl goes by Flamebird and was never Bat-Girl.

I won't bother bringing up the second Batgirl, or who the first, pre-Crisis, Nightwing and Flamebird were, as that would just make this confusing. :-)

[If I ever get on Jeopardy!, you'll really know I've made a deal with the devil to do so if the J! round is all on "Pre-Crisis Continuity", the DJ! round is on "Post-Crisis Continuity" and Final Jeopardy asks for an explanation of any of Hawkman, Donna Troy, or Power Girl's continuities.]

3:12 PM  
Blogger Sam offered these pearls of wisdom...

I really don't think it's such a big deal. When mainstream media thinks of comics, it still has the opinion that it's for eight year olds when they don't even market the books to them these days. So, when a homosexual charater is introduced and the press finds out, there's the following uproar from that. I'll bet you that Fox News is gonna do a story to condemn it, which would be good for them as it'll trash Time Warner, who just happens to own DC comics.

"52" is going to sell out fast when Batwoman finally shows up in it.

8:08 PM  

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