Over the last weekend, DC Comics ended up under fire after reportedly shooting down a Batwoman story arc that would have seen the titular superheroine marry her girlfriend. The decision ended up pissing off writers JH Williams and W Haden Blacksmith, causing them to quit in protest, and yadda yadda yadda internet backlash, and now we’re at the part where DC tries to save face.
While speaking at the DC Comics panel at Baltimore Comic-Con, DC’s co-publisher, Dan DiDio, decided to address the controversy by clarifying why, exactly, they wouldn’t allow Batwoman to be wed. Apparently, it has to do with the fact that comic book characters are Job-like magnets of despair that are never allowed to be happy for the sake of protecting the innocent. (Via HitFix)
Then DiDio jumped forward in his discussion to more recent times, with The New 52 and the editorial team’s view of the Bat Family—there was one clear idea in mind: “They shouldn’t have happy personal lives.”
He proceeded to detail why unhappy personal lives should be central to the family. “They put on a cape and a cowl for a reason,” he said. “They’re committed to being that person, they’re committed to defending others—at the sacrifice of all their own personal instincts.”
[. . .] “But Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, and Kathy Kane: It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives but it’s also just as equally important that they put it aside as they know what they are accomplishing as the hero takes precedence over everything else. That is our mandate, that is our edict, [and] that is our stand with our characters.”
From a narrative perspective, I can understand this: the brooding anti-hero archetype sacrifices the ability to live happily ever after for the sake of “nobility.” The archetype requires them to be solitary units, and when writers try to play matchmaker, it usually doesn’t end well. (See: Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, James and Tracy Bond, pretty much any couple in the Whedonverse.) To be honest, I’d personally rather see Batwoman and her SO split on amicable terms than see another interation of the Women in Refrigerators trope.
On the other hand, I stand by what I said the first time: you have to treat your characters like actual human beings, capable of growing and progressing as people. Without character growth, your protagonist has no depth, no drive, nothing to really strive for other than to serve as the protagonist, and that makes it harder to get invested in them. Giving your characters the ability to take small steps forward — marriage, kids, whatever — doesn’t take away from your understanding of a character; it helps build the world and build the people who inhabit it.
There is some good news to all of this, though: after his clarification of DC’s editorial decision, DiDio announced that openly gay writer Marc Andreyko (Manhunter, Batman: Streets of Gotham) has been hired on to continue writing the series in the wake of Williams and Blacksmith.
New writer Marc Andreyko commented on his new gig on Facebook:
yes, it’s true: i’m the new writer of Batwoman! and, as i prepare for the interweb onslaught, a few things: i ADORE J.H Williams and Greg Rucka and Hayden Blackman and the great character they’ve created so lovingly. i am taking this job very seriously and hope to do right by Kate, Maggie, Bette and the rest of the cast. this all happened very quickly, so i am trying to catch my breath and let it sink in. And i’ve already had great conversations with Mike Marts and can’t wait to work with him again. i hope you will give my run a chance as i am going to give it my all and try to live up to the work those great creators did before me.
So, I guess the point of all this is that what DC did was uncool, yes, but the underlying problem here is less about homophobia and more about how they treat characters and relationships within their universe. So who knows? Maybe one day, DC will change its stance on character happiness, and Batwoman will be able to settle down for once. Weirder things have happened in comics, right?