Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Batwoman Out and About Again

[[C O M I C S]] * Just the other day, there was a story in the Christian Science Monitor about how comic-book superheroes today are tackling more and more real-world issues, from terrorism and gay marriage, to war and civil liberties. This followed another report, about Batman’s fictional confrontation with Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

And now comes word that Batwoman, a character first introduced in a 1956 issue of Detective Comics, but who hasn’t been seen since she was murdered by the League of Assassins in a 1979 edition of that same comic book, is making a comeback--and a statement about the sorts of people who can become superheroes in the 21st century. For a DC Comics graphic-novel limited series entitled 52, which debuted in mid-May and will run to 52 weekly installments over the next year, Batwoman has been vastly re-imagined as a “‘lipstick lesbian’ who moonlights as a crime fighter.” (Holy personality change, Batman!) The character who Batman co-creator Bob Kane once claimed was based on his wife--thus Batwoman’s true identity, Kathy Kane--is now, according to DC publicity, “a rich socialite who has a romantic history with another 52 character, [Gotham City] ex-police detective Renee Montoya,” and dresses in a curves-hugging black-and-red outfit that not only resembles what Batgirl (played by Yvonne Craig) wore on television, but beats the silk drawers off the yellow, black, and red costume--complete with “utility purse”--that artist Kane gave her originally.

According to a BBC News report,
The new-look Batwoman is just one of a wave of ethnically and sexually diverse characters entering the DC Comics universe.

Others include Mexican teenager Blue Beetle--who replaces the character’s previous white incarnation--and the Great Ten, a government-sponsored team of Chinese superheroes.

Regular characters Firestorm and The Atom, meanwhile, have been reinvented as black and Asian heroes respectively.

The characters are part of a wider effort to broaden the make-up of comic-book creations in line with society as a whole.
So, does this mean that Batman and Robin can finally come out as the gay lovers they’ve long been rumored to be? Probably not.

READ MORE:Straight (and Not) Out of the Comics,” by George Gene Gustines (The New York Times); “Batwoman’s Other Secret Identity Turns Heads,” David E. Williams (CNN).

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