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Jun 02 2006

Comic Book Guys Are Stupid

Batwoman, Dominatrix

Bring on the “you’ve never read a comic book in your life, so whadda you know about it?” mail, but according to the AP, Batwoman is now queer, and as it’s the 5th most emailed story at the Chicago Trib today, I felt it my duty to curl the Twisty lip into a sneer of disgruntled mockery.

Rejuvenating Batwoman as a lesbian, according to DC Comics’ press release, is part of company-wide effort to—pardon my French—celebrate diversity. Being queer, apparently, is “different” and “unique.”

The money quote comes from an unnamed blog commenter, who wrote, “Wouldn’t ugly people as heroes be more groundbreaking? You know, 200-pound woman, man with horseshoe hair loss pattern, people with cold sores, etc.?” No shit. I mean, just look at her. What’s with the dominatrix-wear? Is ‘porn fantasy cliché’ the new ‘unique’?

Give her a mullet already, you priapic geeks.

But no. Batwoman is clearly just one of those straight chicks who gets drunk at parties and wants to make out with the real dykes. Which only enhances her whack-off appeal, I suppose, since cultivating an addiction to looking at pictures of hot straight women pretending to get it on is a man-law. Pardon my French.

54 comments

3 pings

  1. Jennifer

    No shit Twistirific, that bat-bitch would only be seen kissing a woman if she was absolute positive that the male gaze was drawn to her at the time.

  2. finnsmotel

    “What’s with the dominatrix-wear?”

    Oh great. Here we go again… I hesitate to type the abbreviation, let my posting get blocked (or should I say cockblocked?). ;-)

  3. meg

    the company is undoubtedly doing it for money. they pull this crap whenever they want more people to buy things. “look, we did something wacky! come buy books until your brief attention spans fail!”

    here is a list of gay/lesbian/bi/transgender superheroes:
    http://www.gayleague.com/gay/characters/index.php

  4. eRobin

    You’re being unfair to Batwoman (she said in defense of a fictitous character). She’s not bad. She’s just drawn that way. And she’s not the straight girl who gets drunk and makes out with the real lesbians. She’s the lesbian conquest fantasy that lurks in the collective male unconscious. Not her fault.

    As for seeing super heroes who are less than physically perfect, that would be great and actually interesting. I’m not holding my breath since the market for comic books isn’t made up of people looking for great and interesting.

    The character I always thought should be gay is Catwoman. I love her.

  5. norbizness

    GodDAMN, there are a lot of comic books out there, according to the gayleague. I pity their having to actually comb every obscure, crappily-written spinoff for clues.

    At least the most popular supervillain in movies is a gay senior citizen (67-year-old Ian McKellen as Magneto).

  6. Mandalay

    As for seeing super heroes who are less than physically perfect, that would be great and actually interesting. I’m not holding my breath since the market for comic books isn’t made up of people looking for great and interesting.

    I don’t know if it’s enough to get the geeks excited, but there’s a comic called “Truth, Justin and the American Way” about a nerd who finds a suit that gives him super powers. It’s basically a ripoff of the eighties show “Greatest American Hero” but the hero is definitely not of the muscle-bursting Marvel variety. The website is here.

  7. jezebella

    A few small mercies: she may be wearing ridiculous heels, but at least she has a non-impossible body. No beach-ball boobs, no wasp-waist, no thong…. and thighs made for actual running and ass-kicking. Nonetheless, her coming-out, which will surely be temporary, is obviously just an attention-getting device.

    No self-respecting superhero (gay or straight) should be wearing a giant mane of high-maintenance playboy-centerfold hair.

  8. TheGlimmering

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: what if women produced comic books, even superhero comics, for women? Somehow I envision an extended family of Black women and the men that orbit them living under the roof of an old Victorian in San Francisco, all touched with super powers because of a mutation they inherited from their maternal grandmother who acts as matriarch of the clan. Are they trying to save the world or just live their lives? My vote’s on each woman handling her unique abilities in different ways. Maybe Mama, having endured the civil rights movement and outlived three husbands, is the only one of the clan that believes in superhero pride. Or maybe she urges all of her descendents to pipe down about it believing superpowered Black women are just asking to be beaten down. If any of them use their powers in typically superhero fashions such as vigilante justice, do they wear costumes while they’re at it? Are they beautiful or plain? Are they obsessed with finding love regardless the gender, or cynical loners? How about the men that hang around? Why are they there? Do they know? How do they deal with daily life issues like racism, class, sexism, and so on? Does it get them down, do they pretend it doesn’t exist, or do they fly into superpowered homicidal rages when it crops up? To tell the truth, I think that story would be ten times as interesting as how SuperDude beats up SuperDudeII over generic excuse for violence. Sadly, my drawing and inking talents are limited to stick figures or I’d start tossing out storylines. Maybe if I badger one of my more gifted comrades…

  9. EBuz

    The Glimmering might enjoy reading the comics of Diana Dimassa or Jennifer Camper — talk about your superhero comics for women by women! Or for than matter, pull any graphic novel off the shelf at your local feminist/lesbian bookstore and you’ll find plenty of feminist heroines each “super” in their own way.

  10. meg

    hey glimmering, i would read that. i would seriously shell out money for it and foist it on my friends for perusal.

    are you a writer?

  11. kreepyk

    Meg-

    Such a thing is already written, but a scifi novel, not a comic. It is called the Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk. Substitute magic for superpowers and you are basically there.

    Yup, the same Starhawk who writes Wiccan spellbooks…I was skeptical at first too, but it is a good novel.

  12. Scott Eric Kaufman

    Black women and the men that orbit them living under the roof of an old Victorian in San Francisco, all touched with super powers because of a mutation they inherited from their maternal grandmother who acts as matriarch of the clan.

    Octavia Butler (sniff, sniff) already wrote that novel. Good stuff, but not her best.

  13. TheGlimmering

    I’m blushing, Meg. Yeah, I have a knack for writing, but like most folks with a knack for writing I’m having my soul sucked out of me at a deskjob. Not all is lost, my partner is thisclose to getting a terrific job, in which case I’ll be staying at home with our incipient offspring with plenty of opportunity to write. If someone with a comparable knack for drawing landed in my lap, however, I think I’d carve out some me time starting yesterday to produce such a graphic novel. I think I might be good at writing for a comic, most of my experience comes from playwrighting and they share that emphasis on dialogue.

    EBuz, I think I’ll check those names out, thanks!

  14. Sara

    What Meg said.

    Also, check out Jane’s World by Paige Braddock, published by Girl Twirl Comics (which I think might just be Paige herself). I stopped reading it when my online comics service stopped carrying it, but found it quite charming and imaginative in surprising ways. It even has a hot lesbian secret agent! WOO HOO! You can buy it at Borders or online.

    Meanwhile, yeah, I also kind of gagged/snorted a little when I saw this -uh- transformation of Batgirl (’cause face it, that’s what her name used to be) in the Times on Sunday. All I can say is that I look forward to the day when they make Batman and Robin not just make out like you know they always wanted, but fight crime in high heels, too, and not just as some bullshit comedic plot twist.

    I miss the animated version of The Tick, especially American Maid. Sure, sure, she wore a mini-skirted red, white and blue maid’s uniform and was still stuck on issues from that whole dysfunctional relationship with Die Fledermaus and all, but even so. She used throw her high heels across the room to pin villains to the wall. That was awesome.

  15. Sara

    Whoops. Cross-posted. That’s what happens when you leave your screen in one place, walk away, and don’t refresh. Sorry.

  16. bitchphd

    Whaddya mean? All the lesbians I know wear latex unitards.

  17. Cass

    Enjoy her while you can; if she’s anything like her sisters, she may not be long for this world:

    http://www.the-pantheon.net/wir/women.html

  18. Sylvanite

    Is this Batwoman even Barbara Gordon? I thought Barbara Gordon (the original Batgirl) had been paralyzed, and was now acting under the codename Oracle? I don’t read any of these titles, but am just geeky enough to have some background.

  19. mythago

    what if women produced comic books, even superhero comics, for women?

    They do.

    This is reminding me of the “Love and Rockets” thing, where Hopey got chubby. The Hernandez brothers talked about how they got tons of mail from male readers pleading to make her ‘hot’ again.

  20. TP

    One of the most sexist things about feminist dudes who walk around congratulating themselves with how in touch they are with women is a false sense of identification with women. Personally, I think it’s generally a good thing to even try, but that doesn’t mean it’s as easy as dudes like to think it is.

    This can reveal itself as the typical porn-star lesbian fantasy. When men fantasize about women making love, they imagine women with the brains and objectification powers of men making each other come because they are so irresistible. Because they are men with manly ideas about what is irresistible.

    I just wonder how much I do it every day, without realizing it.

  21. meg

    sylvanite: no, this is batwoman. there was in fact a batwoman prior to a batgirl, and this is a remake of her.

    batgirl/barbara gordon was paralyzed and became oracle, leetest hacker of the realm. there was a new batgirl named cassie who had the creepiest bat-costume of the entire bat-group. i don’t know if anything’s happened to her or not.

    i don’t actually read the gotham series because they inevitably depress me, but my boyfriend and his collective of friends are hopeless superhero addicts.

  22. Sean M

    Maybe that picture’s just a “concept sketch” or what-have-you, but what kind of cognitive dissonance are the lads at DC dodging in the process of making her wear heels? Again?

    Neat things have been done with superheroes, but I reckon it’d be healthy for the industry to just put them on the dang shelf for a decade or so. The themes that superhero stories keep coming back to are – pardon me for not goin’ any deeper – patriarchialicious.

  23. Crys_T

    ***Nerd Alert!!***

    Myth, that was Maggie who gained all the weight (and, as far as I know, to this day has not lost it), not Hopey, who if anything got even more stick-thin as the years went on.

  24. metamanda

    I can think of a few comics with female authors and artists, and a few comics with good female characterizations, and they are not necessarily the same set of comics.

    Whiteout, by Greg Rucka (http://www.gregrucka.com/whiteout.html) had a female protagonist, but does a great job of not making a Big Deal out of it. she’s not Hott. Actually, she spends most of her time wrapped up in a parka. Whiteout is put out by Oni Press, which actually has quite a lot of women writing and drawing for them (proportional to the comics industry as a whole), and a lot more everyday female characters rather than the typical superhero stuff. Chynna Clugston-Major does some pretty good stuff, which, while it employs some of the tropes of manga (short skirts ‘n’ stuff) consists of some hilarious stories told from the girl’s point of view. Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin series is also fabulous, features an independent minded girl who doesn’t take shit from anybody, and pretty much avoids all the misogynistic comic book crap.

    Promethea, by Alan Moore (who is generally wonderful, and his better known work, Watchmen, notes how weird the whole costumed superhero thing is, and comments a bit critically about the tarting up of superheroines) is a pretty good take on a female superhero. It’s not perfect, some gratuitous skin is shown, but Promethea also has one or two distinctly chubby, non-idealized incarnations.

    For the most part, you gotta look at the indy press to find this stuff. Mainstream comic book guys really can be stupid, and for all my recommendations of decent comics, there are way more that do this batwoman crap. But I do think it’s getting better rather than worse.

  25. CannibalFemme

    Stepping in to add an entirely unhelpful but passionately heartfelt paean to Rina Titanon in the Love & Rockets universe. Whether or not she used the ropes.

    Also: I had no idea that Bros. Hernandez caught flak for Maggie’s weight; I’m saddened but unsurprised. It worked for me, which means of course that it would have to be an offence against the patriarchy, whom I hereby blame.

  26. CannibalFemme

    My apologies. Rena Titanon. ‘Rina’ is an actual ex-partner, not a tough wrestling Queen from the comics.

    IBTP.

  27. ryan

    DTWOF is more my speed for lesbian comics…

  28. Leia Weathington

    Hey, all! I’m a shameless lurker, but I just have to comment on this one.

    Mythago and Metamanda touched on this but I feel the need to BEG everyone not to say that women aren’t making comics because there are soooo many out there. You have Becky Cloonan, Joanna Estep, Colleen Coover, Linda Medley, TinTin Pantoja, Amy Kim Ganter, Serena Valentino, Elizabeth Watson, Hope Larson and all of the ladies (we have a handful of dudes too, but they’re good people. =p) over at Girlamatic.com.
    Honestly the list goes on and on. There is still a bit of a boy’s club mentality in the industry, but with every title published by a woman that presents a female perspective of the world I think it’s being worn away.

    Of course I am something of a starry eyed Idealist, so, Y’know.

    As for the Super Hero genre, I don’t know about them. They are an alien people to me. I mean really- How many times can you stop and restart story-lines?

  29. the patriarch

    This new and improved Batwoman has an improbable physique and appears to dig chicks only under the watchful eye of the male gaze. Those people at DC Comics sure know their audience. I’m unclear on the problem here.

  30. Lisa

    Yeah, but DTWOF isn’t about superheroes. I always wanted Storm from the X-MEN to be a lesbian, back in the good old days before they were turned into movie characters. Damn, she was so hot on paper, with that gorgeous brown skin and white mohawk. Oops, there I go objectifying a female cartoon character again. Shame on me. But seriously, she was damn fine. I wanted to marry her.

  31. AoT

    So, this is not a grown up bat girl. But bat girl, the newest one, was terribly racist. See was an asian girl who batman rescued from one of his arch nemises. She couldn’t talk at all and only knew “the language of martial arts.” Even worse, when she finaally learned to talk she couldn’t fight as well.

    As for good comics with women. I am a huge fan of “Ghost”. The art is the standard made-for-male-gaze, but the story and dialogue, or most of it, deals with a lot of feminist issues. There is a whole subplot of the main character trying to get her sister out of stripping because it is degrading and her sister insisting that she is empowered.

    It was a bit wierd to go back and read these *years* after I had bought them as a adolescent who thought that everything indy-comic with big boobied women was the best thing ever. I read them and cringed at the artwork but was amazed by some of the story and much of the dialigue.

  32. R. Mildred

    As for seeing super heroes who are less than physically perfect, that would be great and actually interesting. I’m not holding my breath since the market for comic books isn’t made up of people looking for great and interesting.

    I can think of two, from mainstream and famous comics.

    Rorschach (who, being the psychopathic superhero who’s power was that he was psychopathic, probably doesn’t count in this instance) and The Blob, who’s great power was that he was hugely obese and thus invunerable from all things.

    Ugly women do not exist in the world before anyone asks, all are available and pleasant for the male gaze, at all times.

    DO NOT go to the pandagon thread about this btw, Karpad left a link to a page from a wonderwoman comic that will piss you off (apparently on thermomascara, the amazons all live in idyllic bliss that of course involves copious lesibanism because without some dick around, all women do that, right?).

    Is it wrong that I’m neither gay nor a comic book buff, and yet this still pisses me off copiously?

  33. Ron Sullivan

    Ben Grimm? The Hulk?

    But yeah, no such thing as a homely female supehero.

    I do have to wonder if the default comix reader, if not the default comix artist, thinks that high heels are an inherent part of adult female human anatomy. That goes double for F/SF (especially paperback) cover illustrators. Wait, didn’t Laurie Anderson write about that somewhere in Big Science?

  34. broundy

    The character I always thought should be gay is Catwoman. I love her.

    Then you’re in luck – Catwoman is also a lesbian, as of the latest issue!

    Selina Kyle, the original Catwoman, has taken a break from superhero-ing while she has a baby, and her tomboyish lesbian sidekick Holly is now wearing the Catwoman outfit.

    I feel the need to BEG everyone not to say that women aren’t making comics because there are soooo many out there

    True. Right now, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York has a show called “She Draws Comics: 100 Years of America’s Women Cartoonists,” with more than 50 different artists, including 1940s comic strips by Hilda Terry, superhero stuff by Ramona Fradon, and contemporary artists like Alison Bechdel and Raina Telgemeier. It’s a great show, because it demonstrates that not only are women working in the comics industry today, but they always have been.

  35. B

    What about Modesty Blaise? Wasn’t she read in the US? She was my hero when I was a teenager.

  36. shannon w.

    I think the idea that women don’t make comics is that the whole media is totally focused on the direct market type- you know, superheroes and crap. I mean with women like Lea Hernandez, Carol Tyler, Carol Lay, etc working in the print comic book industry we shouldn’t hear that, but because they tend to not do the whole capes and tights thing- people don’t really say ‘that’s comics’. Comics is increasingly broad nowadays- not only do we have the cape and tights crowd and the indies(Fantagraphics, the publisher of the Hernandez brothers who were mentioned earlier,Oni Press and Drawn and Quaterly are my favorites) but you also have tons of webcomics and minicomics and comic strips floating around, and also, (there’s not a single word for this yet) homegrown manga, either self published or published with the help of say, Tokyopop and Seven Seas. The comic book form is huge, and women take up a lot of it. It’s just not publicized as much.

    (all this to plug my lj community: http://community.livejournal.com/poc_comics/ )

  37. Ron Sullivan

    How ’bout: Batwoman vs. Hothead Paisan. Invigorating tussle takes place mostly offstage cuz it’s strictly between them, not audience. Then, duly invigorated, they leave together for the nearest congenial bar/kitchen/Twisty’s Tea ‘n’ Tacos.

  38. hexyhex

    Lisa: I always had a massive crush on Storm as well. It used to piss me off that all my fellow x-fans who were attractive to females were all obsessed with Kitty Pryde.

    Storm was hotter, many more shades of awesome, and infinitely less annoying.

  39. hexyhex

    Oh, and lets not forget that Mystique is, in the PG-13 way so common to Marvel, bisexual.

    Of course, she’s also fuck-off evil and tends to take male form with female partners, so not much in the way of breaking out of stereotypes there.

  40. Catherine Martell

    Metamanda said: “Promethea, by Alan Moore (who is generally wonderful, and his better known work, Watchmen, notes how weird the whole costumed superhero thing is, and comments a bit critically about the tarting up of superheroines) is a pretty good take on a female superhero. It’s not perfect, some gratuitous skin is shown, but Promethea also has one or two distinctly chubby, non-idealized incarnations.”

    Indeed so. Some of the Prometheas are fat, old and average-looking. Although there is something a bit pseudo-feminist about the entire ethos of the comic (all that Eternal Feminine crap really starts to grate on me after a while). Watchmen has supermen and women who are old, paunchy, and irritable. I wouldn’t exactly call it feminist, though.

    The original Wonder Woman, by Charles Moulton, is the most right-on feminist mainstream comic I’ve ever read. Admittedly, she might look like a sex object – but she spends most of the Second World War fighting evil misogynist scumbags like Dr Psycho, with his catchphrase ‘No woman can be trusted with freedom!’ And the occasional Nazi. After Charles Moulton stopped doing it (he died in 1947), WW turned into just another thicko super-pornwench with a boring tendency to submit to men. But the early ones were really quite radical.

  41. michelle

    Sure there are plenty of women working in non-superhero comics. But I LIKE superheroes. I *adore* female superheroes. Is it too much to ask that they be edited, written, and illustrated by someone other than clueless misogynist guys with porn fantasies? I really, really want a Batwoman comic. The idea of bringing back the original Batwoman is very cool, but turning her into this…this…porn fantasy is a travesty. Same thing happened recently with Spider-Woman and Supergirl. I really wanted to like the new incarnations, but both the comicbook PTB and their slavering fanboys made it very clear that these superheroines are not intended for me: they MUST be sex objects for men if they are to exist at all, and they may be cancelled/killed/erased from existence at a moment’s notice.

  42. mythago

    Whoops, right you are, Crys.

  43. AntipodeanKate

    I second whoever mentioned ‘Love & Rockets’ and the superhero Rena Titanon, a big muscular ex-wrestler who wanders about super-heroing.

    There are heaps of graphic novels about the ‘other’. (Ghost World, Persepolis, Maus, American Splendour, etc etc.) Popular culture, however, demands that we pay attention to the slender, the pretty, the acceptable, the straight.

    ‘Like a velvet glove cast in iron’ features a panoply of bald, ugly, unappealing characters as well. Quite surreal and weird.

    So it’s out there, it’s just not something the MSM will report on. Much better to talk about a hot lesbian batwoman.

  44. bitter-girl.com

    Promethea, in typical Alan Moore fashion, also is rather educational as well…if you’re looking to learn about Kabbalah (the real stuff, not the Madonna kind) or tarot or any number of interesting occult topics, he’s got you covered. I really loved that series, we’ve got to get the rest of it in trade paperback asap…the art’s brilliant.

    And might I mention his comic Lost Girls, co-written with Melinda Gebbie? Haven’t gotten to read it yet, despite living in the Comic Book Superdrome, but it sounds fascinating.

  45. Ragnell

    I wasn’t going to comment because I’m withholding judgment until I actually see what they do with the character. This won’t be the first lesbian even in the Bat-books, but it is the first lesbian with the Bat-prefix on her superhero name, so the mainstream media is shitting bricks over it when it’s really not that big a deal even to DC Comics (Who are just basically saying “We made her a lesbian because we wanted to complicate Renee Montoya’s lovelife in 52″). And a lesbian in high heels is a step-up from the yellow-suited purse-carrying “Oh, Brucie!” 50s Batwoman. The amount of fanboy porn-fantasy pandering depends entirely on the writer/artist who’s getting ahold of the character. It has the added plus of ensuring she’ll never become Batman’s love interest (or Dick Grayson’s, I swear, every straight female character in DC Comics has slept with Dick Grayson) because DC has too many reader in the LGBT community that they want to keep to turn a gay character straight.

    And the “buxom lipstick lesbian” thing was the wording of the NYT reporter, who is obviously so turned on by a lesbian he can’t write professionally at the thought of one.

    Anyway, I just had to link you all to this idiocy– http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/nolesbianbatwoman

    Particularly this gem:
    “Me, Iwould’ve preferred to have seen her as someone(like the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon) be afemale who was in “love” with Batman andwanted to be like him, solving crimes, defendinghis city of Gotham making her become Batwoman. Oreven better, had it she comes from another countrywould’ve made for an interesting backgroundthan being a lesbian. This is one comic Iwon’t be reading anytime soon. If WonderWoman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Oracle, The Huntressand Black Canary are not gay then why haveBatwoman gay? Is DC Comics that hard up for storyideas?”

  46. Ragnell

    (And sorry about the “you’ve never read a comic book in your life, so whadda you know about it?” comment, but dammit I’ve seen this story EVERYWHERE. It’s just a lesbian supporting character, people. There’s always a couple in the background, usually dating each other. There’s two on the Gotham City police force alone, and they’re butch as hell, Catwoman II is tomboyish, and it’ll be nice to see a traditionally feminine personality who’s attracted to women for a change)

  47. mythago

    Hm, am I misremembering, but wasn’t Wonder Women recast as a lesbian (duh, she’s an Amazon) when Perez started doing the comic?

  48. Ragnell

    mythago — Not really, he had her crushing on Superman. (Of course, she was still too “masculine” for some people *rolls eyes*) He just made it so the rest of the Amazons are a default lesbian society. It wasn’t done badly, or as wank material until the 90s when they let that awful Mike Deodato draw the book.

  49. hexyhex

    Ragnell:

    or Dick Grayson’s, I swear, every straight female character in DC Comics has slept with Dick Grayson

    Not just DC comics… when they did the last massive DC/Marvel crossover, one of the first things to eventuate from that was a relationship between Nightwing and Jubilee from the X-Men.

    *headdesk*

  50. Ragnell

    Not just DC comics… when they did the last massive DC/Marvel crossover, one of the first things to eventuate from that was a relationship between Nightwing and Jubilee from the X-Men.

    *headdesk right along with you*

  51. riffrandell

    I love comics. I can’t read most of them because of the way women are portrayed. If you are looking for a good comic, try Strangers in Paradise.
    The characters aren’t physically or mentally perfect. Strong female characters and a interesting story line. strangersinparadise.com

  52. Vasu

    One encouraging development: it looks like the Batwoman ongoing series will be written by Devin Grayson, a bisexual woman writer. Though the book in which she’s being introduced, 52, is written by five men, most of those men have a decent track record when it comes to female characters.

  53. Christopher

    I like me some Finder by Carla Speed McNiel. It’s got some objectifying of the male form, in the character of Jeager, who often runs around naked.

    He’s dreamy.

  54. Ragnell

    I’m not ready to trust Rich Johnston’s rumor column just yet.

    But so long as the new writer isn’t Judd Winick…

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