If you don’t normally follow the exciting world of comic books you may have noticed a few headlines sneaking into the mainstream media lately. The controversy was swirling around the DC character Batwoman (yes, Virginia, there is a Batwoman). It seems the regular writers of the book quit DC comics over editorial interference including pulling the plug on a long planned lesbian marriage of the title character.
Holy homophobia, Batman!
Well, not so fast. As many (many) comic book pundits have pointed out this is not just DC editorial putting the kibosh on gay marriage, but marriage in general. Senior creative management at both DC and Marvel comics have said that having married superheroes just doesn’t work. Their arguments have ranged from, “marriage means living in the suburbs, minivans, and generally being boring” to “heroes need to focus on fighting injustice, being married gets in the way”. Personally I find these arguments cowardly and lazy. But more on that in a minute.
Because even though editorial policy would seem to frown on marriage in general (marrying a superhero is essentially a death sentence) there are aspects to the Batwoman saga that smack of discrimination. I don’t read Batwoman but the writers strongly implied that her marriage was not going to be an easy one and it sounded as if they were going to use the relationship to explore some interesting ideas. In the end the marriage likely wouldn’t have been permanent. So why stop it? Unless there was something about the marriage that would have been undesirable to DC. This is where the story really started to cross over into the mainstream media because it really looks like DC comics is against gay marriage.
Except they can hide behind the statement that they are against all marriage. I can understand trying to appeal to a younger demographic for whom marriage is less important but that doesn’t mean you can’t craft stories that will appeal to everyone. You just have to be a little more thoughtful about how you approach the material. I imagine it could be interesting for younger readers to see a story about heroes who are like their parents trying to figure out how to be parents. Plus you get the added bonus of how to balance family responsibilities with a vigilante lifestyle.
As I think about this it occurs to me that this is a large part of why Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four were so revolutionary (and successful) back in the early 60’s. The characters had real world problems and faced real world challenges that audiences could relate to.
Making a marriage work is a challenge that a vast number of comic book readers – or any reader for that matter – can relate to. It takes courage to commit to sharing your life with someone, working to ensure their happiness, to raising children. Pixar understood this and told a wonderful story with The Incredibles. It’s shameful that the major comic book publishers not only can’t do better, but are unwilling to try.