Contrarian Fanboy: DC Dilutes Female Characters for Childish Male Fantasies

What the hell is going on at DC? It’s as if they’ve got a vendetta against, well, everyone. The news the creative team behind Batwoman, one of the few consistently good comics in the New 52, is leaving is bad enough. I mean, that’s just awful (and it gets worse the more DC tries to justify the reason why). But, to add insult to injury, DC has unveiled a contest to lure new talent, a contest based on the outright sexualization of violence against women. At this point I don’t even know what to say. Maybe there’s nothing to be said. Maybe it is just time to find a new world.

Apokalips is looking nice.

Starting with Batwoman. Batwoman is one of the few comics to come from the pre-New 52 continuity with its character, creative team, and story-arc intact. This was, in my opinion, one of the better ideas to come out of the reboot. Batwoman was not only a great, well-rendered character, but the creative team of J.H. Williams III and WH Blackman were knocking it out of the park every damn time.

Apparently though, while DC wants to ramp up the edginess by adding more sex and violence to the mix, they don’t want to court any controversy by doing anything that is remotely respectful of the characters. So, when Willams and Blackman decided that Kate and her girlfriend, Maggie, would be married (as in, you know, gay married) DC responded by shutting the storyline down.

Williams and Blackman, though, weren’t having any of this shit. So, rather than carry out a useless and insulting editorial edict, they walked. Said Williams:

We’ve always understood that, as much as we love the character, Batwoman ultimately belongs to DC. However, the eleventh-hour nature of these changes left us frustrated and angry — because they prevent us from telling the best stories we can. So, after a lot of soul-searching, we’ve decided to leave the book after Issue 26.

What Williams didn’t mention (what he, perhaps, had too much class to mention) is the incredible cowardice behind DC stopping a gay wedding in its pages and the crassness of this maneuver in light of DC’s other attempts at “edginess”, which have largely been in the vein of adding more violence and sex to its pages. But when edginess means putting your characters in situations that people in the world might actually face, or giving them choices that are politically load, then edginess becomes scary—a political liability.

This is obviously upsetting in light of DC’s current attempts at being edgy, but it is even more upsetting given the fact that DC has often touted its history of timely and politically charged stories. They’re editorial department are the ones who read these stories as kids and it is incredibly disappointing that they’re disowning that part of their heritage.

Their (public) rationale for this decision is, if anything, even more of a disappointment.  DC  claimed that none of this had anything to do with gayness, but rather it is the result of an editorial mandate that characters not be happy as that is bad drama. But this doesn’t make any sense. There have been dozens of married superheroes and none of those marriages have robbed their stories of their drama and impact. In the DC universe, Animal Man’s marriage has not been a dramatic drain, but rather a source of conflict and humanity that makes the story more readable and relatable.

In the wake of this disaster, DC decided to unveil a contest aimed at new artists looking to break into the field. The contests asks artists to draw a four panel story in which Harley Quinn tries, in vain, to commit suicide. In one panel she wears a bathing suit made of raw chicken, and in another (the final panel) she sits naked, in a bathtub, trying to electrocute herself. Because showing naked girls killing themselves is…you know…a good way to break into the biz.

DC’s Jimmy Palmiotti, defending the piece basically said that it’s no big deal, it was a dream sequence, after all, and Harley is loony-tunesey enough that this should, in theory, make sense.

Here’s the thing, folks: this kind of sequence is tough to pull off without, basically, sexualizing violence against women. This would be tough (if not impossible) for thoughtful, artists. The fact that somebody thought that this would be a good idea for a beginning artist is, frankly, stupid. In fact, I can’t tell what’s worse, the sexism or the stupidity.

Ok, before you get upset, repeat after me: sex in comics isn’t automatically bad. Violence in comics isn’t automatically bad. Mixing sex and violence isn’t automatically bad. However, blatantly mixing sex and violence against women (and comedy!) for the sole purpose of getting some media attention, at the same time that you are preventing engaging, nuanced depictions of women is not just bad, it is sexist and insulting.

I can’t even tell who is running things over there or what their fucking deal is. Who knows. All I know is that I’m done with DC. They’ve dropped the ball so many times, and so destructively, that I wonder what’s left to save.

Man, Apokalips is looking really nice right now.