By now, we all know about Batwomangate, in which DC forbade the marriage of Batwoman Kate Kane to her fiancée Maggie Sawyer — causing co-writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman to quit the series. DC has been in recovery mode, and DC co-publisher Dan DiDio tried to explain the situation. Here’s why he was still completely wrong.
Here’s how DiDio defended DC’s decision at a panel at this past weekend’s Baltimore Comic-Con (courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter):
"They put on a cape and cowl for a reason. They're committed to defending others — at the sacrifice of all their own personal instincts. That's something we reinforce. If you look at every one of the characters in the Batman family, their personal lives kind of suck…
Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, and Kathy Kane — it’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s also just as 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, that is our stand with our characters."
Okay. Let me say I truly believe that Dan DiDio truly believes that its important to keep DC’s superheroes unmarried — to keep the focus of their books on their superheroics instead of their relationships. For a superhero company, that sounds pretty sensible.
Except it’s not, because if DiDio is saying that heroes can’t get married because it’s part of their personal lives — and he is — then he’s saying that heroes shouldn’t have any relationships. Unless there’s something specifically horrible about heroes marrying, marriage is just one form of personal relationship, which also includes family, friends, and even technically archenemies. If DC’s heroes need to put aside their personal relationships, then why the hell are Superman and Wonder Woman dating? Is it the lack of a marriage certificate — a fictional piece of paper — that somehow makes this relationship okay, but not Batwoman’s engagement to Maggie Sawyer?
Look, relationships are a large part of what make stories interesting — not just in comic books, but in fiction. Take Scott Snyder’s recent “Death of the Family” tale in Batman. Sure, the Joker is running around trying to drive all of Batman’s protégés insane, and Batman must stop him. But it’s how the joker affects Batman’s relationships with Robin, Red Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl that gives the story its depth and its emotional involvement. There’s a reason it’s called Death of the “Family”, and that’s because family is the most basic personal relationship there is.
What is it about “family” that's okay with DC, while marriage isn’t?
If DC doesn’t have a problem with romance, and it doesn’t actually have a problem with personal relationships, it may just have a problem with marriage in general. Of course, the New 52 started with heroes like Animal Man and The Phantom Stranger being married, but both those marriages have been wrecked, so maybe DC is being consistent there (although one might say that by having these marriages in the first place, some excellent storytelling opportunities were provided in both cases, but whatever).
So apparently it’s marriage that DC doesn’t like. This is not the most insane idea to have; certainly Joe Quesada hated Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane, and thus erased it with “One More Day” to make the character single again — and thus more relatable to younger audiences. Certainly, when you have a character that huge, that pervasive, especially to younger audiences — basically, if you can sell an action figure line based on them — those kids have no interest in marriage or its storytelling possible. Marriage turns Spider-Man and Superman into their dads, and they don’t want stories about their dads being superheroes, they want stories they can put themselves into vicariously. Fair enough.
But Batwoman does not have an action figure line in Toys R Us. I would guess that the median age of Batwoman readers is in the mid-20s; in fact, the comic is rated Teen Plus, which DC says “Appropriate for readers age 15 and older. May contain moderate violence, mild profanity, graphic imagery and/or suggestive themes.”
Batwoman isn’t on the same "icon" level as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman — and thus no one would be upset if she got married (with the exception of Dan DiDio, apparently). It doesn’t limit her character like it would with DC’s top-tier heroes, and it wouldn’t affect any kid’s ability to relate to her because kids aren’t even allowed to read Batwoman.
Look, I believe that DiDio thinks he’s doing the right thing, but I still don’t think his decision makes any sense. The only problem with Kate and Maggie getting married is in his mind, and he’s going to forbid all DC characters from getting married — and boy, he'd better, because otherwise the only marriage he’ll be denying is the same-sex one — all he’s doing is keeping writers from furthering relationships, letting readers know that no romance in DC comics ever have a chance of lasting by editorial decree, and denying storytellers to tell certain types of stories.
And one other thing. Here’s a quick list of events that have been shown on panel since the New 52 debuted:
• Superman blew Dr. Light’s head off
• Catwoman was graphically shot in the head (later revealed to have been Martian Manhunter in disguise)
• A 12-year-old boy (Damian Wayne) was shot to death and died in his father’s arms
(And that’s not to mention the infamous sex scenes between Batman and Catwoman, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, and Starfire and... well, anybody.)
Look, even if DC has the best intentions in the world, the fact of the matter is that DC has shown children being graphically killed, but won’t allow a character to have a loving relationship legally recognized. That’s horrible. And no amount of reasoning in the world will change that fact.