Lady of the Night
BY Ed Tahaney
June 18 2009 12:00 AM ET
Rucka and Williams, neither of whom is gay, say they labored to make a character that was nuanced and multidimensional and more than the sum of her sexual preferences. In the first issue she even gets dumped by her lover, who thinks she's out tomcatting around at night -- when, in fact, she's out kicking Gotham ass, not looking for it. "I'm in love with the fact that we are featuring a person who is gay and is the main star of the series, but that we aren't being exploitative in our presentation," says Williams. "We want it to be just matter-of-fact. This is life."
While it's a positive step to see a gay character step out into a principal role, mainstream comic book companies are still struggling to depict greater diversity on their pages. To a large degree the fantasy worlds inhabited by DC Comics and its biggest rival, Marvel (the company behind Spider-Man), are still chock-full of straight white men in tights and spandex-covered women with melon-sized breasts.
Part of this is due to the way in which comic book content has been historically regulated. Through much of the 20th century, the Comics Code Authority, an industry regulatory body, did not allow the depiction of gay characters in comics at all. In the 1950s, reactionary psychiatrist Fredric Wertham wrote a book called Seduction of the Innocent, claiming that comics were filled with violent and sexual content. Ironically, part of the reason that DC introduced Batwoman during this period, says Joe Palmer of the gay comics fan site GayLeague.com, was to give Batman a female love interest to counter Wertham's assertions. Though the rules barring gay characters were overturned in 1989, the number of gay characters has remained pretty slim: LGBT characters have served in the mainstream comics universe principally as sidekicks and villains.
"Neither DC or Marvel are perfect in their mutual track records concerning gay characters," says Palmer. "A lot of fans were upset that the once campy Batwoman was reimagined as a lesbian. Some of these fans were gay men, for whom Batwoman had become some sort of D-list icon."
Though Batwoman faded back into comic book obscurity after generating promising buzz when she came out in 2006, this time, Rucka assures us, she's here to stay.
"She's up front and center and is wearing arguably one of the most visible icons in pop culture ever," says Rucka. "That bat brings in billions of dollars for Warner Bros."