Batwoman: The Allure of the Lesbian Caped Crusader

BY Jase Peeples

August 29 2011 4:00 AM ET

Originally introduced in 1956 as a love interest for Batman (whose questionable relationship with Robin had come under heavy fire), Batwoman was a camp character who accompanied the Dark Knight on many adventures before fading into comic book obscurity. When DC Comics dusted off the character in 2006, it reintroduced her as a kick-ass lesbian named Kate Kane, a former member of the U.S military who was romantically linked to Gotham City police detective Rene Montoya. Unfortunately, the comics company received a fair amount of backlash for introducing a high-profile LGBT character and plans for a Batwoman solo series were placed on hold.

Since then Batwoman has grown in popularity among both gay and straight fans alike, with the character making a number of appearances in other titles. She was even the star of a 12-issue run in Detective Comics last year, the same title where Batman made his historic first appearance in 1939.

September 14 will mark another historic achievement for DC when Batwoman #1 lands on bookshelves (and digital devices) around the world. She’ll be the first LGBT character to have her own ongoing monthly comic book from a mainstream publisher. Artist and cowriter J.H. Williams sat down with The Advocate to share his secrets on avoiding the perils and pressures that come with working on DC’s biggest gay icon and why he thinks Batwoman will continue swinging over Gotham City for years to come.

The Advocate: Batwoman is the highest-profile gay superhero to have her own ongoing monthly comic from a mainstream publisher. Do you feel pressure because of that?
J.H. Williams: Yes, I do, but not necessarily in a bad way. I feel the pressure, but I have confidence in it too. For me, the pressure comes from wanting to make sure we’re telling a good story. The political aspects — in terms of her being a gay character — are irrelevant to me because I’m just writing a good character. I think that is probably the smartest way to approach it instead of worrying about any sort of media feedback the story could possibly generate. It’s more important for me to treat the character the same way I would treat any other character. That means respecting the way Kate Kane’s story is told. In this case, it’s an interesting situation because we are dealing with a gay character, so those aspects can’t be ignored, but they have to be told within the framework of the story. It’s got to all fit into the bigger picture.

Did you have any concerns working on a book like this?
I want the series and the character to have a unique voice in comparison to any other superhero title. Not because she’s gay, but because I want to tell a unique story. However, there’s a danger with superhero comics when you try to do something different. There’s a fine line because it could easily become too boring, too esoteric, or too off-the-beaten path for the average fan. So for me there’s a concern about walking that line between doing something unique and still keeping those same captivating aspects that all good superhero comics should have.

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