Up, Up and Out of the Closet

By Jase Peeples

Originally published on Advocate.com July 18 2011 8:10 AM ET

 DC Comics grabbed headlines last June when the company announced its entire line of comic books would be overhauled with 52 all-new #1 issues in September. Not only would iconic characters such as Superman and Wonder Woman restart with a fresh number, but costumes and origins for the entire universe of characters would be updated as well.

The company has also taken advantage of the relaunch to establish a wider range of diversity, introducing several LGBT characters in their own titles. Apollo and Midnighter, a gay superhero couple who previously existed in DC’s alternate Wildstorm line of comics, have been incorporated into the company’s main cast of characters. They will join lesbians Batwoman, The Question, and the bisexual African-American superhero Voodoo in DC’s new universe.

DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan Didio provided The Advocate with some insight into the new DC Universe and what we can expect to see from its expanding cast of LGBT characters.

The Advocate: What can you tell us about the new Batwoman and the thought process behind introducing a high-profile lesbian character into the DC Universe?
Dan Didio: We did a big push for Batwoman. We introduced her quite a while ago and we really wanted to push her as one of the mainstay characters in Batman’s world. It was important for us to introduce a gay character in that series. It was important for us to have [that character] featured with a bat symbol on its chest because we knew that would draw the attention and show how much we were behind setting a standard of diversity in the line [and] also making her a strong character in her own right.

Why did you choose to attach such a high-profile gay character to Batman as apposed to other characters like Superman or Wonder Woman?
There’s a lot more characters that inhabit Batman’s world. We knew we were interested in reintroducing the Batwoman character to his mythology and we also wanted to show a [different] point of view…because some of those characters without superpowers come from the same sense of grief in their past. Establishing [Batwoman] as a lesbian early on it givers her a different sensibility, a different point of view, and it also allows us to tell stories from a different angle that sets her apart from the other characters in Batman’s world.

One of you new 52 titles in September, Stormwatch, will feature two gay male superheroes that were already established as a couple in your line of Wildstorm comics. What was the driving force behind incorporating them into the main DC Universe?
When we looked at trying to incorporate some of the characters that inhabited the Wildstorm universe Apollo and Midnighter are two characters that have always popped out. Not because of what they represent, but they’re just strong characters in their own right and [they] were able to represent a story, a style of character that wasn’t represented in the DC Universe. There’s more of an aggressive nature with those characters that will interact interestingly with other characters and allows us to tell more and better stories.DC COMICS BATWOMAN (COURTESY) ADVOCATE.COM

 Gay characters in mainstream comics are a growing minority, but gay characters in a long-term relationship are something we’ve rarely seen. Was there any concern at DC about incorporating a gay male couple with an established relationship into the superhero ranks?
Actually there was absolutely no concern about that. The only thing that we discussed long and hard was the idea of where those characters would be in relation to their [own] relationship. Because they had an established relationship in the stories that were being told within the Wildstorm universe—and this is the first time they’re being seen in the DC Universe—we wanted to build them from scratch and watch an emerging relationship between these two characters. So in this particular case, Apollo is much more out and much more comfortable with himself [while] Midnighter is naturally a little more repressed. You’re going to see the two characters working side by side and showing the difficulties of working together, learning and growing as a team and then ultimately as a couple.

In addition to Batwoman, Apollo and Midnighter, you’re also introducing a female bisexual African American superhero in Voodoo. Was it a conscious decision to introduce characters from across the LGBT spectrum?

Yes. What we really wanted to do was show the diversity of our audience across the line of our books. Right now we have such a wide fan base and we wanted to create characters and stories that really reflected [that] fan base.

DC has several popular teenage heroes such as Robin, Wonder Girl, Superboy and the other Teen Titans. With gay teens becoming more visible in the media, can readers expect to see a teenaged gay superhero in the future?
One of the things we’re very focused on doing for these types of stories is rather than [change an existing] character, we want to make sure that this is the basis of who that character is right from the start. So if we’re going to introduce a gay character in Teen Titans, we want to make it a new character and make sure that is an iatrical part of who he is, or who she is, right from the start so we can really lean and grow with her or him.

Do you think there’s something inherent about superheroes that make them more relatable to gay readers?
I think there’s a lot of empowerment that takes place in these stories, not just for gay readers, but for everyone. There’s [that] freeing aspect of when they put the costume on that allows them to transcend their normal life. If their normal life becomes oppressive, this is their escape from that and I think that relates to anybody. More importantly I think everyone wants to embrace that and run along with it.

DC COMICS STORMWATCH 390x (COURTESY) ADVOCATE.COM
Stormwatch