By now you’ve likely heard that Batwoman’s creative team, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, are leaving. This is a huge disappointment. I hold no negative feelings towards the team for choosing to bow out, but the reasons they list for doing so are infuriating. In a blog post the two have explained they feel compelled to leave due to editorial interference.
This isn’t the first time, or last I’d wager, that we’ve heard of someone walking out of a DC title due to behind the scenes shenanigans. Andy Diggle was set to write Action Comics and ended up with a grand total of one issue published as he quit for “professional reasons.” Then there’s the Gail Simone Batgirl fiasco where she was booted from the title, a decision which was thankfully reversed.
Batwoman is a special title for a number of reasons. For starters it’s about a lesbian woman, there’s barely any female fronted comics at the big two, nevermind LGBT heroes in general. To have one right there and wearing the bat symbol on her chest? A very commendable move, the significance of which can not be understated.
But Batwoman is far, far more than that. She’s a brilliant character with a unique backstory and some great character hooks. Whether she’s taking down crooks as Batwoman or just in her civilian guise Kate Kane, she is a beautifully rich character.
The quality of the book itself is phenomenally high. After beginning her story in the critically acclaimed Elegy, where she took over Detective Comics for a time, she came back with her own self-titled series. Every single issue has been worth reading. It may not be a huge ratings hit, but Batwoman is my favourite New 52 title, by far.
The editorial interference that Batwoman’s title has been receiving would been irritating to hear about under any circumstances. But what what really hits hard is the revelation that DC Comics blocked her marriage.
The original plan was that Kate would marry her longtime girlfriend, a move that would have been a wonderful development for the character and a fantastic move for comics in general. Kate is a character that deserves to get married, her relationship has felt touchingly real and marriage is the natural next step.
Remember that there are places in the world where her marriage wouldn’t even be legal. It would be inspiring to see her married, a prime example of super heroes leading the way and giving people everywhere a role model.
In the blog post announcing their departure Williams and Blackman had this to say, confirming that the wedding was denied:
“We were told to ditch plans for Killer Croc’s origins; forced to drastically alter the original ending of our current arc, which would have defined Batwoman’s heroic future in bold new ways; and, most crushingly, prohibited from ever showing Kate and Maggie actually getting married. All of these editorial decisions came at the last minute, and always after a year or more of planning and plotting on our end.”
So it’s not simply a case of scrapping the wedding, but it’s a constant barrage of ‘last minute’ changes and poor communication that has driven them away. I have to wonder if it’s not so much the wedding that’s the root of the problems but two words that are gospel truth to almost every super hero title: status quo.
I recall in interviews about Batwoman’s launch it was stated it would have no status quo. Rather than a default situation she’d always return to, Batwoman would just have an ever ongoing story with changes and developments. Something that very much excited me at the time.
Maintaining a status quo is one of the most crippling elements of writing a super hero comic. It creates a constant loop where characters never actually develop or change too much as they have to return to their defaults.
I’m reminded of Daredevil in particular. Daredevil started his last series in his default position and through the years found himself in prison, replacing the Kingpin, married and even turned into a super villain. But now he’s back to normal, right back where he started in issue 1 of the last run. This isn’t a sleight at any of the writers of Daredevil, I’ve actually enjoyed the work of every single one, they all worked well within the constraints of the formula. But it really makes you think, is this all super hero stories can be? Just going around in circles and always hitting the reset button?
Surely super hero comics can never really evolve if they remain a slave to this restriction. Imagine if every book series you read had to end in just about the same way it begun. Villains could never be permanently removed, any main character was immune from all but a temporary death and their core personality had to stay the same. It’d be ludicrous and horribly limiting yet it’s what comic books at Marvel and DC do the vast majority of the time. Batwoman just got reeled back in because she dared to be different.
Were I at DC now I would plead for a serious consideration at how unwise this whole mess is. It makes me wonder if when Gail Simone was forced off of Batgirl it was in response to the direction the character is going in right now, something quite different from the norm. Perhaps Andy Diggle had plans for Superman that would have veered him off track from the very safe straightforward plans DC have.
Thankfully the one good thing this has done is get people talking. Articles about Batwoman are cropping up everywhere. There is mounting pressure for DC to address this. Will we see the creative team return and Kate married? I hope so, I really do.
For now all we can do as fans is keep making our voices heard. What DC are doing is not okay, it’s unhealthy for the characters and disrespectful to the writers that are trying to tell us new stories. Let’s make sure they know that.