Each week, Matt Wilson, co-host of the War Rocket Ajax podcast and author of the Supervillain Field Manual, examines a major comic news item and reviews four of the week's comic book releases.
Last week, DC Comics found itself in the unenviable position of being the roadblock to the first-ever lesbian wedding in superhero comics, and as a result, the creative team on "Batwoman," J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, left the title.
Of course, the move prompted plenty of accusations, from prejudice to cowardice, all stemming from the idea that DC and its parent company Warner Bros. were prohibiting the marriage on the grounds of it being between two people of the same sex. DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio made remarks over the weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con refuting that claim. He said:
"They shouldn’t have happy personal lives…They put on a cape and a cowl for a reason. They’re committed to being that person, 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."
Of course, there are always unintended consequences to decisions, and the current editors at DC will always be the people who said "no" to a same-sex marriage in their comics, no matter what the reasoning behind the decision was. I'm willing to accept that the decision was made without malice, that its intent was to maintain some level of domestic turmoil for its heroes, but sometimes, appearances are everything. Sometimes you make an exception to make a bigger statement.
And I have to wonder if the policy of keeping characters unmarried is really the best course. Sure, there's a lot of dramatic possibility in maintaining universally single characters, but marraige isn't exactly a drama-free zone, either. Perhaps the rationale is that there's more mystery to being single, along with more potential to rotate characters in and out of a hero's life, but not every relationship has to be romantic.
Both DC and Marvel's current editorial bosses have a track record of seeming to want to wipe away or prevent marriages for their title heroes. There's the famous Spider-Man wishing-away-the-marriage story, but plenty of other superhero marraiges have either been unceremoniously dissolved (Black Panther and Storm) or simply written away (Lois Lane and Superman, Barry Allen and Iris West, etc.).
It's a wonder Sue Storm and Reed Richards are still together (not for lack of trying to drive them apart). I guess being on the same team together helps, not to mention having two kids you can't just write away.
We talk a lot here on The Olde Comics Internet about character diversity in comics, but depicting a diverse array of people isn't just about gender or race or sexuality or religion, it's also about depicting a diverse array of lifestyles. Single twentysomethings might be the target audience for most comics, but to assume people in that group want to only read about people like themselves--even if that's what they really want to do--deprives readers of story possibilities as much or more as connecting one character to another via marriage.
And now for the comics of the week!
"Kings Watch" #1
(Dynamite Entertainment, by Jeff Parker and Marc Laming)
It'd be pretty tough NOT to be able to sell me on a comic that has Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician teaming up to fight dinosaur men and what would seem to be an apocalyptic death cult, but Parker and Laming go above and beyond. Laming's art is perfect for a pulpy story like this; it reminds me a lot of Steve Epting or Michael Lark's stuff. The only complaint I have here is that Mandrake gets a bit of short shrift, but I'm sure he'll get more time in the next one, and when it's Flash-effing-Gordon taking up the pages in his place, I'm pretty OK with that.
(Vertigo Comics, by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez)
I felt like this issue ended too soon. I mean that in a good way -- it's always a good idea to leave the reader wanting more. This issue closes the book on the so-called bubble universe -- another reality with extremely unstable physics -- and that's a little disappointing, because not only does the idea of the bubble universe lend itself to so many possibilities, it's also just a visual delight. Certainly the story focusing on the characters warrants moving on to the next chapter, but I'd love a side-story that takes place entirely in one of these bubble universes. It's fascinating. I expect more fascinating ideas from this series to come.
"Mighty Avengers" #1
(Marvel Comics, by Al Ewing and Greg Land)
I feel like this series is coming out of the gate with a few handicaps. First, it's launching as a tie-in to Infinity, which means the first stuff we see has to catch us up on THAT series rather than introduce us to the concept of the book we're reading. Second, Greg Land. His draftsmanship isn't bad here, but the character poses are still jarringly photo-referenced and his design for Monica Rambeau is distracting beyond belief. I don't think it's beneficial to the character or the book to make her, essentially, Halle Berry. All that said, I like the characters in this comic. I like their voices. I like the concept of the team. It just seems like an uphill climb.
"Batman: Black & White" #1
(DC Comics, by various creators)
Aside from Neal Adams' contribution to this issue, which looks great but is easily the craziest story I have ever read in a comic from a major publisher, hands down, this is mostly just a fun, light collection of Batman stories with no regard for continuity or DC editorial mandates (Batman doesn't even wear the New 52 costume in this; he's got trunks!). Several of these stories, particularly the Harley and Ivy one by Maris Wicks and Joe Quinones, read like lost "Batman: The Animated series" stories, and there is nothing wrong with that.