Posted by: Doc Comics | November 7, 2011

GenderQueer Mutants & Monstrosities? Week 11

The new Batwoman returns with a difference…

With their secret identities and flair for drag performances, superheroes have always been a bit queer in their subtexts (or overt commentary) for homosexual social issues (perhaps a legacy of the Marvel Age). This week’s selections of readings explores the homoerotics and homophobia that haunts these comic bookdraped crusadersnarratives. The history of GLBTQ superheroes is as problematic as all mediated depictions of minorities, but perhaps doubly so since the lines between gay and straight blur when contemplating the inherent Gender Troubles of representation (even Ultimate Spider-Man isn’t immune to predictable homophobic hysterics).

This week’s comic is BATWOMAN: ELEGY, which sparked both controversy and triumph in it’s groundbreakingmainstream’ success of featuring a gay superheroine. Batwoman’s history is as checkered as one might expect, but Greg Rucka’s bold storytelling has proven wildly successful. Explains Rucka:

“Kate Kane is her own person. She’s got a distinct personal tragedy, as is requisite to wear the mantel of the bat. You have to go through some personal hell to decide that you want to put a bat on your chest and beat people up at night – that you’re beating people up at night other than the reason that you get off on it. I’ve said this before, and you’ll see it early on – for everybody else, when they put on a Bat costume, it’s a costume. For Kate, it’s a uniform. That influences everything she does, and it tells you volumes about her…. You know, nobody wants to read, and we certainly didn’t want to write an after school special. But as you’ll see in the origin, there is a moment when she has to pay a huge price for the fact that she is gay. She has to sacrifice something of incredible value to her just to be true to herself… But she is the first mainstream superhero who starts out of the box gay. And arguably she’s going to be the most prominent gay superhero.”
To tease out the HERstory of Queer themes for wonder womyn and supergrrrls, we’ll have a distinguished guest lecturer discuss her scholarship! Meanwhile, check out MoreFun Tim’s take and remember that SUPERPAPER #2 is due next week!
1) How does the story of BATWOMAN markedly diverge from the Superhero Monomyth, or does it instead offer some important innovations on the formula as a fantasy culturetype?
2) In terms of both narrative and art, how else is this superheroine different? Are there any surprises in her interactions with male characters for this ‘superheroine on trial‘? As a GLBTQ protagonist?
3) In terms of Queer Theory, what are some of the problematics and possibilities of BATWOMAN for representing gay superheroes and superheroines?


  1. Gay superheroes come out after Barack Obama’s marriage announcement,” from The Telegraph, on Northstar’s wedding and Green Lantern Alan Scott’s RetCon. Also, Pixar’s movie BRAVE evokes more than a little homophobic reflection.

  2. 2013’s Batwoman controversy over DC forbidding Kate Kane’s marriage, so the creative team leaves in protest of the mandate. Meanwhile, comics first transgender character debuts as Batgirl’s rommate, reminding us there’s been a tradition of genderswitching (and gender-bending beyond Rule 63) in superhero comics.


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