Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Out! Out! And Awaaaaaay!

Tom Spurgeon directs us to
[T]he secret origin of the secret origin of the new Batwoman, a one-time recipient of a PR bonanza, who's now so secret you never hear about her.

Surfing the PR of an event with positive ramifications for gay people and then burying that event/character/plotline later on, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is such a part of the American corporate entertainment landscape it would probably have a name except nothing sticks around long enough to give it one.
I agree with Mr. Spurgeon about media corporations' use of the "Look Here! She's Queer! Don't Get Too Used To It!" stunt.

But you also have to remember that the two major super-hero comics companies, Marvel and DC, have had absolutely no success with long-term development of any new characters for the last 30 years.
The last super-heroes to be added to the pantheon of heroes licensed to movies/tv/underwear/etc. were the new X-Men from 1975. And even they were essentially the retooling of the 1963 Jack Kirby/Stan Lee creation.

For three decades the Big Two have been in the character exploitation business not the character development business. There's no reason to believe that DC treated the Batwoman character poorly just because she was gay. She was treated poorly because that is how DC and Marvel treat all of their characters.


kalinara said...

I'd have to disagree with the assertion that DC and Marvel haven't been successful with new characters in the last thirty years.

I'm admittedly not strong with Marvel, but I can think of a number of characters in the DCU created in the 1980s/90s that are remarkably well developed and successful. (Booster Gold, for example. Tim Drake as Robin. Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern. Heck, Renee Montoya, for whom Batwoman was introduced as ex-lover, is doing reasonably well and heading up her own series (mini?) soon enough).

Batwoman's rumored to appear in that series, as far as I've heard. :-)

Admittedly, there were a lot of failures too, but if you look at the Golden and Silver Age and all the really weird ideas that never caught on, it doesn't seem to be that different percentage wise.

So-Called Austin Mayor said...


I submit that your standard for success and novelty are a little lower than mine.

Consider the characters who composed the original Justice League of America. What character in the last 20-30 years has stood the test of time like those JLAers?

Tim and Kyle were different fellas wearing the costumes of classic pantheon members. I don't think their superhero identities were sufficiently original to qualify as new superheroes. I see them more as retooled characters. Same for the Wally West Flash.

Booster Gold and Renee Montoya fall short by my commercial/pop culture success standard. Can you imagine anyone licensing Booster Gold to promote their product, e.g. a Booster Gold Happy Meal? Or B.G. underoos? When I was regularly reading comics, I really enjoyed Booster, but I don't think that he qualifies as a top tier character. Much less Renee Montoya.

And other characters who had their moments in the sun, e.g. Deathstroke, Cable or Electra, burned rather briefly if not brightly.

Sometimes I suspect that the funny book companies can't produce any new top-tier characters because they have exhausted the pool of archetypes.

Anyway, that's what I think.


Lea said...

There is a name for the phenomenon. It's called sweeps lesbianism. Granted, comics don't have a sweeps month like TV shows do, but the pattern is much the same -- advertise a sensationalist depiction of quasi-lesbianism, then sweep it under the rug soon after. This is what leads to female characters who are labeled "bisexual" but never shown to have serious feelings for a woman.

I still think the reason no new top-tier characters have been introduced is because DC&M aren't interested in developing and promoting new characters consistently enough for them to reach that level. That's why I like third- and forth-tier characters; you can do things with Madrox and Echo that would never stick with Wolverine or Spider-Man.

Eric Thor Grant said...

The exception that probably proves your rule is the Punisher, not that it worked out so well with either movie, but they did take a shot at it.

Still, while I think you're right about the lack of successful new characters, Batwoman seemed to be created and promoted _solely_ for the PR spike, and sweeps lesbianism sure looks applicable in her case.


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