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The Question is... 
9th-Apr-2010 04:59 pm
introspection
The comics blogosphere has a lot to answer for right now. The feminist comics blogosphere in particular has a lot to answer for. Not least for making me write the sentence I'm about to write:

I'm sick of hearing about Batwoman.

There, I've said it. Let me explain.

Greg Rucka is leaving DC Comics. He says there's no bad blood, and that he just wants to concentrate on his original work. This is all fine by me; I respect the decision, but I am going to miss his work on DC. Rucka, remember, is the writer to recreated Batwoman for the modern age, resurrecting Kathy Kane as Kate Kane, a strong minded ex-soldier kicked out of the military for being gay, who adopted the hypersexual Batwoman persona in order to find the lost direction that discharge took from her. Kate was introduced in the 52 storyline, but her character only developed and given depth and history in her run as Detective comics headline character, written by Rucka and drawn by J.H Williams III. Recently the penciller has been the also superb Jock, but it was JHW3's art that caught everyone's attention, and it was his art that most people talked about when they talked about Detective Comics.

Since Rucka's departure has been made public, Batwoman's been talked about even more. Does this mean her predicted-to-happen Batwoman title wouldn't emerge? Is Detective Comics going to be about Batman again? Will we ever hear of her again? What a blow to lesbians in comics it will be to lose her!

This despite the fact that J.H. Williams III, whose work on Batwoman really outshone even Rucka's excellent writing, has said he hopes to continue working on her and he's sure she's got a future. I will be sad to lose her, but I'm hopeful we won't. Which is more than I can say about her ex.

Kate Kane is not the first lesbian superhero character to be developed and written by Greg Rucka. Arguably, she's not even the most important, as in universe she has connections and relationships to very few other characters. She's not the first lesbian in the Batverse, and she's not the first lesbian superhero to head her own title. She's been a main character for a year, and now Rucka's leaving, she appears to be all anyone wants to talk about.

In 2003, in the sixth issue of Gotham Central, Gotham police detective Renee Montoya was forcibly outed by Two-Face, in the award winning storyline Half a Life. Renee wasn't the first or at any point the only openly gay woman to work in the GCPD; Maggie Sawyer, an import from Metropolis (and in meta terms, the Superman franchise) had been out since the 1980s, but Renee's story was different.

Renee was forcibly outed by a supervillain, and her parents, both immigrants from the Domincan Republic and strict Catholics, disowned her following the outing. Her story was one of race, of religion, and of homophobia. Of dealing with the sudden whiplash that came with having her identity forced into the open and under scrutiny from her family and her colleagues on someone else's terms. It wasn't a case of "we know and we love you" or even "we love you anyway", but of having a secret torn from her and her life laid bare to the pure hate from her family and the misplaced macho ribbing from work. It was a story that was both uniquely Renee's and which belonged to everyone whose outing didn't involve supportive hugs and assurances that it changed nothing.

Half a Life, like all the Gotham Central stories focusing on Renee's day shift colleagues, was written by Greg Rucka. Rucka was the writer behind Renee's previous character defining moments in No Man's Land (standing up to Batman and later, Two-Face) and Officer Down. Rucka wrote the scenes in 52 that followed Gotham Central and followed Renee pulling her collapsed life back together piece by piece, going from violent alcoholic to the zen-inspired masked vigilante the Question, and introduced Kate Kane as a supporting character to Renee. Rucka wrote the miniseries The Question: Five Lessons in Blood, which I think, but can't prove, is the first time a lesbian superhero has had her own title published by DC. Rucka wrote one of the better Final Crisis tie-ins, with Renee partnering with the Huntress and taking on Vandal Savage. Rucka has been writing Renee ever since, as she's starred in the Detective Comics co-feature, pencilled by the excellent Cully Hamner.

For ten years, Rucka has been the primary writer behind every major development of Renee Montoya. She is not the only lesbian character in DC comics. She's not even the only chromatic lesbian in DC comics; although lesbians and chromatic characters are still woefully underrepresented. She is, however, important, as a member of this underrepresented group. She's also a fantastic, well-developed and consistently well written character, but that's not the context I'm coming from here, as it's not the context in which Kate has been talked about.

Since it was announced that Greg Rucka is leaving DC Comics, all anyone's been talking about is "does this mean the end for Batwoman?" and not a single "oh and also Renee" - unless it's me in the comments or on Twitter (I've been ranting a lot about this on Twitter). Renee has ten times the history and character development under Rucka's pen, and is ten times the character, but even her current artist has said he doesn't intend to continue with her as Rucka leaves.

Kate is the blogosphere and DC's golden girl. Renee's future is in serious doubt.

Now, admittedly this could be because although Hamner is as great an artist as Rucka is a writer, Williams' work on Detective Comics has been beyond comparison, and has pushed Batwoman to a wider, discerning audience. Almost certainly, it speaks of the fact that the symbol on Kate's chest belongs to a much higher-profile male character than the man whose mask Renee has adopted. Put Bat- in front of anything and it gains a profile.

But what has actually happened, in the year after a biracial Batgirl was replaced by her blonde friend, just months after DC killed a pre-pubescent biracial child , having already put another Asian girl on a bus (not to mention what they did to Connor Hawke, another non-white character), is that a high profile writer has annouonced his departure, and everyone is angsting over the loss of his white lesbian character, and completely her chromatic companion.

Well played, comics fen.
Opinions 
9th-Apr-2010 04:17 pm (UTC)
This are a comment. This are mostly a comment to say a) the page finally resolved and b) I have no idea who any of these characters are, I only know of Renee through you and haven't read for years.

Does the writer really make huge difference to whcih main characters are used? Surely if they're established contacts they're established contacts?
(Deleted comment)
11th-Apr-2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
Vic hasn't actually been written as right-wing since Ditko in the '60s. Nee got her Zen from him.
Some people have tried bringing him back to his Ditko roots, and I always want to punch them, I'd prefer he stay dead.
(Deleted comment)
9th-Apr-2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
I know we differ in our opinions of Morrison's work, but I really didn't like the way he wrote Kate.
It read like a bad fanfic writer trying to prove he read the source material by ticking off as many boxes about her as possible. ("She wears a wig, got it. Her dad acts as back-up. Right. She met Nightwing at Christmas and he gave her a batarang, I should get bonus points for remembering that. Now, how to work in that she's a lesbian?... I know, I'll have Dick hit on her, because she has a similar look to Babs. That's not creepy and weird at all...") Most of those details weren't at all relevant to the plot and were a little jarring to me. YMMV, and probably does. I'll cretainly buy anything Morrison writes with Kate, so there's that.

But you're right; I think it's Williams' art that's made Batwoman so high profile, and PtB willing, Williams will have the chance to continue with her.
(Deleted comment)
9th-Apr-2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
They weren't all necessary details, though, as far as I'm concerned. Or they were ones he could bring up later as needed, as long as he didn't contradict them.

It'd be weird as hell to have Black Canary announce "oh by the way, MY HAIR IS DYED!" every time she turned up in a new title.
9th-Apr-2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
I'm aware Dinah has a longer history and a wider fanbase, so everyone knows this, but I think stories need to stand by themselves.
9th-Apr-2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU! Well said.

When I put together the last couple WFA posts, I tried looking for articles/posts about Renee, but she was only ever an afterthought in things being written about Batwoman.
9th-Apr-2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
Obviously it's not your fault, but it was frustrating as hell to load up every WFA post and see that segment headline that clearly stated who it was everyone was talking about.
9th-Apr-2010 04:57 pm (UTC) - the first time a lesbian superhero has had her own title published by DC
Wonder Woman?

OK, Diana has displayed plenty of interest in the boys since coming to 'man's world', but she did spend a while dead and with her mother taking her place. Never read the solo book so I don't know whether they also paired Hippolyta off heterosexually, but if not...
(Deleted comment)
9th-Apr-2010 05:29 pm (UTC) - Re: Possibly triggering reply...
Really? There goes that theory.

Meanwhile Marvel's Hercules has been posthumously outed as bi, though we already know he's not staying dead. I don't even know where to begin parsing that one.
12th-Apr-2010 12:17 pm (UTC)
I only know Hercules through an RPed version of him, but from what I do know, I'd classify Hercules as "stayed still long enough for me to try it"-sexual.
12th-Apr-2010 12:42 pm (UTC)
It sounds like he's being very well played.
9th-Apr-2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
There were actually a few people on my DW flist more worried about Renee than Kate, but I think those entries are under flock because they're about more than just Rucka leaving DC, so they're no good for debating the point.

(I know I was more worried about Renee than Kate, but I have actually sworn off DC superheroes altogether so I don't as much feel like it's my place to talk about them - don't have anything to say except "this is why I quit reading", you know? DC's superhero line has burned me so damn hard it'll be years before I'm willing to give them another cent.)
11th-Apr-2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
(here via WFA)

As a huge fan of both Questions, I'm terrified at the thought of what might happen to Nee without Rucka. He's been writing her for over ten years now, and few others have really done anything with her in that time, so her future is entirely unclear! Cully's already said he won't be continuing with her without Rucka.

See, what really worries me is they might go so far as to kill her to bring back Vic. Now I love Vic, he's my favoritest character of all, but I absolutely would not be cool with getting him back at the cost of Renee, especially not with the kind of writer who'd go for that.

I can only have so much anxiety over this whole thing, but if I'm gonna worry about someone because of this, it's all about Nee.
11th-Apr-2010 09:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this, I've been trying to articulate this since the announcement. Renee is one of my absolute favourite DC characters, and I'm so, so worried about her right now. Both the internet and the mainstream media love Kate, she's safe. Renee... Is a Latina lesbian replacing a straight white male hero, she's basically doomed.
17th-Apr-2010 06:11 pm (UTC)
Hi, I got here from womenincomics blog.

I was wondering if you would mind if I posted a link of this to question_dc? It seems relevant to our interests. Plus, I think you have put what I've been thinking very succinctly, and I don't want to pretend I thought of everything you did.
17th-Apr-2010 06:39 pm (UTC)
I don't mind at all, please do!
17th-Apr-2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
I just posted it here.
29th-Jul-2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
I just found this linked in a community, and I have to say, I really couldn't agree with you more! I mean I love Batwoman, but the idea (actually, liklihood) that Renee is going to fall by the wayside is really a shame.

Renee is Gotham. And her story is just so rich. I really don't want to see her fall into the background with cameos and one-liners in random titles.
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