Recently, DC Comics’s problems have reached sitcom levels in terms of errors and misunderstanding. The most interesting of these recent incidents is easily the Batwoman situation. J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman had announced their leave of Batwoman at #26 due to the same 11th hour editorial changes that have annoyed countless other creators into skipping town on DC, but claimed the straw that broke the camel’s back was that they could allow Batwoman to get engaged to her girlfriend, but they couldn’t get married. That created a backlash at DC for what appeared to be an anti-gay marriage stance.
While it made for some good schadenfreude, it didn’t really seem to make sense. DC heavily hyped up Batwoman’s debut for being a crime-fighting lesbian. There’s supporting character in the pages of Vibe who’s both gay and married. Hell, Marvel and Archie Comics have both made a killing off doing a gay marriage issue. Then what’s the problem?
The truth, as it turns out, is much stranger. In a twist on the old line, “I’m not racist! I just hate everyone equally,” DC Comics appears to simply hate marriage, whether it be straight or gay.
At first it just seemed like a stealth coincidence. With the New 52 reboot, it made sense that Clark Kent would no longer be married to Lois Lane and that Barry Allen would no longer be married to Iris West. They’ve been given the chance to rebuild towards those stories and retell them with a modern touch. Meanwhile, Wally West is no longer married to Linda because he simply doesn’t exist. But there are other married couples in the New 52, right? Aquaman and Mera are together and Animal Man has two kids. No, DC can’t be against marriage to the point of scorched earth, right?
As it turns out, this is what Dan Didio had to say at Baltimore Comic-Con the other day. “Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests. That’s very important and something we reinforced. People in the Bat family their personal lives basically suck. Dick Grayson, rest in peace – oops shouldn’t have said that – Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon and Kathy Kane. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.”
Which is kind of a weird thing to say, since Tim Drake was able to make “having a family” work for fifteen years. Then they fixed that and made him just as insufferable as Batman around the time when even DC realized that Batman was too insufferable and needed to be fixed.
It also seems to ignore police officers and firemen and other real life heroes, but… yeah.
So DC is only against the Batman-related characters being married, right? Except word’s been going around that Aquaman and Mera aren’t officially married. Sure, she’s his “queen” and they live together, but Johns has made sure not to mention that they’re husband and wife. It’s said that this will be explained in a future issue.
Well, at least we have Animal Man and Ellen Baker, right? Except they’re in the middle of a messy separation based on the death of their son Cliff. This whole part becomes really suspect based on the background. Lemire’s Animal Man started off feeling like a strong successor to Grant Morrison’s defining run and even made direct references to it early on. The latter part of Morrison’s run had a point that killing loved ones and generally crapping on the heroes for the point of drama is kind of a stupid thing to do.
How strange that years later, Morrison and Animal Man would both play the “kill the hero’s son” card at the same time. You have to wonder, though. Animal Man plays up the idea that heroes shouldn’t be married because their family will pay for it (even though unbeknownst to the main cast, it’s not Buddy’s fault, but because of his daughter’s fate as champion of the Red. Long story) and it’s being pulled towards Buddy being on his own. You have to wonder how much of that decision is based on editorial interference.
The comparison to Marvel is obvious. After all, they made huge waves with their Spider-Man marriage controversy. The One More Day incident is something I still don’t agree with, but I understand. Here’s the thing, though. That’s just one character. Yes, there are plenty of marriages that don’t work in Marvel, but right now, there’s still such pairings as Reed Richards and Sue Storm, Black Bolt and Medusa, Northstar and Kyle and Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Hell, I’m pretty sure Absorbing Man and Titania are still together.
While the editorial fuckery is a major problem with DC, I think one of the other major problems is the company-wide edicts (such as my new favorite, “Batman never sits. EVER.”). Despite Marvel’s problems, they’re pretty good about giving you variety. For every gritty Avengers Arena there’s something fun like Superior Foes of Spider-Man. You have options.
DC isn’t giving much in terms of options these days and this Villains Month bullshit epitomizes it. Everything is dark and everyone is horribly dying. They had something going with Blue Beetle, but then they canceled it, brought it back and retold it as something needlessly darker and it got canceled twice as fast. They’re trying to push Harley Quinn as a madcap romp, yet they just released a comic of her murdering legions of innocent children for the hell of it. Because THAT’S somebody I want to cheer for and laugh with.
In the end, I think about a scene from 52. Tim Drake, trying to get over how insufferable DC made him, was training with some monks and one asked him a riddle. Something like, “A duck is sitting inside a glass bottle. How did it get there?” After thinking about it, Tim realized it was because the monk telling the riddle put it there. The duck was fictional, just like everyone in the DC universe. You know why marriages don’t work for superheroes, DC? Because YOU say they don’t. The actual creative team thought it was a good idea and could work, but what do they know?
They know to look for work elsewhere, I suppose.