Goodbye, Gotham


September 6, 2013 by Ish

I have mentioned, previously, that I have given up on Marvel Comics entire product line. Twice. It is with great sorrow that I must announce that I am also dropping DC Comics.

DC’s editorial interference in the creative decisions of its writers is not exactly new… and every since The New 52 relaunch it has been especially rocky times for everyone not named Grant Morrison. But the latest news is truly troubling for me.

The critically acclaimed pair of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman made Batwoman –which by any measure should be a niche title — into a #1 New York Times bestseller. They took what should be a C- or D-list character and wove a wonderful, rich mythos around her in under a decade… an eye-blink in comic book time. But just recently, Williams and Blackman have have quit the title due to constant editorial shunting and interference from DC Comics executives, who allegedly have been harrying them on a variety of issues. One particular issue, however, was the proverbial straw: the publisher’s refusal to allow characters Kate Kane/Batwoman and her partner Gotham City police officer Maggie Sawyer marry each other.

Not too long ago, DC ruffled some feathers during The New 52 by making Alan Scott (the original, 1930’s era Green Lantern) into a young, open homosexual man. They caused a bit of a stir (much overblown in my opinion) by creating a new, Muslim hero… and they also cause much gnashing of teeth by hiring Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game and a vocal anti-gay activist to write for them. I basically ignored the revamping of Alan Scott, dismissed the Muslim character as yawn worthy, and didn’t care much about the hiring of Card. He’s a good writer, he keeps his politics out of his work, and, well, I didn’t really care about the book he was writing. But the Batwoman decision hits me right in the heart.

There are currently only four comics in my monthly “pull” list. Batwoman, Batgirl, Batman, and Detective Comics (you don’t need to be the world’s greatest detective to see that pattern).

Batgirl has been my favorite superhero since I was in First Grade. Although this is only happening, directly, to Kate’s book there can be no doubt it affects Barbara, Bruce, the Bat ‘Verse, and the DCU in general.

In Batwoman #17, Batwoman (Kate Kane) proposed to her GCPD (Gotham City Police Department, FYI) girlfriend Maggie Sawyer. This gorgeous, full page splash is typical of the amazing artwork of J.H. Williams III brings to this book in every issue.

Williams’ and Blackman’s official statement, details some of the editorial interference they’ve put up with and their reasons for leaving.

Unfortunately, in recent months, DC has asked us to alter or completely discard many long-standing storylines in ways that we feel compromise the character and the series. We were told to ditch plans for Killer Croc’s origins; forced to drastically alter the original ending of our current arc, which would have defined Batwoman’s heroic future in bold new ways; and, most crushingly, prohibited from ever showing Kate and Maggie actually getting married. All of these editorial decisions came at the last minute, and always after a year or more of planning and plotting on our end.

We’ve always understood that, as much as we love the character, Batwoman ultimately belongs to DC. However, the eleventh-hour nature of these changes left us frustrated and angry — because they prevent us from telling the best stories we can. So, after a lot of soul-searching, we’ve decided to leave the book after Issue 26.

So thanks DC. With Marvel having forced me out of there universe a decade ago, you have managed to make me give up on you too. I have been chased out of a hobby that’s been dear to me since… well, basically for my whole life. I’ve spent years trying to instill a love of superheroes and heroism in my own children for frak’s sake!

Batgirl and the Gotham heroes have impacted my life in incalculable ways. I am, literally fighting back tears of rage/sorrow as I type this. I’m no longer going to read DC Comics… What the hell am I going to do now?

By dropping Batgirl and DC Comics I’m cutting out one of the main forms of fun/escapism/relaxation I’ve had in my life for, well, almost all of it. I can’t really read the non-Bat DC Comics titles because that would a) still put cash in DC coffers and not be much of a boycott, b) a major flagship character like the Batman would show up anyway and remind me of what I’m missing, and c) I’m just not that interested in those titles to begin with… I’ve always paid some attention to “A-List” titles like Superman or JLA, but I’m a Bat-Fan first and foremost.

Now, I have nothing… Is it stupid for a grown man to get into a depressed funk over stories about people in tights beating up bad people in clown suits and owl masks? Yeah, it probably is… But, at the same time, these stories have always been a huge part of my life. They’ve cheered me up when I was sad, given me escape when I was sick, and inspired me when I felt helpless.

It was the Batman… or rather stories about him. This noble, selfless, fictional hero who strove to overcome all odds in order to do the right thing… it was the Batman that taught me principles matter.

“And as the sun, that had been too afraid to show its face in this city, started to turn the black into grey, I smiled. Not out of happiness. But because I knew… that one day, I wouldn’t have to do this anymore. One day, I could stop fighting. Because one day… I would win. One day, there will be no pain, no loss, no crime. Because of me, because I fight. For you. One day, I will win.” –Batman #625

I’ll miss Gotham City. I know, I know… there are other comics, other publishers, beyond the super-massive gravity well that is DC/Marvel… I used to love Invincible from Image and Wolf-Man (or whatever the actual title is) from the same creative teams looks interesting too. But… they aren’t the Batman, y’know?

Some people I know have been inspired deeply by certain musicians, or great novels, or sports stars. Not me. It was always the Batman, Robin, and Batgirl. Grant Morrison once explained Superman’s place in American mythology by showing how after the horrors of two World Wars, the Depression, and in the face nuclear self-extinction, “we made up stories of a man who would never let us down.” I’ve always looked to the Batman as ‘the man who never gave up on us.’ Yeah, I know he’s a fictional construct written by hundreds of different authors, that most of his stories are hackney four-color cliches, and that — yes indeed — I usually HATE when they inject real-world politics into my superhero escapism… but…

Damn it, Batwoman as a character is less than ten-frelling-years old. She’s been an open lesbian since her debut issue (not counting the splash panel reveal one month earlier in 52) and the Maggie Sawyer characater has been out of the closet longer than Ellen Degeneris. Batwoman should have a niche title, mostly read by diehard Bat-Fans and LGBT comics nerds… but Williams and Blackman put it on the New York Times bestseller list. Constantly.

We made up stories about a flying man who would never let us down, a dark knight who would never give up on us, and a wonderful woman who could show us the beauty of truth… But the current caretakers of those stories HAS let me down, given up on equal justice, and decided to bury their head in the sand instead of standing up for truth. That’s not the American Way that I was taught to fight for.

I’m as libertarian on boycotts as I am on any other issue. Although I know from history and basic math that they can work, I also know that it can only work if there is a total commitment from a sizable portion — if not a majority — of the customer base. So I’m not calling for a general boycott nor do I expect one to happen. I’m under no illusions that DC Comics will ever notice that I stop buyign their books, read this this blog post, or read the letter I am going to write them… but that doesn’t mean I need to keep buying their books.

It’s what Barbara Gordon would do.


One thought on “Goodbye, Gotham

  1. Jennifer says:

    That really is heartbreaking. I haven’t followed any comics in years, but they were special once. I have a reasonable collection (alas, water damage destroyed a fair number). They shaped my world in ways no other media could. DC/Marvel should be the leaders.

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