I was going to do a piece on women in history, sort of a match to yesterday’s history versus fantasy, but I became distracted by the final book in Gail Simone’s run on Batgirl.
The NewDC has taken the characters of all the really good things about their characters and stripped them back to basics. This happened when the New52 launched. Since then, there’s been nearly 52 failures. As of May of this year, there were 47 cancellations in the New52. Some were really fun books (All-Star Western, Blue Beetle), some were really well written (The Movement, Firestorm), and some were just plain terrible (The Savage Hawkman, Hawk & Dove).
But with stripping down the characters, something was left out. Something that was left behind. We read superhero comics as a form of escapist entertainment, but also with a mirror reflecting real life. What if Superman came along to save some kid who was contemplating suicide?
Gone are the everyday comedy and drama of the antics of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle (even the Young Justice versions of Kid Flash and Blue Beetle). Gone is the on again off again relationship with Ollie and Dinah due to Ollie’s infidelity. Even the aspect of family that came about with Connor, Roy, Dinah, Mia, and Ollie. Gone is the dynamic of Birds of Prey, an all female book which showed you don’t have to write women in some male gaze way, that they can be smart and funny and loving to one another. And gone is any aspect of a disabled person as a superhero (though, the Movement tried, it really did).
According to DC editorial, you can’t be a superhero and be happy. That’s a defeatist attitude, and sheds off any concept that superheroes bring to the table. Hope. If superheroes can’t be happy, why should I be happy. The brooding darkness works for Batman, but even the Batfam can’t live in perpetual darkness. Even Batwoman, who may be the antithesis of Batman, needs that light. After all, it was Kate Kane who said that it could be anyone under the cape and cowl, even her. So she became an aspect of Batman that wasn’t so scary. She even came close to getting married to her partner (Renee Montoya before the reboot, Maggie Sawyer after). But no, she can’t have that.
Meanwhile, at the Marvelous Competition, the heroes aligned with the Avengers and X-Men continue to have their everyday dramas and comedies hit them. And they survive. They survive having relationships, meaningful relationships, and even manage to crack a few jokes. These things are very telling about superheroes. The ability to laugh, as opposed to being dark and brooding 24/7/365 is far more entertaining and far more healthy.
But DC has moved away from that, feeling that success of the Batman trilogy is the way to go. Forgetting completely that dark and brooding works for Batman, but doesn’t work for everyone else. This isn’t the early 90s, we’re past the awful stages of grim and gritty. Were they good? At the time they were, because it was different. But it’s 2014 now. We need to move past that and into a place where diversity of character and emotion is just as diverse as people and culture.
Essentially, we need hope in our comics again. I could walk away from DC completely and ignore it, but I care about the characters a little too much, I suppose. I’d like that future generations would care just as much, and give them something to hope for.
I was going to talk about the final issue of Batgirl, but there’s a much better article that sums it up completely, found here.