Comic Rants: DC’s Ban on Gay Marriage and Other Reasons I Hate the Big Two

Too bad we can't have nice things.I can hear somebody is DC Comics’ PR department responding already: “It’s not actually a ban on gay marriage.” Well fuck you, imaginary PR guy, and let me explain why.

A few months back, DC made big news when they had their highest-profile gay character, Batwoman, propose to her girlfriend. It was a bit obvious that this move was partly motivated by the desire to be topical and benefit from some of the controversy surrounding the gay marriage issue, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad move creatively. After all, Batwoman’s modern day revival would never have even happened without controversial gay rights issues like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And it’s been a while since we’ve seen a superhero getting married in comics.

Well, this week it was announced that the current creative team working on Batwoman is leaving the book because DC has blocked that marriage. The DC higher-ups have decided that marriage doesn’t make good drama, and so the marriage will now never be shown on-panel. But they want to be clear that it’s not just gay marriage they’re blocking.

Yeah…again, fuck you guys.

DC knew damned well what they were doing when they decided to make an issue out of Batwoman getting engaged. They knew they were going to make a lot of news, and they also knew that they didn’t have any intention of actually letting that happen. They’re only just now informing the creative team, which had every intent of telling that story. And then they’re trying to pretend that this is all a big misunderstanding by clarifying that they don’t want married superheroes, period, and that Batwoman’s homosexuality has nothing to do with the decision. But that doesn’t change the fact that they deliberately manipulated expectations in order to create a controversy, only to pull a bait and switch when they felt they had pulled in the maximum number of readers.

So remember, members of the gay community: the decision-makers at DC don’t think you’re bad. They do, however, think that you’re stupid and easily manipulated, because they’re trying to reap all the publicity of the almost-marriage without being labeled as the giant cocks they are for yanking it at the last minute.

So that’s why the headline for this entry reads the way it does. If DC is going to manipulate people with false expectations in order to try to make a buck, they can also suffer the brunt of misinformation when they pull a dick move like this.

By the by, this whole situation also does a nice job of illustrating that DC execs were lying dicks when talking to fans who were upset that Superman and Lois Lane got broken up due to their most recent retcon. Their statement at the time was that making them single again gave them a chance to develop them into a married couple and do it right. Instead, as many fans already knew in the face of their blatant lie, they never had an intent to reunite the most iconic couple in comic book history.

Not that I need to really do much to generate bad publicity for the venerable comics company. After all, these same guys decided to follow up this news with an open call for artists to draw a naked, suicidal Harley Quinn. This is how they’re going to select new artistic talent – not by having them demonstrate that they can effectively work on a deadline or tell a sequential story with art, but by having them draw one of their characters repeatedly trying to off herself.

I think the intent is to show how edgy DC is. Instead, it just tells me that these guys are capable of producing some hideous, tasteless comics.

It’s a shame that the anti-marriage, pro-grotesque nature of modern superhero comics isn’t limited to DC. Marvel has a similar anti-marriage stance, having gone so far as to retcon away Spider-Man’s marriage, break up Jean Grey and Cyclops by killing the former, and kill the Wasp so Hank Pym can go bang Tigra. (Admittedly, the Wasp has been brought back to life – I wouldn’t know what’s going on with her and Hank these days because Marvel produces terrible comics and I don’t want to read them.) The statement from Marvel is that characters are more interesting if they’re single. However, Marvel has never adequately explained why it’s the women who always get killed, especially in cases like Jean Grey and Cyclops, where I think the psychic who is bonded with cosmic energy is more interesting than the guy whose main characteristics are red sunglasses and a permanent scowl.

The general ban on marriage in superhero comics isn’t the reason why I’ve largely stopped reading comics from Marvel and DC, but it’s a symptom of the disease. Marvel and DC made it very easy for me to drop their titles through two actions.

For Marvel, it was the rebooting of The Incredible Hulk following the end of Greg Pak’s run. Pak ended his run on the title with a conclusion that was nearly perfect not only for the stories he had already told, but also for the character as a whole. So when Marvel decided to go with a reboot that all but pretended that Pak’s run didn’t exist anymore, I saw no reason to continue buying the issues. And since the rest of Marvel’s lineup has been mediocre to terrible (except for rare gems like Avengers Academy, which predictably got canceled), there was nothing left for me to buy from them.

For DC, the reboot of their universe and the invention of “The New 52” made a good jumping off point for me. Admittedly, I have bought some stuff from them since, specifically All-Star Western because I love Jonah Hex and it’s largely separate from the rest of the DC Universe, but as far as superhero titles went I dropped the entire company. The reason wasn’t made out of outrage over the reboot, but just because the whole thing bored me. We’re really going to go back to a world where Lois Lane doesn’t know that Clark Kent is Superman? There are 50 years of back issues that tell that story! Other titles that might have interested me, such as Suicide Squad, lost me immediately because of fundamental changes to the characters (i.e., turning the obese middle-aged Amanda Waller into a sex kitten who flashes us a lacy bra in her first appearance). If you’re going to reboot the universe, you’d better use the opportunity to tell stories that couldn’t have existed in the previous continuity, rather than just rehash the same stuff over and over again.

Basically, the thing that draws me to superhero comics is the chance for a grand narrative to be told. I like to see how characters develop and change over the years. I like to see how the world changes during that same time. Instead, Marvel and DC have decided to freeze everything in time. Character romances don’t mean anything, because they’ll never develop beyond an on-again, off-again situation. Character deaths don’t mean anything, because they’ll just come back a few months down the road (hi Nightcrawler!). And there are no opportunities for new superheroes to come into their own, because the iconic ones are always going to crowd the scene. In the modern DC Universe, Dick Grayson would never have been allowed to become Nightwing because the execs would have demanded that he remain in his iconic role as Robin.

The groan-inducing Harley Quinn suicide art contest is another symptom of the reason I don’t read Marvel and DC much anymore: they’re morbid, depressing, and generally just not fun to read.

I don’t mind if comics are dark and gory. As mentioned, I like Jonah Hex a lot. I’m also a big fan of the Punisher. However, that doesn’t mean I want all comics to follow that mold. When I pick up an issue of Superman, I don’t want to read about an angsty loner whose parents are dead. If I want that, I can read Batman instead. But Marvel and DC have both found what is successful, and they are intent on churning that out in as many colors and varieties as possible. That might be fine sales-wise, but creatively it means it doesn’t matter what comic you buy; it’s all going to have the feel of a recycled issue of Batman from the early 1990s.

So stay classy, DC. You guys started out the week by banning a gay marriage and telling aspiring artists that the thing that best encapsulates the stories you currently tell is a naked Harley Quinn about to electrocute herself in the bathtub. Thanks for reminding me that I should buy from one of the smaller companies out there if I want good superhero stories.

Marvel, I look forward to seeing what sort of stupidity you can come up with to top this.

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