Geek Out: “Batwoman” and “Batgirl” get gayer this month

June was a queer ol’ month for DC’s big two lady-led Bat-family titles: Batwoman #32 introduced a new recurring lesbian character in the form of Kate Kane’s former West Point girlfriend Sophie; and in Batgirl #32, Barbara Gordon’s bisexual, transgender roommate, Alysia Yeoh, got some lady-lovin’ action.

Batwoman

Let’s kick it off with Batwoman because the last time we talked about her, I was feeling pretty perpetually disappointed with direction the new creative team was taking the title. What I’ve decided is, I have to think of this new — less mature, less nuanced, less layered — version of Batwoman as a new book, instead of a continuation of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III‘s gold medal work. I like plenty of comic books aimed at teen readers. She-Hulk, for example, is one of my favorite series right now. And Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane was a big love of mine. So when I realign my expectations, I’m finding that I enjoy the Marc Andreyko‘s work much more.

batwoman-32-bAll photos courtesy of DC Comics

Batwoman #32 is actually a really good jumping-on point for new readers. Andreyko & Co.’s first full arc concluded last month, so we’re kicking off with a brand new villain and a brand new phase of Kate Kane’s personal life. The new villain is a gold-digging, husband-killing vampire named Nocturnal. The new personal life is … more complicated. (Hashtag lesbians, amirite?)

Maggie is out of town dealing with her ex-husband who wants sole custody of their daughter, something that’s putting a big strain on her relationship with Kate. Maggie doesn’t want Kate to be with her during the trial, which of course makes Kate feel like there’s something wrong with her, and Maggie doesn’t have the time (or desire?) to process her situation with her fiance. She checks in, briefly, and leaves Kate feeling left out. Things get even more weird for Kate when her ex-girlfriend from West Point shows up in Gotham (in her full uniform!) for a job at the Gotham Military Academy.

batwoman-32

We don’t know Sophie, but we can tell by the way Bette says, “Oh. That Sophie” that there’s a whole lot of history there. Probably of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell variety. Kate is so thrown that she actually goes to her therapist without an appointment so he can exposit to us that she’s probably feeling unsettled about seeing an ex-girlfriend with whom she doesn’t have any closure, and also a little rageful that said ex-girlfriend stayed closeted and in the army and now has a life Kate could have had if she hadn’t come out as a lesbian.

Kate’s not much of a talker (and Andreyko’s never been accused of using his words too much), so Kate works out her frustration by donning the cape and cowl and heading out into the night to bust some heads.

The setup doesn’t feel completely organic, but it does pose a very timely, gay-specific internal dilemma for Kate to face down. It’s the first time I’ve been excited to see what happens in the next issue in a long time!

Batgirl

I confess there was a moment in this month’s Batgirl when I thought she was going to come out as bisexual, but it turns out she just had a really, really intense emotional relationship with her college roommate. I actually can’t say much more than that without spoiling the issue/the entire series arc, so let’s just leave it as “friends.” What I really want to talk about is that Alysia Yeoh finally got her some this month.

Back in Issue #19, Barbara Gordon’s roommate came out as a bisexual transgender woman. At that time, writer/goddess Gail Simone told Wired magazine: “[Diversity] is the issue for superhero comics. Look, we have a problem most media don’t have, which is that almost all the tentpoles we build our industry upon were created over a half century ago… at a time where the characters were almost without exception white, cisgendered, straight, on and on. It’s fine — it’s great that people love those characters. But if we only build around them, then we look like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show for all eternity.” But she also said Alysia wasn’t going to be a PSA, and she stuck by that.

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Supporting characters are included in stories to support the narratives and flesh out the personalities of the main characters, so I never expected to see Alysia’s love life. (And modern media does a crap job with giving trans* characters love interests anyway, so that was probably also a factor in my feelings.) So it caught me so off-guard that I laughed out loud when Barbara returned home to her and Alysia’s apartment to find her roommate in the throes of passion with another woman. It happens off-panel and Babs’ reaction is priceless. She’s sits on the stoop with her head in her hands and tries to melt into the ground when Alysia’s girlfriend runs out of the house half-clothed. Akysia appears in the doorway and unabashedly says her name’s Jo, and they’re dating.

The fact that it’s kind of a throwaway moment played for laughs because Barbara is having a no good, very bad month makes it even more revolutionary. We’re not laughing because Alysia is a bisexual transgender woman having sex; we’re laughing because Barbara walked in on her roommate having sex. And it’s no big deal. No to Barbara and not to us. It’s just a normal thing that happens to normal roommates.

Did I mention Alysia is also a woman of color? ‘Cause she is!

How’s your comics reading going? Did you pick up Batgirl or Batwoman this month?

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