During Baltimore Comic Con this weekend, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio said that homophobia wasn't the reason that execs shut down a story arc involving Batwoman's same-sex wedding, but rather that heroes shouldn't have happy personal lives.
Batwoman's writers quit last week over a series of editorial differences, one of which was Batwoman (aka Kate Kane) being denied a same-sex wedding. But it wasn't the homosexual angle that was apparently the problem; rather, it was that marriage might have made Batwoman content. And we can't have that.
"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," DiDio told the panel. He added:
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.
DiDio's argument begs the question: why would Batwoman's marriage have to be neat and tidy? A gay marriage could actually have been a perfect means for DC to explore all the fraught aspects of two people yoked together for eternity — with the added same-sex angle adding interest.
Comic Marriages Are Already a Mess
You would think that a comic company that's spent plenty of years trying to figure out how to out-dark, out-smart, and out-write their competitors at Marvel would have picked up on a recurring theme—Marvel is full of unhappy couples and failed marriages. Marvel loves to bring people together — Wasp and Ant-Man, Storm and Black Panther, Scott Summers and Jean Grey — only to rip them apart. Granted, some of the marriage difficulties that Summers and Grey had were due to supervillain tinkering and psychic affairs, but marriages like Storm and Black Panther hit upon some more human problems (albeit allegorically)—for example, Storm being frustrated with her new role as Queen of Wakanda (which reads more like a story about having a career) and Storm's allegiance to her "family" ( a lovely bunch known as the X-Men).
Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool News points out that DC is also in the business of tearing couples apart. But DC does so quietly, as in the case of Aquaman and Mera. Batwoman could be its most thorough foray into the complexities of comic matrimony.
Messy Marriages Are At a Pop Culture Peak
It's not just in comics that holy matrimonies go dark. Look at the most popular and critically-acclaimed shows shows on television: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones—many of those characters dwell in or have escaped terrible marriages. Don Draper is terrible to his wives and terrible to other people's wives, too. People hate Skyler White. And Game of Thrones thrives on marriages gone wrong (see: Red Wedding, Sansa's wedding). The "good" marriages always end up unhappy with enough time. Some involve a death that serves as another character's turning point (see: Anna Draper, Khal Drogo). That's all to say that there are myriad storylines involved love gone wrong — whether that love is for someone of the same or the opposite sex.
Gay Divorce Is a Reality Now, Too
While Marvel and Archie are both ahead of DC on the gay marriage front, neither company has experimented with a gay divorce — even though it's a reality nowadays. Because of gay marriage's infancy, as well as the ongoing fight to have it recognized in the U.S., gay divorce has more pressure attached to it and remains a novelty. It's a phenomenon that comic books — which are more progressive than they often given credit for — could capable explore.
For example, DC could have fleshed out a messy Kane relationship, a separation — or unique problems Kane and her fiancee Maggie Sawyer face as a lesbian couple. Or they could have just shown them suffering from the same strains that plague straight couples.
In order to recognize equality between same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage means you also have to recognize the warts, the ugly parts of marriage. Same sex marriage means the same fights over who does the dishes or weekends at the in-laws (or, in Batwoman's case, murderous villains). With the storyline of Batwoman's marriage, DiDio and DC had the chance to pave the way forward. And they didn't.