Jun 5, 2018

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 1196: Detective Comics #856, October 2009

https://www.comics.org/issue/666797/

There are two ways I'd like to think about queerness in this comic.

First, there are three lycanthropes in this issue. These characters were servitors of the previous leader of the Crime Religion, but were disillusioned when Batwoman defied their prophecy. They now hold her in some regard, and turn out to be allies in the battle against Alice. But I think their presence in a comic that is helmed by two lesbians is a little more symbolic. In story, they are form-shifting members of an underground society - a description one might easily ascribe to some kinds of queerness. And even more basically, the idea of shifting form, of being fluid between identities, is intrinsic to the idea of queerness.

Second, Batwoman and the Question used to go out. I can't believe this hadn't occurred to me before. It's revealed that, before either of them became the superheroes they are, Kate Kane and Renee Montoya dated. We enter their joint story after the fact. They're civil, but I think there's still some hurt feelings. So what's really interesting is that theirs are the two stories we're getting in this comic. I haven't said much about the Question's story. It's a gritty tale of human trafficking, and though a really good story, it pales in comparison to J.H. Williams's art. Is there something to this pairing? I feel like there's something to the fact that we're able to follow both women's stories, rather than experiencing their continuing narratives through only one focal character. And there is acknowledgment of the shared history in each others' tales. In yesterday's issue, one of the hallucinations Kate suffers is the Question coming to her rescue. Again, it's something I'd have to think longer on. Have we ever seen this kind of a story told with a heterosexual superhero pairing? Did Green Arrow and Black Canary every have a period of separation like this? And what is the idea of a shared focalization doing to our reading of a story of a broken-up couple?

(Even reading that back to myself, I'm not sure how much sense it made! But, as I noted in my intro to this month, queering is about breaking down binaries - in life and in theory!).

More to come...

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