A great deal of publicity (likely free publicity for DC) has been making its way around the media in regards to a new addition in the world of DC Comics. Apparently the new Batwoman, who will also have the same alter ego as the original Batwoman of Kathy Kane, will be a lesbian.
“DC Comics is resurrecting the classic comic book character as a lesbian, unveiling the new Batwoman in July as part of an ongoing weekly series that began this year. The 5-foot-10 superhero comes with flowing red hair, knee-high red boots with spiked heels, and a form-fitting black outfit.” – Associated Press May 31, 2006
Well, uhm, that’s all well and good. I really don’t want to incite a political debate here, just to point something out, that DC has done this (i.e. the introduction of gay characters into comics) before. What, you know that already? There’s Renee Montoya and Maggie Sawyer and (insert name I fail to mention here). Well, yeah, but I’m thinking earlier… much, much earlier…
Action Comics #12 (cover dated May 1939) features a pretty neat story by Guardner Fox and Fred Guardineer featuring Zatara the Magician. Zatara, as some may mention, was essentially of the ilk of Mandrake the Magician. Wearing a top hat and tuxedo he would perform various astounding feats, aided by his manservant, Tong. In this tale, Zatara journeys to the Fourth Dimension (thanks to a device created by a scientist friend of his) and encounters a planet at war. There are two factions involved in a bitter struggle (seriously, one panel shows bodies disintegrating to bone under ray blasts). The King of Thrule compels Zatara to steal the sacred Necklace of Baya from their enemies, which would end the war, and Zatara agrees (“to think, my hands could end this bloodshed!”). As he steals the necklace, he also convinces the Queen of this realm, Mulano, that war is a folly and it should be stopped. She agrees (but only after Zatara threatens to steal her beauty away – ah, vanity), and joins Zatara on a trip to Thrule to sign a peace treaty. There’s only one snag à the King of Thrule has died! Ah well, at least Thrule now has a Queen as well, Duoro. Zatara hits on an idea and approaches the Queens with it – why not unite the two kingdoms, and rule together, on a shared throne. The following panels speak for themselves.
Now I could be wrong, maybe 1939 political customs were different than they are today and it was commonplace for world leaders to plant big, sloppy, wet ones on each other while gently caressing their bare shoulders – ahem, sorry. It seems more likely that Mr. Fox and/or Mr. Guardineer had something else in mind. It is certainly different, especially for 1939, to see two young gals kissing in such an intimate manner, and then sitting side-by-side on a throne of power like husband and wife. At the very least this scenario was ahead of its time – and who knows, maybe it helped plant the seeds for what would follow in DC? It is a shame that we can’t ask neither writer nor artist why they chose to go this route with the story (they could have easily had the King of Thrule continue to live instead of haphazardly being killed off). I suppose it shall remain a mystery.
Just like the mystery of why Zatara is keeping one hand in his pocket in the above panel…
Batwoman, Zatara and all related characters and stories are TM and © DC Comics.