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Batwoman's other secret identity turns heads

By David E. Williams


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(CNN) -- Kathy Kane's return as a socialite-turned-caped-crusader might not draw much attention outside the comic book world, but Batwoman's other secret is causing quite a fuss.

DC Comics says the character, who was brought in originally in 1956 as Batman's love interest, will be reintroduced as a lesbian as part of an effort to diversify its superhero roster. Kane is open about her sexuality with her friends, but has not come out to her family, executive director Don Didio said.

A quick Google search for "lesbian Batwoman" drew more than half a million hits with some blog posts calling it a sign of "the steady decline of our society," and others questioning whether a 5-foot-10-inch redhead in big boots and a skin-tight suit was a role model or a straight teenagers' fantasy. (Watch lesbian Batwoman trigger sidewalk argument -- 2:14)

Longtime comic book fan Joe Palmer, who runs the Gay League Web site for gay and lesbian comic book fans, said that he did not think the idea was patronizing, and dismissed concerns about Batwoman's new look.

"Honestly, comic book characters are already going to be handsome or over-the-top gorgeous anyway," he said. "They're definitely going to be very physically fit, they're going to be gym bunnies basically, only they don't go to the gym."

John Schroeder, an environmental consultant and Presbyterian deacon who blogs about both comic books and his religious faith, said Batwoman's sexual orientation is not a big deal to him. He said he decorated his office with superhero statues and has about 8,000 comic books.

"Am I happy that there's going to be a homosexual superhero? Not really," he said. "But it's not like I'm going to jump up and down and scream and say it's the end of the world."

Schroeder said he loves Batman and is "very much addicted to the superhero genre." But he's not a fan of some of the newer Batman titles, he said.

"Some of the Batman work that's being done now is extremely dark, and the art as far as I'm concerned is ugly," he said. "So I'm not buying Batman like I used to, so this will be another Batman-related title I don't buy."

Gay superheroes are not really new to the comic book universe.

Marvel's "Rawhide Kid" introduced a gay cowboy in 2002, years before the movie "Brokeback Mountain" came out. DC's "The Authority" series features a gay superpower couple.

Palmer said he likes the way Marvel's "Young Avengers" has handled the relationship between teen spellcaster Wiccan and his shapeshifting boyfriend the Hulkling.

"They've been revealed to be a gay couple as well and it's handled extremely well, just matter of factly, and no big sensation made over the fact that they're gay and a couple as well," he said.

He said that gay characters often end up being tokens.

"What happens more often than not is that the character is really created as a token and is basically two-dimensional and appears briefly, and then is written out of the storyline or forgotten until later," he said.

The Batman series already had one lesbian character, Det. Renee Montoya, who once dated Batwoman's alter ego.

"This isn't about a lesbian superhero. It's about a superhero, who also happens to be gay," said Didio.

He said the book was intended for all ages and not to expect any sex scenes.

"This will be the first time that a gay character has been created to be a starring character and a recurring role that isn't labeled for mature readers," Palmer said.

He said that the Rawhide Kid's rating drew a lot of complaints among gay readers.

"The book carried a mature readers label and there was absolutely nothing of a mature aspect that occurred in the entire story. It was very tame," he said.

The new Batwoman will appear starting in July in a new comic called "52." DC says the year-long series will show what happens when Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman disappear from Gotham City.

DC Comics is owned by Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.

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