As noted across both Marvel and DC (the two heavy hitters in the comic book market), there’s a real lack of female representation. Not only do the women of their rosters fail to get as much of the spotlight as the men, they are small in numbers too.
Batwoman is one of few exceptions. A total badass and an out and proud lesbian, Batwoman (or Kate Kane as she’s known out of costume) was once kicked out of the United States army for being gay under DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) but has continued to seek justice for the people of Gotham by taking to the streets in mask, cape and all.
Batwoman has even had love interests too though after DC refused to let Kate and her girlfriend Maggie get married, W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III left the creative team. We are now feeling the full effects of their departure as the latest Batwoman comic features a controversial rape scene.
Not that any rape scene wouldn’t be controversial but this one is especially striking due to the nature in which it happens (and in the way in which the comic plays it off). In the comic, vampire supervillain Nocturna breaks into Kate’s house, uses her vampire powers to trick Kate into thinking that Noctura is Maggie and then proceeds to have sex with her.
The operative word there is ‘trick’ – Kate doesn’t consent to what happens (and even complains that she feels a little light-headed from drinking wine) and is being manipulated into taking part. That’s not a loving act between two right-minded people, it’s rape and there’s no getting around that.
Worse still, the comic presents this as something sensual rather than gross and disgusting. The reader is made to feel as though the rape is sexy and seductive and all of the other adjectives that should never be associated with terrible sexual acts.
And, on top of this, Nocturna and Kate actually start a relationship following this issue of the comic. This too is manipulative and abusive (Nocturna uses more vampire trickery to get Kate to agree with what she wants) and yet the creative team behind Batwoman is condoning it.
Prior to W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III’s departure, many fans were worried that Batwoman would go downhill and evidently they were right to be concerned. It’s unclear if the comic can get off of this slippery path either. DC has a long and awful history with using rape as a plot device so if you’re expecting Batwoman and DC to make amends, I strongly advise comic fans not to hold their breath.