More ‘Batwoman,’ Less ‘Catwoman’

This fall, DC Comics introduced the New 52, a reboot of the DC Universe meant to make DC’s line of comics more appealing and accessible to new fans. In this reboot, DC aimed to create a universe relevant to a diverse readership. However, with the release of two new DC comics, Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, I have to wonder how much DC actually cares about bringing in more women as fans.

In my review of the new Batwoman comic, I praised DC Comics for introducing compelling women characters who fight crime on the streets of Gotham City. Batwoman, her cousin Bette Kane, and Detective Maggie Sawyer have rich personal histories, complex relationships, and ambitions. Compared to these characters, the women of Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws fall flat.

Laura Hudson’s insightful analysis of Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws for the blog Comics Alliance criticizes how these comics reduce the heroines Catwoman and Starfire to two-dimensional caricatures serving little purpose beyond fueling the sexual fantasies of a straight, male audience. In Catwoman, the artwork displays Catwoman’s lingerie-clad body before even showing her face, reducing her to an object without personality; in Red Hood and the Outlaws, Starfire spends more time posing in a bikini than performing superheroics. Portraying Catwoman and Starfire as attractive, sexual women is not the problem, the problem lies in the fact that “sexy” is all Catwoman and Starfire seem to be.

As the marketing truism states, sex sells. However, comic creators who assume that men only read comics with scantily-clad sex objects insult the intelligence of male readers. As a comic fan, I believe fans of all genders want quality stories: stories with characters who exhibit strength, bravery, and cleverness; stories with whip-smart, witty dialog; stories with fight scenes that are intense, fluid, and kinetic. If a comic has solid writing and three-dimensional characters, that comic can present characters as sexual beings without being crass and exploitative, but sadly, neither Catwoman nor Red Hood and the Outlaws is that kind of comic.

If anything, Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws seem cheap and shallow, and I will be surprised if either comic is still in print in a year. Cheap and shallow comics do not light a fire in a fan’s imagination; fans will not make the journey to Comic-Con to meet the creators of cheap and shallow comics. As a fan, though, I can choose to vote with my dollars and support the comics I enjoy, comics that respect my humanity and demonstrate that a woman’s worth is based on more than just her physical attractiveness.

Because I am such a big fan of Batwoman, I have not given up on DC yet. Batwoman proves that comic heroines can be smart, sexy, brave, and complex. I only wish that Batwoman were the rule, and not the exception.


Brian Truitt, “DC Comics ready for a risky yet relevant publishing change,” USA Today, 5/31/2011

Kate Coenen, “Batwoman #1 Launches onto the Comic Book Scene,” Associated Content, 9/16/2011

Laura Hudson, “The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality,’” Comics Alliance, 9/22/2011

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