JH Williams III & W. Haden Blackman Leave ‘Batwoman’ Over Editorial Edicts
In a posting to JH Williams III's website late Wednesday night, the acclaimed artist and his Batwoman co-writer W. Haden Blackman announced that due to what they described as a preponderance of "eleventh-hour changes" to stories that had been planned a year or more in advance, they're walking off the book. Among the grievances alleged by Williams and Blackman was publisher DC Comics' refusal to allow principal characters Batwoman (aka Kate Kane) and her fiancé Maggie Sawyer to get married.
In their co-authored blog post Williams and Blackman said their approach to Batwoman was based on avoiding a status quo, with each successive story arc designed to that end.
"Unfortunately, in recent months, DC has asked us to alter or completely discard many long-standing storylines in ways that we feel compromise the character and the series," wrote Blackman and Williamst. "We were told to ditch plans for Killer Croc’s origins; forced to drastically alter the original ending of our current arc, which would have defined Batwoman’s heroic future in bold new ways; and, most crushingly, prohibited from ever showing Kate and Maggie actually getting married. All of these editorial decisions came at the last minute, and always after a year or more of planning and plotting on our end."
The decision to not have Kane and Sawyer marry will likely strike a sour note with many Batwoman readers given the character's notoriety as one of the few openly gay American superhero characters and (to the best of my knowledge) the only one with their own title. Batwoman's emergence coincided with increasing support for gay rights in the United States, and her origin was inspired by the U.S.'s controversial real-life policies concerning homosexuals serving in the armed forces. In another story reflecting the cultural zeitgeist, Batwoman recently proposed to her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer. That they wouldn't get to depict the couple's marriage was the "most crushing" aspect of the situation.
Asked to expand on the marriage note, Williams said the following via Twitter: "Not wanting to be inflammatory, only factual -- We fought to get [Kate and Maggie] engaged, but were told emphatically no marriage can result." He added, "But must clarify-- [the decision] was never put to us as being anti-gay marriage."
Additional tweets between Williams and fellow DC writer Gail Simone suggest that the decision to keep Kate and Maggie from officially tying the knot was made for dramatic reasons as opposed to political ones. "More of an anti-marriage thing in general" is how Simone described her suspicion, referring perhaps to recent DC editorial moves that undid the marriages between several super-couples including Superman and Lois Lane, the Flash and Iris West, and Green Arrow and Black Canary. Williams confirmed Simone's suspicion: "Gail is right, but it still should not be a story to be avoided, but embraced fully."
UPDATE 09/05/2013: A DC Comics representative offered no comment on this story.
UPDATE 2 09/05/2013: A DC Comics spokesperson told CA, "As acknowledged by the creators involved, the editorial differences with the writers of Batwoman had nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the character."
Along with Batman, Wonder Woman and The Flash, Batwoman is one of DC's few remaining titles that could be described as "auteur books" -- which is to say, comics guided by a cohesive creative vision over the course of years. These comics tend to be the most critically acclaimed and in some cases the most popular of the New 52 line. Williams' work on last year's "World's Finest" storyline guest starring Wonder Woman was so strong that ComicsAlliance included Batwoman on our list of the Best Comics of 2012, not to mention an Eisner nomination for cover art.
Williams and Haden indicated their final issue of Batwoman would be #26, which while not yet solicited to retailers is expected to ship in December.