Editors Note: Here at 4LN, we are not all of the same mindset. Some of us think Batman is a superhero, and some of us vehemently do not (although, said individual does not discredit the heroism of Batman, but I digress). There are those of us who LOVE Aquaman, and there are those of us who prefer to ridicule Aquaman for being a stupid, worthless hero (at least, that’s I’ve heard). The rest of the guys are very well versed in Star Wars trivia but I personally am not. I like Star Wars, and have seen all the movies, but it’s just not really my thing. With that being said, one thing I feel like it’s safe to say is that we all support the equality of all comic book characters. Men & woman, black & white, Skrulls & Kree, and definitely all characters that are identified as being apart of the LGBT community. Now, are there some of us that are probably more vocal about it than others? Absolutely. While some of us may be more documented as vocally supporting the rights of LGBT characters, we all feel like every character, regarless of gender, race, religious faith, or sexual orientation, has the right to exist.
Last week there arose the controversy of Batgirl #37, wherein the new creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr depicted a cross-dresser/drag queen in a manner that many people felt was insensitive. They have since issued a formal apology to the readers, and anyone else, who were offended and hurt by the depiction of this trans character.
So, none of us here at 4LN have been reading Batgirl, and none of us have read this particular issue. We cannot weigh in on the situation based off of the hearsay so we won’t. However, we have a very good friend whose name is Clay VanBuren. We have all known Clay for several years. Clay is gay and is very much well versed on drag queen culture (he gave me a damn history lesson on it recently and I know a lot more about the drag world than I did when I watched the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. #TeamAdore). Clay also does not regularly read comics, but he just so happened to get his hands on a copy of Batgirl #37 because the nature of the story appealed to him. We asked Clay, as someone whose personal culture is directly impacted by the developments in this issue, if he would share his thoughts about it. He agreed and what follows is his take on the whole matter. – Stephen Andrew
Hot guys in skin tight outfits, rippling and bulging with muscles, questionable relationships with sidekicks and other characters within the story line, tongue in cheek jokes and possible double meanings within comments; all great things that should make me a comic book fanatic, but yet, I know hardly anything at all about them. The only things I can tell you about the gigantic and multi-dimentional worlds of DC and Marvel and the vast amount of other publishers, would all be pretty much regurgitated factoids fed to me by my friends. Why, you ask, then am I even writing any kind of review of a comic, or even trying to give my point of view or opinion? Well its exactly just that, I want to help give a voice to the “novice” or “noob” of this particular fandom. Every so often, either due to social media, or friends, or just happening to be at the store at the right random moment; I come across a comic book that catches my attention and sparks my curiosity to actually want to pick it up and read it, and in the few instances purchase it. This is the case with the most recent Batgirl comic, issue #37, because of a random post on Facebook by an LGBT magazine that I subscribe to and follow. What caught my attention about this particular issue was something about the “controversy” and possibility of the writers/creators “going to far” with the portrayal of the villain that Batgirl was going to face in the issue, and of course after reading the article and the argument that it posed to the readers I had to obtain a copy for myself for a few reasons. (1:) It’s “controversial”, and dealt with the LGBT community in and interesting way and (2:) I wanted to read the actual story and form my own opinion about how the comic’s point of view read. I mean, anyone and everyone has their own way of reading and interpreting things, so I wanted to see if I saw and felt the same way as some of the people that the article talked about saw and felt like. And finally (3:) after seeing the character in question and the main cover picture of him, I just simply fell in love and thought it was one of the hottest, fiercest covers I have seen for a comic, and being the kind of “drag fag” that I am, well of course I HAD TO HAVE IT! Ha! Okay…anyways…now, I hope I have at least kept your attention to this point because now I want to do a quick rundown of what’s going on in the this particular issue of Batgirl so that I can give my honest feelings and opinions at the end and you aren’t completely lost. Though, I do highly suggest going and picking this issue up and reading it yourself so you can form your own opinion as well. (Spoilers are going to be happening from this point on, but still, go get the damn comic. It’s only $3, and that’s half of your morning Starbucks. You can suffer for a smaller size coffee frappe latte froofroo drink.)
The beginning of the comic puts you in a car with 5 girls that have just robbed a celebrity’s house and have stolen her diamonds and bling and such, and are now looking for a party and to have some more fun. One of these girls is supposedly Batgirl, and the other 4 girls are shocked she would take part in such activities, but ultimately just want to continue to look for the next happening spot to show off their newly obtained goods. Out from the shadows the real Batgirl comes flying in and the fake Batgirl disappears from the car leaving behind her 4 party cohorts. After the party girls are taken into custody we move to the apartment of Babs (Batgirl), where she receives an updated and modified phone from her friend, then we see her getting ready and arriving at a big art installation gala opening for the mysterious and fairly anonymous artist Dagger Type. Upon entering the art exhibit, she is floored to find out that the entire installation is of gigantic portraits displaying Batgirl in multiple positions, the final one being a beaten and worn down figure sitting in a wheelchair. Babs being completely confused and taken off guard returns after the exhibit has closed dressed as Batgirl and grills the manager for information about the featured artist, and after getting said info on how to find him, goes on the hunt. Next we find her looking around inside one of Dagger Type’s supposed work spaces in an ally under a bridge, where she is confronted by a couple of hench-women. After she fights them, out from the rafters, in a sparkling golden outfit swings in the counterfeit Batgirl. They then go back and forth with catty remarks, finally beginning to fight and brawl themselves ending up on the top of one of the bridges giant arches. During this “Battle of the Batgirls”, more catty remarks are made, then ultimately the real Batgirl ends up unmasking the counterfeit exposing it to be none other than the elusive artist Dagger Type. Batgirl is now yet again completely confused, causing her to be taken off guard again and shot at by Dagger Type in an attempt to kill her and take her place. Batgirl falls to the dark water below and Dagger Type gets away. The final arena we find ourselves in is… well… an actual arena. Dagger Type is setting up his final installment in the “Batgirl Exposed” collection. He then makes the big revelation to the crowd that it has been none other than HIM that has been under the mask of Batgirl and that he is exposing this for all of Burnside to know finally. He is met with heckling and boos from the crowd and ends up being taken down by the real Batgirl who is using her real identity of Barbara Gordon so she can defeat him. In the end we find out that Dagger Type has been hired by some unknown “Patron”, as he put it, and that he was promised fame and fortune if he took out the real Batgirl and then posed in her place. Dagger Type is taken off to jail and the final panels show the real Barbara Gordon dressed as Batgirl getting her friend to take her picture so she can post it on social media to show Burnside the real Batgirl. The End.
Wow, I hope I didn’t bore you all there. I did warn you all that I am new to this entire world of comics and reviews, so I wanted to cover as much as I can to give the gist of the comic.
Now we have come to the fun part, the part where thoughts are expressed, feelings may be hurt, toes may be stepped on…but ultimately I hope eyes are opened as well as minds. I want to also express, even though I myself am an out and proud gay male, I am in NO WAY attempting to speak for the LGBT community as a whole, and even though I am a massive massive fan of the amazing art of Drag and the performers who make a living doing it, I am in NO WAY speaking for them as a whole either. I am simply giving MY point of view and my opinions on this and am not meaning any disrespect by anything I say, though I am going to be as honest as I can be. That being said, lets get into it.
Like I said in the very beginning of this thing, what really caught my attention about this particular issue of Batgirl, was the controversy that seemed to come with it. The idea that somehow the writers/creators have “gone to far” and are portraying the LGBT community in a bad light, and the fact that they’re accused of adding fuel to the flames of horrible stereotypes because of the way they drew and portrayed the main villain Dagger Type really made me curious. I had to find out for myself what was going on. So I read the comic, and well, I honestly just didn’t quite understand the hype over the character and what made him so offensive. All I really thought after seeing Dagger Type was “Damn he’s got some f—ing sickening outfits! Now who do I know [as a drag queen] that could and would do the same outfits justice in real life?” I didn’t see the “sadistic sissy” that the articles I had originally read made a big deal about. I didn’t see this horrible “homicidal homo” or anything along those lines that was apparently causing such a giant split between LGBT comic readers, and offending so many people. I don’t understand what about him as a character was causing so much of a fuss. In my eyes, he’s the just the stereotypical over the top comic book villain. Oh but wait… there’s that word… There’s the source of the “controversy”… Dagger Type is said to be a “STEREOTYPE” (enter the cheesy “dun dun duuuun” music for added drama). Sure, he is a scrawny, artsy, flashy, blonde, twinkish guy who has an eye for sickening makeup, diamond encrusted costumes, a flair for flashy entrances, an addiction to social media and the desire for fame and fortune and notoriety (though I have to say the only thing I truly found offensive in the entire book was the multiple references to Kanye West, I mean come on! Of all the f—ing people for a “gay” guy to reference being in a video with, why Kanye??? That’s what you apologize for, creative team). But why do those things being part of his character automatically make him a stereotype? Why can’t they just be his character? What makes him so controversial to the point that the LGBT readers are split on whether or not they find him offensive, and that the writers/creators have since extended a formal written apology to the fan base for all the backlash that they have received due to this character?
To me this is such a minute issue within the LGBT community that I just have to shake my head. Out of everything we are fighting for and trying to gain, for people to cause any kind of significant fight over a character in a comic book is laughable. It’s a comic book for gawd sake, not the right to vote or to get married. So I think people need to loosen up and just take it for what it is, a cartoon character. I mean if you look at him, he really is just simply an ink and color rendition of a drag queen. He’s no different to me than Jessica Rabbit or Betty Boop, well other than the fact that he’s… well… a he. I hope you see the point I’m making. Those two characters, iconic as they are, are just simply the exaggerated idea of a stereotypical “real woman”. Granted, I’m sure if I researched enough I’ll find the same bullshit about them, and the controversy and blah blah blah that they fueled in their respective time periods, but that’s a story for another day.
Overall, I will end with this: Batgirl #37 is a fun and campy read that hits on some small points about young people today. Social media,and the desire for fame & fortune and the easy routes to get to it and the hold that these ideals have on us as the younger generation. Dagger Type… I love him, and I want to see someone bring him to life and perform in his bad ass outfits. Again, he is nothing more than a campy nod to the hay day of cheesy, over the top villains that we all have grown to love in comic books and I think he should honestly be taken with a grain of salt. If you really truly are offended to your core by a cartoon, well, I don’t know what to tell you. I just hope that somehow you become a little less uptight and more confident in yourself as a human being, that you can find something a little more important to cause a fuss and ruffle feathers over than a damn comic character. Open your eyes to the real world around you, not the fake ones made of ink and paint. I say this out of love. There is so much more to life, so go have fun, see a drag show, chill with friends, make memories, and just be happy you are alive and well.