Batman has generally been the benchmark for about as homoerotic as you can get in comic books, at least until recently. Though outright gay characters had come into the medium earlier in indie comics, the first outright gay character in one of main two universes didn’t come into existence until the Marvel character Northstar came out of the closet in 1992. Of course recently DC has made headlines by announcing that one of its main characters was going to come out of the closet.
The funny thing is, at least in my opinion is that Batman has always been gay. But what is awesome about that is that his sexuality had nothing really to do with his crimefighting ability. He was just a guy that enjoyed the company of men. It’s part of the reason his onscreen romances never felt right to me. As a guy who read Batman books, Batman being with a woman just felt weird. That’s probably because I read Batman during the 90’s, the decade in which every character was a rage of repressed homosexuality.
This is part of the reason I chose this book for Kevin to read this week. I originally picked this book, because I thought it would be timely to have the first major story arc with Bane since he is the focus in the new movie. However The more I reread, the more I realized that Knightfall has more in common with Nolan’s movies than just Bane, it’s about the unleashing of repression, and how your inner turmoil is really what breaks you.
Knightfall happened shortly after Superman #75 and as such was seen as a quick capitalization on The Death of Superman. Can’t you just see it now?
Editor #1- “Well we killed Superman and made a shit-ton of money! Can we do it with Batman?”
Editor #2- “Maybe, but if we kill him the fans will cry foul!” (I don’t know if anyone ever actually used that saying)
Editor #1- “Well what if we just have him maimed?”
In my head as a 13 year old this is what I thought was going on. However according to research The idea had been floating around since ‘91 and the Supes team beat them to it. (however this doesn’t explain why they replace Green Lantern, The Flash, and Wonder Woman.)
Back to my original idea though, Knightfall was an amazing book to read as a kid. Batman had to fight his way through his entire rouges gallery, who were set free in order to weaken him. Eventually after Batman is so physically and mentally exhausted, Bane comes in and breaks his back. (fulfilling the promise that Ivan Drago never could.)
However, think of the metaphor that Bane represents. He is a massive masked man pumping his body full of chemicals to make himself physically stronger and more muscular. He sends wave after wave of Batman’s rogue gallery out into the world to wreak havoc on his psyche. Eventually this breaks him quite literally. Though this technically occurs in the next book, Bruce Wayne is replaced by Jean Paul Valley (a great wine name) as Batman, a man who throughout the book does nothing but physically exercise and verbally spar with Robin. As a kid I thought they were going for a Jean Claude Van Damme-esque character, but even then I knew better. Batman was no longer about the Rock Hudson man-in-the-closet. Not that it mattered to me about Batman’s sexuality. He was Batman, I was just discovering girls myself, and before that I thought girls were just as icky as Batman did.
However as I got older and reread those issues and saw the incredibly inaccurate hyper defined musculature of the main characters, I couldn’t help but wonder about what was being said through the art. Okay I understand that it was the 90’s and everyone drew like that, but why, was that honestly what the artist understood as what a comic character should look like, or was it more of a caricature, representing the characters through their grotesque features? Why would anyone want their body to look like that?
Batman may not have been an openly gay character, but I understood at a very young age that Batman wasn’t into girls. Later I learned that he was probably a very closeted individual. Did I care? No, but it deepened the character for me, and I like to think that reading Batman made me more tolerant in my youth.
Read along with Joe and Kevin!
Next up: Batman: Knightfall- Kevin’s Take
- X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Vol. 2-4
- Starman Vol.1-3
You can also hear Joe and Kevin on their podcast.