Friday, March 23, 2007


In this post, I argued that in modern context, a character who is straight, white, and male is read as a blank slate, neutral, with no connotations attached to him. It's racist, sexist, and heteronormative, but it's true. Asked to describe the Spirit in issue one of Darwin Cooke's series, a character calls him a "big blue average with a distraction stuck on his face." He's not, of course. He's tall, well muscled, has brown hair. But he's straight, white, and male, and therefore "average."

A "big blue average with a distraction stuck on his face" is also a pretty good description of The Question. He has a mask that erases his face, takes away his features. His schtick is that he really could be anyone. That is, anyone who is a straight white man...

But that's not true anymore, is it? That Question, the Vic Sage question, died, and his replacement is, a ha ha, Renee Montoya.

A Gay Latin Woman.

A gay latin woman with no face.

Does that work? I'd be really happy if it did, because it'd mean that being gay or being a latina is NOT your identity or your definition. That the face, the individual, is what's important, and take that away and Montoya becomes nobody, could be anybody.

Could this be the new neutral?

1 comment:

Tommy said...

I posted about this at my own site.

DC Comics may have accidentally given us one of the most diverse characters in the history of comics, a strong woman of color who happens to be a lesbian. Let me back up a little bit and explain how such a thing is possible.

I’m sure everyone remembers Batman The Animated Series. It stands as arguably one of the best cartoons ever aired with solid plot lines that weren’t so dumbed down for five year olds that adults found them annoying (I’m looking at you Teen Titans). One of the new characters created just for the animated series was Officer Renee Montoya, the young idealist partner of the cranky veteran Harvey Bullock. The character was an instant hit and soon made her debut as one of Gotham’s finest in Batman. Promoted to Homicide Detective in Batman #475 by Commissioner James Gordon once again she was partnered with Bullock. Once Bullock was promoted, Renee was partnered with Crispus Allen. During the epic No Man’s Land storyline where Gotham was destroyed by an earthquake and unceremoniously thrown out of the United States, Renee was a key player in the city’s survival tricking the villain Harvey Dent into helping with relief effort after he fell in love with her.

During Greg Rucka’s fantastic run on Gotham Central Two Face, feeling spurned by Renee after No Man’s Land outs her as a lesbian in public and frames her for murder. She is eventually cleared of all charges but her overtly religious parents disown her because of her sexuality. Not long after her personal life falls apart including the destruction of the relationship with her girlfriend, Renee’s partner Crispus is murdered by a corrupt cop named Jim Corrigan. Vowing vengeance Renee beats Corrigan’s girlfriend unconscious and pulls a gun on Corrigan. Unable to enact her vengeance and feeling lost and broken, Renee quit the GCPD and spiraled further down into a pit of casual sex and alcohol abuse.

Over the past year Renee has gone though a journey both physical and spiritual in the pages of 52. Her friendship with The Question and his eventual demise at the hands of one of the worlds biggest villains, cancer have caused a huge transformation. During 52 Renee has spent a considerable amount of time in the city of Nanda Parbat, a mystical city in a Tibetesque region of the DCU. During her time there she has been struggling with her identity with the help of Richard Dragon. Before his death the Question told Renee that his wish was for her to take over his mantle and continue his work. She is currently working through her feelings of loss and inadequacy and according to the solicitations for 52 #48 there is a new Question with more feminine features.

7119_400×600.jpg That brings us to the opening statement. A strong, lesbian woman of color following her own agenda and taking charge of the situation. Earlier in 52 we saw that there is already a relationship between Renee and the new Batwoman Kate Kane. A relationship that has the potential to be the Willow/Tara of the DC universe. An empowered lesbian couple who defy media stereotypes by being a loving committed couple. We have seen plenty of heterosexual couples who have healthy monogamous relationships. In DC alone we have Lois and Clark, Ralph and Sue and soon to be Ollie and Dinah and those are just the high profile names.

There are still plenty of stories to tell about Renee Montoya. She has conflicted parents, a loving brother, loyal friends in Bullock and Gordon and a potential love interest that could bring the term “team up” to a whole new level. I’ve been there with Renee though her entire “career”. From her humble origins as a uniformed officer on the animated series through her transformation into the new Question and rarely have I cheered and moaned and wept for a character as intensely as I have done for her. In the hands of the right writer Renee could be the breakout star of the decade. Let’s hope the folks at DC realize that.