Transgender Bat-Roomie
April 11th, 2013

If it feels like I’m always talking about how craven and awful and truly, truly stupid the New DC is, well, that’s because I am.

But wait–there’s more!

Worried that it’s been months since the New York Times paid them any attention, DC has decided to roll out a transgender character. Isn’t that shocking! Isn’t that daring! Oh sure, they’re going to take fire from all sides because the mainstream world just can’t handle the raw truth and outlaw spirit of the comic book industry. But do they care? Hell no. They’re going to épater the heck out of la bourgeoisie, consequences be damned. Because comic books aren’t just superheroes running around in tights–they’re nuclear bombs of subversive social commentary. They’re relevant. And if you’re not down with that, they got just two words for you . . .

As always, it’s not just the cloying, transparent, desperate yearning for attention on the part of DC. It’s how totally artless the attempts are. Here’s the big transgender reveal in Batgirl:


Gail Simone, who wrote this thing, sounds like someone in a hostage video, talking about how she’s met “so many trans readers over the years” and how “there’s a large LGBTQ readership in comics.”

Really? I mean, really? The top 300 comics combine to sell about 6.72 million copies a month. Let’s assume–just for giggles–that every one of those sales represents a single reader. (Which is obviously a gross over-count.) This UCLA professor pegs the transgender rate at 0.3 percent of the population, which seems a little high to me, but it’s on the internet, so let’s take his word for it. That puts the total number of transgender comic book readers in this little experiment at something like 20,000. But hey, maybe Gail Simone has met all of them. And besides, if all 20,000 of them hop onto Batgirl it’ll be a big deal, since the title only sells 51,000 copies a month.

But again, this isn’t really about whether transgender folks “deserve” representation because they do (or do not) make up a big enough portion of the readership. Superficially silly justifications like Simone’s aside, we’re not gerrymandering congressional districts here. We’re talking about art. Comic book art, yes. But still, art.

And the transgendered Batgirl “reveal” is just Exhibit #727 of how artistically bankrupt DC comics is right now. They have no stories to tell; only stunts to pull.

Whether or not they understand it, DC’s corporate mission isn’t to get mainstream attention for its publicity stunts–or even to sell comic books. It’s to create characters and stories which can be mined by Warner Bros. for film product. The publisher has, thus far, failed spectacularly at this task. The big question about DC is why their parent company continues to tolerate their failure.

  1. Moe Lane » QotD, The Transcendant Cynicism Here Awes Me edition. April 11, 2013 at 9:19 am

    […] Jonathan Last, on DC Comics*: […]

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  3. BJ April 11, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Something tells me DC is a month too late (or 6 months too early) for this to really work as a publicity stunt.

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  5. Cody April 11, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    DC did this in Legion of Super-Heroes over ten years ago.

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  7. troy garrett April 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    thank goodness conservatives are finally talking about the popular culture that all 300 Americans live in. It is so easy to say that conservatives are 45%-55% of the public because look at the election where only 1/3 actually vote. For too long conservatives have seeded every aspect of public life except politics. Even though I am a liberal and I think transgender people should have marriage rights etc.

    I think that it is problem that a liberal cite like slate spend 1/3 of its talking about movies and conservatives only occasionally talk about it.

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  9. spencer April 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    …transgender people already have the right to marry, smart guy.

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  11. Caroline April 12, 2013 at 4:54 am

    Troy and Spencer are both right, though Spencer missed that some facts about marriage that would make him part-way wrong in most states.

    Transgender people can only marry the person they love if they live in certain states. Same for intersexed people. In most states, a transgender person is told the gender of the person they must love in order to marry. And that can change when you have medical procedure done. How stupid is that? Intersexed people can be prohibited from marrying.

    Shouldn’t we let people marry who they love and stop worrying about gender or sex of the people involved? Most of us have done so well in our love lives that we feel this compelling need to direct the love lives of others?

    I know the stupidity of these laws because I am am transgender. Now that I revealed that fact, please stop wondering if I had “the surgery” because it’s rude to try to look up my skirt, don’t you think?

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  13. Kevin Binversie April 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Publicity stunt, sure…for Simone. Didn’t I mention to you during last year’s San Diego Comic Con she was bragging on Twitter about being on a “LBGT Issues in Comics” panel?

    Something tells me that wasn’t a widely seen panel, or held in the main hall.

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  15. Ben2 April 19, 2013 at 11:11 am

    The panel actually WAS widely seen, but it ended abruptly when Hooper X shot an audience member for suggesting the original Star Wars trilogy wasn’t racist. The Comic Con promoters subsequently covered the whole incident up, apparently.

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  17. Ed Driscoll » Failure is an Option April 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    […] Jonathan Last writes that while DC Comics is once again “going to épater the heck out of la bourgeoisie, consequences be damned,” this time via a transgendered character (Holy Renée Richards, Batman!), its emphasis on PR stunts means that this component of the giant Time-Warner-CNN-HBO conglomerate is forgetting its chief corporate mission: […]

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  19. James Versluis April 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    See Las, this is your problem: you’re sticking with DC. Marvel wouldn’t ever be so wrong*. This comes from liking the Star Trek of comics, when Star Wars was the only one.

    *- Don’t even say it. Seriously, just walk away.

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  21. James Versluis April 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Oh, and by the way, Last: you write fucking depressing books. Fucking. Depressing.

    Obviously great books, and I could hardly find anything that was wrong, but just a downer. So, I guess I’m trying to say: congrats. Job well done. You aced it.

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  23. Mark Andrew Edwards April 11, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    I think the real important question is: Pre-op or Post-op? Just how far into fetish territory are they going to go? Because that’s what this is, pandering and feishizing.

    Will they go full futanari on/for the fan(s)?

    My $.02

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  25. Cody April 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Unbelievable. I’ve been reading comics for almost 40 years. It’s something I truly love but I’m sick and tired of writers trying to push their viewpoints on me. I’m sick and tired of the gay agenda showing up in my comics for no reason other than shock value or to support the writes viewpoint or lifestyle. They turned the original Green Lantern gay and threw out over 50 years of history with the character erasing his wife and two super-powered children which one was GAY which I had no problem with for the most part because it was how he was introduced. I’m sure I’ll be slammed by people saying I’m a bigot but I’m not. I’m not gay or transgendered and if this is DCs and Marvels new “target” customer than they are seriously in big trouble because all this will do is turn off customers like me who keep the comic industry afloat. If you walk into any comic store today most of their customers are over 30 and we buy more comics than kids as it takes serious money to support our beloved hobby today as the average cost is between 2.99 and 3.99 per comic. If it wasn’t for my generation comics would have died a long time ago. I have almost 200 comic boxes, movers hate me when they see my collection.

    Two things will stop me from continuing with my hobby.

    1. If the major comic companies like DC and Marvel go strictly digital I will stop buying period. Besides the fact I’m old school and like having the hard copy in my hands to read when you buy a digital copy you can’t resell it, it won’t go up in value and what happens if the company who supports your digital copy goes out of business, does your digital copy go bye-bye, do you even truly own the digital copy as you are not allowed to save it locally?

    2. I’m sick and tired of DC and Marvel writers pushing their viewpoints on me because they are gay or support the gay agenda. They are seriously fooling themselves if they think the average comic book reader wants to read about gay relationships, we want super-hero and super-villain battles dammit.

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  27. Boris_Badenoff April 11, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    DC is still trying to catch up to Marvel in characters that seem human (except for the super-powers, of course). The problem is that Marvel developed the geek who couldn’t get a date (Spiderman), the scientist who couldn’t control his powers (Hulk), the outcast mutants (X-Men), and characters with physical and emotional disabilities (many) back in the 60s, and the millions on movie deals didn’t start until the millennium for Marvel, well after DC’s big ticket stars (Superman, Batman) had had a run.

    Now it seems they want “gravitas” through social issues. Too little, too late, the comic fan crowd never really bought into the PC stuff anyway.

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  29. troy garrett April 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    BTW see what I mean it is good when serious writers like MR. Last write about stupid things like comic books.

    However, comic books do not cost much to make and do not need many sales to turn a profit. 0.3% of the population is 1 million if all 1 million transgender Americans buy the comic it will be a success. I think Warner Bros puts up with hundreds of writers all pushing their wacky idea, is if every 5 years one is a hit it covers the cost of years of mediocre sales.

    And even I am a liberal I liked Mr Last’s book it was full of pleasant exasperation lol. And because I am a liberal and do not see it as a problem it was not depressing but it does make you think.

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  31. Steve Sailer April 14, 2013 at 5:44 am

    Aren’t transexuals and transvestites mad that transgenderites keep hogging the T in LGBT? I think they should add a couple more Ts to the acronym so nobody is discriminated against: LGBTTT.