Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.
A few weeks ago, J.H. Williams III and W. Hayden Blackman walked off Batwoman. They were not the first creators to leave DC because of editorial mandates, and they likely won’t be the last, but that’s not the issue I want to talk about today. Because Williams and Blackman left for a reason. They wanted Kate Kane to marry her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer. Dan Didio said no. And it wasn’t an issue of sexuality. It was because “heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives.” That’s a direct quote from Dan, by the way.
In the days that followed, one of the longest lasting relationships in comic book history took a bit of a hit. Aquaman and Mera were no longer a married couple and, according to the New 52, they never had been. Sure, it was mostly an issue of semantics since they’re still happily committed to one another, but the issue still stands.
Why don’t heroes get to be happy?
I’ve always found the fundamental difference between Marvel characters and DC characters to be one of personality. Marvel’s heavy-hitters have always seemed to suffer from a case of “I have super powers, my life is terrible!” Whereas DC characters have generally been seen with more of a “I have superpowers so I’m obviously going to save the world” mentality. I find it ironic that the tables have turned so sharply when it comes to each company’s respective cinematic universes but that’s really neither here nor there.
The point being that, traditionally, DC heroes have had relatively happy personal lives. Because that thing that separates “gods in spandex” from “people with powers” is love. DC heroes love us. All of us. They think we’re worth saving no matter the cost. The question of whether or not to fight evil is rarely, if ever, raised. And their personal lives haven’t gotten in the way of that. In fact, if anything, their families have made them fight harder.
I don’t believe that people need to be alone to be heroes. Of course risking your life day in and day out is a sacrifice. It’s a damn noble one at that. Courage is rare. Much rarer than most people think. But those who stand above us, ready to do good, do not stand alone.
From a storytelling standpoint, it’s a foolish edict. Frankly, it’s idiotic to say that “these characters will constantly have to set aside their personal lives so we just won’t let them have any.” Personal lives can be a source of conflict. They ought to be. And in the wake of that conflict, we should see the heroes persevere.
Constant self-sacrifice is boring. In the case of the Bat-Family, it’s predictable. Why would I care about any relationship Bruce Wayne has if I know they’re just going to implode, leading to yet another round of Bat-rage? Bruce sits in the cave after a patrol where he went “just a bit too far” and solemnly declares “never again.” Then, a few months later, it’s “alright, let’s try this again.” It’s a cycle that’s been going through the Bat books for years and I’m getting kind of sick of it.
What happens when Bruce Wayne is happy? That’s a story I haven’t seen since Adam West was wearing the cowl. But a failed romance? I saw that last week in about 40 other books.
If every relationship fails every time, then what’s the point? What are they fighting for? How are they all not cold and emotionless and broken?
I think heroes should get happiness. I think they should get to be with the people they love. I think sometimes things can go wrong and people can get hurt. But, more than anything, I think that if you care so much about the world that you fight every single day for it, there has to be someone who cares about you.