You may or may not have noticed but there have been some discussions (I say some, I mean a lot) about the launch of the new DC Comics Black Label range and in particular Batman Damned #1.
For those of you unfamiliar, DC’s Black Label is intended to be a series for mature readers only. Therefore, the content was always going to be more risqué than the usual outings for the caped crusader. Not that Mature content means there has to be gratuitous sex or violence but generally a more mature book with more mature themes and content that also lies outside the main canon or universe.
Now for the controversy, at a certain point in the book Batman returns to the batcave and is seen walking around the cave naked, and yes you do get to see what he has been hiding under his utility belt all these years. Is it gratuitous? No and for the most part nobody would have hardly noticed. Was it unnecessary? Possibly, but then again most people really didn’t give a bat’s nut about it.
It’s hardly the first time a penis has been seen in a comic, this very week Dr Manhattan has, as he always has, appeared completely naked in the latest Doomsday Clock. Nobody noticed or cared and that book sold more copies than Batman Damned. Even Peter Parker has been caught with his pants down, so why has this caused such a fuss?
Some may say that Batman’s position in popular culture makes this a newsworthy item. I don’t think I buy into that, I personally think this has got to do with publicity. Now whether that publicity is coming from DC is anyone’s guess but let’s not forget that time when Max Clifford got MP’s to discuss the original Grand Theft Auto instantly making it a top seller. But I doubt this was caused by DC going by the way they have responded so far. More likely it is just one of those stories that the media have seized on for no real reason other than not really understanding what the hell they were talking about, I mean a penis, in a comic those are for kids right? The level of outrage… Was it outrage? Was anyone actually outraged by this? If they were, what is wrong with them? It was a penis, not even a penis but a drawing of a penis, a drawing of a penis in a book, not even a drawing of a real penis but one that was, presumably, made up. So, we have all this press over a picture of a fictional penis on a fictional character, meanwhile real shit is happening in the world whilst they talk about Batman’s penis.
Some might point towards the latest spout of nonsense from Comicsgate but I don’t think that could be the reason for them pulling this book. Yes the Comicsgate loonies will probably have something to say about Batman having his penis out although as long as he has a penis he’ll probably be okay by them.
What is really upsetting about this whole thing is that Batman Damned should be being celebrated. It is a great story written by Brian Azzarello and the Lee Bermejo’s artwork is simply breath-taking. It seems that in comics people can be dismembered, shot to pieces, and even raped and nobody really bats (non-pun intended) an eyelid but show a flaccid penis and the whole world loses their minds. It is a sad indictment on current society that people are more concerned in censoring sex and nudity than they are extreme violence. Not that I think either should be censored as long as age ratings are adhered to.
DC have released an update to say they have no plans to reprint issue one ‘currently’, make of that what you will. The initial thought was that it would be reprinted in an edited version. Nothing says modern society like the editing of art. Go to any national art gallery in the world and you will see penises, and much more to boot. So, where has this furore about the batawang come from? Who knows and frankly I don’t care where it came from I just hope that when the next ‘scandal’ takes the spotlight off this issue DC can quietly go about reprinting this book for all the people that are still waiting to enjoy it. Enjoy it for the great piece of modern art and literature that it was designed to be.