While comic fans have debated the merits of this new Batwoman, named Kate Kane, a Gotham City socialite (named in honor of the Silver Age Batwoman, Kathy Kane, who came to life in 1956 and died in 1979), and if her relationship with girlfriend Renee Montoya (a popular Gotham City Police Officer) was for shock value or an attempt at appealing to a different audience, something strange happened: the major news outlets took notice.
It's important to note that Kate Kane is for all intents and purposes an all-new character in the DC Universe, even with her soon to be revealed connections to the Batman mythos. The character isn't "turning lesbian" as some news outlets have inferred, but is instead being created from scratch with those traits existing from point of character conception. But the attention being lauded upon this Batwoman, from NPR discussions to the television program "The View" including Batwoman in their "Hot Topics," is the kind reserved for events like the "Death Of Superman" storyline. Author Judd Winick's storyline in "Green Lantern," featuring then-GL Kyle's friend coming out to him, garnered attention in some papers and on the late night cable talk shows, but this Batwoman story has seen a much more diverse, and in depth, mainstream discussion. Even Marvel Comics' "Rawhide Kid" series never saw this much attention from the big press outlets.
There are also stark differences in the discussions on ABC's "The View" and "New York Daily News," versus the way the topic is being discussed among comic book fans. The mainstream news outlets see this new Batwoman as symbolizing something never before seen in comics (a "big" gay character) and new thematic ground (homosexuality discussed openly), but also tend to feature very polarizing discussions. By comparison, though many comic book fans are liberals, there's a far more nuanced discussion among comic book fans. Fans have discussed everything from how DC is marketing the character to how sexuality should be handled in comics, as they're well versed in how the comic book industry has been tackling homosexuality for decades. There was the outing of Marvel Comics' Northstar, the way the entire X-Men mythos has been seen as a metaphor for minority groups such as homosexuals (even more apparent in the recent films), and gay and lesbian relationships have been explored in many independently produced comics, as well as in comic published by DC Comics' mature readers imprint, Vertigo.
All this press provides DC Comics not only with a lot of press for their weekly series "52" and their entire comic book line, but a unique opportunity to show the nuances of the current comic book industry. The company has an historic opportunity to really explore homosexuality in the media spotlight and really show how the medium has grown since most people read their last "Archie" comic book. While no one wants the new Batwoman reduced to a simple stereotype or for writers to get on their soapbox, this character (and possible "Batwoman" series) could greatly help legitimize the comic book medium in the eyes of many non-readers. Stay tuned to CBR News for more on this developing story.
For those keeping score at home, Kate debuts in "52" #11 and CBR News features a weekly "52" review/discussion column. You can also join the discussion on CBR's Batman Forum.