With the second issue of “Batman: Damned” looming on the horizon, I feel the need to go back and discuss the first issue featuring the first appearance of the “Bat Wang,” which DC Comics later covered up. It really opened up an old wound with me: censorship.
When DC Comics first announced the launching of their Black Label imprint, I was excited. Top creators were given creative freedom to tell stories both in and out of continuity without the constraints of a Teen Plus rating. The key to this entire thing was that this imprint was for mature readers.
DC’s website defines a mature comic book as “Appropriate for readers age 17 and older. Mature comics may contain intense violence, extensive profanity, nudity, sexual themes and other content suitable only for older readers.”
The label itself states ‘Mature’, which means mature readers are averrable to adeptly process what they’re reading. If you can’t handle reading profanity or seeing graphic images then you probably shouldn’t read it.
The moment under scrutiny, for those who haven’t seen it, is a dark panel in the Batcave where Batman has just arrived after a very strenuous night of patrol. After exiting the Batmobile, he sheds his suit down to his bare skin revealing his private parts.
It’s not a gratuitous scene. It’s not sexual. It’s actually a very solemn and poignant moment. It really drives home a more human aspect of Bruce that we don’t often get to see. He’s had an exceptionally trying night and the first thing he does is strip off the Batsuit to remove that heavy weight he is feeling.
If a first responder has a bad night, or a bad shift where something awful happens, I would imagine the first thing they would want to do is remove their uniform. It’s like a psychological escape to get away from the horrors of the job. We’ve seen scenes like this before but usually it’s approached from a different angle and the most we see is a toned buttocks.
After such serious backlash over the image, DC has stated that the panel will be edited in future printings of the issue and collector editions. Unfortunately, we live in a very sensitive world right now where hordes of people become upset at the drop of a hat over any mundane thing which displeases them.
I doubt that this particular scene was included when “Batman: Damned” was originally pitched but when it came time to approve pages, someone gave this the go-ahead. Was it not thought of as something that might be problematic then? DC made the decision to send the issue to press with the “shadow of the bat” included and they need to stand by that decision.
You can not tell a creative team to come up with a work that has no normative boundaries and then decide afterward that it’s too obscene and sensor it.
Prose literature has no rating system. They are not bound by any confines of content. A person of any age can walk into a bookstore and grab a book off the shelf and purchase it or look through it and see any number of curse words, violence, sex, or any other kind of content that might be deemed offensive.
Artwork in museums have long contained the naked body yet we still take our children there on class trips to see it. The constraints of comic books have always been under much more scrutiny, much like music has. No work of art, whether it be comic books, prose, canvas, music, or any art form aimed at a mature adult audience should be censored.
What really concerns me here is the question of what is in store for the rest of these Black Label books that have been teased. DC gave creators unlimited power when these stories were pitched. Will we now see some stories rewritten or edited?
I’m not so much concerned that we may never see these books hit shelves, but will the quality be the same? Or will these creators now have to walk on egg shells and sacrifice story quality as to not rock the boat? Only time will tell.
“Batman: Damned no. 2” will be out November 21st.
Featured image courtesy IGN