“Gayness is built into Batman. I’m not using gay in the pejorative sense, but Batman is very, very gay. There’s just no denying it. Obviously as a fictional character he’s intended to be heterosexual, but the basis of the whole concept is utterly gay.”
What’s obviously happening here is a modern interpretation of a late 1930’s creation. There’s an uncomfortable feeling that some adults have when viewing Batman running around with a little kid and they jump to the conclusion that not only is Batman gay, but he’s a pedophile as well. Not only is that incorrect, it’s an insult to the character, Bob Kane… and the gay community come to think of it.
In a radio interview, Bob Kane gleefully spoke of how initial ideas for Batman came from his own experience as a young gang member. He would put on a mask and run around in the junkyard. He especially liked climbing up high and looking down at the others, planning his next moves like a certain caped crusader.
Robin softened the grim detective image of Batman, but he was also an extension of Bob Kane’s swashbuckling life as a young boy, living out the non-stop adventure fantasy. There was no real threat from the villains, Robin literally laughed in their faces.
To insinuate that Batman has a fetish to dress up in an elaborate costumes is an interpretation of the character informed by the reader or critic, not be the work itself. While the notion that Batman and Robin are gay icons may intriguing or amusing to a modern audience, it was threatening to psychologist Fredric Wertham who used the argument against Batman comics, saying that they were perverting the minds of children. “Batman stories are psychologically homosexual.”
Wertham’s and Morrison’s words seem all too similar and I’d like to believe that’s a misinterpretation on my part.
Morrison is a very intelligent guy and mild-mannered in person. He has also written several forward-thinking comics such as the Invisibles, We3 and Doom Patrol. His assertion that Batman is patently gay is likely an attempt to drum up some press rather than a statement driven by his own opinion.
One could argue that Batman embraces his ‘real self’ in a sexy skin-tight costume as an embodiment of his true sexuality, his ‘real self.’ The necessity of a secret identity, something that many comic book superheroes on the page and in film have done away with, seems to stick with Batman. He avoids helping anyone or using his abilities without dressing up first simply because he must maintain his secret life. But that’s more of an indicator of deep psychological trauma than a secret sexual identity. If Batman were gay, he’d just accept it. He knows what he is.
If you want to look for proof that Batman is gay, just take a glance at Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and follow-up Batman and Robin. Both films feature Batman and Robin separated by about a decade at best. Dick Grayson loses his parents and instead of moving on, starts living with Bruce Wayne, the creepy bachelor who lives far away from the city (never mind that he is also hunted by the alluring psychologist Nicole Kidman… because it jars with the Bruce/Dick relationship that dominates the rest of the film… maybemaybe Schumacher is saying Brucr is bi-sexual and not ready to settle?).
Their rippling costumes festooned with rock-hard abs and nipples that stand to attention… it’s just too easy to point out that this is a fetishistic sexual fantasy of two young fit men. It also fits the rave party fantasy that Morrison’s argument eludes to.
But Schumacher’s Batman has little to nothing to do with the actual comic book.
Robin in the comics was a child with nowhere to go after his parents were killed, so Bruce took him on as his ward. Granted, the father/son relationship gets fuzzy as Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and the other Robins have aged while Bruce remains in his mid-30’s. The current Robin is the nine year-old child of Bruce Wayne, possibly to help remove any thought of a sexual relationship from the minds of readers.
In line with the wild and swashbuckling fantasy of Bob Kane’s Batman, the theme of the man that got away is played out in several superhero comics. In Batman, he shies away from the embrace of many ladies, but is caught by a few as well such as Batwoman.
To a modern reader the endless scenarios in which Superman, Batman and Captain America actively avoid women are hilarious, especially in the case of Superman escaping Lois Lane’s advances. In the case of Captain America, it often seems as if Steve Rogers is trying to keep Bucky from experiencing a woman’s company. So great is this that it’s laughable, but again built on a common juvenile male conceit that girls are ‘icky’ rather than an intention of the creators to present gay superheroes. Simon and Kirby were NOT that ahead of their time.
And just as others have pointed to the goofy 1940’s comics for proof that Batman is gay, let me just do the same as Robin supports my argument on the printed page.