Many years ago, the late and truly great Dennis O’Neil said that neither Bruce Wayne nor Batman had a sex life; he/they sublimated all such compulsions, folding them into the mission. Denny said that in the office that we shared, and, damn, it made sense to me. In fact, it explained a lot about the guy.
Mind you, as the writer or editor of a great, great many top-rank Batman stories over the course of five decades, I believe Denny knew more about what made Batman tick than Bruce Wayne ever could. However, this particular observation was not canonical. Bruce even fostered a son with his frenemy Talia al Ghul, and that child became the latest Robin — as of this writing, of course.
Let us now flash forward to the late summer of 2018 and the release of DC’s Black Label adults-only series, Batman – Damned. Created by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo, the story ran three issues. It was the first volume that upset some people, as it had the briefest glimpse of a small part of Bruce’s penis. To be fair, it really wasn’t enough to be perceived as salacious by anybody but the most pathetically repressed — not unlike Janet Jackson’s nipple which evidently blinded tens of thousands of small children who were watching the Super Bowl but were thinking of dinner.
Oh, yes: it also bothered the bean counters at DC/Warner Bros/WarnerMedia/AT&T/Lucky Charms or whatever the hell they were calling themselves that week. Bean counters are the most paranoid people in the media businesses; it’s in their job description. People made such a big deal of it that the Batwang was, well, overly circumcised in the digital editions and in later reprintings. The parent companies were so offended that the whole thing had an impact on several careers. The whole thing had a short shelf-life as the object of snickering jokes on late-night television.
For over a year, WarnerMedia (now called Warner Bros. Discovery, at least as of this writing) has had this very expensive streaming service called HBO Max. It’s got a lot of original material, and much of it is generated by DC comics properties. These shows are not G rated, nor are they PG. Sometimes there’s a fine line between R and X ratings, and a lot of HBO Max’s DC stuff inhabits that zip code. This pace was set in the first episode of their first series, Titans, where Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Robin the First) shouts “Fuck Batman!” Holy Wertham, Batfans! WTF??
Titans survived and the third season goes up in August. Their second show, The Doom Patrol, has had actual on-screen sex, with naughty bits and more about Brendon Fraser than you might want to know. Their other Batman related show, the adults-only animated series Harley Quinn, is the most adults-only of the bunch, and the third season is now in production. But at least one scene won’t be completed — the one where Batman has oral sex with Catwoman.
The Bat and the Cat have had a “close personal relationship” in the comics for some time now, producing some of the better stories I’ve read lately. Sex has been implied rather strongly. The type(s) of sexual contact have not been defined, which is cool by me because what Bruce and Selina do between the panels is really none of our damn business. But these stories are in the comics and are not “adults only,” and the Harley Quinn streamer clearly is. The sexual and romantic relationship between Harley and Poison Ivy is clearly and vividly portrayed, which is no mean feat in a series that is, in all respects, a brilliant superhero sitcom. Harley’s language is direct, “adult,” and in keeping with her character. Other characters are involved in sundry “adult” activity.
But when DC copped a look at the script, images of Bruce’s penis danced before management’s eyes, quickly followed by recollections of the travails suffered by the previous Batwang shepherds. And so Catwoman’s vagina quickly suffered the same fate as Batman’s un-costumed member, although this time the surgery was performed in the nick of time.
DC’s response to the Harley Quinn producers was nearly as funny as their streaming show, but not as clever. They said they “absolutely cannot do that” because “heroes don’t do that,” and such a scene would undermine their ability to sell Batman toys.
Management declined to define “Batman toys,” but one can infer they weren’t interested in licensing to a new and profitable market. I don’t know this first-hand, but I strongly suspect that bootleg products already abound. I’ll note that the Hello Kitty vibrator was an officially licensed product, and both Kitty and the world survived.
As for “heroes don’t do that…” Well, really? We toss the term around quite a bit these days; are they telling us none of these real-world heroes have oral sex? How would they know?
Ah, DC can go fuck themselves.
Editor’s Note: Twitter has been ablaze with hilarious reaction to the details of the Bat/Cat bedroom antics. You can get a sampling of some of it by checking out the hashtag #BatmanGoesDown.