Thursday, October 25, 2007

Monstrous Maternities?: A Brief Reflection on Recent Motherhood Events in DC Comics

Spoilers for recent events in the DC Universe, namely Catwoman, Birds of Prey, and the Black Canary/Green Arrow crossover events

For good or bad, known or not, we all have mothers, Gentle Reader. And Motherhood has been on my mind a lot over the past few weeks. A Dear Friend of the Reads Family is giving birth Any Moment Now—and sincerely, Friends, that is Any Possible Moment!—and when she is added to the Very Long List of Friends Reads who are recent mothers? This Humble Author looks at 95% of her Friends of the Double-X Chromosome Persuasion.

I, however, am not A Mother to a Human-Child. A Dog-Child, yes, as Pup Reads is Quite Loved. But Motherhood and Maternity as they appear in our literatures and popular cultures are fascinating subjects for me, and I find myself talking about them personally, professionally, while blogging, while reading comics, and for We Few, We Happy Few, We Fans Of Comics, we as of late have had a lot to read, Mother-Wise.

In the DC Universe alone, we have Hero and Villain alike: Catwoman, Manhunter, Black Canary, Hippolyta, Circe, all are mothers to children. Even farther and even faster (gratitude, Ms. Bishop) we have Mother Figures to Legacies, a Wonder Woman to a Wonder Girl, for example. Of these Heroes and Villains, two Mothers are more recent parents than others, and these two Mothers have now the both of them Lost Their Children. I speak, of course, of Catwoman and Black Canary.

Motherhood is a topic that This Humble Author finds herself returning to, again and again. Motherhood is an interesting storyline, certainly, as it adds Complication after Complication after Complication for Our Intrepid Heroines (and Villains). But these two recent mothers, Black Canary and Catwoman, both have had, in the very recent past, their children snatched away from them. Whether by “choice” (Catwoman) or “for her own good” (Black Canary)—and there is a world of hurt of the sexist variety in both, Gentle Reader!—these women have decided, or more likely, it has been decided for them, that Motherhood and Heroing Do Not Mix.

Parenting is *hard*, Gentle Reader, and This Humble Author can only imagine how difficult it is for someone who puts her life In Constant Danger, every day. Because we never see that In “Real Life,” no? Of course, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, teachers, cab drivers, stay-at-home parents, caterers, bakers, all of these and more have Quite Easy jobs that never Are Unsafe. Their lives, so easy to work around, their jobs, so simple and constantly safe.

Friends, is this not The Point? Is it not to say that Parenting is Hard, and that is why we have Interesting Storylines involving a Fighter for Justice and her Wee Child? Or, in Black Canary’s case, her child trained by Expert Assassins? Is this not why we see the “it takes a village” mentality for our superheroes, again and again? The Authority offered group parenting for Jenny Quantum, Batman can adopt children Willy-Nilly, the Amazons truly take the “it takes a village” mentality to heart with their children, but suddenly, it is Too Difficult for Selina Kyle or Dinah Lance to raise daughters, even with the help of dozens of friends and trusted colleagues?

Please do not think I am Belittling the Difficulties and Constant Constancy of Parenting, Gentle Reader, because I am not. I have not raised a human, nor have I tried to. I do not have children—although Pup Reads would Beg to Differ!—but we, as a society, have been having children, quite successfully, for thousands of years. Single parents, alternative families, traditional families, young and old alike all raise children successfully. Why is it suddenly so very difficult for the Chair of the Justice League of America? So difficult that the decision *must be made for her* that she Cannot raise her child On Her Own?

Yes, Gentle Reader. This Mild-Mannered and Rather-Humble Humble Author is a wee bit perturbed.

Yes, Friends, you may say that very thing.

8 comments:

Lea said...

It is very troubling indeed, especially since no one ever thought to take away the children of bachelor heroes such as Roy Harper or indeed Batman.

Tamora Pierce said...

A really, really good point. These heroes are involved in complex crime-stopping ops, running teams large and small, yet they can't be trusted to be responsible for one kid? What does that say about mothers in the armed forced, police, medical services ...?

I could be wrong, here, but never once has Child Services served a warrant on Batman or at Titans Tower for child endangerment, or taken any of the Titans into custody. What about the Legion of Superheroes? What, for that matter, of Xavier Academy or the Richards family, where the kids are obviously in frequent danger?

Oh, wait. Men or boys are in charge there, and everyone knows they can take care of things, even kids.

Fanboy said...

All very intersting points (as usual) Amy. Because I have yet to read the most recent issue of Catwoman - and you seem to be implying something within that - I can't comment on Selina except to say that she's done a damn good job up until this point (maybe staying in the East End without some of the perfunctory hero-related security systems was a lapse of judgemnt, however, considering her line of work). As for Black Canary, as I was reading the mini that you are referring to, it seemed to make sense at the time (usually, I tend to "go with the flow" of the story, so to speak), but you bring up some very valid points. Why she isn't able to rear Sin with all of what someone in her position would seem to allow is beyond me too. I suspect that the editors feel that a child would "bog her down" in terms of up coming storylines or at the least that it would be "irresponsible" for someone in her position to be raising a child. Just supposition, but if it's true, very sexist.

Lea and Tamora Pierce's (loved White Tiger, btw) comments are well taken. However, I think it's worth pointing out that in the All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder title it seems as though a confrontation is brewing between Superman and Batman because Bats is a) perceived as a psycopathic vigilante by Supes and b) he has brought young Dick Grayson - by force or otherwise - into his world. As for X-Men, I have this very vague recollection of Cyclops and Emma Frost staring down the authorities who were attempting to step in and take children away from the institute (though I may be confusing that with the Sammy/Juggernaut storyline).

Anyway, good points as always Amy.

Rachel said...

The attitude in comics seems to reflect the recent attitude in our society, of late: that a single man is equipped to raise children in a way that a single woman is not.

Perhaps this is because it is assumed that a good Mother puts her children before everything, is a Mother before all else, while a good father can be as distant as he wishes, as long as he provides for his children's physical needs. Single mothers juggling a career and children are called irresponsible; single fathers doing the same are called heroic.

Which is stupid as hell.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Lea,
It is very troubling indeed, especially since no one ever thought to take away the children of bachelor heroes such as Roy Harper or indeed Batman.

Exactly. The bachelors seem Fit as Fiddles to raise children, but a single mother--by far the majority of single parents in the world--does not? Perhaps it's because the single mothers are not as wealthy as these single fathers? Are we establishing a further problem through socioeconomics?
Not sure.
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Tammy,
A really, really good point. These heroes are involved in complex crime-stopping ops, running teams large and small, yet they can't be trusted to be responsible for one kid? What does that say about mothers in the armed forced, police, medical services ...?

Exactly! I think it says the very thing I hope it wouldn't, that these mothers are "not fit" to be be mothers (whatever *that* means).

I could be wrong, here, but never once has Child Services served a warrant on Batman or at Titans Tower for child endangerment, or taken any of the Titans into custody. What about the Legion of Superheroes? What, for that matter, of Xavier Academy or the Richards family, where the kids are obviously in frequent danger?

Indeed. Or where the children are the armies?

Oh, wait. Men or boys are in charge there, and everyone knows they can take care of things, even kids.

I mentioned in my response to Lea that it seems to say something about socioeconomics as well. Batman, a multi-billionaire, can afford to have someone raise his children for him.
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Mr. Fanboy,
All very intersting points (as usual) Amy. Because I have yet to read the most recent issue of Catwoman - and you seem to be implying something within that - I can't comment on Selina except to say that she's done a damn good job up until this point (maybe staying in the East End without some of the perfunctory hero-related security systems was a lapse of judgemnt, however, considering her line of work).

Have you read it yet? I'm terribly behind on my comment responses, so you probably have :)

As for Black Canary, as I was reading the mini that you are referring to, it seemed to make sense at the time (usually, I tend to "go with the flow" of the story, so to speak), but you bring up some very valid points. Why she isn't able to rear Sin with all of what someone in her position would seem to allow is beyond me too. I suspect that the editors feel that a child would "bog her down" in terms of up coming storylines or at the least that it would be "irresponsible" for someone in her position to be raising a child. Just supposition, but if it's true, very sexist.

Incredibly so! I don't understand why Black Canary can't be capable of such a thing. It boggles the mind, particularly in that the decision was made for her.

Lea and Tamora Pierce's (loved White Tiger, btw)

Me, too!

comments are well taken. However, I think it's worth pointing out that in the All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder title it seems as though a confrontation is brewing between Superman and Batman because Bats is a) perceived as a psycopathic vigilante by Supes and b) he has brought young Dick Grayson - by force or otherwise - into his world. As for X-Men, I have this very vague recollection of Cyclops and Emma Frost staring down the authorities who were attempting to step in and take children away from the institute (though I may be confusing that with the Sammy/Juggernaut storyline).

I stopped reading ASBR because Frank Miller made me very, very angry. I'm rather behind in X-Men, but reading through New X-Men right now, so soon I will catch up with you :)
Ciao,
Amy

Anyway, good points as always Amy.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Rachel,
The attitude in comics seems to reflect the recent attitude in our society, of late: that a single man is equipped to raise children in a way that a single woman is not.

Completely boggles the mind, no?

Perhaps this is because it is assumed that a good Mother puts her children before everything, is a Mother before all else, while a good father can be as distant as he wishes, as long as he provides for his children's physical needs. Single mothers juggling a career and children are called irresponsible; single fathers doing the same are called heroic.
Which is stupid as hell.


Many of my mother-friends argue that very thing, that if their husbands help with the children, they are "helping the mother" rather than just "being a dad." As if it's a favor.
I don't understand that.
Ciao,
Amy