Why Can't Bette Catch a Break?

Posted by Rabioso (48 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm an admitted Flamebird fan. We're rare, but we do exist. So I hope it doesn't sound incredibly stupid when I say I looked forward to the ongoing Batwoman series mainly because it would feature Bette Kane in some capacity. I clung onto every new bit of information, I cursed every time the series was delayed, and now, while it seems every other reader is hailing the new Batwoman series, I am disgusted at how it's started treating Bette. Please; I implore you to try not to view me as a fuss-pot making a scene over the shafting of a relatively-unknown character who isn't the focus of the book, and read on.

Ever since I remember reading about Bette Kane, she's been regarded as a worthless joke of a heroine by almost all other costumed vigilantes, and I must say I feel that this cold shoulder is a lot more than she really deserves. I get it; Bette started her superhero career under goofy circumstances. She was a fangirl to Robin, at a time when most people regarded Robin (whatwith his lack of pants and tendency to spout oaths beginning with "Holy") as horribly uncool, and as the original Batgirl, she felt pretty arbitrary since back then, they had a tendency to slap the prefix "Bat" onto anything. Since then, the entire Silver Age has fallen victim to the "This is dumb" sentiment, and it seems that while Batman, Nightwing (formerly Robin) and most of the gang had moved on (either that or just gone away) Bette got turned into a different heroine but retained some of her Silver Age lightheardedness--but so what?

I feel that ever since Batman and Teen Titans took a sharp turn for the darker in the 1980s, Bette's had a stigma hanging over her just because she isn't "dark" in any way. At least, that is the only explanation that I can think of, because from much of what I've read of her, Flamebird isn't really as inept as everyone in-universe seems to think. In the Technis Imperative crossover between the Titans and Justice League, for example, she fought on more or less equal terms with Huntress, one of those "dark" characters who had come to dominate graphic novels, and later, in the Birds of Prey story arc, Between Dark and Dawn, they fought again--Huntress eventually won, but complemented Flamebird on her abilities. So where does the negative perception of Flamebird really come from?

Try, if you will, to look at her another way: Bette Kane was not born as a superpowered alien. She was not the heir to a fortune. She does not have a tragic past in which her parents were murdered, or she did something she regrets, or both. She merely started as a goofy, airheaded, blonde fangirl, and she still got to where she is today. It doesn't qualify her as any sort of Mary Sue, because Bette's abilities aren't excessive, and she does have a background as a professional athlete to back up them up. However, her original motivation was still petty compared to most heroes, yet she pushed herself to lengths few would go based on that motivation, and eventually became a capable heroine despite her petty origin. That's admirable in its own right. Countless normal Joes and Janes have grown up looking up to the superheroes they read about. Bette Kane was a (relatively) normal Jane who looked up to a superhero, and actually became one because of this admiration. Why does so much of the DCU treat this sort of character, who should be plenty relatable to their audience, as such a non-entity? Why does every hero's passion for heroics have to be fueled by their resentment over the past--can't we have some heroes whose passion comes from a dream of a better future instead? Why does everyone automatically read dark and cynical as the only path to competence?

I complain of this, I should mention, not just because I resent the way that Flamebird has been treated, but also because, frankly, I'm getting sick of darkness. I'm sick of all the edgy, creepy, bloody aesthetic that keeps spilling into more and more titles. I'm sick of seeing grungy urban environments and nothing else. I'm sick of the extreme hypocrisy of a company writing heroes against killing, while simultaneously tantalizing readers with the question of "Which Teen Titan will we kill this time; buy the book to find out." I'm sick of a world where Spider-Man makes deals with devils, or where people think giving his movies a dark and gritty reboot is a good idea. It seems that in the minds of many these days, darkness has come to mean quality, and that attitude needs to stop.

For some heroes it works. Batman should be dark and cynical, because he's a product of a film-noir style of literature that was itself a product of a time when organized crime permeated the old Eastern cities of the US. Not everything gels with that style, though. Bette Kane is a product of glitzy, glamorous, self-indulgent, arguably-shallow but often-happy, Southern California culture. Plenty of readers have grown up in that sort of situation, too. I was a So-Cal child, and you can bet I knew plenty of preppy, optimistic, blonde athletes while growing up. Just as Batman is a hero who does a good job representing his environment's bleaker culture, Flamebird is a good exemplar for this different environment; simultaneously a product of it and elevated above the indifferent/unremarkable norm. This culture's exemplar hero deserves the same respect as another's.

Which is why, after a long period of being alternately shunned in-continuity, and just ignored by writers, it enrages me that we get a writer who announces that he's going to do something big with Bette Kane, and the moment she shows some initiative in the book, the first thing Batwoman does is burn her costume and treat her like dirt; reducing her to zero and acting as though nothing she did in the past ever mattered. Haden Blackman might think that this is a necessary step towards changing Flamebird from a living blonde joke into a tough heroine that people can take seriously, but here is the problem with his attitude: That "step" already happened years ago. Bette already got a major role documenting her maturation in Beast Boys and Girls miniseries. There, she shows up to the scorn of nearly everyone else, initially being played as the goofy, airheaded blonde that everyone resents. She gets reprimanded by none other than her former rolemodel, Nightwing, he tells her to give up because she causes more problems than she solves, and instead of taking his advice, she opts to get serious about things. She cuts her hair, dawns a brand new costume, and kicks some ass along with Beast Boy in the climax. That was her big moment of truth; she got over her old idolization of Dick Grayson, she overhauled her image, she proved she could fight, and she did it all by herself, without the help of another heroine who hasn't even been around in the continuity as long as she has.

I mean no disrespect to Batwoman. She probably is the best new (for all intents and purposes) character added to the DCU in years (and I mean considerably more years than it unfortunately took Kate Kane's book to get off the ground), and for once a character's homosexuality is played for something other than "Look at us; we made a gay character; aren't we hip?" However, as a longtime fan of Batman, I still have to view Batwoman as something derivative of his line of stories. Flamebird had become something different since dropping her brand association to the Bat Family after the Silver Age; a heroine of a different (but not necessarily lesser) persuasion. Now, her treatment at the hands of Batwoman is a slap in the face to everything she had accomplished through her own dedication and hard work, and effectively an allegation that bright, cheerful heroes are worthless until put through hell by the dark and brooding ones, and perhaps, until they become dark and brooding themselves.

I had hoped, in hearing the plans for this new series, that Bette Kane would finally get the respect she's earned over the years. Unfortunately, it turns out that it's just one more bit of scorn heaped onto a character whom I never remember being as incompetent as everyone else regards her as being. People have been beating on Flamebird just for being Flamebird for so long, that I don't even think anyone remembers the real reason. She needs help from a writer, in the vein of Geoff Johns, whose plans for her, after revamping her in the Beast Boy mini, died with his proposed Titans LA series. She needs a writer who respects her for what she is, not one who believes she needs to be made into something better. She needs somebody, for once, to treat her right, and if she ever gets out of this one alive, I hope that she goes back to being Flamebird the way she was before, fighting crime to the beat of her own drum, but this time gets appreciated for it.

#1 Posted by cowtron_2000 (27 posts) - - Show Bio

I am also a Flamebird fan and I agree with what you say. But I'm hoping that Bette will be written as rising above the tough training shes going through. I would be great to see it not bringing her down. That to me is one of the things I like about her...she keeps fighting even though nearly everybody under-estimates her.

#2 Posted by Rabioso (48 posts) - - Show Bio

@cowtron_2000: Yeah, but you'd think that after all this time, she should be getting her reward for all her strife. The only reason I could see for retreading plot-points that already occurred would be that many people might not have seen them the first time, but I'm not sure Batwoman is really more popular than Teen Titans. Beast Boys and Girls came out during a spike in the Teen Titans' popularity, courtesy of the TV show, and although the comic has many differences from the cartoon (especially given how dark it's gotten lately), Beast Boy is a character who has the same basic appeal in either medium, so it's likely that many people read that book; it may even have been many people's first Titans comic. So I'd wager a lot of fans know who Bettte Kane is and even got a fairly positive view of her from that graphic novel.

Also, I'd argue that it's one thing when she's just struggling to be accepted against a vaguely-defined societal prejudice, but quite another when she seems to have an antagonistic relationship with the heroine. Batwoman shouldn't come off as antagonistic in her own book. I say this especially because when she was first introduced, Kate really struck me as the sort of person who would understand Flamebird. Just like Bette, she aspired to take her life in a rugged, heroic direction (joining the Marines) but got turned down because of what she was (gay), so in a way it also feels like an injustice done to Batwoman by making her treat Bette like this. How much time is this book going to waste with its team butting heads while it could be showing them being genuinely heroic? Will they ultimately part hating each other when they should be kindred spirits? Also, putting Bette in the sidekick position and acting as though she's weak because of it reinforces her association with Robin, and that association has never done her any good because it reminds people she she started out as a fangirl and distracts from the fact that she got over that.

#3 Posted by Ladyspider (77 posts) - - Show Bio

Yeah but if Kate didn't at least get Bette need to be a hero again she wouldn't even bother training her in the first place. And don't Kate comes from a military background and has had even further training to become Batwoman. While Bette has had a history of flighty behavior and has quit being Flamebird at least twice. You think Batman didn't train Tim Drake the same? In story it took Tim a year in story to become Robin. And as I recall the finally test for Tim to become a Robin was to survive a night in Gotham without any help from Bruce. I'm just saying that Kate is training her for a reason, the DCU isn't like it was when I was a kid back in the mid to late 90's when it wasn't as dark. She just wants Bette to take the job seriously further shown be the fact that she apparently burned her Flamebird costume and gave her a simple gray uniform. To Kate the suit you wear isn't a costume it's a uniform.

#4 Posted by ChadwickDavis (444 posts) - - Show Bio

Personally, I was never really a fan of Bette; however I have to agree with you completely when you say she could be so much more. A young professional athlete: tennis player (I think she was professional wasn't she?), olympic swimmer, beauty pageants, and superheroine!!!...Yeah she definately needs more respect.

#5 Edited by Rabioso (48 posts) - - Show Bio

@Ladyspider said:

Yeah but if Kate didn't at least get Bette need to be a hero again she wouldn't even bother training her in the first place. And don't Kate comes from a military background and has had even further training to become Batwoman. While Bette has had a history of flighty behavior and has quit being Flamebird at least twice. You think Batman didn't train Tim Drake the same? In story it took Tim a year in story to become Robin. And as I recall the finally test for Tim to become a Robin was to survive a night in Gotham without any help from Bruce. I'm just saying that Kate is training her for a reason, the DCU isn't like it was when I was a kid back in the mid to late 90's when it wasn't as dark. She just wants Bette to take the job seriously further shown be the fact that she apparently burned her Flamebird costume and gave her a simple gray uniform. To Kate the suit you wear isn't a costume it's a uniform.

I think trying to draw comparisons to Batman and Robin might be a bad idea. The first problem there is that Batman's been portrayed so many ways, it's not easy to say what his definitive attitude towards Robin was. Based on the portrayal, it runs all the way from him being a very nurturing figure whose only initial goal is to cheer his adopted ward up and initially doesn't want to get him involved in vigilantism (Batman the Animated Series) to a brute who basically enslaves him and tells him to survive by hunting rats in order to get tough. (All-Star Batman and Robin; I know it's an extreme case and not in the main continuity, but there's been canon portrayals approaching that standard.) The second problem, though, is that once again, unlike various Robins under Batman, Flamebird is not just starting out. She already managed to become a competent heroine, in the present continuity, without the help of any mentor, and yes; she may have quit being Flamebird at least twice, but is that really because of her lack of passion, or because everyone shunned her? Based on everything I've read, it's the latter.

Maybe you're right that Kate's behavior makes sense given her military background, but I won't buy that Bette actually needs to be treated like this just because she originated in a version of the DCU that wasn't as dark--that's exact sort of prejudice that's been going on too long, and it needs to be done away with; not just in the DKU but throughout the media. Macabre fiction is not always good fiction. Why do you think critics are pouring heaps of scorn onto the Twilight series and praising My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? Likewise, macabre heroes are not necessarily tougher than bright and uplifting ones. The DCU needs bright and fun heroes at this point to drag it away from that in its entirety. The Batman stories and their close relatives can stay dark, but the rest of the universe could stand to lighten up so those books stand out for being dark.

Given that, maybe Flamebird shouldn't be in Gotham City to begin with; I'd really say that she belongs with the Teen Titans, but again, with the direction that book's been taken in lately (sooo much redshirting and quasi-satanism), I think that rules her out. However, now she is in Gotham, and what I am really worried about is that when she emerges from her training, she'll put on a new costume that's just as dark and creepy-looking as every other Gotham vigilante's, and spends her time lurking in the shadows, monologuing about the evil that lurks in the scum of the city and worrying about whether she'll succumb to those base instincts herself. Essentially, I'm worried that they're attempting to do away with everything that made her likable to her original fanbase, and force her into a mold that fits fans of the immediate Bat-Family more. I'd say that's a fate almost as bad as being in the Teen Titans and getting killed off. I'd love to be wrong here, but even if I am, even if Bette takes her training in stride but vehemently continues going the route she was going, recreating her costume and eventually moving on to a niche that suits her personality more, the question then becomes "How will they do that without putting her at extreme odds with her mentor?" I just don't see how that will be accomplished.

#6 Posted by COBRAMORPH (1528 posts) - - Show Bio

I think the majority of the problem is "who the F is she?" First, she is a female charActer, & they have a smaller fanbase outside the pervs. Second, she is the first of 4 Batgirls, 5 if Barbara is counted twice, which TBH is confusing to me. AND, I feel the real reason why Dick got promoted to Batman was so that the Nightwing name could be freed up for that Superman story, which also had a Flamebird. The ONLY thing she has going for her to help her is the fact her costume is so different. It also doesnt help that her & Cassandra Cain have the same last name in the same franchise.

Ultimately, its that DC (&Marvel) are too overcrowded with chracters that are redundant. Bettie Kane should just exist as the Batgirl on Earth-2. Barbara on Earth-1. Spread the characters out, not lump them together in the same universe.

#7 Posted by JonesDeini (3620 posts) - - Show Bio

@Rabioso:

I don't know how she's behaved or evolved pre-boot, but the Bette of the DCnU's past history or competency has yet to be established and I can understand why Kate's treating her the way she is. I can also understand how she was taken out in BW#4 last week. I'm not at all offended that she was red shirted. Maybe if the DCnU had a clear timeline I could argue for her being portrayed as overly incompetent, but what I could gather from Checking out a the CV wiki and word of mouth from friends familiar with the character she's very flighty. Sure, she had her moments of seriousness and a turning point, but I don't think she's every been truly dedicated to being a hero (and that's not just because she's not a "tragic" hero. From what I can gather this is like a hobby for her, a way to get an adrenaline rush. I think the way that Williams/Blackman wrote her in #4 reflect this attitude. You raise an interesting point about how the DCnU is guilty of trying to "darken" their line across the board. And from day one I felt like Flamebird was unnecessary in Batwoman. It felt like a obvious attempt to create a She-Robin, which Kate doesn't need. The less like Bruce Kate's written the better. I've got no issue with happy go lucky characters, but they definitely don't belong in books set in Gotham. I think there's something very symbolic about the panel of her lying skewered in the cold, snow covered Gotham back alley.

#8 Posted by Mayo88m (246 posts) - - Show Bio

@JonesDeini said:

@Rabioso:

I don't know how she's behaved or evolved pre-boot, but the Bette of the DCnU's past history or competency has yet to be established and I can understand why Kate's treating her the way she is. I can also understand how she was taken out in BW#4 last week. I'm not at all offended that she was red shirted. Maybe if the DCnU had a clear timeline I could argue for her being portrayed as overly incompetent, but what I could gather from Checking out a the CV wiki and word of mouth from friends familiar with the character she's very flighty. Sure, she had her moments of seriousness and a turning point, but I don't think she's every been truly dedicated to being a hero (and that's not just because she's not a "tragic" hero. From what I can gather this is like a hobby for her, a way to get an adrenaline rush. I think the way that Williams/Blackman wrote her in #4 reflect this attitude. You raise an interesting point about how the DCnU is guilty of trying to "darken" their line across the board. And from day one I felt like Flamebird was unnecessary in Batwoman. It felt like a obvious attempt to create a She-Robin, which Kate doesn't need. The less like Bruce Kate's written the better. I've got no issue with happy go lucky characters, but they definitely don't belong in books set in Gotham. I think there's something very symbolic about the panel of her lying skewered in the cold, snow covered Gotham back alley.

This is a great response, and I agree with it almost completely. It's nice to have contrast sometimes, but I just can't see her being a staple to the Batwoman series, and I think her use as a plot device in the current arc was really well done. I understand that a fan of hers may not like it, but really it was a powerful moment to me especially for such a new book.

#9 Posted by JonesDeini (3620 posts) - - Show Bio

@Mayo88m said:

@JonesDeini said:

@Rabioso:

I don't know how she's behaved or evolved pre-boot, but the Bette of the DCnU's past history or competency has yet to be established and I can understand why Kate's treating her the way she is. I can also understand how she was taken out in BW#4 last week. I'm not at all offended that she was red shirted. Maybe if the DCnU had a clear timeline I could argue for her being portrayed as overly incompetent, but what I could gather from Checking out a the CV wiki and word of mouth from friends familiar with the character she's very flighty. Sure, she had her moments of seriousness and a turning point, but I don't think she's every been truly dedicated to being a hero (and that's not just because she's not a "tragic" hero. From what I can gather this is like a hobby for her, a way to get an adrenaline rush. I think the way that Williams/Blackman wrote her in #4 reflect this attitude. You raise an interesting point about how the DCnU is guilty of trying to "darken" their line across the board. And from day one I felt like Flamebird was unnecessary in Batwoman. It felt like a obvious attempt to create a She-Robin, which Kate doesn't need. The less like Bruce Kate's written the better. I've got no issue with happy go lucky characters, but they definitely don't belong in books set in Gotham. I think there's something very symbolic about the panel of her lying skewered in the cold, snow covered Gotham back alley.

This is a great response, and I agree with it almost completely. It's nice to have contrast sometimes, but I just can't see her being a staple to the Batwoman series, and I think her use as a plot device in the current arc was really well done. I understand that a fan of hers may not like it, but really it was a powerful moment to me especially for such a new book.

I usually hate the trope that Williams/Blackman used here but I didn't mind it here. Maybe because I'm not invested in Bette, also because the way Williams went about it visually was stunning.

#10 Posted by RavenStar (139 posts) - - Show Bio

looks like she's gonna die D:

#11 Posted by Rabioso (48 posts) - - Show Bio

Say what you all will about whether it's a good idea to write a sidekick dying as a turning point in Kate's career, but they didn't need it to be Bette Kane at all. She should have stayed the course in a more lighthearted (but existant) series, and to be technical, this isn't redshirting, because they didn't create a character just to be killed. Bette had potential; she even demonstrated she was learning, and she deserved her a spot in a more lighthearted book. (Although lighthearted doesn't mean weak). If they wanted to kill a character to develop another, it should have been a character written to be killed. This is what I detest about the current Teen Titans comics and now it's happening here; characters that are popular don't get killed, or at least get brought back if they are, while everyone who sells less books is fodder just to add cheap drama. It's a disgustingly cynical, money-hungry attitude, it's why I stopped buying comics, and if anything is more disgusting, it's the fact that people are actually applauding this sort of thing.

#12 Posted by Oberon0 (1 posts) - - Show Bio

I just joined this forum. I post slightly elsewhere, but mostly lurk. I am a big Flamebird fan, going back to her presumed pre-existence as the original "Bat-girl".

While I mostly agree with this blog; Bette should not have to become a dark character to be Kate's sidekick, or even exist as a Bat family legacy, I do think it is important to to look at Morrison's re-interpretation of the original Batwoman and Bat-girl to see that now some necessary darkness or at least mystery remains about the character was Bat-girl and now is Flamebird.

Does anyone here have their own ideas about this or theories on whether they are the same Bette/Betty. Or what happened along the way? Do people disregard the comment by Bette in "Cutter" regarding the past that she can't let go?

Just curious, I have my own ideas too, perhaps,

Oberon

#13 Edited by Rabioso (48 posts) - - Show Bio

@Oberon0: Yeah; maybe this Bette is a Skrull. Oh; wait.

My personal thoughts on this is it's just the latest in a long evolution of callous douche-baggery by DC writers towards unpopular young heroes. As I said before, I think it's disgusting but it isn't exactly unprecedented in DC comics. This shit ball started with the Teen Titans series, and the shit ball has been rolling ever since, even with a different beetle behind it. Yeah; at least they didn't actually kill Bette in this new Batwoman series, but you know what, no; they kind of did. They killed the more mature and more likeable Bette that George Perez and Geoff Johns made her into; the Bette who actually put enough effort into her heroism that she did things successfully, despite blonde stereotypes and past baggage, and replaced her with a stereotypical blonde excuse-character just so they could advance a dark plot about the evil that men do.

#14 Posted by ChernobylCow (90 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm a new reader to the DC Universe, joining last september during the New 52. Of those books, Batwoman, Batman, Swamp Thing, and Animal Man are the only ones I've found worthwhile.

I've loved Batwoman, so much so that I went and picked up Elegy. It's made me want to go get the TPB of Chase. I bought a couple of backissues of Manhunter just to see what the DEO cameo was like.

As a new reader, I tried to dig into Bette's backstory because I think all of the characters in Rucka and up to Williams/Blackman's Batwoman are worth delving into. I want to know more about Kyle Abbott the werewolf, I bought the 5 issue Rucka miniseries about the Crime Bible. I want to know more about Kate's relationship with Renee, etc.

As far as Bette? I thought the issue were she was training as a "plebe" was totally bad ass. Dressed in a grey jump suit, cracking skulls against the pool hall gang. It was awesome. I think the idea of a female mentor and female trainee is great and hasn't been explored much. Bette mentions that she has been a teen titan that she has fought deathstroke, etc. But for me, there is still just enough mystery to want to see more of her. I only know about her Robin fangirl-dom through internet wikis. I've been looking all day to see where I should go to read more about her but I think I am just going to let the story play forward. I think Williams'/Blackman will find a strong role for her in this series.

Between, Batwoman's dad, Bette, Kyle Abbot...I think the Batwoman book is establishing for itself a pretty interesting family outside of the mainstream batfamily of characters.

You have a well-thought out post here with some well-written ideas, Rabioso. Kudos.

#15 Posted by Rabioso (48 posts) - - Show Bio

@ChernobylCow: The Beast Boys and Girls arc of Teen Titans is a good one to read to get an idea of when Bette was supposed to graduate from a joke to a good heroine, but there is also the Titans/JLA crossover, Technis Imperative, which maybe did more to establish Flamebird's abilities--she fought Huntress!

#16 Edited by COBRAMORPH (1528 posts) - - Show Bio

Werent Batwoman & Bette golden age characters? Probly woulda been better to just have them reintroduced on Earth-2 unrelated to Bette's previous past as Flamebird.

But no, it was just destroying one character to make another look good.

Dick Greyson created a new identity for himself as Nightwing. Then he becomes Batman, & now forever, his Nightwing is just a stepping stone on the path to becoming Batman, instead of his own self.

Barbara became Oracle, but now is back to being Batgirl.

Spoiler was a brand new character, then she became Batgirl. Then got "replaced" by Barbara. So if Spoiler ever returns, instead of being her own self, she is just a rung on the path to becoming Bat-Female.

Bette sorta evolved into her own self, but no,we cant have characters truely evolve & mature, it ages them, like marriage, she was Bat-Girl, now she'll always be Bat-Girl.

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