Last month, DC Comics made waves when ‘Batman: Damned’, written by Brian Azzarello with art by Lee Bermejo, hit comic shops featuring a cover that required special handling and shipping instructions so as not to damage it, and visible depictions of Batman’s penis. It was the last part that got everyone talking. (Everyone.)
But now, DC’s co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee are calling that a mistake, with Lee dubbing the publication of full-frontal Batman a “production error.” Almost immediately, DC announced that the Bat-Peen would be censored in digital formats and future printings.
‘Batman: Damned’ was the debut publication under the publisher’s new Black Label, which promised ” Big name creators, big name superheroes, and big helpings of creative freedom — including freedom from DC’s main continuity.” This was a chance for creators to cut loose and tell whatever stories they wanted with the DC characters, without constraints. But the flurry over the Bat-Junk distracted from ‘Batman: Damned”s artistic strengths.
According to Lee:
“I think we made some choices after it went out, and there were some production errors that led to the book being published the way it was … that ended up being a big story. But thankfully people were very pleased with the story and the content, the beautiful art, and the story that Brian and Lee had come up with really resonated with readers.
“It’s made us, certainly, look at what Black Label is and think about whether these elements are additive to the story. And that’s something that we’ll be mindful of going forward, because I don’t think we want necessarily a repeat of what happened with the first issue.”
Because, God forbid, people talk about your comic book and give it more mainstream media coverage than any such publication since Captain America turned Nazi. It appears that Lee and DiDio do not subscribe to the old adage, “Any publicity is good publicity.”
DiDio seemed even more remorseful… or did he?
“It’s something we wished never happened. because it really took the attention away from what we thought was quality storytelling, and that’s not the way we see this imprint. As a matter of fact, we’re excited by all the books that we have under Black Label. And it’s an important line for us, so much so that we’re actually repositioning some of our older material that has that same tonality and bringing it in and reprinting it under the Black Label name.”
So… while whining about the publicity that the nudity in ‘Batman: Damned’ generated, he managed to squeeze in a plug for upcoming books, which– guess what?– I’m not going to list. You don’t want the wrong kind of publicity? How about no publicity?
As a side, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons ‘Watchmen’ was published in 1986-87 by DC and featured full frontal nudity from the character Doctor Manhattan. It has remained in print ever since, with no censorship.
At the 2004 Super Bowl, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake were among numerous musical artists that performed during the halftime show. The pair collaborated on the big closing number, Timberlake’s song ‘Rock Your Body’. At the climax, Timberlake sang (or lipsynched) “Gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” while ripping part of Jackson’s bodice off, revealing a flash of her bare breast, including an ornate nipple piercing before the entire stage went dark. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the MTV Awards where shock value is the name of the game. There was a huge backlash. Then Timberlake sheepishly appeared on an awards show shortly afterward and apologized for offending and referred to the incident as a “wardrobe malfunction” implying that it had never been intended for Jackson’s breast to be exposed.
Now add Lee calls the nudity in ‘Batman: Damned’ as a “production error,” implying that somehow this artwork slipped past them all and made it into the published book without their blessing.
Just once it would be nice to hear an entity say “You know, we thought this would get people talking, and generate a lot of publicity. But now, we kind of regret it. Our bad.”
DC’s decision to censor the issue going forward is just going to drive up the demand and secondary market value of the first printing.
Did you buy a copy of ‘Batman: Damned’ #1? Does the explicit artwork add to or detract from the story? Or does it even matter?