Female Comic Book Character of the Decade

Posted: January 13, 2010 in Non Fiction, Writing
Tags: , , ,

The past week or so I keep seeing postings on the internet about the best female characters in comics. I don’t know if these lists and declarations are due to a beginning of the year desire to do best of lists or if there is a larger agenda involved but it seemed like a good idea to jump on. I’ve been a big fan of strong female leads since I was a child and my love for the empowered woman of today cemented because of Joss Whedon’s portrayal of real people with real emotions on the ironically titled “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Over the past decade female characters in comics, film and television have been getting more three dimensional and they are being written much better. They are no longer sexy villians or saintly mothers, they are something in between. Strength, intelligence and character are winning the war on cleavage and I couldn’t be happier.

My pick for best female character of the past decade is Renee Montoya, former police detective, current Question.

DC Comics may have accidentally given us one of the most diverse characters in the history of comics, a strong woman of color who happens to be a lesbian. Let me back up a little bit and explain how such a thing is possible.

I’m sure everyone remembers Batman The Animated Series. It stands as arguably one of the best cartoons ever aired with solid plot lines that weren’t so dumbed down for five year olds that adults found them annoying (I’m looking at you Teen Titans Go). One of the new characters created just for the animated series was Officer Renee Montoya, the young idealistic partner of the cranky veteran Harvey Bullock. The character was an instant hit and soon made her debut as one of Gotham’s finest in Batman. Promoted to Homicide Detective in Batman #475 by Commissioner James Gordon, she was once again partnered with Bullock. When Harvey was promoted, Renee was partnered with Crispus Allen. During the epic No Man’s Land storyline where Gotham was destroyed by an earthquake and unceremoniously thrown out of the United States, Renee was a key player in the city’s survival tricking the villain Harvey Dent into helping with relief efforts after he fell in love with her.

During Greg Rucka’s fantastic run on Gotham Central, Two Face feeling spurned by Renee after No Man’s Land outs her as a lesbian in public and frames her for murder. She is eventually cleared of all charges but her overtly religious parents disown her because of her sexuality. Not long after her personal life falls apart including the destruction of the relationship with her girlfriend, Renee’s partner Crispus is murdered by a corrupt cop named Jim Corrigan. Vowing vengeance Renee beats Corrigan’s girlfriend unconscious and pulls a gun on Corrigan. Unable to enact her vengeance and feeling lost and broken, Renee quit the GCPD and spiraled further down into a pit of casual sex and alcohol abuse.

In the pages of 52 Renee goes though a journey both physical and spiritual. Her friendship with The Question and his eventual demise at the hands of one of the worlds worst villains, cancer, has caused a huge transformation. During 52 Renee spent a considerable amount of time in the city of Nanda Parbat, a mystical city in a Tibetesque region of the DCU. During her time there she struggled with her identity with the help of Richard Dragon, one of the men who helped mold Bruce Wayne into the Batman. Before his death the Question told Renee that his wish was for her to take over his mantle and continue his work. During and after 52 Renee, as the Question fought against the church of crime in Gotham and around the world finally ending up as the backup feature in Detective Comics.
That brings us to the opening statement. A strong, lesbian woman of color following her own agenda and taking charge of the situation. Earlier in 52 we saw that there is already a relationship between Renee and the new Batwoman Kate Kane. A relationship that has the potential to be the Willow/Tara of the DC universe. An empowered lesbian couple who defy media stereotypes by being a loving committed couple. We have seen plenty of heterosexual couples who have healthy monogamous relationships. In DC alone we have Lois and Clark and Ralph and Sue.

There are still plenty of stories to tell about Renee Montoya. She has conflicted parents, a loving brother, loyal friends in Bullock and Gordon and a potential love interest that could bring the term “team up” to a whole new level. I’ve been there with Renee though her entire “career”. From her humble origins as a uniformed officer on the animated series through her transformation into the new Question and rarely have I cheered and moaned and wept for a character as intensely as I have done for her. I don’t know if DC understands what they have but they have had enough intelligence to allow Greg Rucka to continue plotting her course.


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