Bat woman.(Brief Article)
Author/s: Russell Lissau
Issue: June 19, 2001

Bisexual comics writer Devin Grayson (Batman, Ghost Rider) breaks through the comic book glass ceiling by fleshing out the human side of superheroes

Comic book writer Devin Grayson wants to make one thing very clear: Batman and Robin are not gay. That's not to say, however, that you can't enjoy pretending they are. "It's very easy to read it in a homoerotic context," Grayson says gleefully from her San Francisco Bay area home. "From the very beginning, Batman--who's in this dark, leathery costume--puts Robin in tiny green shorts, takes him out to fight crime, and calls him `chum,' and they live together with a male butler. I think on the part of the original creators it was completely unintentional but that's part of the fun of it."

In her four years in the superhero biz, Grayson has become one of comicdom's hottest writers. (She leaves the drawing to others.) With series such as Catwoman, Black Widow, and the current Batman: Gotham Knights, the 30-year-old Grayson developed a reputation for telling smart stories that emphasize characters and dialogue instead of hackneyed fight scenes. This month sees the release of her newest project, Ghost Rider: The Hammer Lane, a miniseries for Marvel Comics starring the ultimate biker from hell.

Whereas most of the industry's writers and artists spent their youths immersed in the colorful exploits of spandex-clad heroes, Grayson didn't pick up a comic until her mid 20s. A budding novelist, she discovered the medium through an episode of the award-winning Batman: The Animated Series cartoon.

"The show very clearly illustrated that he had a relationship with this kid," Grayson says. "He raised him. And that was just an amazing, funny, scary, and weird thing to think about. We've all come in late for a curfew or done something our parents didn't approve of, and you get your dad frowning over you--but what if your dad was Batman? I just became completely obsessed with that relationship."

Grayson (and yes, she knows she shares the surname of Bruce Wayne's first crime-fighting partner. Dick Grayson) immediately ran to a local comics shop to learn everything she could about Batman and his costumed pals. She then pestered the people at DC Comics, the company that owns Batman, until she got her first assignment. That gig led to dozens of others and eventually to Batman: Gotham Knights, a series Grayson calls a dream come true. "Batman was the first fictional hero I ever fully believed in," she says. "And I came to this industry precisely because I love Batman and wanted to be involved with his fictional life."

Grayson definitely has a thing for dark heroes. Her latest comic's title character is a leather-clad, skull-faced biker who received super powers only after selling his soul to the devil. To Grayson, who spent part of her youth as a Backseat Betty, Ghost Rider was an icon in biker circles long before she learned he was a superhero. "I knew him from tattoos and the backs of motorcycle jackets," Grayson says of the character, who's been in comics since the early 1970s. "I had no idea he was a comic book character."

As not only a woman but an openly bisexual one, Grayson is something of an anomaly in the world of mainstream superhero comics. Although the industry is filled with gay creators, only a small percentage of comic book characters are out. Grayson balanced the scales a bit by using gay and bisexual characters in two projects she wrote for DC: last year's Relative Heroes and this year's USER. In fact, Relative Heroes included what may have been the first gay cruising scene in mainstream comics. "We use storytelling to explore the truth. And the truth is, there are many different kinds of sexuality out there," Grayson says. "It's important to be as inclusive as possible."

Grayson, who prefers not to discuss her dating life on the record, says her gay friends have always supported her career. Although the industry isn't very forthcoming with gay role models, she's happy to see the medium has been somewhat co-opted, including openly gay writer-artist Phil Jimenez's current stint with Wonder Woman and Michael's comics fixation on Queer as Folk. "The hunky icons of mainstream superhero comics have left a lot of room for nonmainstream interpretation," Grayson says. "The gay community doesn't care what the official line is. We know that men who run around in leather and tights--even if they've never had sex with anyone whatsoever--are queer. Not gay, necessarily, but queer. And although I take the medium and the stories very seriously, I appreciate people who approach the industry with some degree of levity."

Lissau writes for the Chicago Daily Herald.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group