Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes (and their friends) should marry. In this mini-feature, former Bride Rebecca Henely-Weiss and Bride-to-Be Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and
Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes (and their friends) should marry. In this mini-feature, former Bride Rebecca Henely-Weiss and Bride-to-Be Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the dress? And more importantly … why did (or didn’t) the marriage last? Today we look at the wedding of Alysia Yeoh and Jo…
The Couple: Alysia Yeoh and Jo
The Issue: Batgirl #45
Published: October 28, 2015
Today: Still married.
Rebecca: We talk a lot in this column about how DC and Marvel have been reluctant to marry off classic heterosexual heroes, but for their LGBTQ colleagues, a walk down the aisle is even less likely. While we’ve covered two marriages between men, we still haven’t seen a wedding where a superheroine takes a bride. Still, one comic made a significant step toward more equal representation when Barbara Gordon’s best friend Alysia Yeoh married her girlfriend Jo. Not only was this a wedding between two women in a superhero comic, but it’s also the first time we saw a wedding with a transgender bride.
Kayleigh: I’ve been dying to cover a wlw couple for The Wedding Issue but, in mainstream superhero comics they are frustratingly hard to come by. Hela and Karnilla are hardly a love match, so it’ll probably be a while before we cover another one. But ahhh, Alysia and Jo! Their ceremony rightly garnered some notable press given its significance, so it was a disappointment to read Batgirl #45 and see it wasn’t quite all I hoped for, though that absolutely isn’t the couple’s fault.
Rebecca: I’ve been reluctant to cover marriages between superheroes’ supporting cast members in this column, partly because they’re not particularly well-remembered. (Anyone have a hot take on when Aunt May married Jonah’s dad?) But also because at the end of the day the comic isn’t really about them. Alysia’s a big part of Barbara Gordon’s life, but the comic is still first and foremost about Batgirl. Thus we have an issue that advertises itself as a cute, pastel lesbian wedding but spends most of its page time with Barbara caught between her feelings for two guys … No, really.
Kayleigh: Someone will read this and think, “You’re complaining about Batgirl being the main character in a Batgirl comic?” and yeah, I kinda am! Okay, at the end of the day Alysia and Jo are supporting characters, and no one was surprised when, say, Spider-Man’s spider-shenanigans stole the spider-spotlight from Ned Leeds and Betty Brant’s wedding. But the creators knew what they were doing here, that this was a big First with a capital “F,” so the fact that a trans bride’s wedding to another woman is overshadowed by Barbara’s very cis, very hetero love triangle feels very tone-deaf. (Especially since this was so soon after the Dagger Type controversy.)
Rebecca: We open with Babs playing the hyper-capable maid of honor, helping a fellow bridesmaid remove a stain from her dress one minute and assuring Alysia she looks beautiful the next. Barbara goes off to retrieve the wedding ring and plant a kiss on her current beau Luke Fox, but suddenly a recently returned-from-the-dead Dick Grayson comes through the window. He asks to speak to Barbara, but when she tries to give him an earful, Dick acts like a … well, you know … and steals the wedding ring. After a tense heart-to-heart where Barbara tells him that she’s moved on and Dick is being a selfish asshole inserting himself into someone else’s wedding where he wasn’t invited, Dick apologizes and wishes her well on her new relationship with Luke. Babs races back in time for the ceremony. Everyone is happy (even though Dick spends some time outside the reception looking sad), but when Barbara’s gone to sleep for the night a mysterious figure looms in the darkness.
Kayleigh: I really like that we spend the beginning with Alysia and her bridesmaids, because how often have we begged a wedding issue, “Please, let the bride have a single female friend, any friend?” I also like the idea of Babs using her superheroic hyper-competency to pack extra deodorant and stain remover instead of batarangs or bat shark repellent. I know this was intended to be the looooove issue with lots of hearts and sparkles—just look at that cover—but it loses me once the main plot kicks in. Why does Barbara wear Alysia’s ring as a necklace? So Dick can steal it, of course. And it’s, uh, a dick move.
Rebecca: I do like Alysia, though. I read the entire trade paperback containing this story to try to get a feel for her, although most of the character-building side plots involved Frankie Charles trying to assert herself more as Batgirl’s ally (although in all fairness she’s pretty cool). Still, the scenes where Alysia tells Barbara about her impending wedding are sweet. Jo’s activism getting her into trouble with a tiger-themed supervillainess and needing to be rescued are also fun. It’s … nice, but I would have liked to have learned a bit more about both characters in the lead up to their wedding. At least give Jo a last name, y’all!
Kayleigh: It’s great that Alysia gets an active role in rescuing Jo in issue #44, instead of just sitting home and fretting like a lot of female supporting characters did not so long ago. Here, Jo gets only one line of dialogue (“And I love you”), but I really love how the wedding itself is presented. Babs Tarr replaces traditional panel borders with beautiful, wispy white roses and ribbons, which makes the scene feel soft and romantic. This is, significantly, the first wedding issue we’ve covered drawn entirely by a female artist, and the female gaze is unmissable here. Sparkles! Blushing! Cool hair colors! This comic is dreamy.
Rebecca: The looks in this issue are pretty great. I may gripe about the storyline, but I love Babs Tarr’s flowy, sketchy art accentuated by Serge LaPointe’s bright, pastel colors. As you all know, I’m a soft touch for lavender but I do like the simple, sleeveless, long bridesmaid dresses. And the brides really look nice. Alysia’s dress is a typical modern mermaid wedding dress with lace short sleeves, but the gold Chinese/Singaporean-style headpiece gives it a unique cultural touch. I also really dig how Jo—who has long, red hair and is presumably cisgender—was the one to wear a white suit on her wedding day. I know there’s a potential heteronormative pitfall in having one half of the couple wear pants and the other a dress on their wedding day, but I think this comic did that in a way that didn’t feel reductive.
Kayleigh: I really like the visible lace pattern on Alysia’s dress, and the gold comb in her hair is very striking. Black Canary’s edgier, more sultry look also stands out from the crowd. I envy Barbara wearing her yellow Doc Martens under her gown—that seems way more comfortable to me than wearing heels all day. And Dick Grayson damn sure looks better than he did on his own wedding day!
Rebecca: Being regular civilians—albeit ones who tango with tiger-wielding superbaddies—there weren’t too many cameos. But while Dick crashed the party and Black Canary also showed up, my favorite cameo was a panel showing three women from the back who are definitely meant to be Sailor Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. It’s a bit subtle—I didn’t get it until my third flip-through of the comic, but considering their status as lesbian/queer icons for young women of a certain age, I thought it was a nice touch.
Kayleigh: As someone who’s going to have her friends’ power pop band perform at her wedding, I appreciated Black Canary as the wedding singer. It’s not a cameo, but I am delighted by the officiant, a woman in a suit with piercings and an elaborate neck tattoo. She absolutely looks like a real person with a story to tell, and it’s wonderful any time an artist is able to achieve that with a minor, functionary character. The Sailor Guardians were a nice catch—Tarr also drew Steven Universe’s Garnet and Pearl in a Batgirl issue, and if this isn’t an issue that deserves to be blessed by animated queer icons, what is?
Rebecca: In general, this is a cute comic. I like the art a lot, and it’s really nice to have lesbian and transgender representation that’s positive and happy. Issues of homophobia and transphobia aren’t even mentioned, which is a big change from even the Northstar/Kyle Jinadu wedding we covered. I’m just bummed about it being sidelined. This could have been a nice opportunity to really spotlight an influential character on her special day and instead it became a love triangle rehash for the book’s main character. It’s a bummer.
Kayleigh: The big asterisk next to this wedding that’s so important for trans representation in mainstream comics is that, well, the issue isn’t really about the wedding. Alysia and Jo are supporting characters in Batgirl’s story, and we’ve seen DC Comics dismantle the proposed marriages of their major superhero characters. The conundrum, sadly, is that if Alysia and Jo were the main characters in their own story, would we have gotten a wedding at all? It’s a happy, charming comic, but it has a very distracting center. (If you’re interested in a trans creator telling her own story about her wedding, Chii’s autobiographical manga The Bride Was A Boy is one place to start.) Still, I hope Alysia and Jo have a long and happy future ahead of them.