Batman's naked body is breaking down walls for DC's mature Black Label, but the publisher has apparently decided it's a little too mature for digital release. The Dark Knight's fame may be too great for DC's editors to ever dream of erasing... but not every part of his anatomy can boast the same, judging by the latest censorship.
For those who missed the original story, Batman: Damned revealed Bruce Wayne in the nude for its debut issue, the first comic published under the mature, prestige Black Label. True to the name and ambitions of the book, storytellers Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo decided to portray Batman's body as it actually would appear, down to the one part of Bruce Wayne's anatomy fans never expected to see in a DC book. But no matter how relevant to the story, or how "mature" the Black Label aims to be, purchasers of the digital issues of the book have discovered that the historic Bat-nudity is nowhere to be found.
This isn't the first time that DC editorial has stepped in to draw the line for what's an acceptable level of 'nudity' or 'mature' content, with Sean Murphy confirming that his uncensored nude scene between Joker and Harley Quinn was censored for publication, while a future, prestige release of the uncensored version was left on the table. But with the Black Label (where Murphy's Batman: White Knight was eventually reassigned after publication) making its mature readers audience a part of its mission statement, the decision to edit or censor Bermejo's artwork is going to cause as much controversy, if not more, than showing Bruce Wayne has a human's anatomy.
For reference, take a look at the version of Batman's undressing scene issued to retailers on the left, and the digital release on the right:
The ease with which Bermejo was able to remove the nudity may actually go to support those who felt it wasn't a shock-value stunt, or gimmick, but an artist illustrating the character as he would, naturally, appear. Every reader and editor knows what exists in the black void between Bruce's hips. One could argue that Bermejo simply chose not to ignore it altogether when applying the highlights illuminating Bruce's (seriously beaten) body. If DC felt the artwork crossed a line beyond mature, for any type of release, then fans will surely be waiting to hear an explanation of how the publisher is defining that line. And how their expectations of the Black Label brand may need to change.
The most obvious explanation will likely be related to the digital storefronts, apps, and streaming services (the recently launched DC Universe included), which may be unable to draw a distinct line between readers of all ages, and those whom the Black Label line is actually targeting. It would seem strange, in this day and age, to send adult comic book fans to physical bookstores in search of "mature" graphic novels not sold anywhere else, but... it's hard imagine another solution if that is the hurdle in question.
We'll keep you updated if and when DC Comics makes that clarification, but for now, Batman fans eager to see the uncensored vision of Bermejo and Azzarello will want to head out to purchase a physical copy of the Batman: Damned graphic novel's first chapter.