26 July 2008

Renee Montoya and Anna Ramirez

There's a character in the Batman mythos named Renee Montoya. She was created as a Gotham City police officer for the animated cartoon of the early 1990s, and quickly slipped into the comic books to tie the two media together. Montoya served several roles in those early stories, from providing Batman with a regular contact on the cops to offering a non-stereotypical role for a female and Hispanic.

Soon Commissioner Jim Gordon promoted Montoya to detective and assigned her to the Major Crimes Unit. Over the years her partners were Harvey Bullock and Crispus Allen, two other established DC supporting characters. Two-Face developed a crush on her in the No Man's Land arc.

Montoya was a major character in the Gotham Central series, which revealed more of her personal life: she had a girlfriend, and parents who disapproved of that relationship. Some fans disliked this revelation, seeing it as changing the character they'd imagined rather than filling her out. For others, Montoya became even more interesting and admirable.

In a series that DC published in 2006, Montoya took up the role of the Question, a superhero Steve Ditko had created for Charlton in 1967 as a mouthpiece for his Ayn Rand philosophy. (The Question became part of the DC stable when Charlton sold its superhero properties.) I've written about how this development exemplifies the dominance of costumed-hero adventures in American comic books.

I mention all this because early on in the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, we see a young Latina detective working closely with Jim Gordon. She's played by Monique Curnen. More than a few Batman fans assumed that she was Montoya, as I did. Only late in the film do we learn that her name is Ramirez.

Earlier this month, Joanne at Comic Genius wrote about why the character of Det. Anna Ramirez was appearing not only in The Dark Knight but also in an animated film just released to DVD, Batman: Gotham Knight. Where was Montoya? she demanded.

The answer becomes clear once one sees The Dark Knight. [And now we get into ***SPOILER*** territory for people who haven't.] The screenwriters, Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, undoubtedly used the sight of a Latina detective to lure fans into thinking that character was Montoya, and would behave as Montoya has behaved in numerous Batman stories since 1991. But Ramirez acts differently, providing a surprise for the cocky fanboys who think they can predict everything the Joker will do. The filmmakers could pull off that trick only because they were working within an established universe with a big fan base.

At the same time, having built Renee Montoya into a heroine and even a costumed heroine, DC and Warner Bros. got to preserve that character free of whatever fate Anna Ramirez might face.


Anonymous said...


I couldn't agremore with you analysis here. Ramirez was a flawed character in many ways, and in fact when in the movie Harvey Dent was told that Ramirez was the person who drove Rachel, I gasped "impossible". Having this character to then be touted as the Question - who in many ways has always been one of the most idealized costumed heroes in the DC universe - would but a question mark [no pun intended] in the judgement of DC. Here's my blog here: http://philantr0py.spaces.live.com

Feel free to leave a comment.

I used a verbate from your piece and I hope that's okay? :-)

J. L. Bell said...