The following contains spoilers for Sins of the Black Flamingo #3, now on sale by Image Comics
Sins of the Black Flamingo follows a master thief named Sebastian Harlow, who holds a negative view of humanity and lives his life as DC’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman. In addition to bragging about stealing expensive artifacts from wealthy fanatics, he also occasionally takes jobs from other people, especially if they involve stealing items that interest him. While that might sound ironic for a protagonist whose primary defining trait is misanthropy, he’s not entirely heartless.
In the same way that Catwoman goes out of her way to help people from disenfranchised communities without accepting monetary reward, Sebastian also does so for members of her own marginalized communities. In Sins of the Black Flamingo #1 (by Andrew Wheeler, Travis Moore, Tamra Bonvillain, and Aditya Bidikar), Sebastian helps a Jewish couple recover a magical family heirloom that was stolen by the Nazis during World War II. In Sins of the Black Flamingo #2, Sebastian rescues a captured angel from a wealthy neo-Nazi named Thorndike Scar, whom he falls in love with. In Sins of the Black Flamingo #3, Sebastian reveals the real reason for his misanthropy, and it surprisingly ties into his lifestyle.
Prior to the events of the first issue, Sebastian was an ordinary person from a Jewish family who had an “ignorance is bliss” approach to life. This is most evident during the flashback sequence in issue #3 which depicts his time as a college student. While he didn’t have a specific specialization he was studying, at one point he entered into a sexual relationship with his archeology professor, Hugo Tarn, who actually robbed tombs and stole artifacts like if he was Indiana Jones. Tarn also introduced Sebastian to the occult.
While in the Tarn, Sebastian attended sex parties dubbed “Black Masses” and accompanied his teacher on trips around the world. With the Tarn, Sebastian learned to loot museums, desecrate abandoned places and “visit” war zones. During one such outing, Sebastian got his hands on a cursed old artifact known as “The Devil’s Tooth”, which Tarn knew well. According to Tarn, those who touched the Dent du Diable with their bare hands could see “the true beauty of the world”. He encouraged Sebastian to touch the artifact to find out if the legend was true, but in doing so it severely traumatized him.
Although the visions he saw aren’t depicted on the page, it’s easy to guess, based on Sebastian’s description of his experience, what crossed his mind. As a gay Jewish person who had already experienced his fair share of anti-Semitism and homophobia throughout his life, The Devil’s Tooth showed Sebastian other examples of both, as well as other atrocities that the humanity has committed throughout its history. These visions caused Sebastian to lose faith in God and made him believe that the only evil that exists in the world is not a biblical devil, but humanity itself.
The atrocities Sebastian suffered when he touched The Devil’s Tooth were enough to land him in a mental hospital for three years. Meanwhile, his archeology professor had passed away, and he had inherited the cursed artifact from him, along with other items he owned. Although Sebastian recovered enough psychologically to be able to function in his day-to-day life again, he still chose a life as a crime to exact revenge on a world he already perceived as cruel. It wasn’t until he rescued the angel Ezekiel from Thorndike Scar’s mansion that he began to regain some of his more positive human qualities.
Although he hasn’t known Ezekiel for very long, Sebastian finds himself in love with both his physical beauty and his innocence. At the same time, he is troubled by these thoughts because the existence of an angel contradicts everything he knows about the rotten world he lives in. Ezekiel, however, reassures him that kindness exists in the world and that Sebastian himself is also a kind person. , whether he admits it or not. Although Sebastian is not magically cured of his misanthropy after meeting Ezekiel, his love for him motivates him to find a way to free the angel from the demonic collar that keeps him enslaved to Scar.