The New 52 – A Closer Look
Since last Wednesday, the internet has been lit up with a lot of talk about DC Comics’ New 52 books. Well, more specifically, they have been lit up with discussion of two that week’s releases: Catwoman and Red Hood and The Outlaws and how female characters are portrayed in both books. In my own reviews of each book, the did not rate them highly, with Catwoman almost falling into the dropped pile.
As an avid comic reader, I have never been a huge Catwoman fan, I do have to admit that. I thought she worked well as a femme fatale for Batman, but I never really thought she should merit her own book. I think this is because of my own personal convictions that featuring a book about a criminal (remember, Catwoman is a thief) is in a sense glorifying crime to some degree, no matter how strong the character is. So, in that sense, the new Catwoman series already had a strike against it in my mind. Still, I am willing to try any book out just to see if anything had changed. What I found was more in line with an Andy Sedaris movie than with a super hero comic book. It seemed that out of 20 pages of story, Catwoman was partially to mostly undressed in about 12 pages. And when faced with a nightmare from her past in the form of a violent abuser, she immediately resorts to flashing him to get his attention. It seemed less like a strategy than it seemed like an excuse to see her in a lacy bra.
Red Hood and the Outlaws presented a different problem with Starfire, who seemed to be getting the most attention with this controversy. Personally, I think part of the issue with Starfire is that a lot of people who are coming into comics now only know her from the Teen Titans cartoon. This cartoon, obviously designed more for the younger crowd, featured a younger, more innocent, and more dressed version of Starfire. Thus, when they see this new version that’s more grown up (and out), the red flags start flying. It doesn’t help that not only does she not remember any of the Teen Titans she fought alongside (dismissed as “short attention span”), but immediately propositions Roy for sex.
Anyone who has read any of the older Teen Titan comics would know that this version of Starfire does still bear some resemblance to the older version. The “free nature” that shows with the bikini scene (which, yes, is a bit gratuitous, especially with the young boy voyeuristically uploading pictures of her to the internet) is present in the Starfire as written by Marv Wolfman. This previous version of Starfire worked as a fashion model (often with photographer Donna Troy) and had not reservations about changing into her costume in the middle of a park (for the record, her costume was in her duffel bag). She even lip locked with Colossus in the X-Men/Teen Titans crossover for the sole reason of learning a new language (Kitty calls her a hussy for that). Thus, it does not seem that far out of character for this Starfire to be a bit more open about her sexuality.
The real problem I had with the issue was with how she was portrayed in the issue as a whole. Even in the older issues, as free as Starfire was with who she was, there still was something more to her. She was not just a hot body in a skimpy outfit. She was an exiled princess, still bound by her duty to her people, strong, yet innocent. This new version does not seem to have none of what made her Starfire. Even the whole Tamaranean ”short attention span” seems like a forced plot point, made up to justify Starfire acting so out of character. Even her involvement with Jason Todd does not fit in with her past affiliations (I personally don’t seem to remember any connection she had with him prior to this book). Even in describing her as an anti-hero in promotions feels completely wrong.
Granted, I did not put either on my dumped list. Only Hawk & Dove and Legion of Superheroes are on that list. But, given how each of the above books have read, I can’t see myself continuing much more past issue 2 or 3 if the writing doesn’t improve.
- Lots o’ Links (DC New 52 Edition): Catwoman #1 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (alldaycomics.com)
- A 7-year-old girl responds to DC Comics’ sexed-up reboot of Starfire [Comics] (io9.com)
- The DC New 52: Pimps ‘n’ Hos Up in Here (alldaycomics.com)