Thursday, 22 September 2011

How do you solve a problem like Starfire?

Starfire is a character that, admittedly, few writers and artists have got right since Perez and Wolfman. But none have got her quite as wrong as Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort in Red Hood and the Outlaws. Starfire comes from a planet of nudist free-lovers. This we know. Starfire likes sex and isn't ashamed of it. For some reason Lobdell and Rocafort take this to mean that she is an unemotional sexbot. No. Starfire is not a slut. There is something beautifully pure and pre-lapsarian about her attitude to sex, she sees the body as something to celebrate and be proud of. This doesn't mean she'd have sex with just anyone, and she certainly would never cheat on someone.

New T&A Kory

And as for the idea that people aren't important to Kory, and that she doesn't even remember Dick, that's just ridiculous. Kory loves openly and without fear of rejection. She's often too affectionate. And that was what was always so distinctive about Kory - she's a stunningly beautiful woman but her levels of affection make her almost goofy. She's had a crap history as an abused prisoner, but retains the capacity for optimism. That makes (made) her one of the strongest (and most often overlooked) heroines in the DCU.

Old pro-love Kory

It has emerged that DC had words with Lobdell about how sexualised he made Kory. They wanted him to suggest that it might be the result of post-traumatic-stress after her history as a sex slave, but he was adament that he didn't want her to be defined by that. SO WHY MAKE HER COMPLETELY DEFINED BY HER LOVE OF SEX? Why have her do everything Jason asks her without questioning it? Why have both her arse and boobs in every picture of her?

Why not have her just being happy, joyous Kory, a fun counterpoint to brooding recovering drug addict Roy and brooding recovering psychopath Jason? If she was chirpy and upbeat and then slaughtered a tonne of mercenaries in tanks, that would be interesting. Because Kory is a warrier when she has to be, and she never had a problem with killing bad people. I'm not saying have her cover up and become a prude, and she should absolutely hit on Roy and Jason. In fact, she should make the same objectifying comments about them that they make about her. She would act as a great destabiliser in the comic, someone the boys don't quite get and are a little scared of. Happy one minute, cheerful nympho the next, hugging them and declaring her team mate love for them the second after that. Then slaughtering a tonne of mercenaries in tanks.

It worries me that some creators choose not to see past the 'likes sex' aspect of Kory's personality. It's not just a guy thing. She was created by two men who also happened to establish three of DC's best female characters (two of whom are now MIA). Men can write Kory. But many see her exclusively through a male gaze. In Red Hood it's a triple-filtered male gaze: she's gazed at and commented on by the male characters and defined by the male creators for what they clearly assume to be a male audience (even though, in my experience, Jason and Roy's fans are mostly female). I love all three characters in this book - or, at least, what they used to be - which makes me their key audience. But I simply don't feel like I can read this. And it's not just a crusading feminist thing - I've read plenty of comments by male fans who feel the same way. They actually find Kory less sexy now.

Thank God that Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Birds of Prey also came out this week, otherwise with this and Catwoman (which I ranted about in the below post) I'd be accusing DC of actively driving away female readers. But, as it is, DC put out a lot of books featuring women this week. Most of them were good and presented their female characters as strong and rounded. But so long as comics like Red Hood and Catwoman keep coming out, comics are never going to shake off the 'just for boys' tag. Cut your loses on those two very quickly, DC. I'll be surprised if the creative teams stay in place for more than six issues.

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