Sex, DC Comics and wtf?

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion on comic books, be they from Jon del Arroz discussing the politicization of Marvel comics, or JD Cowan’s discussion on how bereft of ideas comics have been.
My problem came in with their “New 52” in 2011. This was a particularly stupid idea after they had already created 52 new alternate universes in their 52 storyline — which was a 2006-2007 story line that was actually quite good, focusing on the B-list superheroes, and giving them a chance to flourish, and even starting new, and popular, storylines. It was even character-driven.
So of course they screwed it up within four years.
But I knew they went off the rails when they decided to “reboot” characters for sex value.
I have already discussed my opinion on sex in writing.  I’d say my opinion on sex in general is very Catholic, but since no one understand that, I’m not even going to bother. However, I can sum up my thoughts on sex in fiction very easily: who needs it? We all know the mechanics. What possible reason is there for a blow by blow description? Pardon the pun, but you know what I mean.

I’ve written a few sex scenes …. by “few” I mean two, and they were in the same book.  However, the “sex scene” was in someone’s dream, and the protagonist was having a conversation with his dead wife through most of it. The sex was incidental, and mostly has to do with the fact that she was killed on their honeymoon.  The second sex scene was so vague, any less detail would be as clear as a Salvatore Dali painting, only with words.

Yes, I brought in Dali to an article on sex. I’m weird. However, there is a point.

Even during these scenes, there’s no blow by blow description. (I’m going to stop apologizing for that phrase, just roll with it).  They aren’t necessary, unless someone’s writing porn.  Even something as intimate as noticing a tattoo on someone during sex doesn’t necessitate that much detail — the audience does not need to know what specific act the individual was doing when s/he noticed the tattoo.  It’s sex. Nudity happens.  Next chapter.

In the case of DC Comics, they decided to go back to the 1990s, where the artistic style was summarized as “Big boobs, big guns.” The current version seems to focus on women and sexuality, with an overemphasis on the sex.

Take, for example, the character of Starfire. She’s an alien with red hair, green eyes (and I don’t mean with two green irises, I mean the entire eye is green), orange skin, with measurements somewhere in the 36 DD battery range.
Normally, I would stop reading at green-eyed redhead (I grew up with a crush on the female lead in Riverdance, leave me alone).  The character has always been sexually relaxed, it was mostly a cultural thing.  And, for the most part, it was used properly — as comedy.  For example, in the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths, Starfire walks in with Nightwing, meets an old friend, and introduces him as “This is Nightwing, my lover.”

Nightwing’s reaction is such that you suspect he’s glad that he has to go and face the end of the world.

And that was it.  One panel. Move on. It was played for comedic effect. The alien culture was very much what is referred to as “serial monogamy.” Starfire would FALL IN LOVE with a fellow and they would actually have a relationship. Sadly, today, the most startling thing about this is that she fell in love first, THEN started with sex.

DC decided to fix that.

OW! MY BACK!

When they rebooted everything with their “New 52,” DC spent far, far too long on having Starfire posing.

And by posing, I don’t mean “for seducing the guy she’s targeted for seduction.” I mean in weird, contortionist-like ways that are only useful for modeling.

Modeling what, I’m not entirely certain, but, still ….

What was the point of that scene?  Aside from “we’re pandering to hormonal males who can’t buy Playboy“?  Anyone? Anyone at all? Bueller?  Bueller?

“Baywatch” has its own comic book now?

Someone ran out of room for a plot in this issue, didn’t they? Starfire is a woman who can quite literally level city blocks.  And DC decided to dedicate a whole page to her trying to jump someone’s bones, with another page dedicated to “Gee, she looks good in a bikini.”  Really? They couldn’t think of something she could blow up?

Notice I have not pointed out her barely there costume.  The “reasoning” is that she absorbs solar energy through her skin, and the less she wears, the more surface area is used…..

Funny, twenty years ago, when Superman just came back from the dead and needed an enhanced recharge from the sun, he had to wear a form-fitting black suit to increase his solar intake.

But then, that was before 300 and chiseled, CGI generated 8-pack abs were “in.”

Also strange: she needs to bear more skin for more solar energy absorption, but she wears thigh-high boots, covering a lot of that surface area. If her powers honestly worked like that, it’s time to invest in sandals.

So, to recap: Does this entire setup tell us anything about the character? Nothing new.  Does it add anything to the plot?  Is it amusing? No and no.

If we’re lucky, comic books last 32 pages, without counting the ads.  If we’re not, it’s more like 25 or 27. But they’ll blow anywhere from 6%-10% of the book having Sunfire posing?  Who the hell is writing this crap?

This is the very, very short version of just some of the stupidity in this issue.

For the rest of how stupid this issue was, see the review below, or at the original webpage.

 

But then, things got even worse. How?

Enter: Catwoman.

Yup, the one in the really tight-fitting outfit.  As opposed to Halle Berry, the one in no outfit … that was more CatHouseWoman than anything else.
Granted, in some ways, I think Catwoman’s outfit is more practical than Batman’s — there’s no loose fitting articles of clothing to be caught on nails, screws, the vents she crawls around in, etc.  And, leather is good in knife fights. Batman’s outfit seems to have only recently made the cape practical, but I don’t keep up with these things.

The cat burglar and antihero has had an on again, off again relationship with Batman since Julie Newmar played her in the 1960s Batman tv show.  Maybe longer.

But, no, decades of jumping Batman — sometimes literally — is apparently, too subtle.

Let’s have a full-on sex scene!!!!

Really?

Yes. Really. They went there. 

Then again, I have a problem; I look at these images, and my first thought is “Why is her skin green? Has she been hanging out with Poison Ivy too much, or is it really odd mood lighting?”

So, what, exactly, does this entire sex scene add?

Another two to three pages eaten up by something that could probably be implied in one panel, and — oh, yeah — the next issue is called …. wait for it …. The Morning After.

Nope, still too subtle.

A whole splash page?

What do these pages add?  Oh gee, Catwoman is taking his gloves off with her teeth. She’s a little frisky …. um, she dresses up in skintight leather and carries a whip, I think we got that part.

So …. what was the point of this exercise? Obviously, they’re going to continue this as a story line into the next issue.  Good for them. So what? Why did they need two or three pages on this? Any one of you out there, reading this article right now, could have come up with a way to tell the audience that, yes, they are copulating. I suspect you could have done it in … what, half a page? With some internal monologue?

That a “professional author” has done it this pathetic.

Obviously, someone at DC has decided that its readers are either (a) functionally retarded, and subtlety would go over their heads, (b) too young to get legal access to get this stuff on their own or (c) the author used to write fan fiction before this.

The author, Judd Winick, is one of the masterminds behind resurrecting Robin #2, Jason Todd — who was so despised, fans voted to have him beaten to death and blown to kingdom come.

Winick’s brilliant idea: resurrect Todd, and make him crazy. So, I suspect we can’t expect too much from this guy. His claim to fame also seems to be LGTBQ awards and praise.

In short: this was no way to treat halfway decent characters. Catwoman has had a long run by dancing on both sides of the law, and living in a gray area that makes her more interesting than Batman at times … and more sane (I think Batman was on his fourth nervous breakdown before the reboot, last I checked).  Starfire, for all the oversexed portions of her nature, has been entertaining for reasons other than that — she had a run on Infinite Heroes, where she had some great character moments, and anytime the oversexed nudist part of her came out, it was a source of quick entertainment, and then we moved on to the plot.

Pity DC comics has no memory.

This was only the beginning of DC’s New 52. Is there any surprise that this “All-New” format is already going the way of the dodo? Seriously, DC’s massive, world-shaking events had reshaped the universe repeatedly, up to 2011. Then they screwed it up, and they are desperately trying to undo all of it. They started their series with lowering their standards, aiming for the slow, the stupid, and the shallow. I would even say that they were subversive, but that would require DC to put some thought into it. It started stupid, and it will end in stupid.

DC should have aimed higher. They may not be scrambling right now to fix everything.

This entry was posted in books, story, Superversive Theory and tagged , by Declan Finn. Bookmark the permalink.

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, and nominated for Best Horror at the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, to be released by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set to Kill," murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
  • cirsova

    My theory on this was that western comics took the wrong lessons from the manga boom; manga were allowed to be way more explicit in their content than western comics traditionally had been, however, one of the major selling points of manga was that many of them told self-contained stories, told by one writer, that had a complete arc and would eventually end. There was no need to buy cross titles or catch up on decades of lore to understand what was going on. But I think DC was all “Dem titties is what moves manga!” and proceeded accordingly. Of course, post manga-bust japanese titles tend to include way more ero stuff than when manga was booming and crowding out a lot of western stuff.

    • Robert Blume

      I would say it wasn’t the sex that was the problem but instead the destruction of previous established characterization for cheap titillation. A large part of your audience will always be horny teenage boys who will love the extra bits ero but they still want consistently good story telling.

      • Declan Finn

        I wasn’t saying either or. It’s more like both and. Looking at the video highlights the destruction of the characters. I was just holding it up as the shining example of abject stupid DC started their new line with.

      • DeclanFinn

        Huh. Would’ve sworn I replied to this.

        I think it’s both/and. They highlighted sexuality on already sexy characters, and their “reboot” destroyed previously established characterization. In fact, the video highlights it even more than the article does. Continuity? What’s that?

  • Clarence

    If you tried to ‘make a case’ that “The New 52”, had problems because of too much sex or sexual imagry, I think you totally failed.
    A few isolated things here and there (mostly poses or skimpy outfits at THAT) that could be taken many ways but offend your delicate Catholic sensibilities. Boo Hoo.Catwoman who is appealing to me as much for her sexiness as her character finally ‘goes there’ with Batman after probably 40 or 50 years of comics history ONE whole time, and you whine? Did you also complain about the Milo Minera Spider Man cover I wonder? And what’s the difference between you and the feminists and SJW’s I hate so much? I don’t think Marvel and /or DC should worry too much about the sensibilities of a guy who has issues with maybe 1 to 3 panels in a comic book.

    There seemed to be a core of an argument at first that they dropped storytelling (like they did in 52 according to you) in favor of…cheap titilation?
    So the reboots characterization changes had nothing to do with anything?

    This doesn’t seem to be one of your more well-argued articles.

    • Nate Winchester

      Yeah that was 2 books out of 52 new titles that launched and if every issue had been as sex obsessed as those two it might have been an improvement.

      Instead we had a “reset” of history except for Batman & Green Lantern which kind of/sort of kept their history, no explained cohesive vision of the new world and worse. Delays in books didn’t help either. nu52 was just a mess.

    • ?

      He made the case that they screwed up the characters to try to draw more people in; the sex stuff is the easiest to show and measure, even when you look at characters where it was there from the start but not beat-them-over-the-head-with-it.

      Heck, he could have pointed to Harley Quinn– going from the original costume to a spandex corset and cheerleader underwear. Because, hey, a body stocking was just too concealing….?

      • Clarence

        Actually, Harley has had so many different looks over the years, I don’t think she’s the one you want to use to make your point. Plus, the abuse (both physical and mental) in her relationship has been explicitly shown any number of times.

        Typical rightwinger: whine about sex, but not about violence.

        • Bellomy

          Harley Quinn had an original full-body costume that was increasingly sexualized.

          But if you don’t get the difference between portraying sex and pkrtraying violence – especially dangerous abuse by the villain – you might not be smart enough to get the point of the article.

          “Typical rightwinger?” Seriously? That’s ypur play here?

          Do better.

          • Clarence

            I expect better arguments than were made in the article.
            At least when someone makes the case that a single political view has been pushed into Marvel comics over the past 4 to 8 (depending) years, one can point to artists statements, wholesale changes of characterization of various superheros, some re-written history, and whole stories and story arcs (not just isolated art panels) to make that case. Which is a good case.
            This, not so much. It’s equivalent to saying a plethora of skin-tight costumes equates to male hatred of women or objectification or whatever feminist theory is in vogue at the time.

            As for sex vs violence: I get the difference. Sex is better.

          • Bellomy

            Right. We can indeed confirm that you’re not smart enough to get the point of the article.

          • Clarence

            And we can confirm you have no argument.
            Probably need a Safe Space.

          • Bellomy

            Why, of course I have no argument. The argument is Declan’s. You just don’t get it.

            You obviously want me to try and explain the difference between sex and violence. I’m not going to do that, because you’re not interested in giving me a fair hearing, are coming at it from a radically different foundation, and have started and engaged everybody you’ve interacted with in a hostile manner.

            You’re not going to listen, you’re not going to give anything any of us say a fair hearing, and you’re throwing out buzz words like “Safe space” in contexts that make no sense.

            So, no, I’m not going to argue it with you. You can believe it’s because I have no argument if it makes you feel better. Have fun.

          • Clarence

            I replied to the author, not you.
            I wanted to see if he could make his case.
            You and the other one chimed in, uninvited and threw about personal insults. Defend the essay if you can other than claiming I’m too daft to ‘get it’. Or,like I said, fuck off to your intellectual Safe Space.

            Also, with just about every thing Foxfier says she is showing she doesn’t understand the characterizations of Harley. Even in the original cartoon series, there was plenty of open sexual innuendo and even a few sexual propositions thrown between her and the Joker.

          • Clarence

            As an example, he’d have a case if say Jane Goodgirl was hardly ever shown in anything skin tight or sexy. Her only previous ‘sexual dialogue’ or portrayal in her entire history as a character was her wedding night (which they mostly discretely dealt with, but lets say she was shown in a nightie). Suddenly , after her previous portrayal of multiple decades, she’s rewritten and she can’t keep her clothes on , and every other dialogue of hers consists of sexual innuendos or propositions. Yeah, I’d be upset too if I was a fan of Jane Goodgirl.

            But, take Foxfiers use of Harley Quinn to try to defend this essay. Harley Quinn, even more so than Catwoman (who seems much more in control of her sexuality) is often hypersexualized.She’s literally crazy and yet very intelligent and plays with other people’s minds as much as any character I’ve ever seen. She’s the one character in DC I think you could draw buck naked and going on a killing spree, and it wouldn’t be out of character.

          • DeclanFinn

            See, this is why I don’t play with stupid people, Bellomy. He wants to start a fight, won’t move from his position, and will only point to random examples for HIS argument, and ignore yours.

            But we must be patient with Clarence. The poor Widdle darling has yet to get his wings.

            …. Or, we can take the simple way of explaining things and try to spell things out in small words, as Clarence is a small person.

            Ahem.

            To Clarence,

            HEY, DUMMY! STARFIRE STARTED AS A SEXY CHARACTER WHO ACTUALLY HAD A FLIPPING BRAIN, AND SHE WAS REWRITTEN AS AN AMNESIAC GOLDFISH WITH NO HISTORY OR BRAIN IN HER FREAKING HEAD, AS A FOIL FOR A MORONIC PSYCHOPATH AND A HEROINE ADDICT. AND CATWOMAN WASN’T ALLOWED TO EVEN HAVE A FLIPPING PERSONALITY OUTSIDE OF BEING “SEXY.” IF YOU CAN’T SEE THAT, MAYBE YOU SHOULD LEARN TO FREAKING READ, YOU MINDLESS, DICKLESS CUCK. YOU CAN JOIN JUDD WINNICK IN THE BATH HOUSE, I’M SURE THAT’S YOUR IDEA OF A SAFE SPACE.

            …. And people wonder why I don’t read the comments. this is what happens.

          • Clarence

            Ahh, I see Daclan is too stupid to understand that putting things in all caps doesn’t make an argument, esp when he is talking about multiple books and characters over a multi-year period.

            Plus, he seems to have the male version of a period going on here.

            Never mind. This particular author is rather stupid.

          • He couldn’t even be bothered to look at WIKIPEDIA to find out that the “New 52” was the start of the gazillion new stripper costumes for Harley– possibly because that would remove the chance to be nasty.

          • Bellomy

            And when Harley Quinn was created, being sexy had absolutely nothing to do with her. She was dangerous because people underestimated her; she was the Joker’s lackey, and occasionally she would leverage her status as his “inferior” to her advantage, like in “Mad Love”.

            But mostly she was only dangerous because she essentially represented the Joker. It had zero to do with her sexiness.

          • Clarence

            Liar.

        • Thanks for that parting shot– I’d previously mistaken you as worth my time.

          • Clarence

            It would be nice if you could do what the author couldn’t and MAKE A LOGICAL AND EVIDENCED argument.

            Good riddance. Let’s see if the author here can defend his essay since you have proven utterly inept at the task.

  • Capes are actually quite practical for Batman’s “I’m fighting someone in the dark or gloom and they may have a knife” thing– it breaks up your outline. Watch some of the old Zorro black-and-whites for this in practice– he swirls that thing around and even the viewer isn’t sure where his body is.

    • Terry Sanders

      And people have been using capes as parrying weapons since Greek times, at least.