Sunday, December 05, 2010
Jennie Lynn Hayden-Scott
Also Known As: Alan's Daughter, Todd's Sister, Kyle's Most Annoying Ex-Girlfriend, Pretty Girl Who Tells You Something is Wrong With Her Male Relative
First Encountered (By Me): as a background character in Kingdom Come
Franchise: JSA, Green Lantern, Justice League
Core Concept: Compelling, but problematic when you get to her parents
Recurring Story Roles: Love Interest, Good Daughter, Damsel in Distress, Hero Support
Writers Responsible For My Distaste: Judd Winick, Ron Marz, Roy Thomas
Character I Want To Read That She's Attached To: Kyle Rayner
Best Character Trait: Smarter than Kyle
Worst Character Trait: Underachiever
So I linked it all in my last post. You've all read my feelings about this character. For a time, I was best known for hating her so much. Even now, after that bitter disappointment of death scene and her lackluster resurrection in a lackluster crossover I still can't stand the sight of her. My passionate aversion has cooled since the return of the Corps and the prominence of characters like Soranik, Brik, Iolande, Arisia and even the porn-vomit-clad Star Sapphires. Still, for very long time Jade was It in the Green Lantern franchise and that's probably why you'll find fewer female Lantern fans than Gotham and Titan fans. Because even if you didn't find her as loathsome as I did, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a convincing reason for her inclusion in a list of the Best Female Characters or hell, even a list of the Best Female Lanterns before Soranik was introduced.
Why? She's just not that impressive. She doesn't really have any feats under her belt, she's consistently shown as less capable than her father or the GLC Lanterns, she is constantly tied to her brother, or her father, or her ex-boyfriend. She's a perpetual supporting character, doomed to never shine, and each time she gets what looks like a chance to really kick ass, it's stolen from us. This despite the fact that she's been established as extremely powerful (which really only serves to make her look like she's squandered that potential) and has a long history of heroics behind her.
Her personality isn't terribly compelling either. She seems irritable between moments of complacency, displaying flashes of wisdom and compassion. She yells at people and acts hurtful without thinking, then feels bad about it later and apologizes. She rarely mentions the foster parents who reportedly loving raised her from infancy, pays little attention to the history of her biological mother, and focuses most of her love and support on her biological father and (when he's actually being paid attention to by writers) her twin brother. She dates men who look like her father, the exception being the guy with the same powers as her father.
I've said all this before in far more acidic terms. She's not really so hateful nowadays, when I look at it objectively (though she's clearly not a character for me). But here's the twist, superfans, the dirty little not-so-secret that knowing me I've said a billion times but no one could believe it:
I used to love Jade.
Seriously. When I was a kid and started reading Green Lantern, she was the love interest. She had a great design and Green Lantern powers internalized so she didn't need any weird jewelry. I was super-excited when Kyle went away and she took over for a few issues. A few times during the run I got the impression, and I'm not sure where from because I'd never read Jade in any other series, that Marz was mishandling the character. In the end I swore off the book when the far less experienced Kyle had to save her butt from Fatality.
Then a few years later I was recommended Winick's Green Lantern series. So I picked up some of the trades and read the Power of Ion storyline. In the book, Winick attempted to present Jade as a strong-willed and admirable woman who handles things on her own, but something about the presentation was off. She seemed forced, and unlikable. Then he brought back her natural powers in the most insulting way ever written, with Kyle telling her specifically "You can't do this on your own."
I was pissed off, and blamed Winick, and figured at least Marz wrote her likable... until Marz returned and wrote her as unlikable. At the point I wanted a better Jade story, so I took a lot back at my old comics, the Marz stuff where I liked her and actually got defensive of her. There wasn't really any evidence of her overcoming a great obstacle or showing any feats of power. So I hit the back issues and picked up Infinity Inc. Nothing there. A sprinkling of guest appearances across the DCU... Nothing. There was nothing to suggest that Marz or Winick had characterized her as less skilled or capable than ever before. She was a mediocre Lantern, except in the Green Lantern/Sentinel: Heart of Darkness series where she was established as having been more powerful than anyone suspected all along... and she was depowered. But not without giving the impression that she hadn't really been pushing herself to her full potential until then. And it was after that that she was given a Green Lantern ring twice, and shown to be simply adequate at it... which isn't really adequate when the norm in your franchise is saving entire galaxies on a daily basis.
To top it off, her personality wasn't really that great either. Marz's falling in with a blonde dude, avoiding sending word to Kyle to break it off, getting into a confrontation about it and then feeling guilty was... not really contradicted by any intense displays of character strength. Digging deeper into her history, I found there was even a part of her core backstory--that she had a villainous mother with mental illness and different powers that needed to be ignored in favor of emulating her father so that she could be a hero--that left a bad taste in my mouth and made me uncomfortable with the character setup.
So these two writers I was mad at had been writing her as she'd been established before. I'd just been dazzled by a green lady with green powers. So who do I blame?
Well, really, Roy Thomas. Also Winick and Marz for not taking the opportunity to break that cycle and make her worth reading again. Thing is, while the handling of Jade was the last straw for Winick for me, I've seen Thomas and Winick treat female characters as better so I'm not really swearing off their work over Jade. By the time three writers have established that the character isn't really an outstanding Lantern, it's become a character trait. She's just not as good as the guy Lanterns. For this to change at this point, there needs to be a storyline dedicated to what makes her change. I was fucking pissed by this realization because I had liked her before and, again, this is a franchise where the adequate characters are supposed to be saving galaxies on a regular basis. I wanted Katma Tui, Boodika, Brik, Arisia, KT21, Laira, Krys, Donna fucking Parker... ANY of the space women back because they were so much more skilled and capable than Jade. But no, all we had for female presence in the increasing guy's club (because at that point John and Kilowog were back and Hal was on his way) was Jade.
Even then, I could take her or leave her as the only female character, except that she was dating a character I liked to read so I had to see her over and over and over again. So I can kind of see where the Sharonhaters are coming from, but I can't exactly say this is the best way to approach character hate. Now that we have some decent female Lanterns in the space books, it's easier to see the potential in Jade. I'm not a fan of characters who aren't at the top of their field (I can't really think of any male second-placers I'm fond of either) but Kalinara has made a few good arguments for turning her around and I think if she were to slip into a teambook without any other Lanterns (particularly not her father or her ex-boyfriend) in it (that wasn't written by Winick, I will not read Winick writing Jade ever again), she'd get a chance to shine a bit.
Similar Characters That I Like: Any space-based Green Lantern.
Jesse Quick/Liberty Belle is portrayed as a Lesser flash. She will never be as fast as Wally or Barry (or probably Bart when he gets up there) or allowed any major speedfeats over theirs, but she's never been romantically shackled to the more powerful male speedsters, she has a full personal life (and now a marriage into a franchise where speed is less redundant), and her bursts of strength makes her distinctive from the other speedsters. It's okay that she won't be as fast, because she has strengths they don't. Plus her mother's legacy is also as big a part of her character as her father's, to the point that she's now using her name.
Obsidian, Jade's angsty gay brother, when he isn't evil. (He's really annoying when he's evil.)
Could I Ever Like Jade? I've hated on Jade so vehemently in the past that Kalinara has taken it as a personal mission to see if I could like her. She came up with some good ideas:
Right now it really sucks that Jade can be a Lantern, but not as good as her father or the space Lanterns. After all that's happened becoming a great Lantern overnight would seem really off. They could, however, do a story where she takes stock of her life, comes to the conclusion she's going to change and develops enough drive and ambition to start really making a name for herself. She plays catchup, but manages to pull off some impressive feats along the way.
Alternately, there was a story a long time ago during one of Jade's depowered periods where she started developing her mother's powers. It's been ignored, but it would make her distinctive from the other Lanterns and give her a twist. Or Kalinara's other idea that takes out her of the space stories that she seems ill-suited for and immerses her in a fairy tale setting.
And for fuck's sake, give her some spotlight away from her father, her brother, and her ex-boyfriend. I'm damned sick of seeing writers play personality ping-pong to suit their story needs.