Saturday, December 11, 2010

This is without even getting into how the Vision's presence could've averted the whole thing.

I was going through my LibraryThing where I came across something that got old irritations going:

Avengers West Coast Visionaries: John Byrne, Vol 2: Darker Than Scarlet (Prelude to House of M)

I normally adore long, unwieldy titles, but this did not bring me joy. No, it did not.

Prelude to House of M. Who do they think they're fooling?

I don't know if that was a fan or if Marvel retitled it (I've heard they did re-release it), but we all know no one planned this far in advance. We know that the whole shitty Darker Than Scarlet storyline was just to get rid of the husband and kids so they could use Wanda as a sexpot again. It was just a really stupid story that left a really stupid open end that Bendis thought he was oh so clever in catching, even though he missed the storyline afterwards where the whole crazy thing was settled and the children were too. Really it wouldn't piss me off so much that he'd used it as an excuse to break up the Avengers if he'd closed up the loophole at the end but no... He had to leave Wanda crazy so he could do House of M.

House of M wasn't a great story idea. It certainly didn't justify leaving the Scarlet Witch in that state. I don't COMPLETELY hate it (I think Pietro and Wanda are the most sympathetic characters in the mess, followed by Magneto and poor innocent Lorna) because it had nice art and issue 7 was heartfelt, but it was really just 5 issues of getting the band together framed by domestic violence and the X-men being hypocrites. This was never anything more substantial than a way to off the mutants and undo the really awesome stuff Grant Morrison did with mutant culture. It also provided a convenient excuse to completely divorce the X-men from the high ground by having them throw aside everything they've ever fought by suggesting they kill a mutant--who hasn't done anything to THEM--for being too powerful. Honestly, one of the reasons I fucking hate House of M is it has made most of the X-men entirely unreadable to me. (I still give Cyclops a pass for a lot of horrible shit because he was the only dude on that side to say "Wait.." but nobody listens to Cyclops when he doesn't want to murder people) They're a bunch of fucking hypocrites, and will be as long as no one points out that they pretty much caused M-Day by reacting to Wanda exactly as nonpowered humans react to them. There wasn't a single mutant at that fucking meeeting that hasn't lost complete control of their powers at some point in their careers. Professor Xavier ALSO took out the Avengers when he did, and no one--not even Pietro who was for having the government put him under guard--suggested he get executed.

I honestly can sympathize with the Avengers in that series. None of them except Wolverine pushed to kill her. They didn't want Magneto to take her away, they had to bargain to try and get her back. No one could really trust that Pietro wasn't going to freak out the second they tried to explain this, so of course they didn't tell him. I can get through House of M and still like the Avengers, and I even suspect this was on purpose. After all, didn't things end for the Avengers with getting Hawkeye back to life? They got a little reward it seems.

Of course, their actions, going along with the X-men to do a full assault on Magneto and distract him while Dr. Strange snuck in to see Wanda (because... this wouldn't make anyone tighten security around the most important person in the universe to the perpetrator/the only family member the deluded and ridiculously powerful party guests would believe couldn't defend herself?) were pretty stupid, but I think the Avengers overall handled it better. No one wanted to kill her and the Wasp wanted to ask Wanda for her input.

But oh god, the X-men. Every time I look at it I can't help but think they deserved to get slammed on for taking that position in the beginning. Before the beginning, even. Professor Xavier was entrusted to treat a woman who was said to be losing touch with reality. When confronted with memories of her giving birth--an event that even after Darker than Scarlet did happen was still something that happened OUTSIDE of her head--he decides to tell her that the children never existed and to forget that memory. Which is bullshit. The children did exist, they just were a trick from an external force. They weren't a delusion only Wanda saw. They weren't a delusion she caused everyone else to see by telepathy. They were a fucking trick by a fucking demon. All the events happened. The children weren't a result of her breakdown, her breakdown was a result of the children turning out to be a big trick. And as the trigger for her original breakdown was that Agatha Harkness fucked with her memory (and to Byrne's credit, the entire WCA team thought that was stupid and her father and brother knew nothing about it until after she freaked out), naturally the solution to a relapse is to fuck with her memory again. Professor Xavier can only have made her WORSE with his "therapy", but he gets none of the blame for House of M nor for supporting the option of killing her. ("I don't know what else to do, Scott" my ass.) He really should have been the one saying "Now, Emma" in the damned X-meetings, but instead he was breaking the idea gently to Magneto.

Hell, Emma actually prevented the peaceful resolution of House of M by stopping them from recruiting Captain America. Despite the fact that he's probably the only person in the group who could have talked down Wanda (and, after the reveal, Pietro), Emma vetoed him because he was too old. So in the big fight scene, when they find out who's idea this all is and they need someone with a clear head around to take control, Steve Rogers is not there. Instead we have a bunch of idiots who let the person who knows the least about any of the players--someone those jackasses really should have been looking after in case she might decide to get hurt or do something really stupid--decides to activate Magneto, the biggest most violent temper on the board. All change of a peaceful resolution disappears, and the mutants of the universe get fucked over because they didn't have Jean Grey at the meeting telling them they were a bunch of assholes for coming up with this.

That said, I did notice that Dr. Doom came out okay during the whole mess. So maybe they did mean to fix Wanda and blame Doom for both her breakdown and Pietro's really bad idea (Seriously, he was helping her focus her powers and unless he was under the same mindfuck I don't see how they'll explain how he let Reed Richards and Sue Storm are dead while Dr. Doom is still in power slip by), or maybe it was a really fucking big oversight and Heinberg caught it. It doesn't solve my problem with X-men, but it does make me optimistic for the Maximoff twins.

Friday, December 10, 2010

There will be no Young Justice review from me.

Tonight I was planning to watch Young Justice and get around to my Late to the Party review (as well as read the reviews by friends I've been putting off) but it was too fucking boring. I made it about 7 1/2 minutes into the pilot. The fight scenes were dull as dirt, the villains were uninteresting, the mystery was unable to overcome the overwhelming spirit of banality that welled up from the script. None of the characters had the charm or energy of their four-color counterparts. Robin was dull with bad hair, Kid Flash was dull and stupid, Aqualad was dull and brooding, and Speedy was an asshole who made me wonder why the fuck they didn't just go with Mia.

And I don't even like Mia.

Every second spent with that on my television screen seemed like a waste of my life, so instead I've decided to post the following picture of myself and an old acquaintance:

I forget which one I am.

Image scanned from Changeling: The Dreaming Second Edition (ETA: Artist is Rebecca Guay, who also did the beautiful Green Lantern: 1001 Emerald Nights Elseworlds--Thanks for the ID, Rachel!) which is full-color, fun to play, and has fucking gorgeous art.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Letter to the Editor

Bob Harras
c/o DC Comics
1700 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
Forwarding Service Requested

Dear Mr. Harras,

I recently read an interview with the former publisher of DC Comics that said he felt that women were not interested in superheroes. This sounded strange to me, as I have been reading Justice League, Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman comics since I was 14, and your competitor's X-men comics since I was 12. During his tenure there were a number of complaints by female fans that seemed to be either ignored or answered in a way that seemed strange (Supergirl is brought back but aimed for male readers, Batman supporting character Stephanie Brown is returned after female fans complain only to replace another popular female character as Batgirl) and a number of opportunities to position franchises as female-friendly were missed (Wonder Woman has no kid-friendly book for younger female readers, Green Lantern's female characters are overwhelmingly sexualized and left dead longer than male counterparts) and both problems may be traced back to that idea that marketing to women won't produce worthwhile results.

I am writing to you to say that I hope this philosophy has been discontinued at DC. There are many female readers spending their money right now, and many more who would if they didn't feel unwelcome at the table. Television and book properties that involve superpowered characters have had massive female audiences (For example: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, the various X-men cartoons and movies, Xena: Warrior Princess, Dr. Who, Supernatural, Fringe, Smallville, Stargate, Harry Potter, or Heroes...)

I've heard it argued that women will not appreciate tightly woven multi-decade continuity or complex fantastical plots, but a mere hour viewing General Hospital should dispel that argument. The genre-loving book and television female audience are only kept from comic books by the industry's reluctance to seek them out.

Please consider that both halves of the population are potential customers and do not act to further alienate the women who do read the books as the previous management has.

Thank you,
Lisa Fortuner

I dashed this off tonight after reading DC Women Kicking Ass and Ladies Making Comics quote Paul Levitz:
I’m not sure that young women are as interested in reading about superheroes. The fundamental dynamic of the superhero story has historically been more appealing to boys than to girls.
Levitz isn't the Publisher anymore, but I still felt a need to send a message to DC so I wrote to the EIC. I'm going to send it out with my winter cards tomorrow. I strongly believe that physical letters are the way to go, because too often e-mails are considered to be spam and just more noise from the Internet. ran an extremely successful campaign based on physical letters, postcards, and directly asking the panels at conventions about Spoiler. My own physical letters to DC have always been answered, even if it was with a form. They are concrete items with substance, and can't be ignored like a cyberspace communication. I advise anyone interested in saying something about this to go with a letter with a real stamp rather than an email.

Strangely, though, the hardest thing to do was find the physical address. DC's website only offers e-mail contact. I know that there's been an reorg over there, and that people are being relocated and old addresses may not be good. The 1700 Broadway address is in the fine print at the bottom of the DC Nation column in my most recent DC book, so I'm going with that. I'm actually a little suspicious about how hard this was to find.

ETA: Addendum

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sanity in the Weird World of New X-Men

I haven't been that keen on Morrison writing Wonder Woman though -mostly because the women that I'm familiar with Morrison writing as lead characters are all written as psychological cases (Crazy Jane, Ragged Robin, Boy, Emma Frost and Jean Grey are all the ones that come immediately to mind) and for me, Wonder Woman should be as far from that as possible. I suppose that just because I can't think of a woman he hasn't written that way it doesn't mean that he can't write a woman that way, but I'd like to see it first I guess.

I think what's killing me about this comment is that I'm not sure what he means by "psychological case." You'd think he means someone who has a severe mental health issue, but there's the inclusion of Jean and Emma. Back in New X-men Morrison certainly delved deep into their psyches, but the major psychological issues on the team belonged to Scott and Professor X. Emma and Jean were having a relatively normal conflict, the sort of thing that might happen between two mental health professionals: one woman was unable to effectively counsel her husband while he had a psychological breakdown because she was far too close to him, and the other woman was taking advantage of that psychological breakdown to begin an affair. The confrontation issue--when Jean came home and locked Scott out of the room while she took Emma on a tour of her issues--wasn't the same as delving into Crazy Jane's past or the 'Nuff Said issue where they entered Professor Xavier's mind--and both women displayed the mental health needed to survive on his battered psychic landscape without falling prey to the dangers there--and saw just how messed up he was.

Even at her coldest in Morrison's run Emma is not portrayed as a complete sociopath, instead she's a woman who is willing to cause a great deal of social trouble. Morrison did examine her mental health by giving her secondary mutation that would cushion her psyche from an extremely traumatic experience, as well as be a metaphor for her way of dealing with people socially--which is basically what someone of Emma's personality type does, they act cold and cruel to prevent others from getting close enough to hurt them--and he had Jean take her back into her past to remember exactly why she's unable to let people get close to her. Super-powers aside, Emma wasn't a "psychological case" as in a woman unable to function because of her mental illnesses, she was a normal woman behaving in normal human ways that are often hurtful. You could say a lot about Emma Frost, but you can't say Morrison portrayed her as insane. (Whedon did, though.) She was affected by the tragedies she witnessed (cold as Emma acted, there were several points that the hell she went through in Genosha was evident, and it was her strength of will keeping her together and not a lack of heart), and she was formed by the household where she was raised. She was perfectly healthy and functional, she just had issues like people have issues.

Jean was even saner. Surely everyone has at least seen a loved one grow into a different person because they become stronger. Sometimes it's a bit hard to deal with, especially when that loved one doesn't realize they're acting any differently. Jean had the power of the Phoenix again, and it frightened the hell out of many of the other characters. She was perfectly in control of it and didn't see the problem, didn't fully comprehend just how strange that seemed to the others, and at this high point in her self-esteem was further away from her husband's misery than ever. This situation is a really good metaphor for when someone suddenly discovers a talent or started experiencing success or just gets her life on perfect course while her husband is feeling lower than ever. There's a major disconnect in her perception of herself, and the perception others have of her, but she doesn't pick it up. This is actually even more compelling because Jean's one of the more perceptive telepaths in the Marvel Universe and she does know people are uncomfortable, but because she's at a high point in her life and because--unlike Professor Xavier and Emma Frost who seem to just invade whoever's psyche they want--she respects people's privacy and doesn't pry into their thoughts she doesn't realize just how removed she is from them at that point. The affair hit her like a foul ball in the back of the head while signaling the hot dog guy. She attacked, and as some women do verbally, telepathically zeroed in on the weak spots of her opponent and let her have it.

I notice this is a thing Morrison likes to do when he writes a solo book. He likes to explore the character's emotions and personality, but he doesn't do it like other writers do. The in-thing with Bendis, Millar, Winick, Johns and a few other popular writers seems to be to have characters explore their emotions by sitting, brooding, and talking it out with other characters. The psychological problems of the heroes are spelled out, stated explicitly by other characters, the narration, or the character themselves. Disturbingly often the writer finds a way to have someone assure the hero they area normal for having these issues and spell out the tie to your real life. Morrison rarely says anything flat out and takes full advantage of the medium and genre to explore the character's psyche through conventions, powers, events, and even staging. Bulleteer may be the most I've seen one of his heroes brood. She has doubts about her place in the universe after gaining superpowers and finding out her husband was actually an asshole, and she comes to terms with them by acting as a superhero, observing the weirdness of the universe and how others deal with it, and then verbalizing the theme of the book in a multi-stage fight that utilized a refrigerator and a car engine. Batman--who legitimately can be described as a psychological case under most writers--creates an entire other personality that leads back to the greatest tragedy of his life, and Morrison explains it sparingly with flashbacks. Shining Knight experiences a coming of age tale that literally involves fighting the perversion of everything she held dear as a child. And the underlying theme to all of these stories is that the extraordinary--the problems of the superheroes--are not abnormal psychology but are metaphors for the mental experience of your average human being.

Now, if what the commenter means is "psychological case" as in "case-study of human psychology" as opposed to someone who should be committed to a therapist's care, then yes Morrison writes most of his female (and male) leads that way. In this case I completely fail to see what's wrong with an in-depth examination of what makes Wonder Woman tick amidst her fighting beings from the future, the past, another universe or beyond the multiverse.

If he means the latter, I'm not sure what version of New X-men he read but it's not on my shelf.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What Happened To Primaid?

Lately on DCWomenKickingAss she's been running a contest for the most memorable moments in DC History. (Most recent poll.) I'm pretty sure most people are like me and a number of the most memorable things are the first time they encountered a favorite character, or at least the first time it hit them that this was going one of their favorites. There's a quote, or an action, or an image that is just burned into your mind and forever associated with the character after you've seen it. At least, that's how I've been voting. I look at the characters involved and judge if I'd remember that just from the character being mentioned, or if it's just a fairly cool moment. This has made it fairly easy to vote every day. And while my tastes really don't seem to overlap with most of the other nominators I'm reasonably certain that many of them are coming from the same attitude.

I think with Wonder Woman in particular many of us can pinpoint when we became fans. There's a point where you suddenly realize that this is Wonder Woman, and this is why she's had an uninterrupted publishing run since 1941. I know some of you were in love with the concept of Wonder Woman before we could read, but a good many of us turned up our nose at the First Lady of Superheroism before we finally came around. Some of us needed a little nudge in her direction.

I got into superheroes with the infamously soap operatic 90s X-Men cartoon, and that led to Marvel comics. I was a little down on DC at first, and not impressed with the idea of Wonder Woman. Fortunately, my sister had a friend who was an enthusiastic Grant Morrison fan, and Wonder Woman was in his JLA. I didn't really focus on her until the big fight with the white Martians. Now, bear in mind that every single one of these villains are as powerful as Superman plus Telepathy, Invisibility, Intangibility and Shapeshifting.

I know, she's not even in that panel. (She's in orbit, grappling a monster from outer space that has a mouth in its stomach.) Still, the point I became a Wonder Woman fan was that bit of dialogue. I'm not sure exactly what it is in this quote, but it's the first time I realized "Hey, that's Wonder Woman." I needed Martian Manhunter to point it out authoritatively to me. I needed him to let me know that Wonder Woman is basically a force of a nature and all he has to do is say her name so that people stop worrying that the Telepathic Tank that Changes Shape, Density, and Becomes Invisible has disappeared.

Two pages later, Diana lands on Earth and stands up. She attributes her victory to being able to hold her breath longer (in an exchange that leads to one of the best Batman lines in the history of comics), and they go on with the fight.

I'm not sure this moment would have been enough, but it was quickly followed by Wonder Woman doing more and more awesome things. The storyline that introduced Zauriel may have been the greatest thing ever because it featured Diana intimidating a freaking Angel, taking over as field leader, braving heavenfire (which burned her at the touch) to enter a Cherubim Chariot and tear out its systems, then go outside to keep it from falling on the city. Zauriel describes her actions in that storyline as "biblical", and we should bow to his expertise in this subject. She was continually presented as a force to be reckoned with, and the other heroes accorded her the proper respect. While my sister was buying our only repeated complaint about JLA was that there wasn't enough Wonder Woman and that wasn't because she wasn't used--it was because she was so damned awesome in this book no amount of spotlight was enough. Hell, Rock of Ages was specifically the reason my sister and I read Wonder Woman, because in the first issue of that storyline Kyle says Diana's dead (Don't let that turn you off the trade, she shows up later anyway) and we needed our fix! (It wasn't as good, though.)

I like Morrison's writing because I have a ridiculously short attention span and I require massive amounts of excitement in my fiction to prevent me from introducing unwarranted excitement into my life. His JLA run was and is well-suited to my tastes. I like really fast pacing where so much happens that sometimes you have to go back because you missed something. I like witty humor that fits seamlessly in with the action without focusing the entire plot around a punchline. I like that he never felt a need to stretch quiet character moments over seven pages, and instead had the team bond in one or two panels to the side of fight. I like a cosmic scope to my stories, and decisive heroes who know what the fuck they're doing and choose the ethical path without pages and pages of angsty navelgazing. I like when someone drops an idea that another writer would milk for an entire six issues in the background of half a panel. I like giant robots sitting on the ocean floor because enough action is happening in the book no one felt a need to show them getting beat up. (As opposed to when the action happens off-panel so that we can see panels and panels of people talking about it.) I like wall to wall weird when it manages to capture my imagination.

So naturally I really fucking like this run, and much of what else he's written, including the things people cite as hard to understand because those tend to be the extremely fast paced and esoteric stuff that benefits from a reread--the stuff that appeals to my short attention span and obsessive eye for pattern and symbolism. A great many of my favorite characters (and periods where I find I like characters I otherwise hate) lead back to Morrison's writing in some way. And yeah, I'll forgive a number of things from Morrison I wouldn't from other writers simply because so many moments in my mental "Favorite Moments of All Time in Superhero Comics" file were written by him, so many characters that on paper sound completely uninteresting came across as complete badasses under his pen, and there's so much going on in his stories I don't ever get bored enough to realize when he's offended me. (Yes, he's offended me but as he's usually been able to win me back afterwards. I don't tend to remember it even after I've realized it.)

Morrison is the one writer I would give a chance writing any character, but for years I've wanted him on either Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) or Wonder Woman. (I've only just now got DCW on my side) People think that's because I'm just a rabid Morrison fan who wants him on her favorite characters, but the truth of the matter is that Morrison is the reason that these two number among my favorites. I can rationalize all I want about the inevitable sales bump, and that he'd freshen the franchise or what have you... none of that actually matters to me. He got me to love Wonder Woman to begin with, and I want to see him write her more.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Helena Bertinelli
Also Known As: Honestly, I've called this character a lot of fairly misogynistic slurs and I'm trying to quit that sort of thing.
First Encountered (By Me): JLA #16
Franchise: Birds of Prey, Batman, Justice League
Core Concept: Ethnic Stereotype + Gendered Ethnic Stereotype
Writer Responsible For My Distaste: Joey Cavalieri
Character I Want To Read That She's Attached To: Fortunately no one, though she pops up on occasion. This is why I don't often rant about her.

Best Character Trait: Drive
Worst Character Trait: Moral compass requires external calibration

I think the first time I saw Huntress was the expanded team in JLA #16. As with Jade, she appealed to me at first. She had a great look in the 90s, full body suited black and purple (none of this exposed belly white stripe shit). She was presented a Gotham character who clashed with Batman, another of DC's attempts to answer the Punisher. Not bad initially, though it wasn't a surprise at all when Batman booted her from the JLA. She hadn't impressed me terribly during her short time as a JLAer, and I wondered if Morrison just wasn't that fond of her and her potential might be better explored elsewhere. So when my sister began bringing home Batbooks, I kept an eye open for the Huntress.

I confess that when I ran into her in the Batbooks I was disappointed in what I'd hoped would be the Punisher of the DCU. There was a characteristic present in her that the Punisher never displayed, a underlying need for acceptance by her peers in the cape community. When that need wasn't satisfied, she would turn darker and grimmer and seemed to slide further into the realm of rage-powered take-no-prisoners 90s lethal force characters, suggesting her moral compass was thrown off when left to her own devices. It wasn't an endearing character trait, because as much as we associate the 90s with everyone turning dark and grim, most of the well-established DC heroes adhered to the high road while lethal force was left to socially rejected minor characters and (used to highlight the morals of the main characters) and brand new characters and teams that occupied their own universes. Helena was a low-road character in my fan-formative years, a low-road character who aspired to be accepted by the high-road characters. I understand that the need to belong is a universal story, and by no means am I immune to it myself, but I can only be steeped in that theme so much before I lose patience. Helena stopped appealing for me back when her storyline focused on seeking the Batseal of Approval, and then getting pissed off because she didn't have it. The implication that this was a deep-seated problem involving her own family and particularly her father really didn't make her any more interesting.

None of what I've gone over so far is a reason to hate Huntress, it's just why I lost interest in what looked like a promising character and stopped caring whether she came or went. It wasn't hatred, it was just a lack of enthusiasm. For a good deal of time my feelings towards Huntress could be summed up as a marked indifference to whether the character existed or not. I'd read things with her in them, but she wasn't really a factor in whether or not I'd pick something up.
At this point, of course, Huntress fans will want to recommend that I read their favorite stories because surely I'll have an epiphany and convert to a true fan once I've found the proper work. Forget it. Writers I normally enjoy quite a bit like Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Gail Simone have written this character and no matter how much they let her shine I couldn't really bring myself to give a fuck what happened to her.

My problem with Huntress was not caused by clumsy, thoughtless writing that inadvertently exposed her worst character traits without actually being out of character. Nor was it caused by lackluster writing that failed that give her any distinguishing characteristics or allow her any notable accomplishments. The writers seemed to very much like Helena and spotlight her strengths. I recognize that she has strength, they simply aren't of the sort that I consider particularly impressive in a superhero on their own. No, my real problem with Huntress was caused mainly by her core concept, and my own personal revelation about my tastes.
There came a day--after the umpteenth time someone had seen fit to speculate about the morality of my ancestors or why I might be reacting to the implication as an insult--when I decided that I was fucking tired of Italian-American characters from Mafia families and gawddamned sick of ruthless, cutthroat Italian-American women with deadly tempers. That's pretty much it. I think I could take one stereotype or the other, and I suspect I could even enjoy reading both in one character if there was some joy and humor in the execution but Huntress is just such a precise measured blend of Stereotype That Irks Me, Stereotype That Irks Me, Fucking Miserable Background, and Fucking Miserable Attitude that I can't fucking stand the sight of her anymore.

Three of my favorite writers in comics have had Huntress under my pen, given her their best shots, written her as sympathetically and competently as they do any other character, and not one of them has succeeded in overcoming my disinterest in her dour overall story arc and my distaste for her infuriatingly stereotyped traits. It's not the writing. In this case, it's safe to say that it is the character I hate and the only person who can be held responsible is Joey Cavalieri for reintroducing what was once Batman's daughter as the Perfect Storm of Character Elements That Piss Me Off.

Similar Characters That I Like: Jeph Loeb of all writers wrote a story in which Catwoman discovered her real father was a rich mafia don, and she stole from him endlessly to get some revenge. Honestly, I rather liked that twist. Catwoman's reaction to a deadbeat dad and a family tree of ruthless thugs was essentially "I'll just steal my inheritance and get on with my life." Catwoman doesn't really give a shit what anyone thinks of her, and she is eminently practical even under writers I can't read.
I'm fond of Bobo Bennetti because his criminal past is a result of his gaining superpowers and choosing a life of crime. It wasn't a family thing for him.
I confess to both loving and hating Nately's Whore (yes, that is what the character is called in the book), the prototype for the hot-blooded Italian sex object from Catch-22. I hate what she represents, but damned if I didn't find the absurdity of the whole situation greatly amusing.
I can also enjoy minor characters in comedy settings who have Mafia Ties as a punchline, because I haven't lost my ability to laugh at this trope. I'll sit down and watch gangster parody movies like Analyze This and The Crew repeatedly without getting worked up over it. I'll admit that's a weird point of view, but in this particular case it's my ethnicity and I reserve the right to be offended when people take the stereotype seriously and laugh my ass off when people mock the shit out of the genre that created it.

Favorite Appearance: I didn't her JLA stuff, but I actually enjoyed a Christopher Priest story better than a Morrison or Waid story. JLA: Secret Files #2 is about how the new team was put together (without just sitting around a table dealing out pictures and flashing forward to events DC is never going to carry out) for their unveiling in JLA #16 and focused a lot on her. It held up on a recent rereading. I think this is the story that made the Batbooks in the same period such a disappointment, though, and Priest's portrayal was the exception rather than the rule with her.

Could I Ever Like Huntress? Probably not. Good writers haven't worked. Acceptance into the Batfamily hasn't worked. Having a badass moment in each appearance hasn't worked. Developing a strong moral fiber hasn't really worked, because that tends to change based on whoever she's teamed up with. Really, I'm not going to like the character unless she turns into a completely different person, down to her Secret Origin. And while I'm not ruling out DC erasing their universe and either replacing her with Pre-Crisis Huntress or rebooting her as an Amazon, it is unlikely. Still, I know some people do so I promise not to vote in any official polls for her death.

Unless of course it's a direct choice between her and a character I love. Or like. Or wouldn't mind seeing in another issue.

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.