Latest comics controversy: Did DC ruin two more female characters?

Contributed by
Dec 15, 2012

It seems as though not a week goes by lately where DC Comics doesn't do at least one thing that offends nearly everyone ... but especially women. This week, Judd Winick and Scott Lobdell add to the parade of questionable female characterizations with Catwoman and Starfire, respectively.

There was outcry, there were responses both official and not, there was more outcry, and now we're going to sum it all up. Ready?

Let's start with the actual comics. Wednesday saw the release of Catwoman #1 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 as part of DC's ongoing New 52 relaunch. The title for the first Catwoman story is "... and most of the costume stays on ...", in which the word "most" is used very generously. Meanwhile, while Red Hood's title, "I Fought the Law and Kicked Its Butt" is mostly benign, the contents of the issue are, at times, anything but.

Yes, Catwoman has always had a certain sexual prowess. There was some expectation, however, that there would be more focus given to her skill as a cat burglar for the reboot. Instead, we get a number of gratuitous shots of her in lacey underthings from several appealing angles. That's not why people are getting hostile, though. At the end of the issue (which we're about to spoil, just you're in the know), Batman turns up to make sure Selina is okay. She proceeds to force herself onto him. He resists, says no repeatedly, but, in the end, she basically forces him to have sex with her.

Perhaps even more questionable is what occurs with Starfire in Red Hood's latest outing. Not only do we discover that she seems to have forgotten about everyone she had previously cared about, but we do so as she seductively poses in the most unnatural of positions, all while wearing a next-to-nothing bathing suit.

Once again, that's not from whence the brunt of the rage comes. (More spoilers ahead.) A little more than halfway through the issue, Starfire propositions team member Roy Harper for some emotionless sex, despite the fact that she's recently been betwixt the sheets with Jason Todd. He accepts, and off they go for a guilt-free boinkfest.

The issue at hand is that, unlike their male counterparts, DC female characters in the new 52 thus far seem to be largely T&A first, everything else a distant second. There are some interesting plot elements in Catwoman #1, enough that most people would have looked past the naughtier bits. It's that final scene, though, which causes consternation. Newsarama reached out to writer Judd Winick for comment, and he replied:

"This is a Catwoman for 2011, and my approach to her character and actions reflect someone who lives in our times. And wears a cat suit. And steals. It's a tale that is part crime story, part mystery and part romance. In that, you will find action, suspense and passion. Each of those qualities, at times, play to their extremes. Catwoman is a character with a rich comic book history, and my hope is that readers will continue to join us as the adventure continues."

Passion is all well and good, but that doesn't account for the final pages of the issue. Batman turning up could have been a relevant scene, one that added depth to the narrative and been passionate, but, instead, we get some sex with dubious consent issues. What does that add to the plot?

Back to Red Hood—while Scott Lobdell has yet to respond, an unofficial source contacted Bleeding Cool and had this to say regarding discussions prior to the issue's printing:

"There were a handful of staff, mostly other women, who believed the writer was trying to equate being a strong woman with being, frankly, a slut. No one said that the writer was misogynistic, just that perhaps he was writing from a male perspective. It was firmly suggested to him that he could accentuate the character's past as a sex slave. And that this might be an explanation for her sexuality, that she was acting out in her new life. However, we were told he was adamant that Kory not be portrayed as a victim. The argument was made that if she was acting out sexually because of her past it mind that she mentally never left the prison planet."

Again, what the sex scene adds to the plot is entirely beyond us. Starfire is not a real person, and it is worth considering what audience DC is trying to appeal to here. Obviously female staffers attempted to make Kory's characterization less about sex for the sake of sex and more about her history. Considering the negative reaction, maybe Lobdell should have listened.

That's just our opinion, though. What do you think?

(via Newsarama and Bleeding Cool)

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