Friday, October 14, 2011

Taking Issue - Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

This issue has sparked a lot of debate. I tend to side with people who have in general been a bit disappointed with DC regarding the treatment of female characters, and the seeming lack of a serious commitment to better representing women in comics, both on the creator side of things, and the character side as well. There are a couple of questions that I kept in mind while re-reading this issue the five + times I have read it so far.
1. What(if anything) is wrong with this comic
2. Is this a bad comic
3.What(if anything) is wrong with the portrayal of Starfire in this comic
4. Who would like this comic

That's not everything I kept in mind, but I have read a lot of the discussions that have been written about this issue, as well as about Catwoman #1, I understand what people have expressed about the issues seeming to scream out that the female character is less important to the creators as a character, or as a woman, than they are as an object of titillation and male fantasy.

I think there is a lot to be said for trying harder, or at all, to put out well written comics that embrace the female characters they contain as full fledged characters, and give them the same sort of respect and complexity that other characters are given, rather than having everything focus on their sexualization and their role in fan boy wet dreams. I am not anti sex or sexiness, but the mechanical cheesecake posing, or the constant focus on t&a and forced emphasis on female characters as sex objects is a problem in my opinion.

That being said(and that barely scratches the surface of my opinions of the misuse of female characters by DC and the top few publishers in general) What about this issue over all, what about this title as an ongoing?

I picked this comic because the premise sounded cool enough. I have no history with Roy Harper, I am most familiar with Red Hood from the Under the Red Hood video and some appearances in Batman and Robin when I was picking that up before the relaunch. Starfire was a favorite of mine from when I was reading the New Teen Titans as a kid, and also, from her excellent re-imagining for the Teen Titans cartoon. I have friends who warned me about Scott Lobdell as a writer, but I am not sure if I have read his work before, so that was not a negative to me, Also, the art looked like it would be pretty good, and I will say, except for the awful Starfire posing, I think the art was pretty great. Starfire is a beautiful character with no problems about showing off her body, but posing her like a stripper just comes off cheesy and a bit cheap.

As far as the comic being bad, or the title striking me as a bad one, I am not willing to say that at this point. I am not sure that I will continue getting this, but this is a relaunch where some liberties have been taken with a lot of characters in a lot of different ways, some not for the better by many estimations. Here is what the comic seems like to me.

I think this comic reads like a modern, somewhat raunchy buddy movie. It has a great deal of the smug smirkiness and kind of fist-bumping frat boy smarminess, wrapped around an initial setup that involves a kind of cool, kind of far fetched prison break and doesn't make you think too hard. I really like Starfire as the heavy hitter in the group, and the boys acceptance/dependence on that is cute. The issue introduces and interesting character named Essence, that must have featured in Red Hood's past, but I haven't seen her before. It was not a bad comic as comics go, It was not even something that would cause the average comic reader with no built in feelings for the character of Starfire, to take much notice or offense to, beyond perhaps the insistence on meaningless sex with her sex partner's buddy.

I think if that is the way that her race is now characterized, then it was necessary to show it. It is character development to play it out. Humans aren't Tamaranians though, and unless the writer takes some time to show the effects that that sort of behavior can have on close relationships and fragile male egos, then I will say it was just a cheap thing to do to excite boys.

So, in closing, This wasn't that bad of a comic. It read a bit too much like a movie, with the posing in the water and all, but it was not without some fun. There are very real issues with DC editorial being oblivious and letting some terrible ideas and attitudes just walk through to print. A lot of people could benefit from reading and learning from the opinions of the folks who took the time to intelligently document their reactions and thoughts about the issue.