Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Profile: Sabra

Real name: Ruth Bat-Seraph

First appearance: Incredible Hulk #250, February 1981

History: Sabra was an Israeli police officer and Mossad agent born in the Jerusalem area whose son was murdered in an Islamic terrorist attack (this may have happened after she'd originally met the Hulk). She became a minor protagonist in the Marvel universe, and subsequently worked on occasion with the X-Men, since she herself apparently had mutant powers. Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema were her co-creators.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: in Contest of Champions from 1982, after the original Arabian Knight was made to look bad by initially refusing to work with a Jewess (his characterization was that troubling alright), she was made to look ridiculous herself by refusing a helping hand by Arabian Knight after she fell off his flying carpet during a battle with She-Hulk and Captain Britain as opponents. After 2000, she was subject to similar embarrassments in the Union Jack miniseries from 2006, where she sustained a shot at her eye, and the moral equivalence involving her dislike for the second Arabian Knight as much as the first made it worse.

There was even a story published in New Warriors #58-59 where she was brainwashed into sabotaging peace talks between Israel and Syria, which included a nasty attack on a Syrian hero called Batal.

What's wrong with how this was done? The superficial depiction of her mistrusting, hostile feelings against Arabic/Islamic characters without establishing or explaining properly why is just what seriously undermines those stories (no willingness to acknowledge the Koran's contents is a serious flaw in development). The plotline from NW in particular was very sloppy, and was left dangling with nobody commenting on her mental condition.

I don't think she was ever featured in the anthology stories from Marvel Comics Presents (1988-95), whereas Arabian Knight appeared in at least one, and this left me wondering if TPTB had no courage to use her, even in short stories? What good is that? Though in fairness, she did continue to make appearances in X-Men related material as the 90s came about.

Sometimes, from what I've researched of Sabra in the past, it all but seems like they victimized her through cowardice combined with disinterested, ill-informed approach to politics surrounding Israel, the Islamic world by extension, and characterization. Such superficial approaches never do anyone any favors.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Profile: Lori Lemaris

Lori Lemaris
First appearance: Superman #129, May 1959

History: Lori was a mermaid from Atlantean-related kingdoms (in this case, Tritonis) whom Superman fell in love with during the Silver Age. She was created by Wayne Boring and Bill Finger.

Current status: unknown

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: she was originally killed during Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, and later the Infinite Crisis crossover of 2005, she appeared to have been killed there too during the Spectre's insane outbursts, like quite a few other characters who were just slaughtered because the editors considered them worthless, selectively or otherwise.

What's wrong with how this was done? Totally disrespectful to a character who'd been a notable member of Superman's recurring cast of characters, and it makes no difference whether she's minor, that doesn't automatically justify such awful attitudes. Certainly not in the 2005 example, where it was even bloodier.

Lori had the potential to work quite well as a recurring character. Instead, she's one of quite a few in a corporate-owned franchise who've been done a terrible disfavor.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Profile: Betty Brant

Betty Brant

First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #4, September 1963

History: a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she worked as J. Jonah Jameson's secretary at the Daily Bugle, later becoming a reporter herself, first dating Peter Parker and later marrying fellow journalist Ned Leeds for a time.

Was subject to the following acts of discrimination: after Brand New Day came about in 2008, some of the best character developments were drastically erased, and she was belittled in a story from #583 in 2009 where Peter Parker makes it sound like she's having an affair with Marlon Brando, just to make her look more like a gossip writer. And when she holds a birthday party later, nobody even comes around, because they resent the job she gets at the Bugle. She's basically alienated.

What's wrong with how this was done? Writers like Mark Waid went out of their way to marginalize a once decently written character in almost the same way Mary Jane Watson was. It's but one of many grievous errors made for the sake of One More Day, long viewed as one of the worst stories in modern Marvel history.

That particular story may have been quietly dropped, but the damage has remained for a long time after, and does nothing to salvage Spider-Man. Certainly not so long as Joe Quesada remains in charge.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Profile: Ned Leeds

Ned Leeds

First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #18, November 1964

History: a young reporter for the Daily Bugle, he dated and later married secretary/reporter Betty Brant. He was co-created by none other than Stan Lee and the late Steve Ditko.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in the mid-80s, at the time of the Hobgoblin tale, Ned, while trying to bring down the Kingpin, fell victim to brainwashing by the Hobgoblin (which damaged his relations with Betty), Rod Kingsley, and was framed as being the Hobgoblin (much like Flash Thompson was around that time). Ned was murdered by the Foreigner at the behest of Jason Macendale in the 1986 Spider-Man vs Wolverine special, and for a time afterwards, it was thought Ned was the Hobgoblin.

What's wrong with how this was done? This story turn was the result of machinations by Jim Owsley (Christopher Priest), whose work as both writer and editor have been very hit-or-miss. It was controversial at the time, with Peter David, Tom deFalco and Ron Frenz taking offense, mainly because Owsley kept it secret until the last minute. It wasn't considered very plausible either; just a cheap excuse to kill off an established co-star.

Was there any good to come out of this? A decade later, in the 1997 Hobgoblin Lives miniseries, an effort was made to exonerate Ned by retconning in-story that Rod Kingsley/Hobgoblin was the culprit all along, and had brainwashed Ned.

This year, in ASM Annual #42, Ned was revealed to be alive (it seems he was resurrected by the Jackal in Clone Conspiracy), or a clone of him turned up. I'd like to think that's good news, but coming at a time when Mary Jane Watson was still thrown out by Joe Quesada's editorial mandates, it decidedly wasn't. (With terrible scribes like Dan Slott taking charge, how could it be?) The takeaway from this is that Ned was sadly a victim of frivolous obsessions with garnering attention at all costs, no matter how poor the artistic merit could've been to start with.

To date, there's only been a few male characters I've added to this database, but I think Ned Leeds certainly qualifies, and I realize there can be advantages in keeping track of some of the men in comics too.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Profile: Heather Glenn

Heather Glenn
First appearance: Daredevil #126 Vol 1, 1975
Death: Daredevil #220 Vol 1, 1985

History: She was the daughter of a rich industrialist factory manager. She helped Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson open up a new law firm called Storefront Clinic, and subsequently learned Matt's secret identity as Daredevil. She was co-created by Marv Wolfman and Bob Brown. She even guest-starred at least once in Iron Man, and similar to Tony Stark, suffered from alcoholism.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: she committed suicide after believing her relationship with Matt had fallen apart by hanging herself in her apartment.

What's wrong with how this was done? Fortunately, very little, maybe because her death was by suicide, rather than coming to a more grisly end via murder, as happened with Karen Page during Kevin Smith's run in 1998 on the 2nd volume.

I'll have to admit though, that it's a shame Marvel's staff at the time thought the only good way to give Glenn a sendoff was by sending her into the afterlife. If that's the only way they can think of dropping a character they no longer want to use, how can they call themselves creative?

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Profile: Gloss


Real name: Xiang Po
First appearance: Millenium #2, January 1988

The Guardians who created the Green Lantern Corps invested in a Millenium Project to form a group of successors on Earth, which saw 10 people gathered together to learn about the cosmos and be granted special powers. One of them was the young Chinese girl Xiang Po, whom the Guardians bestowed the power to draw energy from the Earth's "dragon lines". She'd go on to form the New Guardians group, which had a brief series in 1988-89 running 12 issues and whose cast was partly comprised of characters from the GL series, whose 2nd volume had ended in 1988.

Was subjected to the following act of discrmination: during the Justice League: Cry for Justice miniseries written by James Robinson in 2009, she was one several characters killed off by Prometheus.

What's wrong with how this was done? The miniseries was notorious for serving as a cheap excuse to kill off almost any minor character the DC editors considered expendable, including Lian Harper. All for no good reason, and just to serve as justification for Green Arrow to kill off Prometheus later...and then get into a pointless clash with the Justice League, made to look as though they have zero understanding of the terrible incident Prometheus caused. One can only wonder if it was all intended as an anti-war metaphor, since this was in the years after the war in Iraq to bring down Saddam.

And it all gave the Justice League a very bad name, while doing nothing more than throwing Steve Englehart and Joe Staton's creation Gloss, who could've had potential on her own under the right kind of writers, into oblivion as though her being fictional makes her automatically worthless. I think the New Guardians series was mediocre, but that's mainly the fault of Englehart and Cary Bates (the latter who wrote the majority of the book), not the characters, some of whom were given very unfair treatment.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Profile: Harbinger

Real name: Lyla Michaels

First appearance: New Teen Titans Annual #2, 1983

History: an orphan who survived a shipwreck, she was rescued by the Monitor (the being stuck in an eternal fight with the anti-Monitor), and became an assistant to him during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, where she would help arrange for henchmen and weapons to test the superheroes in the impending war. After her appearance in the Millenium crossover of 1988, she joined the New Guardians, who were partially connected with the Green Lantern Corps.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in the 12-issue New Guardians series, she, along with almost all the other team members, was subjected to the AIDS virus; one of the first stories in comics to address the subject that was big in the 80s. In 2004, when DC was reintroducing the original Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, to the DCU, she turned up in a guest appearance on Wonder Woman's Themyscira island, and was killed while defending Kara from the forces of Darkseid that would kidnap her for his own uses. Her corpse was later reanimated during the Blackest Night crossover.

What's wrong with how this was done? This had to be one of the cheapest paths they could go in to pointlessly kill off a character who could've still had her uses. But turning her into a living dead zombie only added insult to injury, and Blackest Night was by far one of the most disgusting, troll-the-audience publicity stunts DC could have ever conceived. And any friendship she was forming with the reintroduced Kara Zor-El was thrown out the window.

Most of the characters who were killed off at that time have thankfully been revived/exonerated since (though Harbinger's status is still unclear as of this writing). But the editors wasted tons of time pulling those stunts in the first place, and cost a lot of readership who shouldn't have been alienated in the first place.