Friday, March 31, 2006

Profile: Katma Tui

Katma Tui
First appearance: Green Lantern #30 Vol. 2, July 1964

Current status: dead since 1988

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in Action Comics Weekly #602, she was slain by Star Sapphire, some time after Carol Ferris had fallen completely under the control of the Zamaron device that had taken control of her to begin with, and was possessed by the Predator. Katma's since-widowed husband, John Stewart, was outraged at fellow Green Lantern Hal Jordan for this. Katma was resurrected in 1992 at the end of GL: Mosaic, but this was ruined yet again when Zero Hour took place, and she was among those killed.

What’s wrong with how this was done? It couldn’t possibly be simpler to explain: cheap-jack wipeout of a pretty good character, presumably because they didn’t know what else to do with her. Christopher Priest may have written the storyline at the time, and it was simply dismaying. And the editors of ZH who decided to off Katma yet again after all the trouble taken to bring her back weren't doing any favors either.

Personally, I’d think it’d be high time already to bring Katma Tui back, but…who at DC Comics is going to do it now?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Profile: Carol Ferris

Carol Ferris, aka Star Sapphire (and Predator)
First appearance: Showcase #22, 1959

Current status: continuing in her career as chairwoman of Ferris Aircrafts, LTD.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: although Green Lantern defeated the male conception of her imagination called the Predator, it was not the end – it merged back into her, and at the same time, it also led to her changing back into Star Sapphire completely. Then, in Action Comics Weekly #602 in 1988, she slew Katma Tui, the female member of the GL Corps from Korugar, who’d been married to John Stewart for several years.

What’s wrong with how this was done? It didn’t need to be. And while Carol may have been under control of Predator, who was later revealed to be an alien parasite, this was still a case that reeked in some ways of, well…the stereotype of hostility between women?

At least that’s what it seems like.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Profile: Hank Pym, Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Yellowjacket

First appearance: 1961 in Tales to Astonish

Current status: inactive member of the Avengers, having taken time off with Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: he was brainwashed by his own creation, the mad cyborg Ultron. This later resulted in the deterioration of his mental stability, leading to despair in his work as a scientist. But what really ended up damaging Hank Pym as a character was when in 1981, in an overwrought storyline in which he was trying to regain his credibility as a superhero with his fellow Avengers, he ended up smacking his then wife, Janet Van Dyne, the Winsome Wasp, to try and chase her away from his preparations. He did this again a few issues later, which triggered Jan’s anguish for real, leading to her lashing back, and soon afterwards, they were divorced for many years. As far as I know, this was later revealed to have been the result of Ultron’s damage to Hank’s mental health, but even so…

What’s wrong with how this was done? Plenty! Hank Pym was a pretty good character when he first debuted, and thanks to what was apparently the meddling of Jim Shooter, this ended up ruining the reputation of the character and subjecting him to a lot of reader debate over whether this makes him usable anymore or not, including when he and Jan reunited and reconciled. To make matters worse, some writers, most notoriously Chuck Austen (and even Brian Bendis), perpetuated this whole storyline into a pure stereotype and cliché, making it almost unbearable.

Was there anything good to come out of this? When Hank was a co-star in The West Coast Avengers, Steve Englehart and others working on the book at the time did do a good job with him. But even so, that earlier storyline with the slap to Jan was uncalled for, something I’m sure many would agree with.

Hank and Jan may have since reconciled, and in all due fairness, I don’t think that Hank is capable of screwing up as badly as he did back then, most certainly not if written well. But that still doesn’t excuse the long-running damage that was done to his character, repeatedly running the risk of turning him into a wife-beating stereotype of a character, and making it difficult for readers to fully accept a reunition with Jan.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Profile: Karen Page

Karen Page
First appearance: Daredevil #1 Vol. 1, 1964

Current status: deceased

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: she descended into working as a porn actress, and she became a drug addict, even going so far as to sell information on Matt Murdock’s secret ID as Daredevil to the dealer she’d been buying from, later became tricked into thinking she'd become ill with HIV, and was murdered at the hands of Hornhead’s leading nemesis, Bullseye, in Daredevil #5 Vol. 2, 1999.

What’s wrong with how this was done? The fall from grace she took, descending into drugs and pornography may have been handled well and was essential to the development of Daredevil's rivalry with the Kingpin, who'd gotten hold of the info and used it to his advantage against Hornhead, but Karen’s dying not from an HIV illness but rather, at the hands of Bullseye, is decidedly super-cheap. It seems pretty rushed, like as if she had to die ASAP, rather than to write a story in which she could go to the great reward via natural death. And this points to a leading problem that’s been cropping up in recent years in comics: death by murder, not by natural causes.

So what could’ve been a masterpiece in story development instead turned into a disastrous case of resorting to a classic cliché.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Profile: Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird

Carol Susan Jane Danvers, Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird
First appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #13

Current status: balancing her time between regular life and being a superheroine

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: in The Avengers #197-200, she was teleported to limbo by Marcus, the son of Immortus, an alternate version of Kang the Conqueror, where she came under his mind-control effects, becoming a love-slave. Then, in a most creepy Oedipus Rex-like storyline, the villain stored himself inside Carol’s body, in an attempt to emerge in the regular world and then build a machine with which he could ensure that he’d be able to continue life normally – and quite likely also to conquer. Plus, there was also the part in Avengers: Disassembled in 2004 where she said that she hated Scarlet Witch, which was out of character.

What’s wrong with how this was done? At the time it first went to press, the problem with it is that it seemed almost intended for weak shock value effect (and even under mind-control, one of the things Carol said to Marcus sounded in very poor taste). And, when it was first written, put together from a story Jim Shooter had actually come up with (yes, one of a few questionable stories he’d been responsible for drafting, assigning other writers like David Michelinie to fully develop), there was a line there that may have slipped under the radars of many: however subtly he did it, Marcus had actually admitted that he’d brainwashed Carol when he said she’d gotten a “subtle boost from the machines.” Given that she was still under mind-control, it’s understandable that Carol would fail to realize what was going on, but that the other Avengers who were witness to Marcus’ explanations would be oblivious to what he was saying was quite bizarre, and, on the scriptwriting surface, downright sloppy.

Was there anything good to come out of this? Surprisingly enough, yes! When Chris Claremont, who’d written her 1977-79 Ms. Marvel series, wrote the 10th Avengers Annual in 1981, which went to press a few months after the storyline with Marcus Immortus, he made more sense out of it than Michelinie or even Shooter himself had when they first put it together. As Carol told the Avengers following their foiling of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants’ attempted breakout from prison in New York, Marcus had actually put her under mind-control, and, after his miscalculations led to his speedy demise, within the time of about a week since Thor returned them to limbo, she was free of the effects, and realized what had really been going on. Angry at the rest of the Avengers for failing to use their heads, she teleported back to the regular world, packed her bags and took off to California where she tried to put her life back together, until she was attacked by Rogue in the days when she’d first been a villainess with the Brotherhood. Carol lost a lot of her powers to Rogue as a result, but thanks to Charles Xavier and Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew, she was able to regain 95 percent of her memories, including the part where Marcus admitted that he was pulling her strings.

And with the explanations that she gave to the EMH, ditto the reprimand for not seeing through what Marcus Immortus was really doing, her ordeal made more sense, and provided her with better character development. It also helped show that, personality-wise, she certainly was as smart and intelligent a character as she is.

Of course, Brian Bendis really flubbed when he had Carol saying that she “hated” Wanda Maximoff, as if she really were evil, in Disassembled, when here, Wanda was probably the most devastated of all when she found out about Carol’s being a mind-slave at the hands of Marcus (and as she wondered to her then-husband, the Vision, “what if Marcus had chosen me?”). That this was really just a clone of Wanda made no difference; it was insulting to Carol’s character that Bendis should’ve done that.

See also this article by Carol A. Strickland.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Profile: Linda Park West

Linda Park West
First appearance: 1989 in The Flash

Current status: mother to a pair of twins

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: in 2004, in the “Blitz” storyline, the “new” Reverse-Flash (who's still around and even turned up in the pages of Justice Society of America #8), struck her to the ground with a vibratory ripple effect, terminating her pregnancy and leading to her wailing in loss and agony in her hospital bed. All this in order to strike at her husband, Wally West, and to try and make him “a better hero.” A year later, in a time-travel effect, this was changed, saving her pregnancy, and making her a mother instead, but even so…

What’s wrong with how this was done? I think this can best be answered with the following: did we have to go through all that excess violence just to get to the good news? I don’t think so. There were plenty of other story and adventure plots and concepts that could’ve been tried out, but IMO, Geoff Johns missed out on just about all of them (and what he didn’t, Identity Crisis’ “repercussions” got in the way of).

There may be a need for hurdles to get around and over before superheroes and their families can have children, but what Linda – and Wally – went through in order to get to that point was decidedly unneccesary, as was even the part a few issues earlier where Grodd tries to torture Wally’s mind with images of Linda and the family being crushed to death.

And when Linda finally did win her gift of being a mommy, I decided to trade/sell off the issues of “Run Riot” and “Blitz” that I had, getting in their place some old Avengers and Superman issues in their stead. Because really, who needs it? I decided that I was better off with just the good stuff.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Profile: Rogue

First appearance: Avengers Annual #10, 1981

Real name: Unknown. If it has been revealed, I personally still don’t know it.

Current status: active in the X-Men.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: Rogue is a most startling case. She was long done to death as a character, because for a long time, the writers, including even creator Chris Claremont, did not give her any serious or convincing development: she long remained stuck with her largely uncontrollable power of siphoning off and duplicating human energy, consciousness, superpowers, etc. And when Gambit came onto the scene, she was reduced to something like a junkie bound to a pimp’s leash.

What’s wrong with how this was done? It’s uncreative to just simply box a character into a corner, and the whole notion that she’d become less significant if she could gain the ability to control her powers properly was truly ridiculous, to say nothing short of insulting. It made feel sorry for the lady to be left absolutely trapped by her own powers, unable to make physical contact with other flesh and blood human beings. Yet, the writers and editors, for a long time, kept on depicting her that way, and left her at the mercy of Gambit too.

In recent years, Claremont and a few other writers slowly began to move away from this nonsense, giving Rogue better control over her powers, and Peter Milligan too may have made some repairs by getting her out of the Gambit trap. But why it had to take so long is an utter mystery.