Saturday, May 27, 2006

Profile: Aquagirl

Tula, Aquagirl
First appearance: in Aquaman in 1967

Current status: dead

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: killed off by toxic poison in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

What’s wrong with how this was done? What was the whole point? To give Garth, then Aqualad and now Tempest, a motive on which to keep on fighting? Sorry, but, it’s just weak, and was totally unneccasary.

Tula may have been underused considerably since the time when she first appeared in Aquaman’s solo book in the Silver Age, and after the mid-70s, she’d all but gone unused until the time when she joined the Teen Titans in the showdown with the H.I.V.E in 1984. Killing her off soon afterwards was just plain lame.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Profile: Invisible Girl/Woman

Sue Storm, Invisible Girl/Woman
First appearance: Fantastic Four #1, 1961

Current status: member of the FF and mother of two children

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: underplayed in the first several issues of the FF when it first began (until she got her force shield powers, she was hardly that effective in portrayal), then, when John Byrne was writing in the mid-80s, she had a miscarriage (later reversed, with Valeria becoming the second child), was tortured along with Mr. Fantastic by Mephisto in his astral lair of hell, and was even turned evil at one point. Oh, did I mention that lately, with J. Michael Straczynski writing, she went into death limbo? (Of course it’ll be reversed, and better be too, but it’s still bad enough.)

What’s wrong with how this was done? Well, I suppose I can overlook Stan Lee’s underwhelming depiction of Sue at the time it all began, because it wasn’t exactly, you know, excessively violent, but John Byrne’s writing was a lot more worrisome and questionable. Did Sue really have to go through that initial miscarriage?

There was also that other point where she got brainwashed into badness. And the time when both she and Reed and, lest we forget, their son Franklin, got trapped in Mephisto’s astral plane of hell. Who needs it?

And now, in 2006, the House of Ideas seems to think they’re clever by writing a story in which Sue’s the latest to go into presumed death limbo. We’ve already had Reed and Ben do that (and her brother Johnny will probably be next), but it’s already old news, and aggravating at that.

Was there anything good to come out of any of this? It was the miscarriage being reversed in recent years, and the result was in birthing Valeria. But even so, why couldn't Marvel have given Sue the chance at bearing a second child even back in the 1980s?

For a character who’s the strongest member of the FF thanks to her force shield powers, I’d think she deserves better than that.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Profile: Black Canary 2

Dinah Laurel Lance, Black Canary 2
First appearance: since this is the daughter of the first one we’re talking about, her first appearance, retroactively speaking, was in Justice League of America #75 in late 1969, but it was only in Justice League of America #219-220 in 1983 that this actually became known officially, when Johnny Thunder’s Bahdnesian genie, Thunderbolt, explained how, thanks to a spell cast upon her in childhood by the Wizard, she’d gained her Canary Cry, but because at that time it was thought to be a curse, parents Dinah Drake and Larry Lance and also Johnny himself decided that she’d have to be put in comatose protection, which T-Bolt did by storing her inside his own magical realm, bringing her out when her mother died off-panel following the battle with Aquarius in JlofA #73-74, and turning what might’ve been a curse into a blessing. And then, in 1986, Roy Thomas, the writer who’d come up with the whole retcon idea in the first place, revised it again in Secret Origins so that it was told that she’d grown up normally, taking up the Canary mantle at age 19, and that her Canary Cry was the result of exposure to some of the first Green Lantern’s energies, and became fully manifested as she grew older.

Current status: continuing in her career as a crimefighter, getting her missions mostly from the former Batgirl Barbara Gordon, now Oracle.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: the Blonde Bombshell had been underused many times before, and even subjected to at least one really stupid storyline in an issue of The Brave and the Bold in 1981. In Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters in 1987, she was captured and tortured by a drug baron, whom Green Arrow shot to death, but not before the scumbag’s violence deprived Dinah of her ability to have children, and also of her Canary Cry. But the real bottom-feeder discriminatory act to have been inflicted upon Dinah was in Identity Crisis #3, when Deathstroke, in a more or less out-of-character appearance, tried to strangle and handcuff her in a contrived fight scene.

What’s wrong with how this was done? Anyone could argue, not without justification, that what she went through in The Longbow Hunters was more gruesome than need be (as far as I know, it was said that she hadn’t been raped by the drug baron, yet that itself still doesn’t make the story any good, nor does it justify its existence). But what she went through in Identity Crisis at the hands of Deathstroke, that was crude, vulgar, obscene, to say nothing short of juvenile and imbecile. And those reviewers who fawned over the miniseries have the chutzpah to say that this is storytelling at its most masterful? Puh-leez.

Was there anything good to come out of this? Out of The Longbow Hunters, yes, but out of Identity Crisis, NO. Following The Longbow Hunters, when Green Arrow got his own series, and Dinah was a frequent co-star, she developed surprisingly well as a character, even getting her own mini-feature in Action Comics Weekly written by Sharon Wright, who’d also assisted Mike Grell in writing her parts in Green Arrow's own series. In 2001, two years after Birds of Prey began as an ongoing series, Chuck Dixon wrote an adventure for Dinah in which she tripped to one of the Lazarus Pits Batman’s adversary Ra’s al Ghul used to revitalize himself, and this restored Dinah’s Canary Cry and ability to have children. With that in mind, what else can I say, but, bravo, Dixon!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Profile: Zatanna

Zatanna Zatara
First appearance: Hawkman #4 Vol. 1 in 1964

Current status: all but retired from being a superheroine, she continues in her showbiz career as a stage magician

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: in Identity Crisis, she was made to look like a baddie because she mindwiped Dr. Light, while the villain’s rape of Sue Dibny, after the script smacked the readers over the face with it, was ignored altogether. Zatanna also never got to present her viewpoint of how she felt about seeing another woman being violated; she was perfectly mute on the subject, ditto Black Canary. And to make matters worse, she was punched in the stomach by Deathstroke, causing her to vomit.

What’s wrong with how this was done? Discrimination against a woman it was, to say nothing short of binding and gagging her of a voice on the subject of the violation of women, just like with Sue Dibny. The part in the Identity Crisis miniseries where she’s socked in the tummy by Slade Wilson reeks very unpleasantly of the idea of hitting a woman out of bigotry.

In the JLA story arc, “Crisis of Conscience,” that’s where we finally get her viewpoint and she stands firm on the punishment she gave to Dr. Light. But that only serves to show what was wrong with IC to begin with, and why the story has now been almost entirely discredited.