I must be a masochist…let’s talk about Red Hood and the Outlaws‘ Starfire! (Also, if you see a ‘Skyfire’ pop up – my bad. I’m a huge Transformers fan and Skyfire is one of my favorites, so I’ve ended up typing his name instead of ‘Star’-fire on autopilot more times than I can count this week. It’s not unheard of that I might have missed one…and if I make it all the way through without a slip – yay me! :D)
The following is mostly going to be focused on Starfire, but you can read what I thought of the rest of the comic (along with Catwoman) in a little bit with my next ‘Fangirl’ post. ^^
This is a long one, so I actually used one of my ‘read more’ dividers. Ha ha. This should be a given, also, but there be spoilers below. :)
Starfire & Catwoman seem to be the hot topics in the DC World – most of it negative. Why people seem to be ignoring all the good things about Supergirl, Wonder Woman, (Probably Batgirl & Batwoman – haven’t read these yet due to a limited budget, so I couldn’t tell you – but they look all clear from samples), and all the great supporting role women (IE: Rose Wilson & Red, Superboy; Lola, Catwoman) who have shown up, to make Starfire seem like the poster girl example for all women represented in the new DC is beyond me.
I’m going to stop now, though, while I have all sorts of issues right now with how the fans are handling this situation and many disagreements concerning this attitude that ‘I don’t like it, so you can’t write it’, if I get started I probably won’t be able to stop.
And this is supposed to be about Starfire, not angry fans.
I think I have a major advantage when it comes to Starfire & Red Hood and the Outlaws – I’m new to American comics. My middle and high school days were spent reading as much Japanese manga as I could get my hands on – if it was in English, I bought it, if not, Scanlations, otherwise – Doujinshi was my friend. I have a closet full of books from Sorcerer Hunters to Death Note to Kenshin and Chobits. American Comics seemed out of reach due to: most of them were long into their runs, comic book stores intimidated me, and I was happy with the DCAU being a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series & all those other wonderful WB Shows (Static Shock, Batman Beyond, Superman, Etc.). I think the only comic series I’d read completely was Young Justice (not the new one – the 90’s one).
Recently, I’ve made a slight shift to American Comics thanks to a Borders going out of business sale where I picked up the new Batman & Robin (which lead me to buying the TPB’s) of Red Robin, and some other hand-picked volumes on my shelf that are fairly random (like that one volume of Ultimate Spiderman I found at my school bookstore because it had Venom on the cover…)
As such – my only experience with Starfire was the Teen Titans cartoon, and a few blurbs about her comic self from browsing the internet for Teen Titans backgrounds. I knew she almost married Dick Grayson and had a skimpy outfit. That about sums up my knowledge/experience with comic canon Starfire.
As for the cartoon version – I thought she was cute. She was never my favorite character, mind you (I’ll admit to avoiding her focus episodes), but she had her moments in places like the Apprentice Arc where her determination and loyalty to Robin was endearing and sweet.
She was spunky, loving and naive in a cute way which helped balance out all the angst the rest of the Titans were dripping with, but let’s face it: this sort of girl would have no place with “bad boys” Jason Todd and Roy Harper.
The point I’m trying to make: I came into Red Hood and the Outlaws with no expectations for Starfire. I’ve never read her in a comic book (aside from small cameos) and it’s a given her animated adaption was probably as accurate as Robin’s (who was some odd mix of Dick, Jason and Tim combined…). I am free from the need to compare her to previous incarnations; I don’t have to constantly compare her to other artists’ and authors’ interpretations.
I also had the benefit of reading the comic before I saw all the negative reviews and out cries of how she was treated. The only thing I had seen before were complaints about her new outfit, but personally I don’t think it’s much different than her old costume so that wasn’t an issue.
I’m a new reader with a brand new universe, which in this case works out pretty well.
My first thought when i saw her probably lined up with Roy Harpers’: Wow.
She was gorgeous – a dangerous, powerful woman who floated calmly above the battle field like some sort of goddess, completely above the devastation she was causing.
And don’t get me started how much I love her hair (and how it is literally on fire).
[On a side note: the artwork in this book is gorgeous, no matter how anyone is drawn.]
Then she made me laugh.
Cool as a cucumber, she asks Jason if she can help with anything else. I know people have complained about this as her being subservient and having no mind her own, but I never got that vibe. Honestly, it made the entire situation feel like just another day for her; like Jason had asked for her help moving furniture instead of leveling a hoard of tanks. It helped establish just what a powerhouse she is and how beneath her Earth’s weapons and soldiers really are in the long run. The cute helpful smile, didn’t hurt either. I found it to be pretty cute, especially with the follow up of Roy Harper mourning being ignored.
After we find out later that her memory concerning all things Earth is extremely short term, and that she can’t tell people apart – the character they were going for fell into place. Unlike Superman, an alien “obsessed with helping people” (Red, Superboy #1), Starfire is detached, distant and really couldn’t care less. She has a difficult time telling humans apart and can’t remember the ones she had close ties with in the past – aka the Titans. As someone who didn’t share the comic history they’re referencing, this doesn’t mean much to me. It just establishes humans are beneath her – but not completely.
She does admit that Roy and Jason make her laugh.
The sex shocked me, I’ll admit that. I was expecting more of Jason’s references to sleeping with her than having it so blunt & right there on the page with Roy. Didn’t stop me from laughing, though, when Starfire asked Roy if he wanted to have sex. His reaction was priceless (and cute), and I’m impressed he at least tried to double check that it was okay. (I laughed again later when I finally noticed the smoking hand prints on the bed frame on the third reading.)
As far as Starfire’s attitude about sex went, it seemed to fit pretty well with what they had been setting up with how easily she leveled the tanks. Individual humans aren’t all that important to her (a byproduct of limited memory and an inability to distinguish between them), but she still had needs. Roy and Jason made her laugh, so she was with Roy and Jason; they amused her and she went with it. I didn’t really question it and moved on because let’s face it – this entire scene was the secondary scene in the comic. The focus was on Jason & Essence (another girl no one is mentioning – who not only is interesting, but fully dressed) and our future plot.
That said: this was only the first issue.
It’s hard to develop a character if she’s already perfect in the first issue. People aren’t completely wrong when they say Starfire is a lacking right now – she has no connections to the people of Earth, her history is a blur, and she has some issues with being ordered around when it’s not on her terms (for example, Jason didn’t order her to help out, he asked). That last one isn’t really a flaw, but it does set up some development for her attitude of “I do what I want, when I want, with no one to tell me otherwise,” which she probably applies to more situations than sex.
We still haven’t seen any of her history, or how she interacts with other Tamaranians or the details of how she broke free from slavery. I honestly can’t wait for Blackfire to show up, that alone should be worth sticking around.
Starfire isn’t heartless (or she wouldn’t bother with humans at all), she’s just detached, stuck in a world far from what she knows and making the best of it.
The concept is different, and what’s made me so attached to Starfire – almost more so than the boys. It leaves a world of potential for development with Starfire’s relationship with her future teammates. What happens when she wants to make a connection with Jason and Roy deeper than the superficial ‘They make me laugh’? Or rather, what happens when she starts caring about two people she can barely tell apart, not due to a personality flaw, but a physical limitation. It’ll be a hurdle and an obstacle to overcome, that will leave her a better person in the eyes of the reader.
In addition to complaints about her being reduced to solely cheesecake, there’s also been a smaller outcry about her killing all those people without a second thought since the original Starfire was (supposedly) very loving & more merciful. That attitude doesn’t work very well with the new canon that’s been establish, but that just means there’s a lot of room to grow here, as well. If she connects to Jason and Roy, and they start to become “real” people, by extension, the rest of humanity might start mattering. Isn’t it worth it to see a possible break down once she realizes what she’s been doing so flippantly? To see her overcome any guilt, heartbreak over these events to turn into a entirely different force?
Starfire’s brand new in this context – she has a lot of room to grow into an individual who learns to care for her new home and the people around her and to start heading towards a passionate, powerful woman.
If that doesn’t happen and she remains, detached and just along for the ride because she’s bored? There’s room for fun with that, too. What if Jason and Roy get used to having her around and one day she just up and leaves? How will they handle that? And so forth.
I don’t know where Scott Lobdell is going to take this, but there’s just so much potential I can’t help but get excited.
Give the comic a chance. If you’ve vowed never to read it due to the two to three pages of Starfire in a bikini that keep circulating, I’m begging you to pick it up and read it for yourself. Form your own opinion.
If you still don’t like it, due to Starfire’s treatment because you’re an old school fan of hers, or whatever else? At least give the comic time to properly develop her character before brushing it off completely.
After that? (And really, you don’t have to make it this far, it’s just nice to give comics the benefit of the doubt once in a while) You’re free to not like the comic series. I’ll probably never pick up a Green Lantern or Deadman book, so I don’t expect you to love every comic you see.
But I will go ahead and recommend Supergirl, since it turned out to be amazing (and completely free of ‘cheesecake’).
That is a delightfully well composed article and you make a lot of really good points :3 I admit to having met Starfire earlier, in “The New Teen Titans” and having liked her then. So I was disappointed when I’d heard she’d been turned into an “amnesiac nymphomaniac.” It’s nice to hear they are actually being somewhat consistant with her character, both being relatively new to Earth, and from a culture vastly more free with love and sexuality. Even if they are putting a different spin on things.
But that’s kind of what a re-set is about. You can see a character you thought you knew in a new light. And people who are new to the comics like you are, or the series, can pick an issue up without feeling immediately lost and overwhelmed.
As far as cheesecake. One could almost say her bikini covered _more_ than her new battle costume ^^, And as a comic artist myself, I gotta admit, it’s fun to draw the characters being relaxed and sexy sometimes. If everything was epic action, the reader would either have a heart attack, or become desensitized to the conflict.