Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sex, DC Comics, and ... wtf?

Long term readers know my opinion on sex in writing.  I'd say my opinion on sex in general is very Catholic, but since no one understand that, I'm not even going to bother.

However, I can sum up my thoughts on sex in fiction very easily: who needs it?

As Rebekah says, we all know the mechanics. What possible reason is there for a blow by blow description? Pardon the pun, but you know what I mean.

Since my first article on sex, I've written a few sex scenes .... by few I mean two, and they were in the same book.  However, the "sex scene" was in someone's dream, and the protagonist was having a conversation with his dead wife through most of it. The sex was incidental, and mostly has to do with the fact that she was killed on their honeymoon.  The second sex scene was so vague, any less detail would be as clear as a Salvatore Dali painting, only with words.

Yes, I brought in Dali to an article on sex. I'm weird. However, there is a point.

Even during these scenes, there's no blow by blow description. (I'm going to stop apologizing for that phrase, just roll with it.).  It's not necessary, unless someone's writing porn.  Even something as intimate as noticing a tattoo on someone during sex doesn't necessitate that much detail -- the audience does not need to know what specific act the individual was doing when s/he noticed the tattoo.  It's sex. Nudity happens.  Next chapter.

So, what prompted today's rant?

DC Comics seems to be going back to the 1990s, where the artistic style was summarized by my friend Jason as "Big boobs, big guns."

The current version seems to focus on women and sexuality, with an overemphasis on the sex.

I've no problem with sexuality, or with women -- look at my model for Manana Shushurin if you don't believe me --  it's that it's bad writing.

Starfire, in costume

Take, for example, the character of Starfire.  She's an alien with red hair, green eyes (and I don't mean with two green irises, I mean the entire eye is green), orange skin, with measurements somewhere in the 36 DD battery range.

Normally, I would stop reading at green-eyed redhead (I grew up with a crush on the female lead in Riverdance, leave me alone).  The character has always been sexually relaxed, it was mostly a cultural thing.  And, for the most part, it was used properly -- as comedy.  For example, in the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths, Starfire walks in with Nightwing, meets an old friend, and introduces him as "This is Nightwing, my lover."

Nightwing's reaction is such that you suspect he's glad that he has to go and face the end of the world.

And that was it.  One panel. Move on.

I look at this and think ...Ow! My back!

In their recent reboot, DC spent far, far too long on having Starfire posing.  And by posing, I don't mean "for seducing the guy she's targeted for seduction." I mean in weird, contortionist-like ways that are only useful for modeling.  Modeling what, I'm not entirely certain, but, still ....

What was the point of that scene?  Aside from "we're pandering to hormonal males who can't buy Playboy"?  Anyone? Anyone at all? Bueller?  Bueller?

DC has landed in

Baywatch territory
Starfire is a woman who can quite literally level city blocks.  And DC decided to dedicate a whole page to her trying to jump someone's bones, with another page dedicated to "Gee, she looks good in a bikini."  Really? They couldn't think of something she could blow up?

Someone ran out of room for a plot in this issue, didn't they?

Notice I have not pointed out her barely there costume.  The "reasoning" is that she absorbs solar energy through her skin, and the less she wears, the more surface area is used.....

Funny, twenty years ago, when Superman just came back from the dead and needed an enhanced recharge from the sun, he had to wear a form-fitting black suit to increase his solar intake.  But then, that was before 300 and chiseled, CGI generates 8-pack abs were "in."

Also strange: she needs to bear more skin for more solar energy absorption, but she wears thigh-high boots, covering a lot of that surface area. If her powers honestly worked like that, it's time to invest in sandals.

So, to recap: Does this entire setup tell us anything about the character? Nothing new.  Does it add anything to the plot?  Is it amusing? No and no.

If we're lucky, comic books last 32 pages, without counting the ads.  If we're not, it's more like 25 or 27. But they'll blow anywhere from 6%-10% of the book having Sunfire posing?  Who the hell is writing this crap?

Anne Hathaway as


And, then, there's Catwoman. Yup, the one in the really tight-fitting outfit.  As opposed to Halle Berry, the one in no outfit ... that was more CatHouseWoman than anything else.

Granted, in some ways, I think Catwoman's outfit is more practical than Batman's -- there's no loose fitting articles of clothing to be caught on nails, screws, the vents she crawls around in, etc.  And, leather is good in knife fights (I read weird articles. I also write them). Batman's outfit seems to have only recently made the cape practical, but I don't keep up with these things.

The cat burglar and antihero has had an on again, off again relationship with Batman since Julie Newmar played her in the 1960s Batman tv show.  Maybe longer.

Green Skin? Really?
But, no, decades of jumping Batman -- sometimes literally -- is apparently, too subtle.

Let's have a full-on sex scene!!!!


Then again, I have a problem; I look at these images, and my first thought is "Why is her skin green? Has she been hanging out with Poison Ivy too much, or is it really odd mood lighting?"

So, what, exactly, does this entire sex scene add?  Another two to three pages eaten up by something that could probably be implied in one panel, and -- oh, yeah -- the next issue is called .... wait for it .... The Morning After.  Nope, still too subtle.

What do these pages add?  Oh gee, Catwoman is taking his gloves off with her teeth. She's a little frisky .... um, she dresses up in skintight leather and carries a whip, I think we got that part.


A whole splash page?

So .... what was the point of this exercise? Obviously, they're going to continue this as a story line into the next issue.  Good for them. So what? Why did they need two or three pages on this? Any one of you out there, reading this article right now, could have come up with a way to tell the audience that, yes, they are copulating. I suspect you could have done it in ... what, half a page? With some internal monologue?

That a "professional author" has done it this pathetic.

Obviously, someone at DC has decided that its readers are either (a) functionally retarded, and subtlety would go over their heads, (b) too young to get legal access to get this stuff on their own or (c) the author used to write fan fiction before this.

The author, Judd Winick, is the mastermind behind resurrecting Robin #2, Jason Todd -- a punk kid who was so despised, DC took a poll of fans, and the fans wanted him half beaten to death, and blown to kingdom come.  Winick's brilliant idea: resurrect Todd, and make him crazy. So, I suspect we can't expect too much from this guy.

In short: this is no way to treat halfway decent characters. Catwoman has had a long run by dancing on both sides of the law, and living in a gray area that makes her more interesting than Batman at times .... and more sane (I think Batman was on his fourth nervous breakdown, last I checked).  Starfire, for all the oversexed portions of her nature, has been entertaining for reasons other than that -- she had a run on Infinite Heroes, where she had some great character moments, and anytime the oversexed nudist part of her came out, it was a source of quick entertainment, and then we moved onto the plot.

You want to see a great example of using female superheroes?  Take Rebekah's latest chapter of Masks. Technically, it's a fight scene with three women -- fully clothed women who are quite intent on pursuit and capture, or escape and evasion.

There are no tight-fitting, slinky costumes, no mostly-nude women ... there's not even a mud wrestling joke -- because the moment the pursuers get close enough to grapple with our heroine, it's game over.

So, DC Comics, it's time for you to start taking some notes.  Because you've got a super powered alien, a martial artist cat burglar, and Rebekah Hendershot kicked your asses with a novice, teenage superhero who has no powers whatsoever.  There is a lesson to be learned here.


Fafhrd1 said...

I don't think Winnick resurrected Jason Todd; I think that was Jeff Loeb and Grant Morrison.

Also, I'd like to point out that Winnick wrote a semi-autobiographical story called "Pedro and Me", which was about his friendship on the Real World with a roommate who was gay (and died from AIDs). Winnick isn't gay (he married another Real World castmate, Pam Ling), though. But I'm sitting here wondering just HOW he'd let the Starfire stuff get past the editors.

I also checked out The Huntress. That, from what I saw, looked more like what DC does right.

JohnK said...

With Winick, I got his Jason Todd responsibility from here: Morrison and Loeb had Todd appear in Hush, but that was Clayface screwing with Batman's head. Winick retconned it so that it was Todd at one point in that chase scene.

Winick had nothing to do with Starfire, he wrote the Catwoman.