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DC Women Kicking Ass

Thoughts, pictures, reviews and other stuff about the women in comics who kick ass. This is a feminist site. Deal with it.
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Jan 2 '12

2011 for DC women: The worst … yikes!

As I started planning my best and worst of 2011 for DC women, a year which saw enormous change and debate, I thought that rather than just offering my opinion, I’d ask other smart comic reading women from across the net to give me some of their best and worst of the year as well. I’m glad I did. First, because it helped me remember some things I forgot and more importantly because they had brought some good commentary.

When I do these, I never know where to start — do I praise first and criticize later? Or do I get the criticism out of the way first and then end on a positive note. Or do I just flip a coin a la Two-Face?

The coin said worst goes first so here we go! I want to note there were a lot of answers and I wish I could have included all of them but I tried to include the consensus (if any of you ladies want to post your whole list I’ll be glad to link).  Some other topics, such as the change to Wonder Woman’s origin, will be touched upon in the next post which will have a whole list of positives so be assured this isn’t going to be only a negative endeavor.

So where to start? When I asked Wired’s Corrina Lawson for her worst she gave a simple answer, “collectively the new DC relaunch.” I’ve discussed the problems of the new 52 as a whole for female characters and creators many times, but this list has some specific aspects of the relaunch examined.

As I looked through people’s comments one major theme was, as blogger Liz wrote, "Strong, Empowered Female Characters! Or not” i.e. the devolution of female characters. As Liz put it:

It was very frustrating as a woman reader to see female characters being treated as sex objects and ‘things’ to be desired, instead of a fully realised and complex character.
A number of characters were given as examples. I like how Saranga discussed Wonder Girl:
… the premise, turning her into a common street thief, taking away her years of responsibility and character growth, that rankles.  She is clearly not the same character she once was, particularly when you compare her introduction pre new52, and how she is now. I liked her introduction pre new52 - she was cocky, courageous, determined, she earned her power (through sheer bossiness).  Now, I have no idea how she got her powers, but she clearly doesn’t want to battle evil and help the meek.  Where is her Amazon drive?  Where are her Amazon ideals?
There were a number of character changes that were specifically named as the worst for of this year and I’ll examine them below. But there were other worsts as well. And as a FYI, these aren’t in any particular order

1. “Adios Oracle.” As Liz Pfeiffer said:

"Barbara Gordon went from being one of the most prominent disabled superheroes who had formed her own vigilante team to Batgirl, again. It was an incredibly controversial move that was met with a lot of emotions"

This was the most hotly debated topic of the new 52 and even today you can still find people squaring off about it on the net. And why not, for all the reasons given in the end DC chose to removed the only physically challenged character it had and “cured” her.

While I wish DC and Gail Simone good luck with the Batgirl title and clearly there are lots of people who are buying the book, I still feel the choice to remove Oracle from comics has left an unfortunate void at DC Comics.

2. The rebooting of Starfire was named by more than a few people as one of the worst of the year but I thought Ragnell/Lisa Fortuner made the point best,

My first impulse was to nominate the publication of Red Hood and the Outlaws as the Worst Moment at DC for women, and certainly the loss of such vibrant, loving character with endless potential as Starfire counts as a blow.  The fan favorite Titan was reduced toa hollow empty shell of her former self, and positioned solely as the receptacle for the male gaze, with little thought to the outright creepiness of the concept.  Her prior history, filled with human connections and an open heart was drained from her.  Her open, positive revolutionary attitude about love and sex, that you could love more than one person and express this in all ways without being greedy for all of them, her philosophy of real free love, was traded in for the fantasy of free, easy sex with what may well be an automaton.  That was bad.  But it was not the Worst Moment.

The Worst Moment was when we learned that this soulless fantasy was a top seller, proving that there was a gleeful market for this sorry portrayal of sexuality.
Kelly Thompson also chose the Starfire reboot stating:
Starfire’s appearance/character in Red Hood & The Outlaws which completely guts most of what was interesting about the character
Liz Pfeiffer wrote:
Starfire was introduced with a joke about the size of her breasts. It was very frustrating as a woman reader to see female characters being treated as sex objects and ‘things’ to be desired, instead of a fully realised and complex character. 
The debate on this topic was enormous. And what did we finally hear from the creator?  Hey if you have a problem with Starfire, It’s not him, it’s you!
3. The skinnification of Amanda Waller as seen in Suicide Squad was also named by several people. As Saranga of Pai Comics said simply:
Amanda Waller.  She’s no longer a wall.
… the main thing that was great about Amanda was that she looked like no else in comics. Women of color are rare enough. Women leading teams are rare enough. But a black woman in power old enough to have grown children and who was not thin like a supermodel ? That was groundbreaking.
The new Suicide Squad also saw Harley Quinn re-imagined into a character that forgets to wear clothing suitable for outdoor adventure among other things as Saranga said:
She’s a gymnast.  That’s not a gymnast’s suit.  Yet again, casual misogyny wins over style and common sense.
4.  The break-up of the Supermarriage and the treatment of Lois Lane was a sore point for many including Mary, who has guest posted here a number of times, who said:
Unfortunately, I believe that Lois Lane has been one of the casualties of the DC reboot for several reasons.  The hardest part about this is that it’s a problem that has gone un-noticed by many because of other looming issues but one that is extremely sad.
After being treated as Clark Kent’s equal for over 25  years—-a development that was a long time coming——the progress of the last few decades is wiped out and Lois Lane is returned to her most sexist stereotype—-as a dismissive rival who can’t “see” behind a disguise.
She gave a number of examples of how Lois has been treated but this stood out for me:
Rag Morales makes fun of Superman and degrades the marriage.  He also says that Lois Lane was a better character when she was a “beautiful pain in the ass” and that she belonged as she had been in the cartoons from the 1940’s as a damsel in distress.   He degrades the choice to make her an equal to Superman in the narrative that had progressed in recent decades. 
The break-up of Lois and Clark wasn’t the only marriage to get OMD’d in the new 52. Or to have the couples’s relationship status rebooted. Which brings us to our next item.
5. Catwoman is SEXY! When Judd Winick did his first interview about Catwoman he deftly communicate the focus of the book as LIz notes:
Judd Winick said sexy about 55 times to describe his new take on Catwoman. (If he had said ‘strong’ 55 times had he been writing Superman, would there not have been a little concern about his detailed understanding of the character?)
And as we saw more about the book including the first art which had Catwoman jumping out a building with her bra hanging out it was clear that first cover image was going to look better and better. And then the first issue hit with that memorable final page (which I was told was far worse originally) the fear was, as Kelly said, that it:
"completely guts everything excellent about the character."
Mary noted:
The book was a sellout on every level—-a way to try to appear “progressive” while actually treating a woman as a fantasy object for men to act our their dirty fantasies on and to treat as an object for leering. 
While Batman remained static in new 52, the basis of the relationship with Catwoman did not. Unlike before where Selina and Bruce knew each other’s secret identities, now that knowledge is only on Bruce’s side.
6. As Kelly Thompson said, the "Astonishing lack of female creators in the new DCU" and by lack let’s be clear, it means just two women— counting cover artists, writer and interior artists, exactly two women - Jenny Frison and Gail Simone were on the solicts for the 52 new books DC unveiled.
While it would be revealed that DC did outreach to additional female creators, that total of two didn’t sit well with some folks including DC creator Gail Simone who got into a rousing discussion with a male creator. While I and some other bloggers covered the issue prior to SDCC, it was at that show the issue blew up bigger than Oracle’s Clock Tower.
7. DC’s response to their female problem or as Kelly Thompson said, "SDCC 2011 Shenanigans”. It started with Dan Didio’s response to being asked about female creators
but then the news outlets covering the show began discussing a woman who was going to the panels asking some tough questions about the way female characters and creators in the new 52. The treatment of that woman, Kyrax2, kicked off a week of intense debate about women in comics that is still going on today.  I’ll talk about DC’s response in the Bests of 2011.  I asked Kyrax2 for her worst of the year and she said noted the that the promises that came out of SDCC seemed to have hit a bump at NYCC:
  When DC dropped Amy Reeder from the NYCC Batman panel, they not only dropped the only female on the panel, they also droppedthe only representative of a female-led title (Batwoman) on the panel.In the end, the panel was made up of eight men, seven or which wereworking on titles starring Bruce Wayne, and two of which weren’t evenworking on the New 52. Reeder’s absence meant that Batwoman wasn’t even discussed at the panel.
Two steps forward, one step back, it seems.
8. Multimedia Moments that make you go, “WTF?" The Wonder Woman pilot, the strip scene in the Catwoman short, the use of the word “bitch” in Arkham City. I’m gonna send a dollar to the first person who comments, “get over it” or “it’s just a game, tv show, movie”. For me, the most disappointing was the Wonder Woman project. It would have so exciting to have had a weekly show. Perhaps, the next time they will hire a writer who is a little closer to the character.
9. Covers and art that … oh jeez just look:
There’s a lot of objectified art in the DCU. Human anatomy does have rules and such. Just say’n.

10. All the Robins but just one Batgirl
I don’t think anything spoke to the dichotomy between the treatment of male and female characters in the move to the new 52 than how the supporting male and female cast members of the Batfamily were handled. First, DC announced All the former Robins would get their own books. (Except the girl Robin.)
And what of the former Batgirls, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, since Barbara Gordon took on the mantle again? Benched. So far we’ve seen only Stephanie Brown in a story set before the new 52. But who knows, maybe they’ll be unbenched soon.
At least we have Tiny Titans:
I think that’s a good note to end on.
So what are your worst of 2011? And since I’m still working on the bests, name some of yours as well.

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  13. melredux reblogged this from dcwomenkickingass and added:
    Depressing :(
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  16. luanna255 reblogged this from dcwomenkickingass and added:
    biggest mistakes...this year. Beyond disappointing.
  17. chickgonebad reblogged this from dcwomenkickingass
  18. gothicjew reblogged this from dcwomenkickingass and added:
    While I agree with most of this list, I have to call attention to the Wonder Woman show. Yes a WW show would have been...
  19. lumberjacklife reblogged this from dcwomenkickingass and added:
    everything in here is why I have been ranting all year.
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