So, DC Comics has a Variant Cover Theme happening now, the “Bombshell” variants. The theme is nineteen-fifties style bombshell posters featuring its major female characters, from Arisia to Zatanna and Mera and Lois Lane in between. It’s an interesting retro feel that is generally pretty whimsical and fun. So…now it is time for the “other shoe” to drop.
The New 52 book “Red Hood and the Outlaws” also has a bombshell variant, featuring Starfire, one of the triumverate of characters that the book revolves around. Starfire was a character created for the New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. George had this to say about her visual design:
“…I figured based on the description, was Red Sonja in outer space, so she ended up having a visual cue from that. When Joe Orlando passed by and saw the character sketches he suggested that maybe her hair should be longer. That I took to the ninth degree and gave her the Mighty Mouse contrail.”
At this point, Starfire was written as sort of the “pretty girl from way out of town.” She was kind, and friendly, and somewhat clueless, since she knew nothing about Earth. Often a charming and comedic character.
Before the “New 52” the character’s look hadn’t changed all that much. She still had the same outfit pretty much, stylized to be more modern. Her hair was less 80’s in its appearance. Overall…pretty much the same.
The new 52 showed a major redesign of both the character’s attitude, personality, and appearance. To summarize that, the new 52 Starfire is meaner, colder…somewhat more aware of her appearance as beautiful…and less willing by far to have a monogamous relationship such as the charming romance with Robin in the 80’s. Reviewers said:
Jesse Schedeen of IGN.com notes that Kenneth Rocafort’s pencilling affords Scott Lobdell the opportunity to emphasize Starfire’s sex appeal: “She alone seems to have been completely rebooted for the relaunch. Lobdell’s decision to write her as being more cold and hostile is fine, but he does over-emphasize her sexuality a bit. Yes, Starfire is meant to be a sexually liberated character, but in a more positive way than shown here.”
Or Mathew Peterson of MajorSpoilers.com, stating “juvenile treatment of sexual matters here renders one of the main characters into nothing more than a punchline, and in a book with only three characters, that’s unforgivable,” referring specifically to its sexualized portrayal of Starfire as a “‘perfect-10 imaginary girlfriend'”. Andrew Hunsaker of Craveonline.com notes that story writer Lobdell’s take on Tamaraneans (Starfire’s race) “reduces Princess Koriand’r… into essentially a highly advanced Real Doll… with a lack of memory of anything related to humanity.” Hunsaker further says that it “seems as if Lobdell has taken great pains to strip all the emotional motivation behind Kori’s gregarious outlook and reduce her to nothing more than a sex vessel. It’s pretty insulting not only to women, but to male intelligence to boot.” Satisfyingly, Hunsaker concludes that it “makes you want to punch the entire comic book industry.”
So…yes, it’s clear that the re-design went considerably beyond a Red Sonja in Space concept. And from the comments quoted above, rewriting her personality from that of a gregarious, friendly, somewhat clueless person into a cold, sexually liberated amazon…didn’t fly so well. What does any of this have to do with the Bombshell variants that I started off talking about?
Thought I forgot about that, didn’t you? Nope. Not at all.
Red Hood and the Outlaws had a regular cover, and a Bombshell variant this month. Lets look at them, shall we?
Wait…what? The bombshell variant is classier by far, to begin with. Given the content of the main cover, and its similarity to Lowrider covers, one wonders why there WAS a bombshell variant. However, when I look at the text on the bombshell cover, I get puzzled once more.
You see…that circus is the one that Robin/Nightwing performed in. We could have gone with a fun retro cover based on old school sci fi pulp novels, focusing on Kori herself…but instead, the cover text is all about her boyfriend. Her ex-boyfriend in fact, since the current plotline has her sleeping around a lot. A whole lot.
That is further hard to square away against the idea that Starfire was presented on television in the Teen Titans animated series of 2003, and now on television in Teen Titans Go! as her more friendly endearing self. More than that, Starfire is a character that is being marketed to young people in that format, where she is depicted like this:
I think Andy is right. It makes you want to punch the comics industry in the face, a little bit. Maybe a lot. I would have forgotten about Starfire being so radically revised from a character of interest, a cosmic “good girl”, to her current state…but the Bombshell Variant just brought it into such sharp focus it was pretty hard to ignore.
Hence the art. Our hero and Pre-New 52 Starfire, whooping the bejesus out of a small platoon of Skrulls. Some solid Alien on Alien violence, good guys against bad guys…complete with Koriand’r’s main alien swear word, and a sarcastic comment about her status as a space princess. Yeah…she’s a princess, too, when you look at her “old school.”
One can hope that DC editorial will hit the reset button on this reboot. Hope really, really hard.