Catwoman, Starfire, and the DCNU reboot

Graphic novels on a wall

Updated on December 10, 2021

Starfire in the New 52
From “Red Hood and the Outlaws” #1 (November 2011). Art by Kenneth Rocafort. (DC Comics)

I’ve just read the new rebooted “Catwoman” #1 and “Red Hood and the Outlaws” #1. I thought reading both was merited after seeing the backlash online about their treatment of women, particularly in Laura Hudson’s scathing column. Don’t think either merits a regular-style comic review on my part, as I found neither of them entertaining—and, like others online, loaded with problems that suggests (per my earlier concerns about the same staff involved with this reboot) DC hasn’t learned or changed its ways much…

In “Catwoman,” we see Selina infiltrate some seedy nightclub and deal with her home being blown to smithereens by some guys in skull-masks (?) for some past transgression. She gets a tip from a friend/contact of hers (in the one pleasant scene in the book) about a temporarily empty penthouse apartment she could hole up in for awhile. Toward the end of the comic (and tying into the story’s title, “…and most of the costumes stay on…”), we see Batman enter to check up on Catwoman, and Catwoman decide to, erm, get “intimate” with Bats (despite that he wasn’t in the mood for sex). Cue a closing splash page that’s, well, definitely “ick.”

Possibly even worse than “Catwoman” is “Red Hood and the Outlaws,” some comic about Roy Harper (the former Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick now all grown up), Jason Todd (the former Robin of the 80s, now apparently going by the name “Red Hood”—the Joker’s original anonymous gangster identity in his older origin stories), and Starfire (of Teen Titans fame) involved in some war zone for ill-defined reasons. The level of violence aside (lots of dead or maimed Middle Easterners with arrows pierced through various body parts), I can’t imagine a new reader finding this story friendly from a continuity standpoint. There’s no explanation who Jason Todd/the Red Hood is, or even who Roy is, or why any of this is happening or important. (Of course, that’s what caption boxes are supposed to be for, not as a replacement for thought balloons, as seen here… but that’s another DC/Marvel gripe altogether.)

That said, the biggest problem with this issue is Starfire herself. Starfire here isn’t the emotions-on-her-sleeve, perky fun self from the older comics—or, particularly, the “Teen Titans” TV cartoon that’s been her main exposure as far as the general public (and potential new readers) are concerned. Instead, here she’s some very large-chested, barely-dressed (even compared to her old 80s costume) woman who apparently A) doesn’t care at all about anyone, including her own teammates or sex partners, and B) apparently believes in lots of casual sex for its own sake. Definitely not the Starfire most comic readers or I know… and definitely not the one potential new readers (who grew up with the “Teen Titans” cartoon) would know (or want to read about). Did I mention this comic’s deemed “Rated T” (“suitable for ages 12 and up”) by DC?

Others online have probably been more eloquent/thorough about all this than I could, so I guess I’ll just have to ask (again) why DC (or the particular writers/editors of these issues, anyway) would greenlight publishing a comic like this as part of the face of their much-hyped reboot? It’s as if they’re unaware of how they’re portraying their female characters (along with the usual violence levels). Or seem to not care that they’re living up to the stereotypes/ridicule of comic fans as emotionally-tone-deaf males who live under a rock/are out of touch with the real world (and don’t have any contact with women). Don’t they care about the image they’re projecting? Or that they get made fun of/heavily criticized for such stuff like this?! Or that neither of these comics (despite the “T” rating for “Red Hood”) are something I could read on the bus to work without the (male or female) people sitting next to me thinking I’m some sort of weirdo? Or that this won’t appeal to the general public used to seeing Catwoman on “Batman: The Animated Series” or Starfire on “Teen Titans,” i.e. the “new readers” DC’s supposedly gunning for?!

OK, rant over (for now)…

I suppose DC really hasn’t changed much despite the “new coat of paint” of a reboot, at least as long as the same writers and editors are around. They might not even care about getting a truly wider range of new readers on board, despite some of the positive aspects coming from the reboot, such as some diversity in genres/books with minority characters headlining (despite this “Red Hood” issue, its writer Scott Lobdell is at least is adding a gay Latino character to “Teen Titans”). If true, it makes me wonder, given superhero comics’ sales problems, what their future will look like in the long term.

There’s others online who’re commenting on this more thoroughly, and here’s a few examples:

Photo by emiliefarrisphotos (Pixabay)

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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