Comic Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

So this comic is really bad. Spoilers after the jump and a trigger warning for rape.

So Starfire’s portrayal has stirred up some controversy online since the release of Red Hood and the Outlaws. Mostly, I see men trying to justify why Starfire is the way she is, and completely missing the point as to why her characterization is so wrong. I didn’t even pick up the issue for Starfire; I picked it up for Jason Todd, just because I’ve always found his character interesting. The only thing I know about DC comics has either been straight from Batman or the movies. I’m mostly a Marvel girl, so the DC reboot struck me as a good way to introduce myself to the universe. After all, it was designed to bring in new readers.

That said, Red Hood and the Outlaws completely confused me. I thought it started out pretty good, and then it all went downhill faster than I thought possible after Starfire showed up and I assume blew up a bunch of tanks. I suppose the creators just wanted to leave that action part out and just skip ahead to oversized breasts, which seem to grow and shrink from panel to panel.

With a title like Red Hood and the Outlaws and featured characters like a crazed vigilante, a drug addict, and a former (sex?) slave, I kinda expected the issue to be darker. It has characters that don’t come from the best place, who should have some issues they need to work out.

I remember thinking that Jason’s introduction was good, and Roy’s was decent, to say the least, but then Starfire killed it for me. She has never been a favorite character of mine, though I never thought little of her. I’d see her during the occasional times I’d watch Teen Titians, and I always thought she was a fun-loving character who was both inspiring and a good role model. To a small extent, I did look forward to seeing her in Red Hood. But now, anything good I have to say about the issue has been drowned out by her characterization. When I think of Red Hood and the Outlaws, I think of a vapid sex object who adds nothing with her existence other than wish-fulfillment for horny men looking to buy porn. This honestly felt like the creators didn’t want me reading their comic. It was like every bad thing ever said or done to me for being a woman was slammed into my face. I normally don’t let fictional works offend me like this, but this, on top of Catwoman #1, was just too much. This portrayal is just going to drive away readers at a time when the industry needs them the most.

I looked to see what other people thought of Starfire’s portrayal. And I found a lot of people trying to say that maybe Starfire is the way she is because she used to be a sex slave and some rape victims use sex to regain control over their lives again. You know, maybe I could go with that, had Starfire acted like a rape victim, which also would have been completely out of place, given the rest of the upbeat atmosphere the comic features.

Of course, any reason to think the creators wanted to show Starfire as a victim died with this next quote, which I originally found here.

Yes, there were a lot of people there, it had become quite the conversation piece. There was a lot of discussion about Kory and her sexuality the day before this issue went to press.

There were a handful of staff, mostly other women, who believed the writer was trying to equate being a strong woman with being, frankly, a slut. No one said that the writer was misogynistic, just that perhaps he was writing from a male perspective. It was firmly suggested to him that he could accentuate the character’s past as a sex slave. And that this might be an explanation for her sexuality, that she was acting out in her new life.

However, we were told he was adamant that Kory not be portrayed as a victim. The argument was made that if she was acting out sexually because of her past it [sic] mind that she mentally never left the prison planet.

In the end a compromise was struck and the sentence “I am a woman” [originally placed at the top of the third panel above] was lost.

Oh, and here is the picture they were referring to in that last line:

Starfire’s past has nothing to do with her characterization. She’s just there. She doesn’t add anything to the story. All she does is make it worse.

14 thoughts on “Comic Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

  1. Wow all of you are really hitting this topic big time!
    I’m not surprised that they made her look sexy and sl#tty has possible, but the big problem that I’m hearing from everyone is that she is doing nothing.

  2. It’s the comic industry, they are hitting their target audience. Adolesent teenage males. i don’t blame them

  3. Some thoughts on the subject, not carefully sequenced to make a single point:

    – As far as I know, this version is closer to the original comics version than it’s the cartoon version. Much of the disappointment seems to be coming from people who had only watched the cartoon before. Cartoons often (perhaps more American cartoons than Japanese) tone down the things for a younger audience quite a bit, and they have also a higher concern on how it may influence kids and providing potential role models and such.

    – Sometimes, often times, a character is just a character, it’s not supposed to be a role-model or to satisfy the most noble ideals of a vast amount of people with his/her personality. Wolverine, for example, is no role model for kids or anyone really, nor it’s there to make deeper philosophical points or a societal critic or whatever. He only does what he does best.

    – “Feminism” is a very heterogeneous label. There is a substantial number of people who label themselves as such (perhaps with the eventual prefix of “sex-positive”) that would praise female characters on being sexually liberated, on being able to act like a man would do, not worrying about being shamed as a s**t and such. Characters that behave like are just exercising the right of having men as sexual objects (if they’re heterosexual; often these people share the concerns of GLBT groups on how everything is often “heteronormative”).

    – That does not change the fact that the character was from the very start just “fan service” targeted to the horny male teenager audience. I don’t know if it’s always a bad thing, but indeed if that’s the only perspective creators have when making female characters (I’m am not saying it is), these characters would tend to be very poor characters. Ironically I think that the idea of an alien world where the “alien-women” are just as sexually liberated as terrestrian men are is one of the best things one could think to add something more intellectually interesting to the character.

    – Anyway, comics, books and movies have much to improve regarding the quality of the characters, perhaps specially female characters.

    • Hey, thanks for commenting on my post.

      Well, to address the comments you made, I am well aware that this is closer to the original comics than to the cartoons, and that not every character needs to be a role model. But even compared to the original comics, this Starfire is profoundly different. Starfire was someone who was very emotional and had deep connections with people. Her relationship with Dick Grayson is a good example of that. But the new Starfire is nothing like that. She doesn’t even know who Dick is and cannot recognize who different people are because we all look the same to her.

      I have no problem with the new Starfire liking sex, or being sexually liberated. I do, however, have a problem with that being her only character trait. You say that sometimes a “character is just a character,” but they can’t be characters if they have no relate-able qualities. There are women who like to have sex a lot, but even they couldn’t relate to this new Starfire because it’s her only trait. In this case, she stops being a character and becomes something for horny heterosexual men.

      The reboot was written to bring new audience members in, and none of the comics can do that if they keep targeting the “horny male teenager audience” to the point of excluding other potential readers. They already have the male teenager audience, but if what they do is only pander to them, no one else will want to read the comics. Starfire’s portrayal is a bad thing, because it’s teaching those male teenagers that this is what a strong female is, someone who sleeps around a lot. It would be neat if “alien-women” were as sexually liberated as “terrestrian [sic] men,” I agree, but this isn’t a sexually liberated woman, alien or otherwise. It’s a sex object.

    • Sorry but you know wrong.
      The original Koryander is from a 70’s view of a free love culture.
      In the original “New Teen Titans” series she does exactly the same thing, and when someone (I believe was kid flash, not sure) say’s that she was whit Robin she doesn’t understand the issue since in her native planet sex is something like watching movie, play games and stuff you do with people you like.
      She is not a Slut or use sex from affirmation, she just from a hippie planet.
      And in 1980 the character was a perfect example of how our culture sexually repress the women’s.
      The character was not made for fan service at all. This even existed at the time.

      • Not understanding our culture and completely forgetting the people she likes are two entirely separate things. The Starfire from the reboot has no traits outside liking sex, or at least she doesn’t judging by the first issue, and it was that portrayal that made me want to not continue reading it. I have no issue with a character that likes sex and sleeps around. Slut shaming has no place here. But characters should still be like real people, and real people have more to them than how much they like sex.

  4. “When a guy expresses that he finds me physically attractive it means it’s the only thing he thinks of me”. (paraphrased)

    Do you seriously think so little of men that you can’t believe one capable of simultaneously finding you physically attractive AND admiring and respecting you as a person? If a random stranger admired you then yeah, they don’t know you – they’re just looking at your physical beauty. But this is your BOYFRIEND – presumably you intimately knew and loved each other. And the moment he admires your body you see him as some sort of mental defective who’s forgotten who you are beyond your body?

    I’m really not sure it’s the guy being sexist in this scenario. :/ This stereotype that a guy who finds a woman sexy becomes sort of mindless moron who can only think with his penis is offensive. Not to mention outright wrong.

    Great article apart from that.

    • Hello, and thank you for your comment.

      Okay, I don’t think my boyfriend only views me as a sex object when he looks me up and down. He’s looked at my body plenty of times. But as I said in the post, when the first thing he does when coming over and greeting me is looking at my body and not smiling, or hugging, or kissing, or even asking me how I am, I do take some offense at that, and it does leave me thinking he’s only there for my body. I can’t stop strangers from checking me out, but I can expect some emotional intimacy from my boyfriend when I haven’t seen him in a while.

      And no, I don’t think he’s mentally deficient for finding me attractive. I just think that’s something I have trouble relating too, but by no means do I think men are horny misogynistic bastards for the sole purpose of being attracted to someone. But like I said, from my boyfriend, I expect some emotional intimacy before launching into sexual acts. Maybe that’s just me, as I can’t speak for women as a whole on this issue.

      Anyway, I’m glad you liked my post with the exception of that one part, and I’m sorry if I came across as not liking men.

  5. Pingback: Red Hood and the Outlaws’s Starfire | Lady Geek Girl and Friends

  6. … I really fail to see what is wrong with her personality. She’s different form what she used to be yes, ok, get it.
    But I see way more in her than a slut who likes sex; she presents herself like that to Roy because he bores her, she doesn’t see any other use of him than sex. But that doesn’t mean she’s just about sex. When i first saw her, I thought “wow, that girl is acting way too tought to be ok” and turned i was right. She doesn’t really put up a fake act of confidence, but she makes herself distant, maybe to avoid getting hurt ? She’s like a statue to Roy and Jason, she sees them as too weak to rely on, so she only sex them up. It’s bad, but just like Jason daddy issues are. And I see no one complaining about that.

    Also… An alien in a bikini is against feminism ? Boobs are against feminism ? What ? There is more to Kori than that.

  7. Where is the rape you mentioned? I’m not sure I can take you seriously, throwing around terms like that. Absolutely disgusting

    • I talk about Starfire being a former sex-slave, which means she was raped, and I talk about rape victims in general. Even though I have a trigger warning for rape on this post, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I said there’s an explicit rape scene in the comic itself.

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