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So I have been reading the Birds of Prey comics for the last week or so, and I've been really enjoying them, more than I was expecting to. I'm kind of surprised by the fact that so many of these DC heroes are, well, without powers. I kind of assumed that the super part of a superhero required one to have powers. (Or X-tra power, as Professor Xavier would say). I don't think I'm even aware of a Marvel hero without superpowers.

Also surprised that the level of heroic morality seems to be archaic to me. It makes me think of the very early X-men comics I read that made me want to pull out my hair. There was a scene where the Hellfire club tried to kill all of the X-men, and the X-men took them all out with the exception of Emma Frost. Storm had to be stopped from killing Emma, and Emma told them all that she was going to come kill them all at a future date as soon as she was done building the club again. And then they all just stood there and let her walk out, and I could not figure out why in the hell would they let her go. Because they're heroes, that's why!!! And then there was the scene where Wolverine actually stabbed Rachel to keep her from sullying the name of heroes everywhere by killing the very evil Selene.

Angel once said something to Connor that I kind of see as the code of Heroic Morality. He said: "It doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be." And, I think, that that's the same morality the heroes of DC comics (and Marvel comics to a lesser degree) are working from. And it's admirable, really. But, you know what? It should matter whether they make a difference or not. Heroism shouldn't be about being all holier-than-thou and proving to the world that you're better than them. It should be, first and foremost, about making a difference. Because these heroes live as if the world were an ideal place, they neglect the real problems. There's a level of delusion that goes into their morality that allows them to let the Hellfire Club (or Cassandra Nova) walk away.

I think that the X-men comics, at least, have gotten away from this a little. Which I really enjoy. I think that Grant Morrison is largely responsible for bringing this bit of realism to the X-men comics and getting the heroes away from their delusions of a perfect world. Kitty might hate it, but I love Emma’s random suggestions to kill people once in a while. Not that I think that they should kill everyone evil, but as Emma said about Cassandra Nova: "There are some things you just shouldn’t be allowed to get away with." And, yeah.

I know that a lot of people dislike Emma (and Huntress, who is not nearly as hardcore as Emma Frost, in the DC comics from what I’ve read) because of this gray morality. But I think that people like Emma are what allow people like Batman and Scott Summers to be heroic and hold on to their sense of morality. It’s because people like Emma are willing to do the dirty work for the heroic community that they can pretend to be high and mighty with their refusal to kill evil, evil villains who continue to kill. And, of course, in return these people get shunned by the heroic community. This attitude is also carried over to the fandom where most people just don’t understand how anyone can like Emma when she’s such an evil, evil bitch.

While skimming through Alan Moore’s "The Killing Joke," I was baffled by Jim Gordon demanding that Batman bring Joker back to him unharmed to put in jail so they could show him that the LAW still works. This psycho just shot his daughter, and he is worried about showing him up. Yeah, that kind of morality is just beyond me. In the real world, I can admire this. In fiction, for me, it often makes for boring, stoic heroes that I just don’t understand.


Birds of Prey review: issues 56-75.

As I suspected I would, I like Huntress the best. I just can't resist mentally/emotionally unstable dark characters. And in comics, I enjoy characters with a sense of moral ambiguity. What did surprise me is that I'm really enjoying the other characters, too. I have a tendency to pick a character to like and then ignore everyone else.

I especially like Barbara Gordon and would definitely be interested in more of her back story. So if anyone has any recs, do share. She reminds me a bit of Jessica Jones almost, but with a very different personality.

Black Canary is also fun. I'm not really interested in her back story or in her alone as a character, but I really enjoy seeing her interact with the other two. She is a lighter personality than Helena or Barbara.

The plots are mostly fun, if a bit slow at times. I definitely like them better when we're not dealing with the random evil of the week and actually get a backstory on the evil guy. I'm *really* enjoying the "Hunt for Heroes" arc.

And more than anything else, I enjoy seeing the women interact with each other. Canon literature (and as a result much of comics and TV) is so very devoid of positive relationships between women that I have come to really appreciate what little we can get. But this series is filled with it, which I really enjoy.

Part 1 (sorry... ^_^;;;)

Date: 2006-10-19 01:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Gail Simone has replaced Devin Grayson as, like, the only woman writing in mainstream comics, and Devin Grayson replaced Louise Simonson (one of my favorite writers when I was a kid... the POWER PACK was BOMB)... there's never really more than one woman writing mainstream superhero comics at a time... and very few female artists as well, which saddens me (Amanda Conner is one of my favorite artists, and I had the pleasure of meeting Colleen Doran before she left mainstream comics behind completely to concentrate on A DISTANT SOIL). I really enjoy Gail Simone's stuff.

BIRD'S OF PREY is a book I like, but it's sort of hit or miss with me... I find that a lot of the storyarcs start off strong, and then end weak. I did enjoy the Lady Shiva/Chesire arc though... it just seemed like everyones motivations were in character, and it balanced all of the multiple plotlines and tied them together nicely.

I don't really have many Barbara Gordon Batgirl recommendations... THE KILLING JOKE is probably the best story involving Batgirl, but BATGIRL YEAR 1, which was recently collected in a TPB, is supposed to be a good update of her origin and first year on the job. I'm not really sure how she became Oracle...if that was actually in BATMAN, or if it's something Grant Morrison came up with in JLA, but she's mostly just in BIRD'S OF PREY.

Marvel doesn't have many non-superpowered characters... and any character that doesn't have superpowers, usually makes up for it by being ridiculously intelligent and well armed with sci-fi technology (RE: Iron Man). The Punisher is the only fully human vigilante type guy I can think of that just shots people, and doesn't have some kind of billion dollar exo-skeleton or ion painter hooked up to a fission powered particle cannon floating in space. Captain America technically doesn't have any powers... the Super Soildier serum just keeps him in peak human condition (ironically, it was the American's that created the perfect vision of Aryan man in WWII Marvel), and all his fighting ability is just through intense training, but his shield counts as a super weapon, and he wears the fucking flag, so I count him as more of a super powered guy.

DC has a lot of people that just got so psychologically screwed up and obsessive that they trained themselves to be able to mess people up as a hobby. A lot of the villians are all to human as well... such as Ra's Al Ghul (his immortality is through external means, and he possesses no extra human abilities), the entire League of Assassins, Lex Luthor, etc. This mostly cames about because of Batman... I guess they just thought it'd be to much of a handicap to have him fight guys with powers, so his villians were all mostly just normal dudes with gimmicks, and from that grew a host of just normal dudes wearing goofy costumes, learning some martial arts, and coming up with some kind of obsessive gimmick to follow. And from that also spawned a stable of other similar heroes modeled after Batman.

I think what Moore was trying to do with Gordon in THE KILLING JOKE was to show that the Joker hadn't won... it all comes back to the idea of "If I kill him... he's won." The Joker's whole twisted plot was to mess Gordon up so badly he'd become just as bad as him... it was to prove his point... that all it takes is one bad day to create a monster. If Gordon foresakes everything he's put his life into, the Joker wins, because Gordon has become him... even if no one will blame him, even if he'll be forgiven in the eyes of others and by the law, Gordon would have lost everything that makes him better than the Joker. Sure, he saves the world from a maniac, but if he kills him out of rage, with vengence as his only goal, without a hint of remorse... then he IS the Joker.

On the subject of Superhero Morality... I could go on quite a bit, really... it's a theme that fasinates me. Superheroes represent an ideal... they're the fictional representations of what we wish we could be, so they aren't subject to real world morality... the writer determines what their ethical beliefs are based on what their own beliefs are.

Re: Part 2 (so sorry... ^_^;;;)

Date: 2006-10-19 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If you and find it, I recommend ACTION COMICS #775, a story called WHAT'S SO FUNNY ABOUT TRUTH AND JUSTICE by Joe Casey. It's one of my favorite Superman stories of all time, because it deals with Superman facing a group of "modern" heroes that just slaughter criminals, but have massive public support... which causes Superman to question if his old fashioned morality still works in a modern world. Visually, it's spectacular, and it deals with the concept of superhero morality and what it represents. The same theme is repeated in the CRISIS storyarc, in which Wonder Woman snaps Maxwell Lords neck as the only solution to keep him from controling Superman again in the future... this creates a rift between the big three, Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman, because Wonder Woman isn't a superhero... she's an Amazon Warrior, and this is how she deals with problems, so she doesn't see what the big deal is.

Re: Part 1 (sorry... ^_^;;;)

Date: 2006-10-21 08:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm not always impressed with the Birds of Prey plots either, but I'm really enjoying the characters. I think I enjoy the more internal plots that deal with the characters better than the ones dealing with the Big Bad of the week.

And thanks for the heads up on the Batgirl: Year One TPB. I was going to attempt to locate single issues. This will be much easier.

And I had no idea that Iron Man was human. Or Captain America. But I suppose that they do have access to ridiculously hardcore technology. I mostly stick to X-men comics with Marvel, and there aren't many humans there. And the X-men get all weirded out by humans wanting to help out. For a group that promotes human/mutant intermingling, they sure aren't willing to put up with humans for too long. I always find that amusing.

And the scene in "The Killing Joke" makes more sense given that context.

On the subject of Superhero Morality... I could go on quite a bit

I'm looking forward to reading the post you said you were going to write on that. I think I agree with you in a way, except where I'm a huge fan of deconstructing ideals and taking things apart in fiction. I love my ideals, my myths, and legends. But I also love challenging those ideals and deconstructing the myths.


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