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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.

Date: 2006-10-18 09:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Y'know [ profile] jennyo has recently written some good Babs/Dinah fic if you're interested.

There's an interesting debate to be had about morality. I mean there is an argument to be made that killing bad guys is the more heroic act because by not killing them you're essentially allowing the people they are yet to kill to die because you don't want to sully your own hands. But then I'm not sure I'd want to trust a superheroes judgement on that kind of thing. Would you really want Cyclops deciding if you live or die?

Date: 2006-10-19 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I agree with you on a lot of things about comic book heroism... It just seems like sometimes comics just didn't want to 'grow up'. I agree that Morrison did a lot for X-men by introducing the moral ambiguity there. Its for those very reasons that a lot of comics really don't appeal to me at all.

A lot of this heroic morality is rearing its ugly head in the worst way possible in Marvel's 616 universe, with all the Civil War drama going down. It's making me sick of comics in a lot of ways, with so many heroes riding their high horse and not willing to look for the root of the problem and solving that because they are too busy 'making their stand' with the supposed 'right' side.

Emma was great in that regard as she specifically manouvred the X-men to remain as neutral as they could for as long as possible (until the shit hit the fan with Lazer).

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.

Date: 2006-10-19 07:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Huntress has a badass scene in BoP #99 which came out today :-)

Babs became Oracle kind of behind the scenes- her first appearances as Oracle were in the series "Suicide Squad" as a mysterious presence on the computer screen. I think there is a later "Oracle: Year One" issue- I believe it's Batman Chronicles #5 (or possibly #15, not sure- haven't tracked it down myself). "The Killing Joke" is obviously key, and there are a couple of one-shots set right before it that explore her mindset during her last days as Batgirl ("Batgirl Special", "Batman: Batgirl" and "Batman: Batgirl (Girlfrenzy)". The Girlfrenzy issue was published more recently than the others.

Batgirl: Year One is excellent (it's Chuck Dixon, and he writes the bat-characters wonderfully). Babs also appears as Batgirl in in the recent Nightwing: Year One (also by Dixon).

Other than that I think you start getting into pre-Crisis comics and there aren't trade paperbacks. Mostly, she had back-up stories in Detective Comics and also features in Batman Family.

One of my favorite things about the DCU is that the bats tend to be among the leaders of their peer groups (Batman in the JLA, Nightwing with the Titans/Outsiders, Robin with Young Justice/Teen Titans) because they really are just that badass. It doesn't matter that they don't have superpowers. The Batgirls haven't been as involved in mainstream teams, though- not sure why not. However, Oracle's respected by pretty much everyone.

Date: 2006-10-19 09:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You killed me dead with this wonderful post.

I've got to run to a school function where I get to say thanks to the people who gave me scholarships, so I can't write the long reply I'd like to.

But I'll do this:

"but I love Emma’s random suggestions to kill people once in a while."


And I love Grant Morrison, too.

Date: 2006-10-21 07:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I never ever liked "The Killing Joke." I just wanna get that out there right now. Why? Firstly because of the scene you mentioned with Gordon wanting to prove that "the law still works," and secondly because of the final scene where Batman feels comfortable sharing a good little laugh with Joker after he's VIOLATED AND MAIMED BATGIRL. WTF?!

Sorry, but heroes should be allowed to get ANGRY, to get a little VIOLENT. These comic characters need to show human freaking emotion! That having been said, I LIKE that heroes like Batman aren't willing to kill - that they have this strict, higher moral code than most of us readers might. That is, after all, what makes them heroes. Is it a failure of Batman that he doesn't kill people like the Joker for always breaking out of Arkham and killing more people? Perhaps. Interesting point of debate, that. But I kinda like that he doesn't. He's done this long enough to build a strict moral code around it.

In particular, with a character like Batman, it makes sense because he's... well, as seen in the later years of B:TAS, Batman's kind of a stiff. He's a stickler for his own personal rules, sometimes at the expense of those around him. I buy that.

Date: 2006-11-14 07:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hey, throwing you a shout out since your LJ User info doesn't have an e-mail. I did a tag search on Madelyne Pryor in (lj user=scans_daily> and I found your excellent posts and huge album - I too am a big pirate aboard the Madelyne/Nate ship!

In regards to X-Men and kids - I think that all X-Men dealings with kids will always be to a degree dysfunctional, since to portray X-Men as having functional family lives would pull away from the angst quotient of the books. This is why Scott Summers threw away a stable, happy marraige to Madelyne and a life raising his son - the writers obviously decided that a married Madelyne and Nathan Summers would be a millstone around the neck of the leader of a superteam in an action book. This is also why I applaud what's currently happening in Action Comics, with the Kryptonian kid that Supes liberates from the authorities. When they try to spirit the kid away, Supes looked like he was ready to kill. I suspect that this may be set up for the next Superman movie, but Clark having a son he can raise would be an interesting new direction for the Man of Steel.

Now, if they would just bring back Nate and Madelyne, or just Maddie, all would be well with the world.

And, please, don't mention the cackle-Madelyne who appeared in The End. I try not to acknowledge how that series handled her.



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