Sunday, September 10, 2006

Choose Your Poison

It's seems that the recent Batman stories featuring Poison Ivy always include something, either in the art or the story-line, that makes me cringe. Sometimes it's just one, minor thing.

However, in Detective Comics #823, the artist provides several viable cringe-inducing candidates, and I gave up trying to figure out which was the more egregious offender, the title splash page (reproduced above), or this page:

I don't ask much of my comics. Like everyone else, I read them to be entertained. I'm not expecting to encounter transcendent works of illustrated literature that will withstand the test of time.

However, I do like for them to pass the trolley test: if I'm reading a comic on the trolley and run into someone I know, I don't want the pages I've got open and visible to cause me public embarrassment.

This issue of Detective Comics failed, miserably.

*puts on fanboy hat*
What's the problem? She's in an extreme situation, these things COULD happen.
*gratefully removes fanboy hat*

I can't wait to see what happens in a decade when there are more women creating comics.
Well, I think the majorite of the blame here must lie on the editor. I mean, Benitez previous works have been at Image Comics, of which he is largely know for his run on the series The Darkness.

Why the editor thought he'd be the artist for a story by Paul Dini is beyond me. Sure, Poison Ivy needs to be sexy, but you certainly don't need to be so blatant in the execution. And "subtlty is not a word I'd use to describe Benitez's art style.
I thought it when I saw the preview pages, and thought it several more times when I skimmed the book (because the last two were good): tentacle rape tentacle rape tentacle rape. Man, that wasn't even subtle. I didn't think I was reading the Overfiend but I guess I was. Oh, you know us helpless women, we just can't control our sexuality. It's so powerful we need to be restrained. And tentacle raped because we deserve it. Um, yeah, guessing I wasn't the target audience.
Thanks for your comments, Nida, James, and KKG!

Nida: Here's hoping we won't need to wait an entire decade.

James: Yeah, somebody was asleep at the editorial switch, here. (Or conversely, perhaps the editor saw nothing requiring switch-pulling in the pages he reviewed.)

KKG: I totally agree. And I guess it wasn't just the imagery that offended me. The information Batman gathers in the last third of the comic is supposed to convince the reader that PI actually deserves the (sexualized) violence visited upon her in the opening pages.

The writer intends for the narrative to work as an exercise in mis-placed sympathy: Ivy has been such a very, very, very bad girl that the beating and the tentacle rape are supposed to be "just rewards" for her own actions. Knowing what we do at the end of the book, the reader is supposed to regret that she sympathised with PI in the opening pages. ... So, in the end, the problematic images were not the only troubling element in Detective Comics #823.
Oh, thank god. I thought I was the only one to see this, and I posted on my LJ, and then (mistake) I posted on the DC boards, and everyone's like, 'Poison Ivy's SUPPOSED to be sexy.'

And finally - she's AFRAID to use her power at the end. She's SCARED of plants. This is like the ultimate de-power her fantasy.
*winces* I think I know who you are. I couldn't believe the idiocy in those replies: It's okay to hyper-sexualize the violence because she's sexy and deserves it and besides, it's a fine tradition in comic books! How dare that woman not be scared of - her sexuality - I mean, her plants. Batman will set her straight with tough love, yay!
Anon and KKG: Each of my visits to the DC Boards have proven traumatic in one way or another.
Speaking of which, I've been busy traumatizing the Catwoman forum over there. You know, with large tracts of rambly text.
For once, a DC Boards visit in which I was not traumatized!
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