Sunday, August 19, 2007

Not getting the Joke

So, I was skimming various blogs today, and came across a post (I forget where at this point, but I'll link to it if I find it again) which decried "Batman: The Killing Joke" for being misogynistic.

Now, I can certainly see the elements in the story which would cause someone to make such an argument. What I'm having a problem with, though, is sorting out what element in particular justifies the claim, and the reasoning behind it. Because I'm running through the various scenes in my head (it's been awhile since I read it, so I could be forgetting something), and nothing quite seems to hold up for me. I don't mean to sound crass or anything, I'm just honestly trying to figure out where this argument is coming from.

I guess, what I'm really trying to understand, is "when is fictional violence toward women misogynistic?" Is it when the violence leaves the victim obviously maimed, as with Barbara's paralysis? Is it when the violence is coupled with sexual humiliation? Is it when an otherwise strong character is turned into a damsel in distress? Is it when the violence is committed solely in service of some other plot?

The first instance is a strong case, probably the strongest of the four I've listed. But Barbara's paralysis did not need to be a continuing character trait. It was only because later writers chose to run with it, rather than subject her to any number of comic book "outs" from such a condition, that it became a permanent fixture. I can think of half a dozen ways right off the top of my head that could easily have been used to undo what the Joker did, from a skintight exoskeleton to experimental surgery to a character with healing powers or magic. It seems difficult to condemn someone for giving a lasting change to a character, when the very next writer could easily reverse that change (and given the state of comics, is quite likely to do so).

The second is strong, but bothers me on a number of levels. The first is the obvious one, that sexual humiliation is often a real-life component of violence toward women. That real-life violence and humiliation may certainly be classified as misogynistic, but when one tells a story about such violence, and said story makes it clear that this is a bad thing, can we reasonably call the story or the writer misogynistic? It's one thing if it's the hero going around being a sexual sadist and treating women as garbage (yes, Frank Miller, I'm talking obliquely toward you), it's quite another when it's the villain.
My other problem with that line of reasoning is that it seems to ignore Commissioner Gordon's similar ordeal in the same story. The Joker took naked photos of the injured Barbara Gordon, and may have done other things to her, clearly in order to humiliate her. But then he also drugged and stripped Jim Gordon and put him in a dog collar to be beaten and led around by insane bondage midgets. Is that misandry? Doesn't that suggest a more equal opportunity sort of offense?

The third line is similar to the second. I'm not sure about Barbara's character in the early '80s, but I'm hoping there was something of a distinction between it and the dainty damsel of the recent Showcase volume. Assuming that by the time she took the bullet, Barbara was a take-charge butt-kicker rather than the "typical Silver Age female," the violence certainly left her in a less-than-powerful state, atypical of the strong independent character we've come to know. But, again, the Commissioner was put in a similar situation: a strong character humiliated and placed at the Joker's mercy, in such a state that he had to be rescued. Granted, his ordeal didn't leave the obvious scars and consequences that Barbara's did, but that's less the fault of Moore and more the fault of later writers.

So, what of the fact that, in more ways than one, the violence toward Barbara wasn't the point of the story. From an outside perspective, it was done to underscore the Joker's dangerousness and psychosis, and to demonstrate the vulnerability of the Bat-family to such attacks. From within the story, it was done as part of the Joker's larger plan to drive Jim Gordon insane. In either case, it was merely means to an end. Yet, if it had been the focus of the story, wouldn't that have made this a "you touched my stuff" tale, and equally open to criticisms of misogyny?

Like I said, I'm really trying to figure out what specifically marks this story as misogynistic. I understand that it's something of a fuzzy area; we can all recognize the blatant, outright misogyny, and that's why I'm trying to figure out how people distinguish between the more subtle misogyny and plain old violence.

21 comments:

Erin Palette said...

Ask yourself this simple question: Would the story have told any differently if it had been Commissioner Gordon's son who was assaulted/maimed/humiliated instead of his daughter. (Yes, I know he doesn't have a son. Switch Barbara's gender and call her Robert or something.)

If the story is not significantly different, then it's not misogynistic, at least in my eyes.

(It's been years since I read Killing Joke so I don't feel qualified to pass judgement on it right now.)

Tom Foss said...

That's a good rule of thumb, methinks. And, incidentally, Commissioner Gordon does (or did) have a son, who was born back in Batman: Year One. I know his wife at the time eventually divorced him, and I don't know what happened to Jim Jr., but he did exist at some point.

It's been awhile since I read the story as well, and I'd like to think that there wouldn't be much appreciable difference. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if there was a more graphic description/depiction of what happened to Jimmy at the hands of the Joker, and if it involved a bit more obvious brutality, rather than Barbara's single physical injury and multiple emotional/psychological ones.

Lea said...

"Cripple the bitch."

Whatever good was done with Oracle's character in subsequent stories was damage control. Male comic book writers, artists and editors rarely seem to be getting a boner from detailing the violence and humiliation against male characters.

You'd like to think there wouldn't be a difference? That's nice. But that's you giving people the benefit of the doubt based only on your hopes, and not on any visible trend in comics.

Bill said...

Oh, I think there were a few erections associated with the death of Jason Todd.

Talia said...

Props on using "Misandry" in this post. With all of the kerfuffle about misogyny in comics I often feel like people don't even know the MEANING of it's opposite number.

thekamisama said...

When has Alan Moore ever followed a "visible trend in comics"?

I see both sides having valid arguements. But why all the sudden dogpiling on Moore, for one story, that really is not representitive of a large bulk of his work?

Maybe it is Moore's name that is the attractor? It certainly seems easier to paint broad strokes with his name. Being that it is one with so much critical acclaim and recognition inside and outside comic book circles, than to have articles and blogs about editor Len Wein being a woman hater I guess?

Anonymous said...

I think that women and men find some things more horrifying then others. For women being helpless, nude, and having your picture taken (thus having it immortalized forever for guys to jack off to) is pretty darn scary. A guy however may not find that as scary. Now having the theme from Deliverance playing and having some hick with bad teeth looking at you funny might scare the crap out of a guy (don't know if that's a good example as I'm not a guy but there you go).

Also Barbara is a hero where as Commissioner Gordon is not. If they had also humiliated Robin/Nightwing then I might not have such a problem with it.

The Fortress Keeper said...

Tom -

I never really saw the story as misogynistic, but to be honest I don't particularly like it either.

Beautiful Bolland art aside, it was a bit too nihilistic for me. Perhaps that was the point, but not to my taste.

As far as Batgirl goes, Barbara at the time wasn't the butt-kicker you know today.

In fact, Batgirl often wondered about her worth right before Killing Joke and even gave up her costumed identity.

I always felt that many DC writers in the Silver & Bronze Age, aside from Bob Rozakis, didn't like Batgirl because of the TV association. That's why in many stories she was either ditzy or overly emotional.

The modern Barbara didn't really appear until Kim Yale and John Ostrander rescued the character in Suicide Squad. They, and later Chuck Dixon, did something with Oracle while other writers ignored her.

Tom Foss said...

lea: Male comic book writers, artists and editors rarely seem to be getting a boner from detailing the violence and humiliation against male characters.

So, once again, stripping down Jim Gordon, drugging him, putting him on a leash, and having him beaten by midgets, that's not detailing the violence and humiliation against a male character?

I agree that most comic writers tend to spend more time, tend to involve more humiliation and more sexual content in violence against women. However, you can't blame Alan Moore for the actions of "most writers" any more than you can credit him for Barbara's treatment later on.

But that's you giving people the benefit of the doubt based only on your hopes, and not on any visible trend in comics.

I'm not looking at visible trends in comics, I'm looking at Moore's work, and TKJ, specifically. The fact that there was a similar (though not so permanent) act of sexual humiliation and physical brutality committed on a man in the same story is what I looked at when judging whether or not the story would have been different.

It seems to me that you're condemning based on a trend in comics, and not looking at the smaller picture.

bill: Oh, I think there were a few erections associated with the death of Jason Todd.

No, no, the "call to kill him" thing was an election. Slight difference.

Talia: Props on using "Misandry" in this post.

I used "misandrony" in my first gender issues post, and thought I might have coined the word. Someone helpfully corrected me.

anonymous: A guy however may not find that as scary.

I think being naked, drugged, leashed, and cattle-prodded would fall into the category of "frightening" to anyone. I'd venture to say that men find helplessness, and furthermore the realization that they have failed in their "duty" to protect people under their care, to be fairly scary. I'd prefer, though, not to get too detailed into "what men fear" and "what women fear," because I think that's skirting the line of stereotyping, and I think there's a pretty significant overlap there.

Also Barbara is a hero where as Commissioner Gordon is not. If they had also humiliated Robin/Nightwing then I might not have such a problem with it.

See, I have a serious problem with that; Commissioner Gordon may not be a superhero, but he is no less heroic, and arguably more important to the Bat-mythos than his daughter (especially at the time, if the Fortress Keeper's points are valid).

Besides that, the point of the attack and humiliation was not to cripple a superhero, but to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. Going after Robin or Nightwing might be a good way to get at Batman, but would be unlikely to have such a deep effect on Gordon. In order to change the focus to the Bat-boys, the whole plot would have to be changed.

Incidentally, I've just flipped through it again, and at this point I don't think Alan Moore can reasonably be blamed for Barbara's paralysis. She's shot in the abdomen, yes, but it's to the side, and her legs are still moving when she's on the floor. In the hospital scene with Batman, she says nothing about being unable to feel her legs, or anything of the sort. In fact, all her comments are expressing worry for her father.

Great comments all around! Thanks, folks.

Mickle said...

(I'm chiming in without having read the story, so take this with a grain of salt)

I think a part of it has to do with patterns, and that's harder to measure.

To take a completely unrelated example, there's a new movie coming out based on a kids book where they switched the main character from a girl to a boy.

Now, in an ideal world, they may have simply found a male actor they like better. Such as Smith starring in I am Legend even though the character in the book is not black (so far as I know).

But in this not perfect world, that's not how it usually goes. Usually the gender/race/whatever change is made to make things appealing to the mainstream that has internalized male/white/etc. as the default.

So Smith's casting is cause for celebration, the gender switch in the kid's movie can be considered sexist.

Likewise, even if men have been treated in a similar fashion as Barbara Gordon was in the Killing Joke (which I'm not convinced of, since the argument mainly seems to be about it being too much of a "don't touch my stuff" plot line, rather than the violence itself) providing yet another example of women being treated in a stereotypical way can be considered misogynistic since it's not the stereotype to treat men that way. (Assuming of course, that it's not a stereotype to treat men that way.)

Lexi said...

Well, let's define our terms here. The OED defines misogyny as: "Hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women." Strictly speaking, I think we agree that "women" here means women as a people, not a given person or persons.

So for the violence against Barbara Gordon in TKJ to be misogynistic, it would have had to have been motivated by the fact that she was a woman. I do not think this can be argued to be the case.

TKJ could also be called misogynistic if the writer singled her out for violence (in whole or in part) on the basis of her being a woman. This is trickier to determine, because we are not privy to Moore's thought process. If, for instance, it could be proven that Moore wanted to beat up and sexually humiliate Barbara Gordon, and built up the rest of the story from there, then it could be argued that misogyny may have played a role. But if it can be proven that Moore wanted to present the Joker as a character of unremitting sadism, and built up the story from there, then there is almost no case.

Frankly, this is a hard question simply because, despite decades of progress, women are still in many ways subordinate to men. Therefore, it cannot always be proven what is conscious and what is unconscious misogyny. Dave Sim is a clear-cut case of conscious misogyny; he truly believes that women are beneath men. Frank Miller (I believe) is an unconscious misogynist; his female characters are primarily either sex workers or lesbians because he sees women's sexuality first, everything else second, which is a common pattern in socialized misogyny.

Given the bulk of his other, superior works, I truly cannot see Alan Moore as either of them, therefore, I must conclude that "The Killing Joke", though it depicts (sexualized) violence against a female character, is not an inherently misogynist work.

Anonymous said...

I would simply like to know why Barbara hasn't been healed yet. Batman and Green Lantern have gotten up out of their wheelchairs.

Barbara Gordon being crippled in a universe where men and women routinely break the bonds of gravity, where Zatanna heals her throat with a spell, serves no purpose.

This is the only continuity DC hasn't touched, and this is the continuity that should have been expunged.

Ray Tate

Tom Foss said...

There is one prominent paraplegic superhero in the DC universe. People routinely criticize comics writers for a lack of diversity with regard to gender, race, and sexuality; do you think that disability is somehow exempt?

As Oracle, Barbara Gordon has been a consistent member of the JLA, a coordinating force for the entire DCU, and a unique variety of ass-kicker. Healed, what would she be? Another tights-clad high-kicking superheroine?

Anonymous said...

QUOTE: There is one prominent paraplegic superhero in the DC universe.

And yet Batman and Green Lantern are allowed to walk after being crippled.

Sorry, Babs, we need a paraplegic token, and the Chief just won't do.

Justice? I think not.

QUOTE: People routinely criticize comics writers for a lack of diversity with regard to gender, race, and sexuality; do you think that disability is somehow exempt?

I don't give a damn about that. You want a paraplegic hero, fine. Just keep her out of a universe where she can be healed so easily--as evidenced by Zatanna, Green Lantern and Batman.

QUOTE: As Oracle, Barbara Gordon has been a consistent member of the JLA, a coordinating force for the entire DCU, and a unique variety of ass-kicker. Healed, what would she be? Another tights-clad high-kicking superheroine?

You say that like it's a bad thing.

What you're saying rings false. What makes Babs Gordon unique is that she's paralyzed. How enlightened.

You're in effect saying is that if she had the use of her legs she wouldn't be able to be "a consistent member of the JLA" and "a co-ordinating force for the entire DCU."

That's repulsive. So, women must be paralyzed in order to use their brains? Is that it?

Ray Tate

Tom Foss said...

And yet Batman and Green Lantern are allowed to walk after being crippled.

John Stewart, yes, and count me among those who wanted him to stay wheelchair-bound (though I can't say I oppose what has happened to his character since). Bruce, however, had his back broken, which is not the same thing as being "crippled." Quite a lot of people get better from broken backs.

I don't give a damn about that. You want a paraplegic hero, fine. Just keep her out of a universe where she can be healed so easily--as evidenced by Zatanna, Green Lantern and Batman.

You act as if that has never come up in-story before. It may be a cop-out for the writers to have Barbara say that she doesn't want to rely on some magical or technological crutch, and that she'd prefer to beat it on her own, but it has been addressed.

So, any element of diversity which could be fixed in a given universe shouldn't be represented? Since they could clone white bodies for Black Lightning and John Stewart, should they? Since they could give all the female characters the Grandin Gender-Reversal disease or Pro-Fem (or the reverse equivalent), should they?

I guess, since Dr. Strange and Reed Richards exist, that Daredevil should get his eyesight fixed too. Because disabilities, and specifically overcoming them, never get incorporated into people's character and sense of self.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

No, I say it like it's a generic thing. Would Batgirl have ever made the JLA? Would she be leading a team book? What distinguishes Barbara's Batgirl from Black Canary? Huntress? Cassandra Cain? Kathy Kane? Ravager? Empress? And so on...

What you're saying rings false. What makes Babs Gordon unique is that she's paralyzed. How enlightened.

No, what makes Babs Gordon unique is that she became a more powerful superhero after becoming paralyzed. What makes her unique is that she is almost entirely reliant on her brains and technological knowhow, rather than her physical prowess, to be a superhero. What makes Babs Gordon unique is that she kicks more ass without legs than most would with four.

You're in effect saying is that if she had the use of her legs she wouldn't be able to be "a consistent member of the JLA" and "a co-ordinating force for the entire DCU."

No, I'm saying that if they hadn't taken the use of her legs, no one would have even thought to make her a consistent member of the JLA and a coordinating force for the entire DCU. And I'm saying that if the focus were on her fighting abilities, rather than her prodigious intellect and technological skills, as it inevitably would be if she were back in the tights, then she'd be an utterly redundant character, with no justifiable place on any super-team.

That's repulsive. So, women must be paralyzed in order to use their brains? Is that it?

Wow, what a straw man that argument is. No, that's not it, any more than your argument is "paralyzed people are inferior to fully-mobile people." What it is is that Barbara Gordon started out as a derivative and often stereotyped superhero, got shot and ignored, and then got reinvented into a strong, intelligent, independent, confident, well-rounded, fully-realized, unique character. Yes, you could restore her ability to walk through any number of McGuffins, and then what? Does she put on tights and become a superfluous character, not as powerful as Black Canary, not as brutal as Huntress, not as effective a fighter as Cassandra Cain, and so on? Or does she remain in her current role, and open the floodgates of critics saying "why do the boy Leaguers get to fight while the girl stays at home and plays receptionist on the computer?"

I prefer the "woman who is stronger than her disability would suggest," thank you very much.

Matt said...

You kinda lost me with the Metal Men post, but this one brought me back. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Tom Foss said...

Bruce, however, had his back broken, which is not the same thing as being "crippled." Quite a lot of people get better from broken backs.


There's no medical term for broken back. The back is a side of the body. His spine was damaged, otherwise, he would have been able to walk. If it were only the muscle tissue in his back that was damaged, then you really wouldn't need a mutant or magic user to heal him. A surgeon and some painkillers would have been able to help him.


I don't give a damn about that. You want a paraplegic hero, fine. Just keep her out of a universe where she can be healed so easily--as evidenced by Zatanna, Green Lantern and Batman.

Tom Foss said: You act as if that has never come up in-story before. It may be a cop-out for the writers to have Barbara say that she doesn't want to rely on some magical or technological crutch, and that she'd prefer to beat it on her own, but it has been addressed.

Badly. These are just excuses from writers and editors who know that Barbara Gordon should have been healed a long, long time ago.

I prefer the Babs Gordon from the Birds of Prey television series who was actively pursuing a means to walk again, and I've always suspected that Batman left Gotham to search for a means to heal her spine.

Tom Foss: So, any element of diversity which could be fixed in a given universe shouldn't be represented?

I don't see Barbara Gordon as a representative of diversity. I see her as damaged. I hope one day all the disabled will be able to have their spines healed through stem cell technology.

Since they could clone white bodies for Black Lightning and John Stewart, should they?

That's just assinine and not remotely pertinent to healing somebody's spine. Perhaps, nobody should ave their broken arms mended either.

Tom Foss: Since they could give all the female characters the Grandin Gender-Reversal disease or Pro-Fem (or the reverse equivalent), should they?

Once again this is not pertienent. Perhaps nobody should get vaccinated either.

Tom Foss: I guess, since Dr. Strange and Reed Richards exist, that Daredevil should get his eyesight fixed too.

Since Daredevil got hit by radiation--Marvel's deus ex machina--I'd guess he would have an out that and Dr. Strange was already shown to be limited in his magic. He couldn't simply magic Kyle Richmond's brain into his body. He had to operate, if I recall. Zatanna however healed her throat after being shot by the joker using a spell. Wanda in fact said that magic was more powerful in the DCU during JLA/Avengers.

Tom Foss: Because disabilities, and specifically overcoming them, never get incorporated into people's character and sense of self.

The original Dr. Mid-Nite.

Tom Foss said: No, I say it like it's a generic thing. Would Batgirl have ever made the JLA?

She did. Like Supergirl, She became an honorary member, shortly after saving the League from the Queen Bee.

Tom Foss: Would she be leading a team book?

She could very easily if she were written by somebody who respected her intelligence.

Tom Foss: What distinguishes Barbara's Batgirl from Black Canary?

Personality.

Huntress?

Personality.

Cassandra Cain?

Cassandra Cain does not apply to the argument because Cassandra Cain was an unnecessary replacement for Batgirl. I'm offended by Cassandra Cain.

Kathy Kane?

Personality. There was already an issue of Batman Family exploring their differences and similarities.

Ravager?

Who?

Empress? And so on...

Who?

Tom Foss: No, what makes Babs Gordon unique is that she became a more powerful superhero after becoming paralyzed.

I disagree with that. She could do exactly what she does with a working spine. All that must be done is get a writer to write her that way. I don't understand this argument at all. These are fictional characters. You want a super-intelligent Batgirl, and frankly, she already was--write her that way.

Tom Foss wrote: What makes her unique is that she is almost entirely reliant on her brains and technological knowhow, rather than her physical prowess, to be a superhero.

So what? She's still going to be less than Batman because Batman can stand-up and kick-ass. There's no equality here.

Tom Foss: What makes Babs Gordon unique is that she kicks more ass without legs than most would with four.

She can't kick anything. That's my point. She can direct others to kick ass, but that's it. Tape her wrists and Push her down a flight of steps and she's done.

Tom Foss: No, I'm saying that if they hadn't taken the use of her legs, no one would have even thought to make her a consistent member of the JLA and a coordinating force for the entire DCU.

How do you know? Bruce Timm enlivened Batgirl and made her Batman's partner. How do you know somebody wouldn't have thought to make Batgirl a JLA member? Dude, if Speedy and Geo-Force can become a JLA member, anybody can.

Tom Foss: And I'm saying that if the focus were on her fighting abilities, rather than her prodigious intellect and technological skills, as it inevitably would be if she were back in the tights, then she'd be an utterly redundant character, with no justifiable place on any super-team.

No. All you need is a really good writer--Joss Whedon for instance--to make Batgirl kick-ass and have her be brainy and unique, rather than rely on the crutch of a misogynist gimmick.

Tom Foss: What it is is that Barbara Gordon started out as a derivative and often stereotyped superhero,

Bollocks.

Tom Foss: got shot

In a story that didn't need to be incorporated into DCU proper

Tom Foss: and ignored,

Everybody assumed Killing Joker was outside of continuity, like I did, thanks to things like a framed photo of Batwoman, Bat-Girl and Bat-Mite, the 1940s Roadster, etc. Somebody though got the dumb idea to bring Babs Gordon's crippling into continuity. Soon after that point, John Ostrander and Kim Yale I think decided to make Babs Gordon DC's Ironside.

Tom Foss: and then got reinvented into a strong, intelligent, independent, confident, well-rounded, fully-realized, unique character.

She already was this character to which you refer. Batgirl was as you describe Oracle.

Tom Foss: Yes, you could restore her ability to walk through any number of McGuffins, and then what?


The new adventures of Batgirl kicking-ass. I don't see the problem.

Tom Foss: Does she put on tights and become a superfluous character, not as powerful as Black Canary, not as brutal as Huntress, not as effective a fighter as Cassandra Cain, and so on?

These are weak arguments. All you need is a really good writer who cares about Batgirl and will write the way she was, but if you want a role for her, female detective. DC doesn't have one of those.

Black Canary is a martial artist. Manhunter is an executioner. Huntress is just lame, and Cassandra Cain is barely a character.

Batgirl would be the near equal to Batman if they just got the writer skilled enough to do it.

Tom Foss: I prefer the "woman who is stronger than her disability would suggest," thank you very much.

And I prefer Batgirl as well as a DC Universe that makes sense. I prefer a Batman who cares enough about his friends to call up Zatanna and say "I need a favor." Barbara Gordon's crippling doesn't do anybody any good and makes all of the DCU look bad.

Ray Tate

Tom Foss said...

There's no medical term for broken back. The back is a side of the body. His spine was damaged, otherwise, he would have been able to walk.

"Spine" and "spinal cord" are very different things. When you talk about a "broken back," you're talking about fractured vertebrae. If the fractured vertebrae do not sever the spinal cord, then you can recover without any paralysis. Remaining wheelchair-bound is not necessarily a sign of paralysis so much as keeping the broken bones immobilized.

Back in high school, a friend of mine was in a car accident and broke his back. He was wheelchair-bound for a week or three, and wore a brace for a month or two more, as the bones healed. His spinal cord was not damaged, and he made a full recovery.

If it were only the muscle tissue in his back that was damaged, then you really wouldn't need a mutant or magic user to heal him.

It's been awhile since I read KnightQuest, but I seem to recall that Bruce's injuries were cured by Dr. Kinsolving, not any magic-user or mutant. Checking out Wikipedia shows that he sought medical help from Kinsolving, then had his healing accelerated by some crazy telekinetic battle. If he'd had his spinal cord severed, he wouldn't have gone after a normal doctor to help rehabilitate him.

I don't see Barbara Gordon as a representative of diversity. I see her as damaged. I hope one day all the disabled will be able to have their spines healed through stem cell technology.

Great. Until that point, I think you'll find that quite a lot of disabled people don't consider themselves "damaged," and would find the accusation offensive. It took me about five seconds of a Google search to find http://www.disabledandproud.com/ and half a dozen other sites like it.

Seems to me that there's a reluctance in comics to provide quick cures for real-life ailments. After all, how easy in a world of magic and time-travel, would it be to cure cancer or AIDS? Or any number of other diseases and problems? How easy would it be for Superman to go end the fighting in the Middle East? Or for the Justice League to end world hunger? And yet we see those issues represented fairly frequently. Comic writers walk a line between escapist fantasy and realism; you can't do one and still do justice to the other.

That's just assinine and not remotely pertinent to healing somebody's spine. Perhaps, nobody should ave their broken arms mended either.

The word is "asinine," and I think you'll find that it's quite pertinent. There are quite a lot of people in wheelchairs who would take umbrage to you bandying about terms like "damaged," talking about "fixing" them.

Since Daredevil got hit by radiation--Marvel's deus ex machina--I'd guess he would have an out that and Dr. Strange was already shown to be limited in his magic.

And that's not a lame excuse drummed up by writers who know that Matt Murdock, Charles Xavier, and Ben Grimm should have been "fixed" years ago? Bollocks indeed.

As for Wanda, she runs on Chaos magic; in the DCU, Chaos is one of the fundamental forces in the universe, godlike in nature. It's not that magic was necessarily more powerful (and certainly not more powerful than something like the Power Cosmic), it's that chaos was more powerful, and affected Wanda differently. It's not accidental that when she used her power, the energy signature was similar to Arion's.

The original Dr. Mid-Nite.
Clearly you missed the sarcasm in my statement. Yes, Dr. Mid-Nite had a disability (blindness) and worked himself to beat it (by constructing goggles that would allow him to see in the dark). His blindness was incorporated into his character; shouldn't he have approached Dr. Fate or the Spectre or Zatara for a quick magical fix? Is it so foreign an idea that a person would want to overcome their adversity on their own?

She did. Like Supergirl, She became an honorary member, shortly after saving the League from the Queen Bee.

Honorary member, I think, says it all.

She could very easily if she were written by somebody who respected her intelligence.

She is written by people who respect her intelligence. What you want is people who don't think intelligence is good enough, she has to be in the middle of physical battles, too.

Personality.

Personality doesn't sell books. Uniqueness doesn't necessarily either, but otherwise identical characters with different personalities rarely sell well in the market. That's something that Image learned early on.

You want a super-intelligent Batgirl, and frankly, she already was--write her that way.

Actually, I don't want "Batgirl" at all. Batgirl is an utterly superfluous character, and I'd see a return to Batgirl as a demotion for Babs, as certainly as I'd see a return to Robin as a demotion for Nightwing.

So what? She's still going to be less than Batman because Batman can stand-up and kick-ass. There's no equality here.

And Batman can't do what she can; have you read Birds of Prey? Just because you aren't on the ground, particularly in a world where not every problem can be solved with fistfights, doesn't make you less important.

So, let me get this straight, she's "less than Batman" now, because even though she's more intelligent, even though she coordinates superheroes around the globe, even though she fights through a computer rather than fists and batarangs most of the time, you'd want her to stand up and put on tights, so she could continue to be "less than Batman," but in more ways?

Yes, let's take a character who has come into her own identity, shove her back into a man's shadow, and put her in an arena where she's not even second-best, as opposed to the arena she's in now, where she's unparalleled.

How do you know? Bruce Timm enlivened Batgirl and made her Batman's partner.

When's the last time one of Batman's partners was in the Justice League?

I'll tell you when: the Obsidian Age, when Batman was absent. As long as Batman's in the League, having one of his protégés would be redundant.

Dude, if Speedy and Geo-Force can become a JLA member, anybody can.

Yes, because absolutely no one complains that Geo-Force and Speedy should be on the team. At least Geo-Force isn't a sidekick with the same powers (but on a lesser scale) as a different team member. At least Speedy has an edge over his mentor (being a superhuman marksman with any weapon).

No. All you need is a really good writer--Joss Whedon for instance--to make Batgirl kick-ass and have her be brainy and unique, rather than rely on the crutch of a misogynist gimmick.

Yes, it's the height of misogyny to make a character decide that she doesn't need help to be tops in her field. And it's great girl power to put a character in a position to be subordinate to and derivative of other male characters.

Bollocks.

Bollocks? Okay, Barbara Gordon didn't start out as totally derivative of Batman. She certainly didn't pattern her identity after his. And she wasn't a stereotype, no, she certainly didn't do her makeup while the boys fought the bad guys. And there certainly hasn't been any uproar over a Showcase collection which depicts precisely that.

Take care to note the sarcasm this time.

She already was this character to which you refer. Batgirl was as you describe Oracle.

The Fortress Keeper's comment would suggest otherwise. I'm not familiar with the era in question, but I'm quite familiar with the Keeper's expertise, and trust his assessment. If you've got some evidence to back up your claims, now would be the time to present it.

but if you want a role for her, female detective. DC doesn't have one of those.

Renee Montoya's been doing that for years. Now she does it with a mask.

Batgirl would be the near equal to Batman if they just got the writer skilled enough to do it.

And at this point, I think Oracle is more than Batman's equal. Instead of being second-best at Batman's game, she's best at her own game.

And I prefer Batgirl as well as a DC Universe that makes sense. I prefer a Batman who cares enough about his friends to call up Zatanna and say "I need a favor." Barbara Gordon's crippling doesn't do anybody any good and makes all of the DCU look bad.

So it's Batman's decision whether or not Barbara Gordon should be healed? Gosh, I'd think that "fixing" her body should be her choice.

But I think the most telling statement is this:

She can't kick anything. That's my point. She can direct others to kick ass, but that's it. Tape her wrists and Push her down a flight of steps and she's done.

Try reading Birds of Prey, instead of making idiotic comments like this. If you're going to comment on how terrible Barbara Gordon's character is these days, you really ought to know something about her character these days. Otherwise, you might make yourself look like a fool.

Anonymous said...

Otherwise, you might make yourself look like a fool.

Yeah, I won't be posting here again. You've got all the manners of a Republican.

You should know however that Batman was healed by Shondra Kinsolving. Don't care what wikipedia says or what Superboy has wrought.

Batman fell in love with Sondra Kinsolving, and she heals him while kissing him. Sort of non-explicit sexual healing. She's either a metahuman, mutant or using magic.

The end result leaves her in a child like state, and Bruce has her cared for in a sanitarium, while he goes sulking off.

Batgirl in aeternum!

Ray Tate

Tom Foss said...

Yeah, I won't be posting here again. You've got all the manners of a Republican.

Seems to me most prominent Republicans would have cut your mic, or done the electronic equivalent, some time ago. I disagree with your position, I've argued my point, and I've noted the places where I feel you're ignorant (willfully or otherwise) and engaging in fanboy entitlement. You've responded with straw man arguments and blatant mischaracterizations of both my position and the events and characters in question.

You should know however that Batman was healed by Shondra Kinsolving. Don't care what wikipedia says or what Superboy has wrought.

As I said, it's been quite some time since I read KnightQuest (and now, I'm beginning to think I may have missed out on key chapters). However, the phrasing of this statement screams of entitlement. "I don't care what's been done since then, the way it happened in my day is the right way."

Batman fell in love with Sondra Kinsolving, and she heals him while kissing him. Sort of non-explicit sexual healing. She's either a metahuman, mutant or using magic.

Doesn't change the fact that he went to her because of her medical credentials, strongly suggesting that he wasn't irreversibly paralyzed due to spinal cord damage.

Incidentally, what makes your inference that Kinsolving was magic, mutant, or meta, as valid or moreso than the Wikipedia version of the story?

One more thing I feel I should address, which I think cuts once more to the heart of your reactionary, emotional, entitlement-based argument. Earlier, you said the following: "No. All you need is a really good writer--Joss Whedon for instance--to make Batgirl kick-ass and have her be brainy and unique, rather than rely on the crutch of a misogynist gimmick."
Now, I would argue that Barbara just spent a good long time under a "really good" writer: Gail Simone, who did make her kick ass, and did have her be brainy and unique, and did so without putting her in an objectifying costume or in the shadow of a male hero, and without relying on the oldest comic conventions.
You want to put Barbara Gordon back into a position of second-best under Batman, you want to make her a derivative character again, you want to grant Batman the right to choose when and how she gets healed, and now you ignore or denigrate the work of a highly competent female writer to suggest that only a male writer could do the character justice. Exactly where are you eliminating misogyny here?

Anonymous said...

Misogyny is a frame of mind, one which can only be determined by an individual's admission, or a pattern of behavior which suggests conscious or subconscious hatred/prejudice toward women. But even when we're talking about instituionalized misogyny, we must be careful not to brand all acts/behaviors as misogyny when there can be other factors involved. For example, people might say, "Oh, women make less than men; there is misogyny." Perhaps, but we need to know WHY such phenomena exist and the motivations of people involved before we brand them as misogynistic right off the bat, regardless of how tempting that may be. It is easy to fall into that trap because traditionally there HAS been a lot of misogyny in society.

As far as comics go, it is a storytelling vehicle like anything else, and sometimes bad things (like rape) happen. Having a misogynistic character does not make a book misogynistic off the bat. The question is, are these events being played for lurid, demeaning or exploitive purposes, or are they being used as a valid narrative device? If the writer gives us no insight, we can only glean his intentions by context clues, but even this is not a fool-proof method.


I think, in general, it is safe to say that there is at LEAST a pattern of low-level misogyny simmering in mainstream comic books, but in individual cases it's harder to assess the degree of offense. Since comics are also an artistic medium (arguably now more than ever) how do we ascertain what is a "hateful, exploitive depiction" of women's bodies, and what is (for example) a recurring appreciation of the female form? Just because some unenlightened fanboys may leer and drool at a sexy cover with less than noble intent, does this mean the cover and the artist THEMSELVES are misogynistic? Perhaps the artist is paying homage to the pin-ups he copied from when he was learning how to draw. Perhaps the artist is making a satirical commentary on comic books themselves (even harder to determine in this age of irony and
post-modernism.)

This all gets very murky because comic books have traditionally been a very pulpy medium closely tied in with commerce. As a result, the idea of "selling women's bodies" or violence toward women has long been considered (often correctly) a tell-tale sign of misogynistic attitudes.