18-34 Year Old Men indeed, DC Comics

The cover to Red Hood and the Outlaws #2, one of DC’s New 52 dropped on Monday, and here is the cover:

Oh, Starfire.

I actually don’t like to blog about Starfire because opinions about her are so incredibly divided. There is a faction of women who find her character extremely empowering, and a faction who find her problematic, and worthy of the most impressive of eye rolls.

While her costume was one of the most revealing superhero costumes in the DCU before:

I feel like her new duds waltz over the line of “Well, I guess it could be worse” to “Oh…oh, it’s worse,” and I think that’s something both sides of the Starfire argument can agree on. I’m just so baffled! What is holding up those…whatever they are that are covering her nipples?

The other worrisome part of costumes like this is DC catering to what they assume their 18-34 year old male fanbase wants. when there are plenty of them who look at something like that, and are just as weirded out as any woman would be. It’s the idea that these readers would rather have tits than plot, and it’s very often not true.

I would also like to note that I sent a question through my employer to DC’s senior vice president of sales, Mr. Bob Wayne, asking why DC is marketing toward an audience they seem to already have, and why marketing to expand their female audience isn’t a higher priority. It’s been a couple of weeks, and I’ve heard nothing back. I’d like to think that Mr. Wayne is just a very busy man, but I have the sinking feeling that he just may not have an answer to my question, especially after getting a load of Starfire’s new look.

Comments

  1. says

    At least she has shoulder armor now, to protect her vital…shoulders?

    I have a huge softspot for Starfire because of the Teen Titans cartoon.

    I sure wish there was more stuff like that. & I’m IN their demographic!

  2. says

    Click through to the enlarged version of the picture, and show it full size in your browser.

    Now take a look at the Red Hood’s crotch.

    It doesn’t make things any better; I’m just saying.

  3. says

    This leaves me scratching my head. 18-34 yo males are encountering such a shortage of readily available porn that they must turn to comics for even a glimpse of skin? Maybe your email to Mr. Wayne should’ve introduced him to the existence of the intarwebs.

  4. says

    I agree that this is perplexing if their goal is to sell comics. It is, though, quite comprensible if they are changing their business model, and now intended to sell *advertising*. In that case, a renewed commitment to that elusive 18-30 y.o. male demographic may be just what the actual customers (the advertisers) are looking for.

    But I have no idea if anything so business-oriented is actually going on.

  5. says

    Doctor Science,

    Even if they’re selling more to advertisers, they still have to sell the comics that have the advertising in them to make some sort of profit, this kind of thing doesn’t seem conducive to that.

  6. says

    My idea is that if they make comics more like “porn that bears no relation to the laws of physics”, they might sell highly-targeted ad space: “getcher impulse-driven young males here! No additives, no paying for eyeballs you don’t want!”

    And they might be planning to get more revenue from online ads, as well, and using the comics to generate a demographically pure product.

    It’s either that or a “cootie” theory.

  7. Dani says

    Soooo…girls who watch Teen Titans and like Starfire, and want to know more about her…get this? Great…

    Also, this image is tasteless. And makes me ridiculously uncomfortable. But I guess, since I’m a girl, I don’t count. Gee, thanks, DC.

  8. Patrick McGraw says

    Wow, DC. Way to continue to turn away this 32-year-old straight white man who loves superhero comics.

    I haven’t had the heart to try to find out what this “reboot” has done to Superman and company.

  9. April Daniels says

    I may be a lone voice of dissent here, but if I had a body like Starfire’s, I’d be walking around naked 24/7. I think her costume is just her way of providing lip service to our silly Earth notions of modesty.

  10. says

    April Daniels,

    I think it’s great to find her empowering, but I still feel like this image is pretty tasteless. Starfire’s old costume was revealing but at least made some sense, and didn’t defy gravity. This one just feels like they felt like she needed to show more more more to grab that stereotypical fanboy attention.

  11. April Daniels says

    I’ve never figured out what “empowering” means in these contexts, so that’s not why I don’t really mind this new character design. I’m not blindly in favor of cheesecake, either. If, say, Renee Montoya or Barbra Gordon showed up dressed like that, I’d burn down DC headquarters.

    But when we’re talking about an orange alien lady who shoots purple electricity out of her hands, among other improbable aspects to her character, then clearly we have skipped out of the realm of telling stories about mortals, and are entering the realm of the literary functions of gods and goddesses. She’s a fertility/power idol. Seems kinda odd to be pissed that the goddess has an impossible figure and impossible clothes.

    I don’t mind Starfire looking that way because I don’t identify with her. I identify with characters Barbra Gordon and Renee Montoya. I find that I tend to identify with members of the Bat Family and their hangers on a lot more than heroes with powers, but even friggin Power Girl is an everywoman compared to Starfire. So if Cassandra Cain shows up with some underboob action, or Harley Quinn’s costume (somehow, shockingly) gets even worse, I’ll be very upset. But a goddess figure of sex and violence incarnate? No, I don’t mind if she’s outrageous and oversexed. That’s what she’s for.

    The DC leadership team has done a hell of a lot to earn a lot of very justified suspicion about how they view their female readership, and I make no excuses for them in that. And given that context, I can totally understand why a lot of people are jumping on this. I’d even be down to hear about what it says about comics culture that one of the more unambiguously mythic goddess figures (She comes from the sky, people! The fucking sky!) of the DCnU seems almost scientifically designed to give 13 year old boys boners. But even after acknowledging all of that and all the problems that go with it, I really do not care to fire up the outrage machine. I’m not offended, I’m not put off. I wouldn’t buy the comic, probably, but that’s mostly because I’ve got a limited budget and it’s already reserved for Kate Kane. (Also, fuck Jason Todd anyhow.) If I was given a gift card and had to choose between reading this book and whatever dreck Mark Millar is trying to pass off as visionary this month, I’d totally go with Starfire and her ridiculous breasts.

  12. Dina Bow says

    The problem I have with these kind of outfits is that the creators put so much effort into making them revealing that they kinda forget to give the character an interesting personality. Hell, we see so many half-naked women that even if the character was given a personality she would probably be more eye-catching if she were wearing clothes.

  13. Robin says

    I’m not particularly familiar with the DCU in general, or Starfire in particular, but I’m pretty sick of seeing female superheroes in these next-to-nothing costumes. Is Starfire bullet-proof or able to avoid being hit somehow? Because if she’s not, then this collection of straps isn’t going to do anything to protect her in combat situations. If she is, then I can maybe understand her Doctor Manhattan-esque costume (though, then the boots don’t really make sense).

    One of the things I’ve liked about the X-Men franchise(s) is that most of the characters usually have suits that protect their vital organs. Yes, they’re often skintight, which can be problematic in its own way, but at least they attempt to be practical. Are you going to be in the line of fire a lot? How about some kevlar over your torso?

  14. April Daniels says

    I’ll admit to not being super familiar with Starfire’s appearances, but she’s definitely one of the tougher-to-kill heroes out there. But like I said, to me she seems to be fitting the archetype of a goddess character, so critiques of mundane, practical issues like not getting shot seems beside the point. I totally understand where you’re coming from, but I still can’t muster any outrage–or even irritation–at this.

  15. Lindsey says

    I don’t really see how “goddess character” requires a lack of clothing or overt sexualization. Additionally, Starfire is a survivor of really terrible sexual abuse instigated by her sister, so her overt sexualization in order to titillate young males is kind of at odds with that. We can say “she’s an alien” but she clearly is meant to interact with and be comprehensible and relatable for humans–if by “humans” we mean “the mythical male 18-34.”

    There’s also the issue that her boy buddies there, aside from junk support issues, get full clothing. Why aren’t they in spandex speedos to show off their sexy man power and disdain for their enemies? Further, DC stated that current editorial edict is for female characters to dress more sensibly. http://blog.newsarama.com/2011/06/01/post-relaunch-dc-women-will-dress-more-sensibly/ More sensibly than what, in this case?

  16. Maria says

    It’s not really in character for her, considering that she was used as a sex slave, and because she now doesn’t “match” her adopted family.

    :(

  17. says

    April Daniels: I may be a lone voice of dissent here, but if I had a body like Starfire’s, I’d be walking around naked 24/7. I think her costume is just her way of providing lip service to our silly Earth notions of modesty.

    This quote needs serious unpacking – everyone else feel free to jump in, because I’m a little overwhelmed trying to find a starting point.

    –If it’s about modesty, why aren’t you walking around naked 24/7 in whatever body you have now? Why do you first need to meet the media’s perceptions of what young males prefer before that’s okay? This belies your claim that it’s about modesty. It’s at least partly about objectification and what is acceptable to objectifiers’ sensibilities.
    –You seem to be suggesting that women with bods as hot as that of a drawn character should feel entitled to walk around naked if they want, but the rest of us should not feel comfortable flaunting our junk?
    –You seem to be completely missing the point that the male characters have hot bods, too. You don’t seem concerned about their modesty.

    Anyone else?

  18. Maria says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Well, I know that the “seems kinda odd to be pissed” line violates our commenting guidelines.

    http://thehathorlegacy.com/guidelines/
    The Hathor Legacy is not a fan site. It’s a site for critical analysis of the portrayal of women in media. Because of this, you might see your favorite movies, books or other creative works being criticized. Before you get defensive, remember: they’re often our favorite works, too. Take a moment to understand exactly what the author is criticizing before rushing to defend the work.
    Don’t state your opinions as facts. [Starfire may or may not be a goddess figure; she’s in a ‘verse with aliens (inc. Superman) and actual demigods/goddesses (Wonder Woman) so assuming SHE’S a goddess figure and then arguing that assumption as though it’s fact is a little fail… which leads me to:)
    If your comment demonstrates you haven’t read the article and/or you’re creating straw arguments rather than addressing the points actually being made, your comment will not be posted (or will be deleted if you’re on auto-approve).

  19. April Daniels says

    Maria:
    It’s not really in character for her, considering that she was used as a sex slave, and because she now doesn’t “match” her adopted family.

    I did not know that. Yeah, it’s kinda busted for a character with that history to dress like that. I’m all for victims of sexual abuse reclaiming their sexuality, but an outfit like that doesn’t look like reclaiming a health relationship with sex, it looks like desperate overcompensation to try and appear to have gotten past the trauma. Which, actually, would be a damn good story, but this is a mainstream superhero comic from DC we’re talking about here, and I seriously doubt they’d do something that insightful or sensitive. And if the tried…oh god…it’d be horrifying.

    • Maria says

      @April Daniels

      It’s that past that I think makes it not in character for her to be in this costume AND reveals how whackadoodle DC is being in her costume…

      She’s in a fetishy callback to the Green Skinned Space Babes outfits worn by Orion Slave girls in ST: TOS and ST: Enterprise where hey, the funny joke is that even though you THINK they’re slaves they’re actually NOT! LOLLERSKATES, and they like when you fuck them — you can tell because they have ~magic pheromones~ that make them have the ~real~ power. Kinda like the the covers of the Gor books.

      IMO The outfit doesn’t just fetishize her body — it fetishizes her past history as a sexually exploitable/sexually desirable female character… and that’s gross.

  20. April Daniels says

    Maria,

    The outfit doesn’t just fetishize her body — it fetishizes her past history as a sexually exploitable/sexually desirable female character… and that’s gross.

    Completely agreed. I hadn’t known about her history when I first replied. My thinking on this is changing a bit specifically because of that detail of her past.

  21. Patrick McGraw says

    April Daniels,

    If I was given a gift card and had to choose between reading this book and whatever dreck Mark Millar is trying to pass off as visionary this month, I’d totally go with Starfire and her ridiculous breasts.

    That’s a sadistic choice.

  22. Jenny Islander says

    In the sparkly universe next door, the Big Two have costume departments. They have versions of proposed costumes run up and put on people of the approximate proportions of the superheroes and then have them do martial arts forms or vigorous dancing for a while. Anything that doesn’t stay put doesn’t pass.

    Yes, that means that Wonder Woman would have shoulder straps. But then, she would also look like a Hollywood stuntwoman, not a Hollywood star.

  23. Robin says

    Jenny Islander, I would read the heck out of that version of Wonder Woman. Part of what I disliked about the recent WW pilot was the fact that, even standing still in publicity shots, poor Adrianne Palicki always looked like she was about to fall out of her bustier.

    I feel like expecting realistic / practical costumes on comic book superheroes is analogous to expecting science fiction to get the non-fictional parts of their storytelling right. It’s easier to suspend my disbelief about things that are clearly made up — spaceships and humanoid aliens, super-strength and the ability to fly — than it is for the things I have real-world references for — military protocols, computer interfaces, or clothes that wouldn’t stay put during a fight, let alone provide protection for the people wearing them. And if they can’t get those more realistic parts right, I won’t be able to invest in the rest of it as a reader / viewer.

  24. meerkat says

    April Daniels:
    I don’t mind Starfire looking that way because I don’t identify with her. I identify with characters Barbra Gordon and Renee Montoya.

    I only know Starfire from the anime-wannabe Teen Titans cartoon, but I identify with her because she’s the outsider who doesn’t get human culture. So maybe it’s out of pure self-interest, but I don’t want creators operating on the assumption that readers will identify with the designated everyman character and not with the mutant alien robot unicorn zombie.

  25. Jenny Islander says

    @Robin: Yes, that’s it exactly! Spider-Man can do all kinds of impossible things because of the Rule of Cool and the Rule of Funny, but Peter Parker, freelance photographer, has to have the kind of apartment a freelance photographer can afford (unless he’s sharing a house with the Avengers at the moment). The little details have to have visible means of support.

  26. Patrick McGraw says

    That’s one of the main considerations going into the comic universe I’m developing.* It’s a reconstructionist work where superpowers may not mesh with our understanding of physics, but where people’s actions, costumes, and lives make sense.

    As several people here have noted, willing suspension of disbelief is much easier for things that HAVE to be a certain way for the story to work. But the things that aren’t essential to the premise – especially the things that audiences have experience with – get disbelief suspenders with a lot less give.

    *I don’t know when or if I’ll ever get it made, because despite years of effort and knowing exactly what I want, I don’t have the hand-mind connection needed to draw, and haven’t found anyone to collaborate with.

  27. says

    meerkat: I only know Starfire from the anime-wannabe Teen Titans cartoon, but I identify with her because she’s the outsider who doesn’t get human culture. So maybe it’s out of pure self-interest, but I don’t want creators operating on the assumption that readers will identify with the designated everyman character and not with the mutant alien robot unicorn zombie.

    Amen. With the amount of character histories and development that actually happen in most comics, there’s no excuse to NOT make every character relateable to somebody. Look at Trek – far from perfect, but I think you’re invited to relate to quite a few characters in each series. That’s what makes a classic. So it may be self-interest for you, but it’s also in the best interest of the people making money off the comic: the more characters readers can identify with, the more potential readers they have.

    Patrick McGraw,

    I hope you do find someone soon! It’s not easy to find visual artists of any sort, let alone one you can collaborate well with.

    sbg: THAT IS SO AWESOME!!!! ROFL!!!

  28. says

    Debi Linton,

    Not following comics at all, I assumed Red Hood was the guy in the red suit about halfway down the pile. Which, he’s got a crossbow in a pretty suggestive location, but that’s about par for the course for comics, right? (I get all my comics info from superdickery.com). I didn’t get it.

    Then somebody else linked me to a close up. Apparently Red Hood is the guy wearing black at the very top of the pile and…now I get it. O_o

  29. says

    The main problem is that the men aren’t given nearly as ridiculous outfits, peen-prints notwithstanding. But there is also another part of that: in superhero comics, the main “thing” about a superhero is his power. That’s his defining characteristic. What it is, how he uses it, how it affects his life, etc.
    It SHOULD be that way for women superheroes too, but because they are put into these outfits and made to stand in sexually-suggestive, contorted poses that no human would ever strike under normal circumstances, and more often given sexually-charged backstories, their sex appeal becomes their “thing”. Their defining characteristic. Sexy comes first, and everything else a distant second. That’s why female supers get depowered and killed more often, because who cares about their powers and their internal struggles therewith? That is not what they are FOR. And as soon as they are used up by the audience, they are shoved aside for newer models. Thus it encourages the consumption and disposal of women and nobody bats an eye because society is brainwashed to see women’s sex appeal as her “power” (because that is all women are for).

  30. Patrick McGraw says

    JT,

    One of the frustrations about not being able to draw is that I have very clear ideas of what my characters’ costumes look like, how they’re constructed, etc. And a lot of that is based on considering the costumes as something people would wear rather than something they would pose in. So, for example, most female characters will be wearing sports bras under their costumes, which will affect their silhouette. (There shall be no boob-sock in my comics!)

  31. Anemone says

    I always liked Starfire because of her outrageous hair and outrageous personality, not necessarily in that order, but I was always uncomfortable with her original outfit. If only they’d just filled in the middle (like they did in the Keebler-sponsered issue where the Titans took on drugs). I have no problems with her dressing like she’s from a tropical climate (which she is), and the latest trend in fitness is natural movement, which you do in minimal clothing to maximize mobility, but if she’s gonna fight in it, she should be able to move in it. Those boots look like they’d pinch at the knee. Her bodice (?) isn’t secure enough (unless it’s just paint). Her briefs are too high cut. Etc. etc. And then there’s the posture issue.

    Jenny Islander, I like your sparkly universe next door.

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