In a week in which the debuts of Batman and Wonder Woman fired on all cylinders, you have to think DC Comics didn't expect the spotlight to be stolen by the first issues of Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws. Alas, online discussion over the past 48 hours hasn't been focused on the accessibility of the former or the potential of the latter (if indeed either demonstrates accessibility or potential). Instead, it's centered on a bra-flashing Selina Kyle engaging in aggressive costumed sex with Batman, and a semi-amnesiac Starfire who's become little more than an emotionless sex mannequin.
I feel as if I should be worked up by the depictions but, to be honest, I'm just deflated by the whole thing. The best I can muster is, "Sigh ... again?" and maybe, "This is the kind of storytelling and characterization you relaunched your entire line for?" But here are some of the highlights of what others are saying on the subject:
• Winick's statement to Newsarama about the response to Catwoman #1: "This is a Catwoman for 2011, and my approach to her character and actions reflect someone who lives in our times. And wears a cat suit. And steals. It’s a tale that is part crime story, part mystery and part romance. In that, you will find action, suspense and passion. Each of those qualities, at times, play to their extremes. Catwoman is a character with a rich comic book history, and my hope is that readers will continue to join us as the adventure continues."
• At Comics Alliance, Laura Hudson wades in with a lengthy and earnest essay explaining the problem with the characterizations of Catwoman and Starfire: "This is not about these women wanting things; it's about men wanting to see them do things, and that takes something that really should be empowering -- the idea that women can own their sexuality -- and transforms it into yet another male fantasy. It takes away the actual power of the women and turns their "sexual liberation" into just another way for dudes to get off. And that is at least ten times as gross as regular cheesecake, minimum."
• Matt Wilson's single-sentence review of Catwoman #1: "This is a comic about a Strong Female Character who is in her bra on about half the pages and ends up falling on the genitals of Batman by the end."
• Comic Book Resources' Greg McElhatton gives Catwoman #1 one star, saying, "This doesn't feel like a superhero (or supervillain, or anti-hero) comic. This feels like a soft core skin flick."
• Todd Allen questions what Winick and DC were aiming for with the sex scene: "It has long been said that pro wrestling and comics are both soap operas for dudes. There’s an element of truth to that and DC seems to be trying to make Catwoman a trashy bodice-ripper of a romance novel for dudes. A bit of an escalation from soap operas. The thing is, normally the victim of the rape-fantasy is heroine. Here the victim is Batman. Given that DC’s readership is thought to be overwhelmingly male, is it intended that the little fanboys identify with Batman and have a … we’ll be generous and call it a ROMANTIC fantasy about being overpowered by a catburgler/ex-prostitute in a leather bodysuit? ‘Cause, y’know, if that’s what’s going on, that’s pretty creepy."
• Rich Johnston quotes an anonymous DC Comics staff member about reservations regarding writer Scott Lobdell's handling of Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws: "There were a handful of staff, mostly other women, who believed the writer was trying to equate being a strong woman with being, frankly, a slut. No one said that the writer was misogynistic, just that perhaps he was writing from a male perspective. It was firmly suggested to him that he could accentuate the character’s past as a sex slave. And that this might be an explanation for her sexuality, that she was acting out in her new life.”
• A FemPop contributor takes Lobdell to the woodshed: "Scott Lobdell gives his audience, his industry, possibly his entire gender the finger and says 'Oh no, you motherfuckers. That’s not your fantasy. Your fantasy is a woman that will literally have sex with you just for existing. No woman with any standards, no matter how low, no matter how forgiving, could possibly be attracted to you, so here’s your new sex object—a brain-damaged goldfish with a rack. And you’re such a scared little boy, so afraid of commitment in even your own pathetic fantasies, that you’ll run away from a ‘clinger’ even if she’s as gorgeous, charming, and supportive as the woman Starfire used to be. You can’t bear even that slight chance that she’ll make you move out of your parents’ basement, get a real job, and make something of yourself. So I’ll cater to that too! Not only doesn’t she want a relationship, she won’t even remember you! That’s what you want in the end, isn’t it? A vagina-shaped goldfish! Look upon your lust, ye nerdy, and despair.'"
• In case anyone was wondering whether the depiction of Starfire could've possibly been worse -- or at least more gratuitous -- the answer is, yes, of course. Courtesy of DC Women Kicking Ass, colorist Blond has posted an earlier version of Page 10: "They originally wanted a semi-transparent bikini."
• Tom Spurgeon weighs in: "When I read about slutty Starfire or Catwoman humping Batman on some roof somewhere, it just doesn't seem to be about anything but -- at best -- the set-up for some potential, facile, soap opera-style payoff down the road. It's boobs in a horror movie, empty comic book calories of a slightly ickier kind but pretty much on the exact same level of an Ed Hannigan or Sal Buscema-drawn sequence where two heroes fight briefly before they team up to defeat some arbitrary super-menace."