The Comics Code's Hidden Role In The Original 'Woman in Refrigerator'

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and thirty-eighth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the weekly three legends.

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Green Lantern's girlfriend was dismembered and stuffed into a refrigerator



This month marks the 25th anniversary of Green Lantern's controversial "woman in refrigerators" moment. I was going to write about it for my monthly "Look Back" feature, but then realized that the story fit better for Comic Book Legends Revealed, as there really is a lot of fascinating misinformation about this controversial moment.

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Okay, so let's recap.

In Green Lantern #50 (by Ron Marz, Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal), the last surviving Guardian goes to Earth and picks Kyle Rayner to become the last Green Lantern...

In the next issue, he visited his former girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, who had recently broken up with him, to tell her the news...

He pitches that they move to New York together, and she can take photos of him and sell them to newspapers (sort of like Peter Parker and Spider-Man)...

Alex helps Kyle work on his new powers and also gets him to design a new costume...

In the next issue (with Jamal Igle and Steve Carr joining Banks on pencils), Alex starts taking photos of Kyle...

While also helping him work on his powers...

Kyle's newfound sense of responsibility (also like Peter Parker, Kyle learned that great responsibility is often paired with great power) led to Alex forgiving him and they got back together officially...

Tragically, though, Kyle and Alex did not cover their tracks well enough and a secretive group sent the villainous Major Force to get Kyle's ring by hook or by crook. He attacks Alex...

And when Kyle returns home, he gets a tragic shock...

A few years later, Gail Simone started a list of female characters in comics who had been maimed/killed/etc. titled "Women in Refrigerators." It was later given its own website, that remains up to this very day.

Ron Marz replied to the site and he revealed a fascinating tidbit about Alex's death...

The more infamous example, I suspect, is Alex, Kyle Rayner's then girlfriend. I see a reference to her being "cut up and stuck in a refrigerator." Firstly, you assume incorrectly Alex was "cut up," which is frankly a rather common mistake. The real story behind that page is that as initially written and drawn, Kyle finds her body stuffed into the fridge. Her WHOLE body, in one piece. In fact, I still have a copy of that original page. The Comics Code went bananas and made us change the artwork so that the door was mostly shut. This had the effect of forcing readers to use their imaginations as to what the "unseen scene" was, and a lot of readers went for the most grisly thing imaginable -- a dismembered body. I think this actually says a great deal more about some readers' minds than it does about our original intentions. Score one for the Comics Code.

All that said, I can tell you Alex was a character destined to die from the moment she was first introduced in GL #48. I created her with the intention of having her be murdered at the hands of Major Force. I took a lot of care in building her as a character, because I wanted her to be liked and her death to mean something to the readers. I wanted readers to be horrified at the crime, and to empathize with Kyle's loss. Her death was meant to bring brutal realization to Kyle that being GL wasn't fun and games. It was also meant to sever his links with his old life, paving the way for his move to New York. And ultimately I wanted her death to be memorable and illustrate just how truly heinous Major Force was. Thus the fridge. From the reactions, I think I succeeded fairly well at those goals. It's five years later and people are still talking about it. More than anything as a writer, you want the audience to react emotionally to your work, to care. I wrote a villain committing a truly despicable deed. That doesn't mean I endorse or admire that behavior. I doubt Thomas Harris thinks of Hannibal Lecter as a positive role model, either. And it's probably worth mentioning that Major Force was punished for the act.

Comics have a long history as a male-oriented and male-dominated industry. That's not a statement of judgment, simply one of fact. I do think comics can and should be more sensitive to female characters. But these are times in which the general editorial mindset is "cut to the fight scene," in which half-naked women on covers spike sales. Publishers are unfortunately more concerned with survival than with sensitivity to women. And that's a shame. If we want to save our industry, maybe we should stop ignoring half the population as possible readers.

Sure enough, it IS true that people to this day think that Alex was dismembered. Here's just a quick internet search...

It was in fact Green Lantern Kyle Rayner who found his girlfriend Alexandra Dewitt dismembered in his refrigerator,

Alex will be brutalized, dismembered, and deposited in a refrigerator.

Alexandra DeWitt–Green Lantern Kyle Rainer's girlfriend, whose dismembered body was found in a refrigerator

When, in Green Lantern #54 (1994), Alexandra DeWitt was killed, dismembered, and her body placed in her boyfriend's fridge

Thanks, Comics Code!

Thanks to Ron Marz and Gail Simone for the fascinating insight into the issue in question.

Check out some other comic book movie legends from Legends Revealed:

1. Did Star Trek: The Next Generation Use Sherlock Holmes Characters in an Episode Not Knowing That the Characters Were Not Yet in the Public Domain?

2. Did Walt Disney Keep the Actress Who Played Snow White From Taking Other Roles So As To Avoid Ruining the Illusion Behind Snow White?

3. Was The Crystals’ Hit “He’s a Rebel” Not Actually Performed by the Crystals?

4. Was the Word Robot First Coined in a Early 20th Century Czech Play?

Check back soon for part 2 of this week's (actually on time) legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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