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Starfire vs the Nu52

This is a bold statement, but I’d argue that the treatment of Starfire, orange skinned alien princess, is DC’s treatment of their female readers since the Nu52 reboot in miniature. We start with Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, remembered as one of the first really horrible things to come out of the Nu52, and we end here, with the decidedly not horrible Starfire #1. Hooray, we’re suddenly a viable audience!

I’m not saying that DC are over their lady problems. They are not. But they’re trying to the point where a lot of the mini-relaunch that’s hitting right now feels like an apology for what went before.  Starfire’s the epicentre of that.

So, more specifically, what’s changed between now and then?

A lot of the controversy around Kori is about her sexiness, so let’s briefly recap. She’s from a planet where people don’t have boundaries in the way we do here, where emotional bonds in general are a big part of life. Sure this openness often translates to sex, but it’s about the connection. Starfire’s nurturing, caring nature is much more who she is than her libido.

In RHatO #1 she’s reduced to an unfeeling, sex-wanting piece of walking fanservice.

Yes, it still stings.

Infamously she no longer remembered people at all, so so much for any emotional bonds. As summarised by a smirking Red Hood:

hood1

I don’t care if it was eventually retconned away. This is how they presented her in the first issue, this is how they hoped to hook new readers.

Starfire #1 does the opposite: from the first page, Kori’s emotions are at the forefront. One of my favourite moments is her reaction to hearing her new BFF’s grandmother died several years before:

star1

Not only does she sympathise, she feels the loss because she relates. People matter to her again. People are people to her again. Kori cares.

Going back to her sexuality, it is a big part of the character. She’s an attractive, sexual person, and in comics that means fanservice. In Starfire #1, that means a masterclass in how to do it right.

Let’s make some direct visual comparisons to RHatO. This is Starfire’s first appearance there:

It’s prefaced by a joke about her breasts, she’s posing, aloof, cold and Red Hood and Arsenal are discussing her. Now:

This isn’t her first appearance in Starfire #1 (she’s introduced having a conversation and being a person) but it is her first real beauty shot. She’s smiling. She’s talking to people. She’s sexy and beautiful, but that’s not what the page is about.

Later on there’s another comparable visual moment. Remember these lovely pages?

redred2

Yeah. In an interview, artist Kenneth Rocafort said this showed how much she loved freedom and Earth and how key it was to her character. To be fair to him, at least she’s cracking a smile. But damn. My favourite thing about it are the male characters commenting on and observing her just in case we didn’t get that that’s what this is for. The second is what’s being done to her spine.

In Starfire #1 she has a shower.

star

That’s how you show someone smiling. It’s ironic that the page that has her naked is more characterful and less objectifying. She’s not posing. She actually looks happy. Her spine is viable. Is it cheesy fanservice? Yes, but it’s done in a way that isn’t uncomfortable (physically or as a comic reading woman) to look at.

Where RHatO #1 was a mess of big explosions and dude bro jokes, where it turned Kori into a walking punchline, Starfire #1 gives us a human being. After her horrible treatment it’s the least she deserves, and after the horrible treatment of DC’s female readers, Starfire #1 is what we deserve too.

DC has done a lot wrong since they rebooted, but if they keep apologising for it like this I might forgive them. Eventually.

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