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Monday, May 22, 2006

A Character that Annoyed the Hell Out of Me

I haven't read any of the new WildCATS. I intend to, as I enjoyed the previous three volumes of stories. Even if it looks like a good portion of them are out of Wildstorm continuity now. (Which I rather expected, honestly, especially with the whole general oddness of the later stories, when you had Hadrian with Void's powers as a company CEO with benign World Domination Plans, it was probably a bit much. Even if it was pretty unique as a story.)

The original WildCATS though was pretty fun. I'd initially read snippets of it as a kid and enjoyed it, so I was thrilled as an adult to have the opportunity to read the original run in almost entirety.

I was surprised by how much I liked it. The Kherubim/Daemonite stuff was a little silly but in a cheesy comic book way that I could dig. And I liked most of the characters. Hadrian/Spartan's my favorite, they can blow him up every damn issue and it never stops being entertaining to me. And the subtle emotional stuff they managed with him was appealing to me. As well as the humor.

Funniest part of the damn comic was when there was two Spartan androids running around, one with the personality of Yohn Kolt (or however you spell that) that hated the thought of being the blueprint for an Android and the other being the usual Hadrian 7, who'd oh so quietly fuck with him.

The others tended to be appealing too. Grifter was exactly what Gambit was supposed to be, but never delivered under the schtick. Zealot had a bad habit of being the series's Wolverine, turning up everywhere, gratuitous past stories, but tended to be entertaining when she wasn't the subject of idiotic love triangles. Emp was charmingly Machiavellian. Maul was cute and geeky, and so on and so forth.

But there was one character that I *could not* and *can not* stand.


Voodoo.

Holy hell do I hate this character.

In fact, at the tender age of pre-teen however-the-fuck-old-I-was when I started reading issues of this comic, this walking, talking cliche was the first character to *ever* earn my abject hatred.



First, let's look at her pre-WildCATS identity. She was a stripper. Pardon me, she was an "exotic dancer". Now for the record, I have nothing against this job or the women who do this job. It's not a job I would want, but it's not grounds for me to hate or even dislike a character. I'll admit, it does make me look closer at the character. It can be very poorly done.

In Voodoo's case it was *very* poorly done. Basically it was an excuse to have her appear at the beginning in skimpy costumes and gyrating. The occupation was never used beyond that to any sort of substance.

The character was very sweet and largely innocent. The pure heart of the group, basically. The only one who cried when the Spartan Android blew himself up (the first time anyway). Now there's nothing wrong with this either, but in combination with the whole stripper thing, you start to get an irritating combination. She's a sweet, little girl personality that's also there to be objectified! But she's not cynical, oh no! She's still innocent and emotionally untouched. Add in abuse in a backstory (or implied, I forget precisely), and I start to grit my teeth.

She's "special", somehow a hybrid descendent of both Daemonite and Kherubim ancestry. She can see Daemonite possession. This is an interesting idea, but in practice I find the more "special" a character is in terms of ancestry/powers, the less she is in terms of personality.

Here's a tip to all the writers out there, if your character needs to be "one of a kind" or notably "special" to be an interesting character, (like for example, she has to be Superman's cousin, and implied to be even *more* powerful than him, traumatized from isolation in a space capsule, able to bypass a demi-godling's control of an Olympian Lasso, et cetera) you might be dealing with a weak character...not that I'm implying anything of course.

Not to mention this mixed heritage ends up only causing Voodoo more trouble and angst when they reach the planet of the Kherubim and she finds herself shoved into one of the slums. It was an interesting storyline, but weakened because *naturally* fucking-Voodoo was the one in trouble.

Voodoo was constantly the damsel in distress. Moreover, she was constantly the injured one. If a team member had to be carried from the rubble, decourously draped in the arms of another character, it was her. ALWAYS. Now I understand the appeal of decorously draped unconscious characters sometimes, and angst and hurt-comfort, but if it's the same victim EVERY TIME, it gets old. Just *die* already.

She was regularly the tortured character in insane gratuitous ways. From being imprisoned in the slums of the Kherubim world, to having her mind raped, to having her legs *ripped* *off* at some point...

Not to mention, she was utterly useless in battle. Where mixed heritage gave Maul the ability to increase size/decrease intelligence and thus make him a risky powerhouse in battle, her powers were passive. That's not her fault, of course, but she couldn't do anything *else*. Grifter had no powers at all, being human, and he still managed to kick ass. She was the weakest fighter, had the lamest power (in a fighting sense), and hell, she didn't even have the technological expertise to make up for being utterly useless in a fight. Her sole purpose was to say, "That one's the bad guy!!!" and get injured and moon after the android while Maul moons after her.

Well, to be fair, every once in a there was a plotline of Voodoo trying to learn to be a better fighter from Zealot or someone else. It'd never *really* last and soon enough she'd be the delicate flower of the team again. Bleh.

That and she managed to piss me off more by crushing on the android (who really was the vastly more interesting character of the two), because of course the pretty, useless one should be paired with the leader. He even had feelings for her back.

Not that we were ever shown why/how these feelings developed. Not that we ever really had any build up to make the relationship a plausible option (and I tend to *like* human-android relationships, they've got interesting drama.).

Voodoo also suffers from the literary device in which the hot girl is "the prize" to be won. The winner would be the geeky but pure hearted Maul of course. The problem is one of many geek-gets-the-hot-girl storylines though. The relationship is defined basically in terms of him only. He's the one pining from afar. She doesn't notice/appreciate him. Ultimately he wins her heart.

My problem isn't that he's a geek or that she's hot. People are attracted to each other for many reasons after all. My problem is that in these sorts of stories, the hot girl is turned into this glorified Other. She's like...this unattainable, beautiful being that's portrayed as closer to some out of reach alien or goddess than a person. Her humanity is stripped from her, and we're never really given the chance to truly understand her perspective on all this.

I suppose in general, my problem with the character is that she's in general not written as a human to me (and I'm not referring to species here). She's always seemed like a string of cliches. She annoys the hell out of me. I suppose there's always the hope that she's written better in the new series.

Anyone here read the new WildCATS series that can tell me if they finally figured out to write her, or if she remains a waste of ink and paper, would be greatly appreciated. :-)

(I stole the top picture of Voodoo from here.)

26 Comments:

  • At May 22, 2006 4:43 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    Never read the series (but ye gawds, what a hateful-sounding character -- There room in the Fridge for this one?), but if I never see the geek-hot girl storyline again it'll be too soon.

    I'm sorry, if I had just once, just once had it been a geek girl pining for a hot guy who gained the guy without losing her glasses and ponytail to reveal a Playboy Centerfold -- you know, like how the ugly guy gets to remain overweight or acne-ridden or scrawny or glasses-wearing because with him it's what's on the inside b ut with her it's the innate fuckability she's been hiding all her life -- I could accept the plot.

    But no, I can't. I simply despise the plot. I want that plot to go away. Forever.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 4:47 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    What irritates me about the plot is the entitlement factor.

    There's this idea that no matter how creepy/stalkerlike/idiotic/assholish the geek acts, he *deserves* the hot girl. She's the bitch for not being interested in him. She has to come to her senses.

    A jock who doesn't notice the geeky girl isn't villainized, but the head cheerleader who's not interested in the captain of the chess team *is*.

    The geek girl has to be transformed to win her guy. The hot girl comes to the *realization* of what she's been missing all along. It's annoying.

    Who knows though, maybe they've fixed her in the new version. But god, she couldn't be fridged too soon.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 10:27 AM, Anonymous jer said…

    I utterly despise the whole "ex-stripper" background for a female character. Its another one of those lazy cliche characterizations that irritate me. On TV it usually is just to give the writers an excuse to have the action move into a strip club for the 4 weeks of sweeps, so they can show half-naked women on broadcast TV for ratings (why this still works in THIS day and age, I have no idea).

    In comics, its pretty much the same thing, except that it isn't for ratings - its more just an excuse for the artist to draw half-naked women dancing around poles at random intervals. I suspect that it may be to allow them to use visits to "gentlemen's clubs" as tax-deductable "research" visits, but perhaps thats too cynical, even for me.

    As for the "geeky guy gets the girl" - well, remember who's writing this stuff and who the target audience is. Its almost always geeky guys writing for other geeky guys. Its fairly juvenile, because in a lot of ways geek subculture is just as juvenile as jock subculture.

    And as for the geek girls removing their glasses and being a beauty underneath - well, to a degree there are no unattractive women in TV, comics or movies. When was the last time you saw a truly unattractive woman in any of these areas? There are some women who don't fit the standard "perfect body" look, sure, but they're almost never completely unattractive - especially when constrasted with their male counterparts (some of whom can be pretty hideous and still get plenty of acting roles, especially villainous ones).

    And in superhero comics, this is even moreso since there's no actual casting going on, just artist renditions. I can't think of ANY "ugly" women in comics. Batman has some truly grotesque MALE villains, but his female villains are all seductresses. Over in Marvel, the only one I can think of is Rogue, who was supposed to be fairly plain (if not outright ugly - I don't recall at the moment) when she first appeared - not so much anymore. There are plenty of ugly guys in comics (especially villains) but not so much women.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 1:02 PM, Blogger Marionette said…

    Jer, if I can grab the tail end of that rant for a second I'd like to throw a couple of spanners in your works:

    1) "ex-stripper" lazy TV cliche background excuse to show half naked women. What, like Catherine Willows on CSI?

    b) Female Batman villains are all seductresses. What, like Orca?

    And while I agree that most women in comics are Barbie dolls, I'm not sure there are really many ugly men in major roles in comics. Jonah Hex is the only one that springs to my mind.

    I suppose it depends how you class characters like the Thing. I don't consider the Thing ugly, but neither do I consider his appearance human.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 2:19 PM, Blogger Mickle said…

    "if I had just once, just once had it been a geek girl ...who gained the guy without losing her glasses and ponytail to reveal a Playboy Centerfold"

    Ahhh...the reasons why I love Runaways...

    But seriously, yes. This type of feeling of entitlement reminds me of all the "nice guy" discussions going around the feminists blogs a while ago.

    "What, like Catherine Willows on CSI?" Well, there are always exceptions. Ms. Willow's backstory, after all was not introduced in the first episode (if I'm remembering it right). Her being a former stripper is not nearly as important to her identity as her being a mother - which was introduced first.

    "I'm not sure there are really many ugly men in major roles in comics."

    See, now, I just read The Long Halloween at work yesterday, and I'm not sure there were any pretty people in the entire comic. Although I'm fairly certain Catwoman and Selina were supposed to be sexy and I guess Bruce Wayne/Batman was probably supposed to be handsome, they really didn't look that way to me.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 2:51 PM, Anonymous David said…

    I haven't gotten a chance to read wildCATS v3.0 yet so I could be wrong here, but at least at the end of joe caseys run on v2.0 she had found out how to unlock her inner Daemonite powers or something like that and it actually looked like she had the potential to be a fairly powerful character. Did that go anywhere in v3.0 or did she just remain the damsel in distress?

    Also you mention her legs getting ripped off, are you reffering to that serial killer with the heat vision or was that a seperate incident? If she got her legs ripped off twice thats pretty fucked up.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 3:50 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Jer: The ex-stripper thing is really irritating in general.

    As for the geek, hot-girl thing, I do have some sympathy for comics in that. It helps that 90% of the time at least, the geek is *also* attractive behind his glasses...in a career where everyone wears spandex, you have to be.

    But it's not so much the pairup that annoys me. It's the sense of entitlement. The idea that the man deserves the woman automatically. That just because he pursues her, it should *automatically* work out because he's earned her.

    It's silly but it's a peeve of mine. (Especially silly because I tend to find geeks attractive...Ted Kord for example...Rawr.)

    Marionette: You've got some good points but actually, I always thought the CSI thing was cliched as well. Not as much to show naked women, but a very obvious attempt to show a "different side of the tracks" past for a major character, as well as emphasize her attractiveness. It was an excuse to make a character that gets "personally involved" in cases like this...and when things got too personal, Catherine does tend to screw up. (Though, I actually do like the character).

    Orca's a good point, but I'd say in general, you will find a lot more ugly male than ugly female villainesses.

    Wolverine's pretty damn ugly, in my opinion. :-P But you're right, few male heroes are unattractive. But I think you ultimately will find more *inhuman* male characters (like the Thing) than inhuman female characters.

    Mickle: :-), yeah, nice-guy-entitlement is more than a little annoying. A real nice guy doesn't feel like he's entitled to anything, he knows he has to earn it.

    To be fair, re: Long Halloween, a lot of that is the artist. If Bruce and Selina are *supposed* to be attractive, we can probably logically assume the others are too.

    David: I think that's the incident I'm referring to, it's been a while since I read it.

    And honestly, I don't recall her being much of a presence in 3.0, which to be honest was a step up from perpetual victim.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 5:38 PM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…

    "Much of a presence"? IIRC, I don't think Casey featured her in the book at all after the "Serial Boxes" storyline in Vol. 2.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 5:40 PM, Anonymous David said…

    I also think that Maul could probably do better than Vodoo. While yeah she was fairly attractive in a physical sense, from what I remeber of v2.0 she was pretty vain, self pitying, and really didn't seem to have anything going for her besides her looks. While maybe not a total hunk, Maul isn't bad looking and also he's a freakin genius and pretty finacially secure.

    So if they have to stick with the nerd/hot girl thing surely he'd be so much better off with the Engineer from the Authority. At least that pairing would make a little bit more sense since thier both science-y types, and they could team up and cure cancer or AIDs or whatever.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 5:47 PM, Anonymous David said…

    " "Much of a presence"? IIRC, I don't think Casey featured her in the book at all after the "Serial Boxes" storyline in Vol. 2."

    I checked and at least in vol. 2 she shows up in the end of the "battery park" trade, where this old guy/Daemonite shows her the full extent of her power and helps her to heal her legs. And unless I'm mistaken right after the old guy leaves is when she first kisses Maul.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 5:47 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    dan:

    I vaguely recall her showing up in an issue or two when everyone was trying to figure out what the hell Hadrian was doing with the company and worrying that the android had a god complex. Might have been volume 2 though, I admit, 2 and 3 tend to blend together for me.

    Either way, the miraculous sudden potentially kickass power came to naught.

    david:

    heh, Maul was actually also pretty nice and sensitive and supportive too. I'd have liked to see him with a girl who actually appreciated him.

    Even if she wasn't an ex-stripper. Bleh.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 5:57 PM, Anonymous Lyle said…

    I'm sorry, if I had just once, just once had it been a geek girl pining for a hot guy who gained the guy without losing her glasses and ponytail to reveal a Playboy Centerfold -- you know, like how the ugly guy gets to remain overweight or acne-ridden or scrawny or glasses-wearing because with him it's what's on the inside b ut with her it's the innate fuckability she's been hiding all her life -- I could accept the plot.

    Hm, you've just made me realize something I liked about the Beauty and the Geek series. The "beauties" get to give their "geek" a makeover midway through (it's always the best part of the game). While it still plays on established, sexist attitudes, it does ask which of these guys could be hotties if given the right advice.

    It'll be even more interesting to see how the upcoming reverse-gendered version goes... also brings me hopes that the American version of Betty la Fea doesn't mess up the ending.

     
  • At May 22, 2006 9:43 PM, Anonymous ben said…

    Marionette: I suppose it depends how you class characters like the Thing. I don't consider the Thing ugly, but neither do I consider his appearance human.

    I think I'd classify that as an exception that proved the rule, actually, about ugly male characters. Sure, the Thing is central and fairly important, developed, and UGLY, but this isn't how he starts out; being turned into a monster is an unintentional punishment to a guy who starts out as a craggly manly pilot.

    Generally, ugliness in comics veers in the direction of the inhuman (mutants with inhuman looking bodies, for example), regardless of gender.

    Kalinara - Very good good post. :)

     
  • At May 22, 2006 9:44 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Thanks! I enjoy when my vitriol spewing gets interesting discussion as a result. :-)

     
  • At May 22, 2006 10:40 PM, Anonymous ben said…

    I think I maybe read the first WildCATS issue when I was young, but I must have borrowed it from someone. I didn't really explore any of that stuff until later on, when I picked up a Warren Ellis Stormwatch trade with WildCATS/Aliens in it.

    Your description of Grifter - "What Gambit should have been but never was" is lovely, especially when paired with Zealot's description of him in WC/Aliens: "You, on the other hand, were born in a toilet in the back of a country and western bar in Columbus, Ohio. You remain poor white trash with guns." He's such a rough, sodden man and I always wanted him to actually *be* ugly (to the topic at hand) behind that mask. Not hideous, Phantom of the Opera, Ben Grimm ugly. Just kind of skeevy and uggo.

     
  • At May 23, 2006 1:11 PM, Anonymous JLG said…

    The only characters I can think of that were drawn "ugly" are Marrow and Pantha. Marrow early on was drawn like she was going through a severe physical disorder. Even after she joined the X-Men, it seemed they didn't cover up her scars and pain she went through because of her powers (the sort of pain/angst saved for male characters to suffer through to look "badass," it seems). But of course, then they eventually changed her leading up to this.

    As for Pantha, they were always playing with her mask and what, human or beast, was behind it. And unlike, say, Tigra, they did show Pantha looking unflatteringly bestial and angry. But then they killed her as cannon fodder for camp shock value and substituted her for Rose, the stock stereotypical Sexy Bad Girl.

    So comics are still stupid. :P

    And I agree about that whole entitlement cliche - it is a fantasy for the geek guys it's aimed aimed at. All it's saying is, "You don't have to change, everyone else is all wrong!" And excuses any behavior that might be offputting or unattractive.

     
  • At May 23, 2006 2:10 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    ben: Oh yeah, Grifter should be plain, I reckon.

    And that poor white trash line is awesome.

    jlg: *nod* I was always a little disappointed that they changed Marrow's design. I'd always liked the original character design, myself.

     
  • At May 24, 2006 12:58 AM, Blogger notintheface said…

    Voodoo's only other useful function in battle seemed to be helping Maul after he "grew himself stupid" (i.e. grew so big that he lost most or all of his mental facilities). But at least when Maul did this he ended up either saving lives or taking out a whole platoon of bad guys.

    The annoying thing about her was that EVERYONE on the team except Emp and the women members ended up either fawning over her or getting involved with her at some point.

    Maul wasn't always mooning over Voodoo, though. Early on he and Warblade appeared at an art show in civvies, and there was a nice reversal where the bespectacled Maul scored with one of the two hotties who approached them while the handsomer Warblade struck out with the other.

    Also, go easy on the nice guys. We suffer enough as it is.

     
  • At May 24, 2006 1:04 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I liked Maul a lot. And I think I remember enjoying that scene immensely.

    I always hated that a great character got tied down with that twit.

    And I've nothing against nice guys. :-)

     
  • At May 24, 2006 5:08 AM, Anonymous carla said…

    Voodoo: Classic 'The Girl' character, right down to the battle-weak power (if only she could heal people with a pretty light..), the ridiculously useless costume, the insta-hostage stories, the heart of gold, the 'well, we consider her the heart and soul of the team' purpose...

    ... and the strangest thing about it was that Zealot was RIGHT THERE, being the Wolverine-like powerful chick (great comparison btw). Was it a bad Star Trek transporter accident?

     
  • At May 24, 2006 5:12 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    God knows, maybe she could be beamed into the damn sun.

    I may not have liked Zealot much (too Wolverine-like as I mentioned, and I don't like Wolverine), but she was a good female character. Voodoo...was not.

     
  • At May 24, 2006 6:10 PM, Blogger notintheface said…

    Actually, Warblade was the Wolverine-ish character in my eyes. Zealot kind of came off to me like a Caucasian cross between Psylocke (minus telepathy) and Lady Shiva.

     
  • At May 24, 2006 6:13 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Warblade was like Wolverine in style (savage, clawed) but Zealot pretty much had the same qualities that annoyed me most about Wolverine.

    Most of it's like I said, the gratuitous flashbacks, the being *everywhere* in Wildstorm at some point (admittedly, because she's recognizable), the subject of love triangles, the supposedly savage but civilized warrior...

    The similarities are thematic to me more than literal.

     
  • At May 25, 2006 5:28 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    Personally, I think it mostly stems from bad writing: too often a person's occupation and/or appearance is used as a substitute for giving them an actual personality - more tokenism, essentially. "Exotic dancer" is no worse a starting point for a female characer than "hooker," "nun," "teacher," "student," "nurse," "doctor," "cop," "warrior," or "housewife" - it's where you take her from there that matters. If a writer uses her occupation as a crutch which solely defines her existence - well, shame on them.

    Thus female characters like Voodoo are just "The Hot Helpless Chick:" she may be an object of desire or the subject of scorn or the weekly damsel in distress or a McGuffin to be chased or whatever; but she's usually defined in terms of how she serves the plot, not who she is as a person.

    Geez, we had to wait like a decade for Deanna Troi to finally become interesting, too.

    "Beauty and the Geek:" obviously, there's an element of adolescent male wish fulfillment in that - escapist fare, to be sure. But just as superheroes in general are meant to show us things like "with great power comes great responsibility" - rather than simply telling us, "punching people is fun!" - maybe that hoary cliche can be worked into something along the lines of "learn to be a genuinely nice guy if you want girls to like you, rather than being a creepy whiny self-absorbed emo jerkface." Oh, and while we're at it: "If she's too shallow to notice you if you are genuinely nice, maybe you should look for somebody better rather than mooning over her...no, I don't care how fantastic you think her tits are."

    X-P

    Shit, I am a geek guy and I find those kind of "love" stories hella lame and annoying.

     
  • At May 25, 2006 5:57 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    *nod* It's not the exotic dancer thing that bothers me, it's the overall, that's just a small part.

    On a better character, like for example Catherine on CSI, I wouldn't be bothered.

    Heh, Star Trek TNG while a great show did have alot of weak writers. Even though there were seven years or so worth of episodes, I didn't realize that either Marina Sirtis or Jonathan Frakes could act at *all* until Gargoyles of all things. Which is a shame because they're so very good there.

    The stories are insulting for both reasons. They treat the woman like a prize to be won, and they ignore any verbal/emotional abuse she might have inflicted on the guy before being won. And it's annoying. I'm not saying that conflict pre-getting together is bad, but it should be *dealt* with, or it's just emotionally empty. And romance should *never* be empty.

     
  • At June 30, 2007 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Im sorry but i loved voodoo. your right her character was underwritten in a great number of ways but I loved her in the sense of me being a writer at heart i could see her potential. I always saw her as the innocent girl who would one day prove not so innocent. Because your right why would a young innocent looking girl think all of a sudden to become a stripper out of all the jobs to do. Its because shes not an innoncent flower she knows her beauty and harnesses it as a way to use for her advantage (i.e. to get money). later in the series you see she breaks up with maul because he cant deal with the fact that she uses her powers to become "intamite" with others to use them, doesnt sound like the innocent flower to me at all and thats why I like her a def good girl gone bad

     

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