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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Strange thoughts about Female Characters in Green Lantern Books

You know, I was thinking. One of the many reasons I like Guy Gardner is that, unlike many other heroes, and certainly most of the other Lanterns, Guy actually gets to have relationships with women that aren't romantic.

I'm not counting group books like the JLA, mind you, since certainly Hal and Kyle have platonic relationships with the female superheroes on their team. But in their regular book, it was incredibly rare, if not utterly impossible, for Kyle or Hal to develop a relationship with a woman that wasn't going to turn romantic.

I remember one point that keeps getting brought up when Ragnell and I argue about Cowgirl, (I like Cowgirl, Ragnell doesn't) which I have to cede is that it's a little frustrating that Jillian couldn't possibly be introduced as a friend/work-colleague/foil to Hal without being a romantic interest. To be fair, I'm of the opinion that that sort of thing is completely in character for Hal. He really isn't the sort to have female friends. I don't think he's a misogynist mind, but I do think that for Hal women are distinctly the other and to be pursued romantically.

It would have been interesting if Jillian were perhaps married, or a lesbian, or otherwise unavailable, with the same saucy personality and the same work relationship to Hal. Then he would be in the very rare position of having a platonic relationship with a woman in his own book, not under the terms of being a superhero.

I suppose Hal DOES have that sort of relationship with Dinah Lance, already. But she hasn't been a lead character in his book since, well, before I was born. It's not something they tended to explore much in the issues I read, either. It was mainly Ollie-and-Dinah at one end, Hal (or Hal-and-Kari-Limbo) at the other, or Ollie-and-Hal at one end and Dinah at the other. I don't remember a lot of interaction strictly between Dinah and Hal except maybe during the whole wedding aftermath, which seems like a missed opportunity.

Kyle is similar really. During his run of Green Lantern, it was remarkably rare to see women appear that weren't love interests or women who made his love interests jealous. Merayn, perhaps, though she was in love with John. Maura, of course, but then she was his mom. In any case, like Hal, usually if the woman was single and available, she was romantically linked or set up as love interest-foil.

I always wondered if that wasn't a bit of bad writing really, since while Hal is the sort of guy I can see not having female friends that aren't "taken" or "prey", Kyle really does seem like he should be the token sensitive metrosexual straight guy that ends up hanging around a group of girls because he's sweet and treats them like people even if he kind of wants to do them too. Then again, to be fair, he's invariably involved with someone during his entire run. Still, it seems odd.

John's a bit harder to pin down, since he hasn't really solo'ed a series since Mosaic and he shines best in group superhero books which are less inclined to go for romance. Hopefully, his greater role in GL lately will mean I'll get to follow up this post with better conclusions. :-)

Anyway, Guy is different. If you look at Warrior, you'll see a plethora of Guy-and-female relationships that don't amount to anything romantic. Rita, who probably gets the least exposure of the regular girls in the comic, gets to tease him like a drinking buddy. Arisia is a little sister, (which gives her the opportunity to display different facets than she got to as Hal's somewhat-underage-but-retconned-as-not girlfriend) while Veronna, for all that she establishes herself as Guy's betrothed, remains more of a best friend/confidant/support role than a love interest.

And Guy's mom is scary.

Even in GLC, the relationship between Guy and the most prominent female character Dr. Natu is not even remotely sexually charged or romantic. Okay, he does hit on her, but that's usually with the express intention of pissing her off and pushing her forward. Soranik's more a protégé than anything else. We haven't seen much with Guy and Iolande, but hopefully that will change as the series goes on.

Admittedly, a lot of the difference may be writing style. GLC is more of a group book than a singular one. And as for Warrior, Beau Smith is probably one of the best writers out there when it comes to including female characters where one least expects them and awesome female characters in general. This isn't an attack against the other writers, just an acknowledgement that when it comes down to it, Beau Smith's amazing at introducing female characters that aren't intended to be romantic. He even includes women as random walk-on one shot characters like secret agents or doctors, and many of them don't even flirt with the lead! is kind of sad that I'm not being sarcastic with this praise, but it is a fairly rare thing even among writers who have a good handle on writing satisfying female characters.

Some of it, I think, is in the characters themselves though. Guy's got two factors going for him that Hal or Kyle don't have. First, as of Warrior at least, he's still grieving over Ice. To be fair, of course, Kyle lost Alex, but then Kyle's coping mechanism's different. I don't think it's unrealistic for someone as young and emotional as Kyle tends to be to react to losing someone he loves like that to dive into another relationship as soon as possible to try to get over it. Guy's a different sort of fellow though and it shows that it took quite a lot longer for him to enter into a romantic relationship and in that case mind-control was involved. Then when he had that liaison with Bea, Tora was still, unspoken, a very large part of it.

The second factor is that he's a immature jerk. This doesn't seem like it'd be a positive element in determining whether a guy has platonic friendships with women, but in a weird way, it is. See, as much as I personally think Hal's much more of a dick than Guy is, he's also incredibly charming and can carry off even the lamest pick-up lines. Kyle on the other hand is cute and earnest and nearly blindingly handsome. I suppose if I were a straight female in the DCU and saw either of those men, my first reaction would not be platonic either. (And then if it were Kyle, I would die. Heh.)

Guy though? Guy's not actually unattractive, sure, and in some panels, usually when his mouth isn't moving, he's actually kind of hot. But he's certainly loud, obnoxious, abrasive and off-putting. I'd imagine, much as I love him, that my first reaction to meeting a guy like him would amount to throwing my drink in his face. But he has the kind of appeal that grows on you in spite of yourself. He's the sort of guy you spend most of your time bickering with or exchanging insults with, until you realize that somehow or another, you've actually become friends without ever realizing it. And really, he can be quite nice when he wants to be. It's just that he's more likely to want to be long after all thoughts of a romantic relationship have vacated the room.

I don't really have a point to this, I just thought it was interesting to consider. Especially now that Kyle's in GLC. I wonder if that'll change the dynamics some. I hope not. I'd like to keep these girls alive, ya know? :-)


  • At March 06, 2008 11:01 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Heh. It is interesting with Guy, that most of his friendships start out with the other person hating his guts. Just look at Kilowog and Arisia and even Salakk. But once they become friends, they STAY friends, which is nice.

    It is fun that Guy does flirt, but he's doing it without really meaning it, such as his interactions with Soranik for example. Even when he first met Arisia, I think that he was mainly flirting with her just to piss off Hal.

    Hal on the other hand can't help himself. Woman are something of a challenge to him. They aren't a challenge to Kyle, but let's face it, Kyle is just so cute and adorable that he's practically irresistable. John has his charms, but he's not going to flaunt them, like Hal.

    I can understand Guy being a little gunshy around woman too. Kari Limbo ran off with Hal about ten seconds after hearing of his "death", which had to hurt. At any rate, he saw right through her faithful act once he came out of the coma. And Tora's death hit him hard. Which is why I'm hoping that she comes around...and soon.

  • At March 09, 2008 10:52 AM, Blogger mordicai said…

    I think part of the reason is the Guy is a CHARACTER. I mean, no offense to Hal & Kyle & John, but those guys are sort of run of the mill. What flaws do they really have to flesh them out? What personality quirks & such? Guy, having been told as larger than life comedy for a while, got to have parts of his character explored that, in other comics, would really only be a thing to overcome.

  • At March 09, 2008 1:38 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Mordicai: Well, I disagree and agree. :-) I do think Kyle, John and Hal are very fleshed out characters themselves, with very notable and pronounced flaws.

    But I think there is a difference that I usually pin down to the fact that Kyle, John and Hal were all designed from the start to be heroes. Guy started as a sidenote/contrast to Hal, then was a victim, then a villain, then comic relief, then finally a hero.

    Since all of these changes were organic to the stories and as realistic as comic book stories tend to get we end up with a character who's far more dynamic and has a lot of non-traditional elements than the others, who are somewhat bound by their more standard hero role.

    So yeah, I think we basically agree but quantified somewhat differently. :-)


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