Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Monday, October 11, 2010

A character I really like: Starfire

You know what character I really like that I don't tend to talk about often? Starfire.

And I don't mean the cardboard cut-out giggly teen version from the cartoon Teen Titans. I mean the barely dressed, hair-out-to-here awesome alien hothead version of Starfire from the actual comics.

I mean, intellectually I get that she's a total male geek fantasy type character. But I don't think that "male geek fantasy" in and of itself is necessarily a bad thing when the fantasy is fun. It's only when the fantasy gets exclusionary that I start to bitch.

The thing about Starfire, for me, for all her cliched "I'm an alien with customs that basically amount to me running around half naked, being cheerfully amorous with everyone and titillating straight guy hormones, with a name that's a total cooking pun" is that she's FUN.

I mean it.

I think a lot of characters that fall into the male geek fantasy trap tend to carry a lot of baggage. Traumatic pasts (which granted, Starfire does have), constant need for rescue, a notable lack of personality outside of the relationship with the geek avatar character. There's not necessarily anything WRONG with this, but it doesn't leave a lot for me to really care about.

But I like Starfire's personality. I like her temper. She has cool powers. She has awesome hair. Her people, when we see them, are all kind of funny-awesome looking. She doesn't end up in need for rescue anymore than anyone else on her team, that I've ever noticed. And while she may have trauma, she doesn't let it define her. And dude. Cosmic hair powers. AWESOME.

And I never really felt like her sex-positive elements were just tacked on for straight guy titillation. Contrast with, for an example, early Claremont's Storm and her naked rain showers. I LIKE Storm, but that bit always made me say "Really, Claremont?" Yes, I know her powers let her do that with ease. But I never really bought her motivation for doing so when she has a perfectly good shower inside. But for Starfire, I thought that the sex positive traits fit Kory's personality as a whole much better, so that while they were totally there for straight guy titillation, they didn't feel "tacked on" but rather felt like an organic aspect of her character.

It might just be that Storm's never been characterized, in my opinion, as enough of a free spirit to really make it believable for me. Even in the early years. She might have heated her own rain showers when she didn't have access to a shower, but I never bought the exhibitionist tendencies. (Showier costumes aside. There's a difference between going out in a glorified bikini and taking a nude shower outside when you have an alternative.) Starfire, on the other hand, has the whole "free-spirit" thing in spades.

(This is not a knock on Storm by the way. I still love Storm. Just a comparison of one particular portrayal/trait.)

I also preferred Dick and Kory as a couple to Dick and Babs. Partially because it's not a thematic step down for Kory like it is for Barbara. Barbara had such a hard won journey to be her own character and to break free from being one of many Bat-subordinate characters. And now, she has her own team and a presence of awesomeness throughout the DCU. But dating Dick pulls her back into the Bat-fold. She has to deal with all the dangers and elements of being Dick's girlfriend. Including Bruce as a father-in-law type figure. So she goes from her hard won independence to on some level being reverted to "Dick Grayson's girlfriend."

Kory doesn't have the same sort of trouble. Since she comes from a team book, she doesn't have the bat clan baggage. She's not a prominent enough character solo to have her position suffer as Dick's girlfriend. She's not a good fit for a Gotham book for other reasons, but there's no threat to her status. And I've always liked that she had this weird immunity to all the bat angst. Which is probably why she really only works as his girlfriend when they're on the same team. But I did like them.

It occurs to me that I'd totally read a Starfire solo comic. Think about it! There'd be space faring fun of a more B-movie type than generally covered in the GLC. Aliens. Ridiculous costumes. Awesomely horrible hair. You could totally bring back some of that gloriously bad pulp sci-fi/fantasy adventure genre with her. You know, the scantily clad barbarian on Mars type thing. Channel your inner Rice-Burroughs. Introduce a little cosmic hair-girl power into your John Norman. It'd be great!

The covers could all be homages to the old covers. Scantily clad, muscular orange barbarian lady against a red sky? Awesome. Can we give her a battle-ax? Because that's really all that sort of thing needs.

Granted this would probably totally be an 'audience of one' kind of thing. But damn, I would totally read that.


  • At October 11, 2010 8:16 PM, Blogger Diabolu Frank said…

    I always hated Starfire because she was such a bimbo. Only in recent years have I seen the merit in that "Barbarella" vibe, and realized she's one of the few prominent DC heroines who isn't the girl version of a male star. This could work.

  • At October 11, 2010 8:25 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I always thought Starfire had a bit too much temper to really be bimbo-like.

    I'd never argue she's a terribly cerebral character, but let's be honest, none of the Titans ever struck me as particularly braintrust worthy. (Even Cyborg did his share of stupid shit.)

    Personally I always thought Aqualad was team bimbo more than Starfire. :-P

  • At October 12, 2010 6:04 AM, Blogger Eyz said…

    "Cosmic hair powers"
    You made that sounds so much awesome! :P

    I could totally imagine a solo b-movie like comic series for her! Give the lady a battleaxe now DC!!

  • At October 13, 2010 4:07 PM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    I like both versions, personally, though for different reasons. But comic book Starfire, yeah? She's definitely cool, probably in my top 10 DC characters (top 15 for sure). Tough, honest, open with what she's feeling. I think the energy trailing out of the hair struck me as strange at first glance, but it's a nice visual.

  • At October 14, 2010 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I also liked both versions, although the comic version of Blackfire made a much better nemesis. I did rather enjoy some of Starfire's home planet story lines in the first New Teen Titans run, although the trauma stuff was rather over the top, albeit mitigated by the fact that as you say it doesn't define her.

  • At October 14, 2010 6:37 PM, Blogger davelevine said…

    Starfire never seemed like a damsel in distress to me. She and Cyborg were the Titans' muscle in the early 1980s, or at least that's how I remember it. One of my favorite stories from that era was from New Teen Titans Annual #1 in which she fought her sister, Blackfire, who had allied herself with alien invaders (Gordanians?), on her homeworld (Tamaran?).

    The cover image alone speaks to her power as she lifts her sister over her head. Most of the Titans are in the background fighting the Godanians except Dick. He is at her feet. All that's missing is for him to be wrapped around her leg. I didn't think about it that way back then but that's what strikes me about that cover now.

    That thing her hair did when she flew was kind of weird. I still can't figure that one out.


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