Laura Hudson‘s excellent piece on Red Hood and The Outlaws and Catwoman this week inspired some genuinely interesting debate over comic book sexuality, sexism within the industry and whether DC has any interest in courting a female readership or is just fixated on teenage boy readers.
Wait that came out wrong….never mind.
Anyway, while this is a relevant debate, there has been another critical take on Scott Lobdell’s book in particular. Unfortunately Red Hood was not only dubious in its use of Starfire as a character – here depicted as an alien sex kitten immediately available to her two male companions – but the actual book itself was poorly written.
The question has arisen as to why this is, given the generally positive reviews of Lobdell’s other book Superboy. Is the former X-Men writer just a little off his game? Was the gratitous adult content of the book a result of editorial interference? Is Roy back on drugs again and this is yet another one of his lurid hallucinations? Perhaps a belated sequel to The Rise of Arsenal?
I have another theory. I think Red Hood and The Outlaws is derivative because it is a take off of Y Ta Mama También.
In the film friends Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) go on a road-trip together in Mexico. On their journey they see mysterious scenes of violence and political oppression, director Alfonso Cuarón (who was also responsible for the excellent Children of Men) hinting at how removed their privileged backgrounds make them from the problems of ordinary people. Then they meet Ana (Ana López Mercado) an outspoken, sexually liberated woman who is trying to reach an island haven which the two chaps agree to help her find.
Ana sleeps with both Julio and Tenoch, creating some tension within the group initially, until she proposes a unique solution. It is also revealed that her fatalistic, carefree attitude is not the stuff of adolescent porn – she is actually desperately sad and for her sex is just a way of alleviating some of that burden.
I am not sure where Lobdell intends to take his interpretation of Starfire’s sexuality – it seems to be little more than textbook fanservice – but that in itself makes it especially disturbing. She seems less of a sexually vivacious character and more like a blow-up doll.
But the eroticism and relationship dynamics of Y Tu Mama También are at once similar to the bare skeleton sketched in the Red Hood and the Outlaws script, and miles away in terms of actual depth. Did Lobdell catch the flick on cable one night and decide to try and base a comic around the scenario between Ana, Julio and Tenoch? I do not believe that myself, but as a thought experiment I chose to compare the two, comic and arthouse flick that was popular as a date night movie some ten years ago, and the comic came up short. Cuarón’s film had heart, wit and was sexy as hell. Red Hood has none of these things and feels a little grubby. It manages to be a failure as a piece of eroticism and a weird mixture of influences as a superhero comic. I really do not understand what it is trying to achieve as a book. In fact the whole farrago has most probably been inspired by a sense of desperation on the part of the editors and creators involved to do something – anything – to draw attention to DC.
If that was the case, mission accomplished. But a lot of folks are upset and all we have ultimately is a lousy comic.
Rent Y Tu Mama También. It’s a good movie and it won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Oh, but in case the film did have anything to do with the inspiration behind this comic…? I can’t wait for the ‘morning after’ issue should Starfire follow Ana’s lead.