Monday, March 3, 2008

Catching Up On Marvel-caused WTF

I'm reading She Hulk.

There are many things going through my mind. Not the least of which is that if it weren't for Kalinara I'd never have bothered with the book at all. The covers have all been far too cheesecake for me. No, that's not fair to the term cheesecake. The covers have seemed like very bad sf porn. And considering how much I enjoyed the 70's tv series Hulk as a child, and how much the concept of a SHE - Hulk appealed to me, I didn't want to see it played out in typical 4 colour porn fashion.

But the content has been the sort of stuff I like; the backstories and side stories of a life with superheroes and I seriously enjoyed it. HOWEVER...

The Starfox On Trial Storyline?

Marvel failed there. Failed big.

I'm currently stopped near the end of that. I think She-Hulk's about to break up with her husband. But I had to stop and write this.

The premise of the Starfox On Trial Storyline Is... (and I'm sorry if this is still spoilery for folk, but Blogger's cut tag process is too damn complicated for me. So don't read anymore.)

The premise of the storyline is that we eventually discover that Starfox's evil brother Thanos, implanted a false memory into Starfox's mind, of him, in a moment of extreme sympathy for his brother (Thanos) using his powers to try and convince Thanos to 'embrace death'. It's not made clear exactly when Thanos kidnapped his brother and implanted this false memory, which is a shame, because you see there's a plot-line here that could be about morality and ethics and how long this has been going on would give some scope as to Starfox's victims. How long has Starfox been unethically using his powers? How long as he been violating person after person and robbing them of their free will?

We don't know.

Instead we get told that everything that's happened was due to brain damage and that Starfox's powers have beem 'malfunctioning' without him being aware of it.

Way to wuss Marvel.

So here's some of the plotline:

Starfox ends up on trial on earth accused of rape. He's charged with using his powers of euphoria to get women to sleep with him where they otherwise might not have. The defendant is revealed on the stand as a possible super-hero fangirl. But, she's also a devoted wife and the mother of three small children; one of whom is an infant, an actual babe in arms.

During the trial all the women who have been debriefed by the prosecution, suddenly turn their stories around on seeing Starfox again. Things seem so bad that Starfox is relegated to being in the trial via remote video link-up only. Which Jen, She-Hulk, thinks is extremely prejudicial. And in a way it is, though in a way it could also be claimed that now no one can claim people speaking well of Starfox are being influenced.

Now during the trial, Jen has a flashback, based on the victim's words and needs to know if Starfox ever used his powers on her.

Do note I do not like in the least how this is presented in the comic. It's presented as if Jen -is- a rape victim, having a flashback and moving into hysteria. A hysteria that ends up seeming verified when we cut to Starfox having charmed his guards into letting him out of lock-up, so he can escape, because he doesn't like his lawyer/fellow Avenger asking him those sorts of questions.

Yeah, it seriously doesn't look good at all for Starfox.

But Jen racing out of the courthouse mid trial isn't presented as her becoming aware that Starfox is about to skip out. It's presented as an almost hysterical need to find out from him what happened between them in the past. It doesn't make her look good either.

Also tangential to the trial, but part of the plot, is the fact that Starfox uses his powers to make Jen and John Jamison fall in love with each other, just as they're on the verge of breaking up. He does it, because he wanted his friend to be happy.

He violates the mind and free-will of a fellow hero, because 'he wants her to be happy'.

This relates right back to the false memory implant. In it Starfox only wanted his brother not to be so depressed and woeful about death in said memory, wanted him to embrace death, to be happy and not so sad about death and Thanos' accidental killing of a creature.

A seed is set into Starfox's mind of him having a precedent of making people happy because he -wishes- it so. Of him having warped ethics about over-riding people's free wills to feel what they feel. Of him having a bent created in his morality of his RIGHT to do this. Now the original purpose of this implanted memory was to show Starfox abusing his power in such a way as to make him responsible for the death and chaos (under his world's laws) caused by his brother Thanos.

But whatever the intent of the memory, memories make up who a person feels and believes they are. People often say 'so and so would NEVER do something like that' based on so and so's history of not doing such things and the character it speaks of.

The memory of an incident in the past, however, is as real as having actually done such a thing. It builds actions in the present based on itself, the way a real incident in the past has actions in the present build on its foundation.

To have this all wiped away as mere brain damage by the device or a process used to implant the memory is Marvel totally failing to follow through on the storyline of what ethically and morally makes up a hero. As well as what repercussions should happen to both Starfox and Thanos for what they've done.

Does Marvel think their readers are unintelligent?

Starfox may not be responsible for his actions in one sense, since he was building his present actions based on a false concept of who he was as a person. But that doesn't make the women he'd slept with any less violated or Esquire Mallory or Jen and John. Starfox should have to face the repercussions of his actions, even if he wasn't directly responsible for them. It might not be his fault he did something wrong, but he can do his best to make things right again. Heck, in this same issue series, Jen's shown doing that exact thing concerning the town of Bone. She was be-spelled when she wrecked it, but she went back to try and help fix it.

So it's not as if the editors and execs at Marvel don't understand this concept. They do. And therefore it's not as if they haven't trusted their readers to comprehend this sort of moral / ethical issue before. They have.

Yes rebuilding a town isn't quite the same thing as rebuilding people. But saying that Starfox will have to 'go around to all the neighbouring systems and seek forgiveness of his victims' and only then 'will his good name be restored'makes it all about him instead of all about them.

He's not making restitution. He's not apologizing. He's to head out into the universe with this excuse so that he'll be pardoned and his good name will no longer be associated with that of a rapist.

Excuse me Marvel???

You take a powerful character like Jen Walters / She-Hulk, then have her mind be whammied and violated by Starfox, so much so that she becomes submissive to her boyfriend, marries him, tries to be what he wants to be. She so much so tries to be what he wants to be, that the text can be used to argue that when she decided against staying as Jen all the time to please him, she balanced that out by following his political wants - approving the Registration Act and hunting down fellow Heroes in the middle of the streets, while they're fighting criminals, in order to get them registered. She's in the field with him, fighting side by side with him, to get people registered. She so wants to make him happy, she agrees to sue Spiderman for Jonah Jamison.

The text STATES that just being near Jamison sends her into feelings of positively dizzy euphoria.

Now the maintained state of euphoria was caused by Awesome Andy. Starfox attacked him and he unknowingly absorbed the powers and never realized it.Starfox's abilites only work for a few hours but with Andy around so many people, unaware, they were being re-dosed time and again. But it's not as if Starfox had never fought Andy before or was unaware of Andy's abilities. So Andy too is yet another victim of Starfox's abilities.

Now, while Jen gets a mind to mind heartfelt 'I never used my powers on you to get you to sleep with me' Starfox's other victims aren't likely to get or want such an apology. And what's Starfox to do anyway? Convince people who fear and are repulsed by him and what he did to who they thought they were to let him near them with a telepath?



And even though Jen got an apology, Starfox's actions still sent chaos into her life. She registered and thus ended up working for SHIELD. She got married.

And what of Jamison? He thought he was getting exactly what he wanted - but it wasn't real. His marriage prompted old enemies to try and attack him, thus turning him into a Man-Wolf and The Star God.

Awesome Andy thought he was getting someone who loved and wanted him - it was a lie. He ends up questioning whether he's a sentient person or simply a thing.

Mallory Book, ended up defending The Leader and not incidentally getting him off, because she needed to show how stone cold she was again, to fight back towards her reputation as a shark after images of her relationship with Andy are published.

That's four lives, plus the original victim and her husband and three children. That's now nine lives. Then there's Pug. That's ten lives, all changed irrevocably by Starfox's actions / misuse of his power. I'm sure if I think a little I can find more.

And yet, does the character get set up with having to deal with this baggage for the rest of his life / super hero career? Does he have to deal with the fact within a few short hours he can complete ruin and upset a person's life?

No. It wasn't his fault. There was evil mind manipulation. And he's given up his powers because the ability to control them wasn't ETHICALLY DAMAGED, oh no, it's not his JUDGEMENT to be called into question, it was PHYSICAL BRAIN DAMAGE.

In every story arc I've read so far with Jen, there's always a questioning of her identity - is she losing herself in She-Hulk? Is she hiding in Jen? So Jen Walters has to deal with other characters querying or judging her behavior but Starfox doesn't have to?

And yes, Jen has her own series and I'm not sure if Starfox is used anywhere else ever again. But is that less of a reason to wrap up the story arc with such a wonderful character premise and plot premise in place? A male superhero who has to forever be vigilant in how he uses his abilities and be wary of why people are being chummy/social / getting close to him? That's not interesting? Moreover, personally I think Starfox declaring himself celibate for an extended period of time would be at least some form of reparation to the lives he's so chaotically influenced.

But seriously Marvel?

This is the message you want to send?

Rich white boy is charged with multiple counts of rape. Flees jurisdiction with Daddy's help. Expert witnesses say he's brain damaged and they've permanently confiscated his access to any and all date rape drugs. He can still buy alcohol though. There'll be letters sent out absolving him from any culpability.

No time served.

No cognitive behavioral therapy to change his way of thinking about women.

No reparations are made to his victims.

Wow Marvel, you not only wuss out. You suck.


  1. I only ever skimmed a few issues of Slott's She-Hulk run. So I mostly know about this story from blog posts like yours. But I think if Marvel REALLY felt the need to take a concept like Starfox and "modernize" it with a "realistic" take they should have gone further. Not just Was he using his powers ethically? But, does a character that is literally an Alien Love-God even understand what he may have done wrong?

    Show Starfox, confronted by all these people accusing him of altering their minds and just staring back at them in confusion.

    "I made them happier. Isn't that what humans want? To be happy?"

    But mostly I think taking a character created back in the 60s or 70s or whenever Starlin (I think it was him) created the Eternals and doing a rape storyline with them is a bad idea...

  2. Lurker:

    "I made them happier. Isn't that what humans want? To be happy?"

    That right there is a blaring neon arrow to my point about Starfox's ethics. Powers or no powers if no one addresses how he views women/humans/other individuals then the problem is not really solved.

    I had originally had a bit in my essay discussing the fact that even chemically castrated sex offenders have to go to therapy, so please don't tell me Starfox should be home free because he's been telepathically castrated.

    But silly me thought it might be a bit too harsh - me jumping the gun on an unlikely probable argument.

    Silly, silly me.

    Hunting down where else I'd seen this topic mentioned months past, I ended up on LJ's comicfangirls community and on Written World where Dan Slott was defending his choices. And one of his defenses was making a big deal about how Starfox was psychically neutered -

    Written World:


    ALSO-- and this is an IMPORTANT part of the story-- Having had his OWN mind violated, Eros vows to NEVER use his powers again! At this point he asks Moondragon to psychically nueter him.

    MOONDRAGON: I'm sorry, Eros, but it appears Thanos's device caused irreparable brain damage.
    MOONDRAGON: This is why your powers have been beyond your control. Now if you wish...
    MOONDRAGON: ...I can shut them off telepathically. But I must warn you, this procedure is irreversible.
    STARFOX: Heather, after having MY mind tampered with in such a CAVALIER fashion...
    STARFOX: ...I could NEVER dream of using those powers again.
    STARFOX: I shall be GLAD to be rid of them!

    This is why the story got told. Eros's powers were creepy and immoral. You can see from many posts both here and on other boards, despite your personal interpretation of his past adventures, other posters agreed on this point.

    After a suitable time, if someone brings Eros back and has his him go back to his old ways (but WITHOUT his powers), he can be the same Eros fans like-- but getting by on his NATURAL charm-- without even the HINT or POSSIBILITY of using his creepy, creepy powers.


    Dan Slott apparently doesn't see that the problem is about ethics not powers. It's about the ethics and the mentality that make a person use roofies, not the drugs themselves which have other uses.

    He sees no problem in his portrayal of Starfox being used to as foundation for Starfox's continued morally compromised and ethically destitute behavior if Starfox is using his NATURAL charms.

    Do you think Slott realizes the message he's sent across in both his work and his defense of said work?

    Then again, there are people complaining about his treatment of Jackpot in BND, right?

  3. Like I said I got the majority of this arc second hand from blog posts and what not. I hadn't really seen how badly Slott had dropped the ball on showing that crimes should have consequences. But yeah, I'm not fond of the whole "Not my fault, it was the Space Meanie screwing with my mind" endings. Sorry Ragnell, still hate the space bug, don't like this Thanos Really Did It bit here...

    So far Slott's about 50/50 with me. I'm enjoying his Initiative book, but don't so anything new or interesting with his Spidey book. Which is dissapointing as past uses of the character made it seem likely he'd be good with it. What little I've checked on She-Hulk all feels like Interesting Idea, Poor Execution. Though I do enjoy the Arkham Aslyum story he did for DC...

  4. That Starfox storyline left me with a case of the Screaming Whufa? as well. It was especially dissapointing/disgusting as I'd really been enjoying the book till then as well, and hadn't pegged Slott as one to back out of an issue story like that.

    Rich white boy is charged with multiple counts of rape. Flees jurisdiction with Daddy's help. Expert witnesses say he's brain damaged and they've permanently confiscated his access to any and all date rape drugs. He can still buy alcohol though. There'll be letters sent out absolving him from any culpability.

    So... just like real life, then? And rich white celebrity/royalty too. Gah.

  5. I don't come off pretty well in that linked thread, but what really bothered me about Slott's tone is how Starfox's "creepy" powers (which for the most part he was always depicted as being totally in control of, but one twenty-five year old thought balloon says otherwise) and the need to "correct" them seem more important to him than Starfox making amends to his victims.

    I'm thoroughly convinced Slott has some issue with Jim Starlin that's the real motivation behind that.

    Also, he's kind of a puritanical dink.

  6. Mr. Coyle:

    I don't know enough about writer contention to be in fangirl agreement or disagreement re: Slott's possible agenda against anyone else.

    But puritanical prick? Yeah, I can agree with you there.

    And I base that on his insistence that Starfox's powers were inherently creepy / that Starfox's hesitance to reveal his powers was creepy.

    Starfox: Alien Super Powered Being on Cosmic Scale.

    Avengers: Superpowered Humans from Earth.

    Culture clash. Hello!

    Also wouldn't anyone who hadn't mentioned an ability, because it hadn't come up, feel hesitance to say something at a late hour after a teammate gets a full dressing down for same?

    Moreover if Slott felt Starfox's powers were so incredibly creepy, why did he tie him up in a rape accusation BUT THEN CUT IT AWAY?

    Is Slott incapable of seeing his own misogyny in having a rapist have an excuse that absolves him of everything and also in the phrasing of things to be about the rapist's search for redemption instead of the needs of the victim?

    How is any of that a retort to the prior mentioned wave of crass rape stories?

    And why does Slott feel Starfox's powers were creepy anyway? Did he ever say?

    Currently I'm trying not to imagine it's because Starfox's powers could affect men.

  7. AFAIK, that's the closest I know of to Slott actually explaining why he feels it's creepy.

    Kind of related, but I remember once he was discussing one of his inspirations for his run on She-Hulk and he said it was the fact that at the end of The Savage She-Hulk, Jen decides to be She-Hulk full time, "and to me, that's creepy, because it's like she's denying a part of herself."

    Okay, I'm not trying to defend David Anthony Kraft's work on that series, because it really was the usual standard superhero hackwork, but the thrust of Kraft's 24 issues was that Jen couldn't control the She-Hulk part of herself, and now that she HAD control, was okay with being She-Hulk full time.

    That was the point of Byrne's take too, that she was comfortable being She-Hulk. To me, what's wrong with that?

    That said, Slott mined some good material out of the She-Hulk/Jen dichotomy in the first arc of the book. Then it became about Dan Slott's obsessions, and far less fun.

  8. Mr. Coyle:

    That said, Slott mined some good material out of the She-Hulk/Jen dichotomy in the first arc of the book. Then it became about Dan Slott's obsessions, and far less fun.

    I did enjoy details of the dichotomy in the first arc or what I'm calling the first arc - up until Jen beats Titania.

    After that, it seemed like a rehash and I couldn't understand the point of Jen supposedly still having problems being herself in either side.

    I realize some of that rehashing might have been necessary because of how the character was used in other books. But Geeze Cheese Louise it just went on and on and on and ON.

    I wanted to see more developed about how Jen coped with loss - given that she just couldn't let go of Hawkeye. I don't often see or hear of a character confronting loss or their helplessness despite their powers and abilities when it comes to death.

    But there was more re-hashing. And that stupid Juggernaught joke!

    Y'know, I was actually fine with it as a rumor that seemed believable because SHULKIE's such a free spirit. Though I would have liked to see Jen reflecting more on the fact that people would believe she'd cross good guy / bad guy lines for sex.

    But Wolverine and the 'sloppy seconds'???

    Yes, I know comics are no longer kid's fare only. But JZEFINGCRACK that was crass, rude, disgusting and a whole host of things.

    Jen commenting that the fastball special is usally done with a guy, and having a girlish giggle moment at essentially having to grasp Wolverine's butt? That was funny and seemed in character.

    Her hitting on him afterwards felt a bit iffy to me, but I didn't mind it. She and Logan had just fought side by side. I figured they'd end up having a beer or something. I could see her having a similar relationship with Logan that she had with Hercules.

    But Logan's comment??????!!!!!

    I have to say DISGUSTING all over again.

    Worse, Jen's reaction wasn't rage that someone would speak to her that way - like this was some badly written story in Nifty Archives or some sex usenet group somewhere. Her reaction wasn't to slug Wolverine and tell him to watch his mouth when speaking to a lady that can hold her own, or a woman who could sue him for libel or anything -strong- like that. Instead, she WHINES.

    That was when I started realizing that there was no coming back to a place of enjoyment for me. And that my SHULKIE love was gone as quickly as it was born.

  9. She-Hulk DID sleep with the Juggernaut during the Austen/Garney run in Uncanny X-Men- it was a one night stand while she was representing him for some case related to his new good guy status when he was a member of the X-Men.

    That really, REALLY bothered Slott for some reason. I mean, Austen's a bad writer, but one of the things he most was pleased about the whole "Earth A" at the end of his run was that he got rid of that.

  10. Mr. Coyle:

    I did end up reading New Excalibur before SHE-HULK, and so I had Juggernaught in mind as a good guy, but figured this supposed incident that kept being referenced must have been back when he was not.

    Because 1) Caine's rather sweet now and yes I do consider him still sweet even though he went ahead and got the jewel.

    And 2) Caine's a heavy muscle type just like Shulkie. So if this happened when Juggernaught was good, I figured what in the world would Jen have to be obstinate about. She slept with a man she wouldn't break.

    Good or bad though - the sloppy seconds comment? That's going to stay with me for life. The very phrase makes me sick to my stomach, because I do NOT associate it with ANYTHING positive. And I don't want to read the writings of someone who'd turn a favourite character (Logan) into someone who'd say that against another character I'd been growing to like.


    Just.. UGH!

  11. Slott's final issue addresses the whole Juggernaut thing one more time. I'd explain what it is, but you really have to read it for yourself to believe it.

  12. Yeah. Basically Slott came up with the idea that anything that doesn't mesh in continuity is because of tourists travelling from Earth..lets say 515. Regular people who become the super-powered versions when they get here. THATS the one that apparantly slept with Juggernaut...

    Cute idea I guess. Did lead to a throwaway gag I liked in one panel where Wiccan and Hulking are asking their dupes "We joined what?"

    Slott also has Reed, when sending everyone back somehow use that to "cure" She-Hulk of the powers negating nanotech Ironman had infected her with when she rebelled against him...

    Which is the reason I guess in-character Jen didn't carry thru with her threat to sue the bejeezus of Stark and the Registration side on civil rights violations...

  13. Lurker & Mr. Coyle:

    I saw that.

    I liked the idea that there could have been an ongoing mystery of She-Hulk reported as doing things Jen had no idea about.

    That was not the idea being presented. The idea presented was that Jen whines about not riding Juggernaughty like he was the last vibrating pogo stick at the end of the world only to discover that some version of her actually did.

    A version that was initially willing to leave someone who loved her, for the exciting life of smashing things.

    Wiccan and Hulking at first made me smile, until I realized that I hadn't heard a damn thing about gay teenagers fighting from within the facist regime.

    If one of you two would like to catch me up on that, I'd appreciate it.

    At the moment, I'm taking a deep breath and reminding myself I'm going to an anime con in two days. It'll be a different type of sexism and a different type of racism, but my brain needs a break all the same.

    And frankly, Marvel and DC had me from childhood. Got me back through my own efforts. If they want me back again? They can damn well make an effort.