WTF, DC? Ice

There are two issues I have with Ice: her pointless death and Judd Winick’s retcon of her origin story.

Ice (whose civilian identity was the very Bjork-like Tora Olafsdotter) was introduced in 1988 in the pages of Justice League International #12, as a previously-unseen member of the Global Guardians named Icemaiden. She and her best friend, Beatriz, a.k.a. Green Flame (later Fire), have devised a plan to join the Justice League:

Fire and Ice differed in both powers and personality. Bea was a bold, brazen exhibitionist, while Tora was modest and shy. Bea was demanding and opinionated, Tora polite and agreeable. Bea was aggressive, Tora permissive. And so on.

It makes sense that Tora would develop a lasting romantic relationship with Guy Gardner, the jerkiest jerk to ever don a Green Lantern ring:

Like Bea, Tora and Guy were opposites. He was a giant prick, she was sweet and naive. He was sarcastic, disrespectful, and arrogant,  she was kind, sincere, and…well, you get the idea.

Much to Guy’s chagrin, Ice would later develop a schoolgirl crush on Superman, something that would last until his death in the infamous Superman #75:

Ice’s life wasn’t entirely free of inner conflict. She struggled with her sense of identity, most notably in Justice League Quarterly #5, in which she questions her usefulness to the team and decides to abandon the JL altogether:

After a misadventure that leads to Ice donning Guy’s GL ring, a run-in with League villain (and disfigurement poster boy) Professor Ivo proves to Ice that the positives of team membership outweigh the negatives:

So, obviously, the next logical step in Ice’s story would be a brutal death at the hands of a genocidal alien called the Overmaster who, in addition to killing her, took control of her mind and turned her into an aggressively cavalier madman.

Martian Manhunter talks her out of it, prompting her to give a rallying speech to her friends about heroism, after which she is almost immediately blown to bits:

This issue of Justice League Task Force was written by longtime Flash scribe Mark Waid, who expressed his remorse years later to Gail Simone on her now-defunct Women in Refrigerators website, saying: “I’m responsible for the death of Ice. My call, my worst mistake in comics, my biggest regret. I remember hearing myself ask the editor, ‘Who’s the JLA-er whose death would evoke the most fierce gut reaction from readers?’ What a dope. Mea culpa.” (This quote can be found on the archived WiR site here.)

Ice would remain dead for about 13 years, making infrequent appearances as a ghost. Most notably in the JLA Classified storyline “I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League!” in which most of the team ventures to Hell, only to find an oblivious, slack-jawed Ice waiting in line at a burger stand. She gains some lucidity and it’s explained that she was sent to hell by mistake. Guy and Bea are told, in a nod to the Orpheus/Eurydice myth, that if they walk in front of Ice without looking back, they can return her to the land of the living, but if they glance behind she’ll immediately be jettisoned to a proper afterlife in heaven. And, well:

So what could’ve been a plausible way to resurrect Ice (and fix Waid’s mistake) is vetoed in favour of clever writing. Great.

In 2007, Ice returned in Birds of Prey. She’s found alive in a Rocket Red suit, is being manipulated by a villian named General Kerimov, and turns on her friends (an echo of her time with the Overmaster prior to her death.) Eventually she reverts back to the Ice that Martian Manhunter was so fond of:


Ice re-established two important relationships in her life: her friendship with Bea and her romantic involvement with Guy. The new Ice was a little irritable at times, which was explained as a side effect of the whole brought-back-from-the-dead thing:

Which leads us to Judd Winick and his Brightest Day tie-in, Justice League: Generation Lost. The idea behind this bi-weekly series is that Ice, Fire, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and an assorted cast of Leaguers from Giffen’s heyday have reassembled to stop a newly-resurrected Maxwell Lord from doing evil. Ice went from occasional bouts of frustration in Green Lantern Corps to teen-poet levels of depression in Generation Lost. Was it upsetting to see the sweet and adorable Ice reduced to uninspired stereotype? Kind of. But nowhere near as upsetting as Winick’s revision of her history:

So instead of coming from a family of nomadic ice gods, Tora came from a family of Nordic drifter criminals, and instead of being sweet, trusting, and compassionate, she’s now a snowy version of the Incredible Hulk; when provoked (by a minor finger injury, a verbal threat) she gets all ICE SMASH! Her powers are so uncontrollable she accidentally kills her own father! Awesome. It’s a shame Winick didn’t make room for a traumatic sexual assault in Ice’s new backstory.

Also, her fabricated origin was the result of an elaborate government conspiracy:

We’re expected to ignore the fact that the entire Justice League met her Norse ice god family. Something you’d call in-continuity. Canon, if you will. “I guess her parents and siblings were all paid actors,” Bea realized.

Look, I get it – there’s drama in pushing a character from one extreme to the other. They did it back in 1991 when Ice became a rampaging giant in Justice League Quarterly #4:

From cute as a button to repulsively monstrous! A dynamic change! Also: temporary. J.M. DeMatteis wasn’t altering her entire history, nor was he turning her into a butch warrior with a fractured psyche. Judd Winick has given us this:

Ice 2.0. She sucks. Please change her back.

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3 Responses to WTF, DC? Ice

  1. Pingback: Interview: Sally Pascale – Comic Book Reader, Feminist, Blogger… and the Internet’s most outspoken ‘Green Lantern’ fan | stefanmesch

  2. David Page says:

    I dunno whats worse. Her original death or that damn retcon which makes even less sense now that New 52 seems to have removed it completely

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