With the introduction of The New 52 came some well-grounded criticism of Starfire and Catwoman. I’m not going to argue that Starfire functions as anything other than an exotic blow-up doll in the first two issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws (though it’s less overt in the second issue); I am going to argue that she’s gone from sweet to thoroughly unlikable in recent years.
Let’s be honest, though: Starfire was never without giant breasts and a skimpy costume. Here’s a glimpse of her in almost three decades ago in the Titans’ most famous storyline, 1984’s The Judas Contract:
Nothing subtle about that, but the objectification was offset by Starfire’s obliviousness to her own sexuality. Her innocence and naiveté (she was new to Earth) prevented the way she was drawn from feeling tasteless or exploitative.
Consider the follow-up to that page:
Or the end result of a practice fight between Starfire and Wonder Girl shortly afterward:
This was the Starfire of the ’80s and early ’90s. Cute and sweet, completely ignorant of the what a sex bomb she was. I’m not sure at what point writers officially decided to turn her into an angry battle-scarred warrior – when she was in space with Buddy Baker in 52? – but the impact her past has had on her psyche has shifted dramatically over the years.
Starfire’s origin is that she was a princess sold into slavery who later regained her freedom, which taught her to appreciate life and made earthlings, with their lack of slavery and diminished monarchies, seem charming and worth protecting.
That was then. Nowadays, well…here’s Starfire showing a remarkable amount of tact and restraint during Blackest Night:
The old Starfire would’ve been cool with a Tara Markov statue. This new Starfire reacts to it with borderline hatred. And, really, she’s had years to express her distaste or offer any objections to its presence; bitching about it now just seems like pointless aggression.
A lot of the controversy surrounding Starfire’s appearance in Red Hood and the Outlaws focuses on the personality issues raised by these two pages:
Alternating between subservient girlfriend and emotionless f-buddy to two of the DCU’s biggest losers (and with a wicked case of amnesia, apparently). It’s like walking into a strip club and seeing your kid sister tucking dollar bills into her g-string.
The fact that The New 52 Starfire is a pornographic ideal masked in faux-liberated female sexuality has raised the ire of many comic book readers, with good cause (they’re completely on the mark about Catwoman as well). But it should be noted that this isn’t the first time Starfire’s been all “Yeah, I’ll totally call you” when it comes to bedding male teammates:
Yep, that’s her humping and dumping Captain Comet in the pages of R.E.B.E.L.S. not a year ago. So as much as people feel like spewing bile at Scott Lobdell for the way he’s writing Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws, there’s a bit of a precedent there.
Regardless, the Starfire of the recent past is the complete opposite of the character that was introduced in 1978. Much like Ice in Justice League: Generation Lost, Starfire’s personal growth over the years has turned her into an angry, emotional mess, and she’s moved about as far away as she possibly could from what drew readers to her in the first place. The New 52 was supposed to be a chance to start over.
Update: I somehow missed the fact that DC reacted to the uproar by issuing the absolute dumbest response ever (which you can read about here).