Thursday, January 22, 2015

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : STARFIRE

The windblown warrior look.
Say what you will about DC’s first attempt to launch a sultry space warrior under the moniker of Starfire, at the very least it looked like nothing else in their catalog.

This Starfire fell between two other heroes bearing the same name – a Soviet super-teen and a solar-powered alien princess in a barely-there molybdenum bikini, both of whom found their homes in the pages of Teen Titans. Sharing more in common with her immediate successor, the Starfire of 1976 was introduced to the readers in a daring cutaway costume, sword against the throat of a fallen foe, her boot on his chest, a brutish army gathered behind her and spaceships launching amidst the lurid purple smoke of a magenta sky. Subtle, in other words.

Taking place on one of those phony-baloney worlds where science and magic intermingled (i.e. everyone uses swords, wears dumb medieval hats, and there are spaceships), Starfire was also possibly the first hero of Asian descent to receive her own DC comic – ambiguously (We can argue about Karate Kid some other time). With her adventures taking place on an alien world (bereft, one imagines, of an “Asia” per se), she is described in the text as “half-white and half-yellow” and the implication is clear enough, one supposes.

Starfire has difficulty understanding the sample table at Costco. "Just take a cracker, ma'am, there's a line forming."

This “exotic” (their word, not mine) quality makes her desirable to Sookaroth, lord of the Mygorgs, a race of gross alien barbarians from another dimension originally summoned to tip the tide of war in a battle between priests and scientists, but whose race eventually usurps the world for their own purposes. Those purposes are, in order, (a) fighting their ancient interdimensional enemies the Yorg, also brought over from another dimension to tip the tide of the battle, and (b) nonconsensual sex.

Created by David Michelinie and Mike Vosburg, Starfire’s word is a problematic one on a lot of levels, not the least of which is that it seems to exist in some sort of rape-based economy. Starfire is raised from infancy and educated under Sookaroth’s care, in advance of being handed off to him as a concubine on her 18th birthday (I guess it was nice of him to wait until she hit the age of consent at least?). Grossed out by her super-gross graduation present, Starfire ends up escaping with liberated slave Dagan, a guy who dresses like a cookie mascot and flies a sweet spaceship, and who completes her education – in sword-fighting and in hella human love.

After Dagan is snuffed by Mygorg torturers, Starfire becomes her world’s premiere freedom fighter, ultimately assembling something not unlike Robin Hood’s merry men. This collection of outcasts and misfits is equally dedicated to freeing their planet from slavery, plus also their internal dialogue is mostly about grinding up on Starfire whether she likes it or not. Entrepreneurs in the rape-based economy, these guys are, small business owners in the vibrant “groping” and “male gaze” sectors of the economy.

A slightly rapier-than-usual Merrie Men.

Still, despite those problems – and the appearance of a forced doggerel balladeering issue at the hands of Eliot S! Maggin, the man for whom no story was complete until the reader was left wanting to punch a medieval space-bard straight in the biscuit tin – there’s a lot to Starfire’s credit.

If nothing else, the premise of a former slave leading a ragtag group of freedom fighters to liberate a world caught in the crossfire of an interdimensional war has no limit of possibility, and comics are still noticeably shy in the space opera heroine department (not to mention space heroes of anything-but-Caucasian descent). It’s worth mentioning, too, that Starfire – despite having had her book handed off to new writers every couple of issues – was consistently an all-business character, unsullied by the “fainting damsel” routine and schoolgirl shenanigans. She does end up with the space-bard, I’m sorry to say, but “freedom fighting” remained on top of her to-do list - at least until the DC Implosion caught her book short.

If there’s a case of a character being let down by the execution of her stories, it’s definitely true of Starfire, a character whose return could fill a number of voids.

Next issue actually not on sale anywhere during any week of September or any other month.


4 comments:

neofishboy said...

Hey, I remember that "be in the Superman movie" contest! I had always wondered who won that. I was hoping that it was the black dude who said "Say Jim! Whoooo! That's a bad outFIT!" but no ... it was a couple of people who were cast as high school football players.

Calamity Jon said...

I've always assumed that the winner in the subsequent contest was that dumb kid who fell off the railing over Niagara Falls.

neofishboy said...

I tried looking it up, but alas the answer is lost to history (i.e. it's not on the Superman II Wikipedia page.)

Pete James said...

That dumb kid in the Niagara Falls didn't deserve to get saved. He's scared me from going there to this day (also the flights are expensive and I've seen water before)

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