Bette Sans Souci (Plastique)

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Fury of Firestorm #7 (December 1982)
Created By: Gerry Conway and Pat Broderick

Biography:

Bette Sans Souci was dedicated to the separatist cause for her home province of Quebec – so dedicated she decided to speed things along with a heaping helping of, well, terrorism. Her first outing against Firestorm didn’t go so well – he used his powers to make her clothes disappear – so she used genetic experimenting to give herself innate explodey powers. Try and make those disappear, Hibachi Head!

An attempt to blow up the Statue of Liberty saw her thwarted again, this time by Captain Atom. After a brief and unsuccessful stint in the Suicide Squad, she gained her freedom – but her followers deserted her, and she turned to mercenary work to pay the bills.

Her new career led her to Cambodia, where she found herself stranded, with an injured Captain Atom her only ticket out of the country. She nursed him back to health, sparking a connection that would eventually lead her to reform and earn pardons from both the US and Canada. A newly-minted hero, she joined the Extreme Justice branch of the JLA (sorry, Bette), and she and Cap tied the knot.

Shockingly, a marriage between an ultra-Canadian former terrorist and an ultra-’Murican stick-in-the-mud didn’t work out and the two divorced, citing poutine-based differences. Bette returned to her criminal ways, doing a few more stints on the Suicide Squad, and helping Prometheus plant a bomb intended to blow up Fawcett City.

In the DCnU, Plastique is a member of the Secret Society of Supervillains.

So What’s So Great About Her?

Plastique is one of those rank and file villains who tends to be written wildly differently in “her” book versus her random guest appearances. When she shows up in crowd scenes, working with Prometheus or Grodd or whoever, she’s a generic supervillain, distinguished only by a pink latex suit and explodey fingers, and completely remorseless when it comes to villainy.

In comics with Captain Atom, though – and make no mistake, though she was initially a Firestorm rogue, she’s a Captain Atom supporting character through and through – she’s a bit more complicated. She’s still ruthless – she’s willing to kill hundreds if not thousands in pursuit of her political goals, and she initially saves Captain Atom only because she needs him alive to fly her to safety – but she’s also human. She experiences compassion when she thought she was beyond it, and regret, and even love. In her last bout with the Suicide Squad (where she was written with more complexity than most “guest” appearances, seeing as how “writing Z-list villains with nuance and sensitivity” is kind of John Ostrander’s thing), she’s fiercely angry over the death of the young and mostly-innocent Windfall. Despite her evil deeds – and they have been many – she has a heart.

Plus, she can blow shit up with her hands, and she’s super sassy. That’s always fun to read.

I know “villainess whose moral code wavers all over the place and who has a thing for the hero” isn’t exactly a new trope (that reminds me, I really have to write about Catwoman one of these days), but Plastique is a fun example of the type with a lot of potential. I hope the DCnU uses her accordingly.

Notable Appearances:

The Fury of Firestorm #7, 33-36
Captain Atom v2 #2, 7-9, 21, 22, 44, 49, 50
Suicide Squad v1 #1-3
Extreme Justice #6-12, 16-18
Suicide Squad v3 #5-8
Justice League of America v2 #2-4, 15, 17, 18, 43
The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #19, 20

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Raven

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980)
Created By: Marv Wolfman and George Perez

Biography:

Here is how I summed up Raven’s history in an email to Mackenzie:

1. Daughter of a human woman named Arella who was raped by an interdimensional demon named Trigon, raised in the pacifist dimension Azarath.
2. Assembles the Titans to fight Trigon. That part goes pretty okay except for mentally compelling Wally to love her so that he’ll agree to join the team.
3. Spends a lot of time either not using her powers to heal people and getting yelled at, or using her powers to heal people, experiencing excruciating pain, and getting yelled at.
4. Possessed by Trigon.
5. Killed by the Titans.
6. TOTALLY DIFFERENT PEOPLE kill Trigon while the Titans stand around with their thumbs up their asses.
7. Resurrected. Disappears.
8. Reappears because she has been kidnapped by Brother Blood. Rescued by the Titans.
9. Starts dating a dude who is basically a psychic vampire. Rescued by Jericho. JERICHO, of all people.
10. Kidnapped by the FREAKING WILDEBEEST SOCIETY. Goes evil. (P.S. Trigon is still not dead.) Rescued by DANNY CHASE, which is even worse than Jericho.
11. Goes evil again for no reason. Implants Kory with “demon seed.” Mind-controls Gar. Runs around being evil for a while.
12. Saved by the Titans.
13. Kidnapped by Brother Blood, who wants to demon-marry her. Resurrected as a teenager for no reason. Saved by the Titans.
14. Starts dating Gar, who she once mind-raped, and who is now way too old for her.
15. Fails to hold the Titans together.
16. Captured and tortured by the Titans East.
17. Goes to HIGH SCHOOL OMG MAKEOVER TIME YAY!
18. Discovers that she has half-brothers who use her as a portal to reawaken Trigon.
19. Goes evil.
20. Better? Somehow?
21. Accidentally created a demon called the Wyld who lives in the WYLD WORLD seriously I am not kidding.
22. REBOOT!
23. Now she has a bird hat.

I’m pretty sure that’s the best thing I will ever write.

So What’s So Great About Her?

Oh, Raven, Raven, Raven. You just can’t catch a break, can you?

Raven is one of those characters who unfortunately seems to serve more as a MacGuffin to get plots underway than a character in her own right. As you can see from the list above, she spends about half of her time slipping into bondage gear and magically impregnating her friends with demon babies, and half her time being rescued from cults by the most pathetic Titans on the roster. (Danny freaking Chase. I am never getting over that.) And when the plot doesn’t revolve around her, her ability to affect it is hampered by a) her extremely retiring personality, which means she disappears beneath a sea of homoerotic Cyborg/Beast Boy banter, and b) her occasional inability to use her powers without excruciating pain or Trigony temptations, leading to a lot of angsty waffling but very little asskicking. (To be fair, the New Teen Titans as a whole did very little asskicking. They mostly only got out of the 80s alive because Deathstroke took a shine to them.)

Now, one way to give a character like that some pizzazz is to go the sassy goth girl route, which is what the Teen Titans cartoon did, with great success. Attempts to recreate that in the comics were less successful, though, because they ignored the character’s actual age and history – rarely a good idea when you want to treat a character with respect.

It’s frustrating because there’s so much good material to mine with Raven. The conflict between her pacifist upbringing and demon heritage is genuinely interesting. So is the fact that her morals don’t always mesh with the average superhero’s: I love that she magically compels Wally West to fall in love with her for the greater good (because nothing stops demons like running real fast!). It’s ruthless and poorly thought out and totally fascinating. Her anger and isolation make her a perfect fit for teen books, and her design is striking and lovely. And her power set is nothing to sneeze at; used properly, she could be a force to be reckoned with in the DCU.

So please, writers, get rid of the bird hat, stop dressing her in outfits that consist entirely of belts, and just let Raven be a person. Let her drive the plot for once, instead of the folks fighting over her. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

I mean, or we’ll all drown in one of Trigon’s lakes of fire. But either way it’ll be interesting!

Notable Appearances:

DC Comics Presents #26
The New Teen Titans v1 #1-40
Tales of the New Teen Titans #2
The New Teen Titans Annual v1 #1, 2
Tales of the Teen Titans #41-51, 56, 59-64, 73, 74, 83-91
Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3, 4
The New Teen Titans Annual v2 #1, 3, 4
The New Titans #50-69, 71, 75, 78, 79, 83, 84, 97, 100-102, 108, 112, 114, 118-122
The New Titans Annual #5, 6, 10
The New Teen Titans v2 #1-6, 14, 15, 21, 22, 26, 28-49
Team Titans #7, 8, 10
Teen Titans v2 #14, 15
JLA/Titans #1-3
The Titans v1 #9, 25
Teen Titans v3 1, 2, 5, 8-34, 37, 38, 40, 41, 43-47, 50, 52-54, 68, 70, 75, 76, 78-83, 86-100
Titans v2 #1-13, 17, 18, 23
DC Special: Raven #1-5

Raven is currently appearing in Teen Titans v4.

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Terra (Teen Titans)

Publisher: DC Entertainment/DC Comics
First Appearance: “Terra”
Created By: Among others, Glen Murakami, David Slack, and voice actress Ashley Johnson.

Biography:

The minute the Teen Titans met Terra, they knew her power to manipulate rocks and earth would make her a tremendous asset to the team. But Terra had a secret: she didn’t have complete control over her terrakinesis, despite the apropos name, and too often her efforts to help led to earthquakes and landslides that did more damage than whatever evil she’d been fighting. She made Beast Boy swear not to tell the other Titans her secret, but when Robin figured it out on his own (it was about as well-kept a secret as Beast Boy’s crush on Terra), she accused Beast Boy of betraying her and fled.

Unfortunately for Terra – and the Titans – she’d caught the eye of Slade, a master criminal in search of an apprentice. He preyed on Terra’s insecurities and taught her to control her powers in exchange for her allegiance. Under his guidance, she rejoined the Titans as a mole and fed Slade all their secrets. When her double life was revealed, she brought the Titans down one by one.

…Or so she thought. The Titans fought back, and when they overpowered Terra, Slade turned his temper on her. When she resisted, he revealed that he’d wired her new costume into her neural system and could now literally control her, whether she wanted him to or not. He tried to make her finish off the Titans, but with Beast Boy’s encouragement, she seized her power back, triggering a volcano that threatened to destroy the city. Rather than let that happen, she sacrificed herself to stop the volcano, turning into stone in the process.

In the show’s last episode, Beast Boy encountered a girl who looked exactly like her but claimed not to be. Eventually she convinced him to let her live a normal life, regardless of her “true” identity. The tie-in comic, Teen Titans Go!, also introduced her brother Geo-Force, who explained that they were both members of the Markovian royal family given superpowers against their will. This doesn’t entirely make sense with the show’s continuity, so take it with as large a grain of sand as you like.

So What’s So Great About Her?

When the original Terra’s true nature was revealed in the classic comics story “The Judas Contract,” it was a shock to fans. Oh, sure, they’d known long before the Titans had that Terra was working for Deathstroke (who goes by his first name “Slade” in the cartoon because you can’t really have a bad guy with the word “death” in his name on a show for eight-year-olds), but they’d figured she’d be conflicted. They’d figured she’d be repentant. They’d figured she’d have at least some good in her.

Original flavor Terra’s irredeemable evil is what makes her so memorable, but animated Terra is exactly what readers expected from “The Judas Contract”: a troubled, vulnerable young girl, torn between her friends and the older man preying on her, who does the right thing in the end. I’d argue, though, that just because her arc is a more familiar one doesn’t diminish her story at all.

On the show, Terra is tremendously appealing and heartbreakingly believable. Riddled with guilt and anxiety over her past, she’s an easy mark for Slade. Her emotions veer wildly from extreme to extreme and she goes from hatred to desperately needing to believe in someone and back to hatred very quickly, but it doesn’t make her unlikable or unrealistic; it just makes her seem very young, which of course she is. When Beast Boy, understandably enough, spurns her apologies for betraying the team, her affection turns to fierce anger – but when faced with what she’s done and urged to kill him, she chooses the right path.

It’s that element of choice that makes Terra’s story so compelling for me. While Slade moves from emotional manipulation to literally taking over her nervous system, Beast Boy reminds her that she chose to betray the Titans, and she can choose to give in to Slade or to fight him. Even when she (maybe?) returns at the end of the series, she makes a clear choice to turn her back on her past, and that ultimately is respected. It’s not often that children’s cartoons have story arcs about the importance of young girls having bodily autonomy and free will, but if the excellence of Terra’s story is any indication, maybe they should do it more often.

Notable Appearances:

Season Two:

“Terra”
“Titan Rising”
“Betrayal”
“Aftershock, Part One”
“Aftershock, Part Two”

Season Five:

“Things Change”

Teen Titans Go! Tie-in Comic: #11, 12, 51

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Magica De Spell

In honor of Halloween, here’s a very spooky Dame indeed!

Publisher: Disney, via assorted international licenses
First Appearance: “The Midas Touch” (December 1961)
Created By: Carl Barks

Biography:

Magica De Spell has one goal: to steal Scrooge McDuck’s Number One Dime, the first coin he ever earned. From her home on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius she plots ever more intricate ways to steal the dime, which she plans to melt down in the fires of the volcano into an amulet that will grant her the Midas Touch. Though she occasionally goes after other magical artifacts, she always returns to the dime. She’s aided in her efforts by her fantastic powers, particularly her shapeshifting ability and her smoke-filled foof bombs, as well as by her raven familiar Ratface (in DuckTales, he’s her brother Mr. Poe, stuck in raven form thanks to a spell).

Magica can be a team player when she wants: she’s worked with the Beagle Boys, Flintheart Glomgold, The Sword in the Stone’s Madam Mim, the Phantom Blot, and most recently, Negaduck. Like most Disney ducks, she’s got an extended family, all of whom are witches; Granny De Spell and niece Minima De Spell appear the most frequently. She’s also not above teaming up with Scrooge and his nephews to save her own neck, though you get the sense it galls her.

Most recently (in America), Magica partnered up with Negaduck to flood St. Canard with alternate universe Darkwing Ducks as part of a convoluted plot to gain access to Launchpad McQuack and thus, ideally, the dime. She wound up throwing down magically with Darkwing’s girlfriend Morgana McCawber and managed to drain Morgana of her powers, only to lose those boosted powers thanks to one of the alternate Darkwings. Still, she returned soon after with a gang of female villains, intent on conquering Duckburg and St. Canard simultaneously, only to be thwarted by Team Scrooge/Darkwing. Man, being defeated regularly by Launchpad, Donald, and a bunch of eight-year-olds must really bite.

So What’s So Great About Her?

Kids don’t always get subtle jokes, and they really don’t get camp, which is why so many kids watched the Adam West Batman show and wondered why their parents were laughing. So it was with me and Magica. I didn’t get that she was supposed to be an essentially ridiculous character, or that June Foray’s wheezy Natasha Badenov voice was incongruous. I just saw the basic signifiers – clingy black dress and heels, lots of purple eyeshadow, that episode where she disguises herself as Helen of Troy in order to seduce Scrooge – and assumed she was supposed to be what she seemed: a glamorous, dangerous femme fatale.

And though he did it with tongue firmly in cheek, that’s what Carl Barks intended when he created her. At the time, pop culture witches were craggy old crones, and Barks wanted to create a sultry, Sophia Loren-esque witch. Sure enough, she weaves an entirely non-magical spell over Donald the first time he sees her, and in general isn’t above using her wiles to get what she wants. At age six, I thought she was fabulous, and to this day she remains my favorite of Scrooge’s rogues.

Because really, she’s the best one. She’s far scarier and, conversely, likable than the Beagle Boys (SERIOUSLY THEY ARE SO BORING) or Flintheart Glomgold. Who cares about some run-of-the-mill thieves or a greedy businessduck when you have the world’s most powerful sorceress to contend with? Magica can fly, shapeshift, teleport, conjure, transmute matter, travel through time and between dimensions, and whatever else the writers feel like having her do at any given moment. She’s an unholy force of nature. Why she’s so fixated on a dinky piece of tin when she could just make as much money as she wants is kind of baffling.

…And that question lies at the root of what makes her sympathetic and fascinating, because Magica’s obsession with Scrooge’s dime doesn’t make sense, given the scope of her abilities. The only way it works is if it’s really an obsession with Scrooge himself, and certainly there is evidence to prove mutual sublimated attraction [Ed. Note: I’m into it.], or simply with winning. But Magica can never win, not least because half the times she gets her hands on the dime, she’s thwarted by a loophole, i.e. if she goes back in time to steal the dime before Scrooge gets it, it will never get its totemic power as the first dime earned by the world’s richest duck. (I feel I should point out that Scrooge gives the dime power, not the other way around. It’s not a lucky dime, a fact Magica is well aware of. She’s a lot smarter than the average Duckburgian, that’s for sure!)

All told, Magica is an incredibly inventive, resourceful, powerful character whose monomania prevents her from ever being happy. It’s not the first time Barks has used that to make a character sympathetic; Scrooge himself springs to mind. And considering Magica’s popularity with writers of both the comics and the show since Barks, it’s worked pretty darn well.

Plus, she knows Will Smith:

Notable Appearances:

Magica has appeared in over 6,000 stories worldwide; you can view the full list here if for some bizarre reason you would like to do that. Instead, I would recommend tracking down the following stories:

By Carl Barks:

“The Midas Touch”
“Ten-Cent Valentine”
“The Unsafe Safe”
“Raven Mad”
“Oddball Odyssey”
“For Old Dime’s Sake”
“Isle of Golden Geese in 1963”
“The Many Faces of Magica de Spell”
“Rug Riders in the Sky”

By Don Rosa:

“Cash Flow”
“Forget It!”
“Of Ducks and Dimes and Destinies” (Luckily, you already bought The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion after reading my Goldie post, so you’ve already got this one, right?)
“The Treasury of Croesus”
“A Matter of Some Gravity”
“A Little Something Special”
“The Quest for Kalevala”
“On a Silver Platter”
“Back in Time for a Dime!”

Magica appeared in the recent arcs/trades from Boom! Studios (which fall into the animated continuity rather than the Barks/Rosa one, but eh, it’s not like Magica has a whole lot of continuity for you to worry about):

Darkwing Duck: Crisis on Infinite Darkwings
Darkwing Duck/DuckTales: Dangerous Currency

Posted in Animated, Disney, Villains | Leave a comment

Lashawn Baez (Peek-a-Boo)

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Flash v2 #180
Created By: Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins

Biography:

When graduate medical student Lashawn Baez’s father needed a kidney, Lashawn immediately volunteered to donate one of hers. Unfortunately, the procedure to remove her kidney didn’t go so well – Lashawn survived, but the kidney didn’t. And, since this is the DCU, the operation also activated Lashawn’s latent metagene. Suddenly she could teleport at will, leaving explosions behind when she did.

Donning an admittedly ridiculous costume, Lashawn snuck into Central City Hospital to steal a kidney, but was caught. Her uncontrolled powers drew the attention of the Flash and Cyborg, who apprehended her. She was sent off to Iron Heights, ruled by the abusive warden Gregory Wolfe, though Wally tried to intercede on her behalf. There she was drugged by the guards to keep her from telling anyone who might help her about the conditions there.

When Gorilla Grodd freed all the prisoners from Iron Heights, Lashawn went straight to her father’s bedside – just in time to be with him when he died. Furious, she fought back when Wally showed up to arrest her, even as she told him she’d put on a costume planning to be a hero until he’d labeled her a rogue. But when one of her blasts injured Wally’s pregnant wife Linda, Lashawn carried her to safety. Then she turned herself over to the cops.

Lashawn has not been seen since, though she did make a couple of absolutely adorable cameos appearances in Tiny Titans.

So What’s So Great About Her?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a young black woman with a bright future ahead of her makes one mistake, is assumed to be a career criminal, and is thrown to the mercy of an abusive penal system until all of her prospects are dashed.

I don’t think Lashawn’s story was intended to be read that way. It fits into a larger arc of Wally repeatedly failing as a hero, part of the grittification of the Flash (a crucial misunderstanding of the character that I could write a whole thesis about, but that’s neither here nor there). It’s a story with no real heroes and no happy ending, and I suspect Lashawn’s race was a mostly arbitrary decision.

But it changes her story from pointless pessimism to some actually rather pointed social commentary. Lashawn’s never given a chance to explain herself until it’s too late, and even when Wally tries to help her, the wheels of bureaucracy have already been set in motion against her. He can’t keep her out of Iron Heights, and once she’s in there, he can’t stop her, or any other prisoners, from being abused (and, tellingly, basically stops trying once the story moves on). After she returns to jail of her own free will, she’s completely forgotten. I wish I could say this was comic book logic, but it’s all too believable.

Lashawn’s unhappy ending is a shame not just because of her in-story potential – she was studying to be a doctor – but because she has so much narrative potential as well. More Flash rogues have switched from “evil” to “good” and back again than you can shake the Weather Wizard’s wand at, and Lashawn’s intentions were a whole lot purer than any of theirs. Rather than bundle her off to jail, why not give her a redemption arc and let her hang with the Outsiders or the older Titans crew? Heck, she was made for the Suicide Squad (the awesome preboot version, thank you very much). Her costume is ludicrous, yes, but she’s smart, she’s got a fun power set, and she can do high kicks on roller skates. She would’ve been a blast (pun intended) as a somewhat jaded but still determined hero.

I think Lashawn’s a lot more fun playing off of Wally than ol’ Bowtie Allen, but there’s still no reason she can’t get a fresh start in the DCnU. Someone get on that!

Notable Appearances:

Flash v2 #180, 183, 192, 195, 196

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Klara Prast

Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Runaways (Vol.2) #27 (2007)
Created By: Joss Whedon & Michael Ryan

Biography

Klara Prast should be dead. Actually, she should be really, really dead, considering she was supposed to be killed in a factory fire in 1907. Instead, the Runaways—out on a bit of a time-jump field trip—rescued the would-be doomed workers, and Klara managed to save herself by creating a vine to climb to freedom.

That’s right, Klara was a very early mutant, one who could control and talk to plants, with a special affinity for roses. Not that it’d done her much good to that point. Her mother, thinking Klara was a witch, married her off to a much older, abusive man who was immigrating to the United States. This was despite the fact that Klara was, at most, twelve at the time of the wedding. Who was supposed to be the good Christian here?

Molly Hayes, the Runaway closest to Klara’s own age, was keen on getting Klara to join the team, though it’s unclear whether she realized the full scope of the abuse her new friend suffered. For her own part, Klara, a devout turn-of-the-century Christian, was put off by the lesbian relationship between Karolina and Xavin, which she viewed as immoral. But after a particularly brutal beating from her husband, she realized that there were a lot worse ways to live. When the Runaways zoomed off to the twenty-first century, she went along.

Klara’s currently still adjusting to a very different way of life, but despite being a bit scared when faced with a fight, she’s something of a powerhouse on the team. She’s also good friends with Molly, is surprisingly good at video games and doesn’t mind cheating to win.

So What’s So Great About Her?

I imagine that there are some Marvel powers that be who, if approached by Whedon saying, “My idea for this comic series involves permanently replacing Wolverine’s claws with sporks and revealing that Spider-Man’s entire mythos has just been the snowglobe-inspired daydream of an autistic child,” would nod, grin nervously, and ask if Robert Downey Jr. smells as good at they imagine.

Which, really, is not to disparage anyone at Marvel or anyone who collaborated on Whedon’s Marvel Comics work. But the pressure of working with someone of Whedon’s stature, of potentially having to say no to him, is very intense. If he’d wanted to, Whedon could have taken a risk in creating a character and then left Marvel with the fallout of having her fail miserably.

And Klara is a definite risk. She’s a quiet, homophobic, horrifically abused little girl born in the nineteenth century. Not exactly your immediate vision of comic book gold.

And yet, what the heck, I like her. To be honest, I’m not sure that she’s completely meshed with the rest of team—the Runaways are such an of-the-moment take on teenagers that anyone over nineteen, let alone over a hundred, would have trouble fitting in. But I suppose that’s part of her charm. Klara is an outsider in a group of outsiders, tentatively trying to find her place and adapt in a strange new world.

She’s also a well of quiet strength, a survivor, and that makes her stand out even more among the largely privileged (other than Victor, the only other one not born insanely wealthy) Runaways. The extent of her sexual and physical abuse, and her family’s complicity in it, is shocking, and it only makes her moments of acting like an average little girl even more poignant. Klara has had to fight hard for that normalcy in her very abnormal life.

Notable Appearances

Runaways (vol.2) #27-30
Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #1-3
Runaways (vol.3) #1-14
Daken: Dark Wolverine #17-19
Avengers Academy #27-28

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Connie Noleski

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Flash v2 Annual #1 (1987)
Created By: Mike Baron and Jackson Butch Guice

Biography:

Despite the unglamorous name, Texas-born Connie Noleski was a successful model by the time she was 20. She had an on-again, off-again relationship with Wally West after he became the Flash, despite his mother’s fears that she was a gold-digger (she actually had way more money at the time than the then-broke Wally).

When Wally was kidnapped by the combined might of, um, the Turtle and Turtle-Man (COMICS, I LOVE YOU FOREVER), Connie insisted on joining the search for him, despite his superhero friends’ fears that she would get in the way. Instead, she revealed a skimpy, flashy costume and announced her intention to fight crime alongside Wally by looking fabulous, thus distracting some Turtlethugs long enough to save the lives of some of Wally’s friends and give the police time to arrive.

The whole “fight crime by looking hot” thing never quite panned out, and Connie grew increasingly worried that Wally would leave her for a more exciting girlfriend like Power Girl. It took a few heart-to-hearts with Wally’s smart, gentle friend Chunk to realize that she was more worried about the fact that she didn’t love Wally anymore…and a few more heart-to-hearts to realize she loved Chunk instead.

When last seen, Connie was engaged to Chunk and pursuing an acting career.

So What’s So Great About Her?

When Connie was introduced, Wally was heavily into his post-Barry’s-death tomcatting days – he blew through about a dozen love interests and potential love interests in about three years real time, plus oodles of flirting, plus meeting the eventual love of his life in Linda Park. He didn’t treat any of the women particularly well, and the message was clear: Look at this virile superhero in the prime of his life, attracting all the fly honeys and treating ‘em bad! Don’t you want to buy this comic so that you can live vicariously through him? (Reassuringly, judging by the letter columns, most fans seemed a bit disgusted with him.)

In that context, Connie the Model seems like she would be a one-note sex object, only there to show what a manly man Wally was. Except…she’s not. She’s got this wonderful, almost fourth-wall breaking sense of meta-awareness that shows her to be smarter and sassier than anyone’s expecting. She seems very conscious of how people view her – appropriate for a model – and plays with those expectations in a wonderfully subversive way. I love how she announces her plans to panic and get in the way during the search for the Turtle-napped Wally so blithely that the dudes involved in the search at first think she’s serious, and I love how she confronts actual armed criminals by babbling ditzily about her plans to aid Wally’s superhero career by baring her midriff. She comes off looking like a complete idiot…until the criminals, and the reader, realize that she’s called the cops and the whole thing is a setup. She works with other characters’ – and the readers’ – assumptions to not only save the day, but show just how wrong those assumptions are.

Plus, she’s brave and loyal enough to crash a party of Rogues, insist on aiding in the search for Wally alongside a bunch of heroes, and face down armed criminals in a bikini. And though her eventual romance with Chunk could have come off like icky male wish fulfillment – plus-sized nerd gets model! – it instead reads as very genuine and sweet – two gentle, kind people who are more than the world sees them as finding each other. Connie may have had a short and limited role of comics, but she made the most of it and got a great happy ending. I’m sure most non-endgame love interests wish they could say the same! (And some endgame ones. I miss you, Linda!)

Notable Appearances:

Flash v2 Annual #1 (1987)
Flash v2 #19, 30, 35, 36, 42, 44, 49, 55, 56, 58-61, 177

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Arisia Rrab (Green Lantern)

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #1 (May 1981)
Created By:

Biography:

Little Arisia had some big shoes to fill. Though being a Green Lantern is rarely a hereditary condition, at least four of her relatives had served as GLs. When her parents and uncle all fell in the line of duty, the ring came to Arisia, then only thirteen years old by her planet’s standards. She was immediately flung into the Green Lanterns’ war against Krona and Nekron. Eh, it’s still better than dealing with middle school.

Arisia rapidly developed a crush on Hal “Statutory” Jordan, and, after the Crisis, relocated to Earth with him and a handful of other GLs. Though Hal initially turned down her advances, when her subconscious desire to be with him caused her ring to physically age her to adulthood, he apparently figured that looking like an adult was close enough to being an adult, and they became an item. Soon after, Arisia – along with many other Lanterns – lost her powers. She elected to stay on Earth and work on her secret identity as Cindy Simpson, fashion designer, but the strain of the changes to the Corps caused her and Hal to break up.

That was proooobably a pretty good call, since, you know, age of consent issues aside, Hal went crazy a few years later and started killing…oh, everyone. Arisia volunteered to join Guy Gardner’s mission to find the missing Kilowog, was rejected, strapped on a bunch of semiautomatic weapons, and insisted on coming along. Impressed, Guy hired Arisia as a bouncer at his bar once they got back to Earth.

Shortly thereafter, Arisia was killed by Major Force, who super loves killing ladies that Green Lanterns care about. Years after she was found, totally alive, as part of the Cyborg Superman’s creepy collection of Lanterns. Turns out Arisia’s people have healing powers and Guy actually accidentally buried her alive. Whoooops. He did it with love, at least?

Arisia subsequently rejoined the Corps and remains a member in the New 52.

So What’s So Great About Her?

I’m sure you’re all tired by now of hearing how much I love cute, spunky characters, but seriously, Arisia is so cute! And spunky! She’s an adorable little bug’s ear of a Lantern, even as an adult (a real adult like she is now, not the creepy aged-up version), and a ray of sunshine for her older and more jaded compatriots. That contrast just helps to underline how truly exceptional she is: she was chosen for the most elite peacekeeping force in the universe at age thirteen. Though still essentially a child, she was deemed not just fearless and strong-willed, but wise enough to be trusted with the safety of her entire sector. That is a hell of a vote of confidence.

And look, I ragged on her relationship with Hal in the bio, but let’s lay the blame where it belongs: with Hal. That relationship was inappropriate at best, but it’s not Arisia’s fault that she fell for a handsome older man, and it’s not her fault that he eventually took advantage of that. She certainly wouldn’t be the first girl to impress an unscrupulous man by looking older than she is. I just wish she were known less for that and more for how, after the relationship went south, she rebuilt a life for herself on Earth with no powers and no family while looking visibly alien. Or how she repeatedly tried to rejoin the good fight, petitioning the Guardians and Guy, never faltering in her determination. Or how she wound up so badass even Guy “Everyone Is a Wuss But Me” Gardner was impressed. I mean, she was a bouncer, you guys! What is she, five foot nothing?

Basically, I wish she was known less for her artificial, romance-inspired “aging up” – and more for the real, complicated, and ultimately triumphant work she did as she grew into herself.

The Green Lantern franchise tends to neglect its ladies, but I would love to see more Arisia action in the DCnU. How about a book with Arisia, Soranik, Boodikka, Katma, and a time-travelling alternative universe Jade? I’d read the crap out of that.

Notable Appearances:

Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #1-3
Green Lantern v2 #149, 150, 163, 172, 181, 185, 188, 198-200
The Green Lantern Corps v1 #201-224
Millennium #1-8
The New Guardians #4-8, 11
Action Comics Weekly #601, 602, 607-620
Green Lantern v3 #32-35, 38, 41, 42, 55, 150
Green Lantern v3 Annual #1-2
Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #1, 6
Guy Gardner: Warrior #20, 21, 25, 26, 29-32, 36, 38, 39, 41-44
Green Lantern v4 #12, 13, 21, 23-25, 65, 67
Green Lantern Corps v2 #11, 14-17, 19, 23-26, 29-31, 33-48
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #2-8, 10
Blackest Night #4-8
Green Lantern Corps v3 #1, 9, 17

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Madelyne “Maddie” Pryor-Summers (Goblin Queen/Red Queen)

Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #168 (1983)
Created By: Chris Claremont & Paul Smith

Biography

Scott Summers (Cyclops) was deep in mourning for the apparent death of his longtime love, Jean Grey, when he just so happened to run into a gorgeous redheaded pilot who looked exactly like Jean! What a coincidence, right?

Yeah, of course not. The pilot, Madelyne, was a Jean clone made by noted Scott/Jean shipper Mr. Sinister, and he’d gone to the extra effort of giving Maddie fake memories and a personality that he knew Scott would like. His hope was that his matchmaking would result in a super-powered Scott-Jean(ish) baby.

Though the other X-Men were rightfully weirded out by Maddie at first, they eventually shrugged and went along with the relationship. Maddie hung out with the X-Men a lot while she dated Scott, and they got married after a fairly short courtship.

Only, turns out that marrying a woman who looks exactly like your dead girlfriend on the rebound wasn’t Scott’s best idea. He soon started to bury himself in X-Menning, not even being present for the birth of their child; Maddie had Nathan without him in the X-Men kitchen.

So things were already tense when Jean turned out to be alive, and Scott responded by immediately abandoning his family. Sisnister took this opportunity to kidnap Nathan and try to kill Maddie (Maddie/Scott being only second to his real OTP), and she subsequently found out she was a clone and that she had mega mental powers.

Time for a freak-out! After making some pacts with demons to destroy the X-Men and seducing Scott’s brother, Maddie capped off her Mother of the Year campaign by trying to sacrifice Nathan to open a portal to the hell-dimension Limbo. Maddie was killed in the ensuing battle with the X-Men.

Maddie stayed dead for a number of years until X-Man, another Sinister-made Scott-Jean kid, accidentally brought her back to life. She started hanging out with the Hellfire Club and met her now-adult, time-traveling son Cable, before forming the villainous Sisterhood of Mutants. This was an attempt to possess the now-really-dead-for-serious Jean’s corpse, but Scott managed to hide it in time. Instead, Maddie possessed a decoy and died as a result.

So What’s So Great About Her?

There are some villains who view themselves as the true protagonists of their stories—characters like General Ross, who has a point about wanting to stop the Hulk from rampaging across America but goes about things in the wrong way, and Magneto, who has strong, albeit incredibly flawed, ideological reasons for becoming an anti-human terrorist. But Maddie is one of the few supervillains for whom a hero is actively, truly a bad guy.

It’s impossible for me not to feel a ton of empathy for her. This is a woman who was bred specifically to be good enough for Scott Summers, and even after she gave birth to his child, he still immediately abandoned her the second Jean reappeared. I can’t blame Maddie for being incredibly frustrated and furious with her lot in life, twined forever with that of her rival.

The most successful villains, for me, are the sympathetic ones. I’m not trying to justify any of her evil doings or apologize for her being an appalling mother—she did try to sacrifice her baby to Hell, after all—but as her storyline evolves from background-y girlfriend and wife to antagonist, her pain is as palpable as her rage. There’s a reason why she does things like seek out Scott’s brother for a revenge rebound and try to kill Scott’s child: she’s trying futilely to hurt him as much as he hurt her. But unless Maddie murders Jean herself—which she does attempt!—she can never, ever accomplish this. No wonder she’s gone crazy.

It’s especially painful because before Maddie becomes a villain, we get years of seeing her being a fun, incredibly charming secondary character. She’s intensely likable and was probably designed to be so, to increase the emotional power of seeing her fall. Her character evolution is terribly effective, but it doesn’t necessarily make for a carefree read.

Maddie popped up in the ‘90s, inexplicably spending more time with X-Man, to whom she was only tangentially related, rather than continue to feelings-punch fest by getting to know her now-adult son some more. Maybe it’s for the best that the writers kept it to a minimum—I don’t know if I could take more of maternal heartbreak from Maddie, one of the most tragic Marvel villains.

Notable Appearances

Uncanny X-Men #168; 170-178; 181; 200-201; 215; 221-243; 499; 501-504; 508-511
X-Men and Alpha Flight #1-2
X-Factor #1; 36-38; 46-50
X-Man #5-7; 13-17; 20-25; 28-30; 38-51; 56-57
X-Man Annual 1996
Cable #44; 50

Posted in Marvel, Supernatural, Villains, X-Men | 3 Comments

Catherine “Cat” Grant

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Adventures of Superman #424 (January 1987)
Created By: Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway

Biography:

Cat Grant knows sordid secrets. Not only was she a successful gossip columnist in LA, she was living with an abusive, alcoholic husband and battling alcoholism herself. When she left him, he managed to get full custody of their son, Adam. Heartbroken and forbidden to see her child, Cat moved to Metropolis.

As the new gossip columnist for the Daily Planet, Cat briefly dated Clark Kent, but their romance ended when she went back to California to fight (and eventually win) custody of Adam. By the time she returned, Clark and Lois had gotten serious, but Clark and Cat remained friends, despite occasional hostility towards Cat from both Perry and Lois for her too-sexy ways. Determined to prove her journalistic chops to her Planet colleagues, she quit the paper and went undercover at Galaxy Broadcasting to expose owner Morgan Edge’s connection to Intergang. There she faced relentless sexual harassment from Edge’s father Vinnie.

Tragedy struck when the Toyman kidnapped several Metropolis kids, including Adam. While attempting to lead the kids to freedom, Adam was killed. After Vinnie hit on Cat at her son’s funeral, she decided enough was enough and got him fired for harassment, replacing him as the CEO of WGBS. She then did some time as Lex Luthor’s press secretary, because apparently Lex felt the need to staff his administration with all of Clark’s besties. That’s weird, Lex.

Shortly before the reboot, a now extra-sexy Cat returned to the Planet as editor of the arts and entertainment section, because Perry White’s staffing decisions are nothing if not charmingly random. For some reason Cat took that as a chance to write scathing front-page editorials about how reckless and immature Supergirl was, but they buried the hatchet after Supergirl saved Cat from Toyman’s son, who was stalking her.

Post-reboot, Cat is still at the Planet.

So What’s So Great About Her?

So recently Cat has tended to come off as some kind of weird narrative exercise in slut-shaming. She existed initially to be a sexier, less ball-busting rival for Lois, but she was still a nice person with a genuine thing for Clark, and hell, who could blame her?

But then she returned to the Planet, all sexed-up – with breast implants, no less – and nasty, stuck in this weird comic relief/minor antagonist role. The part that leaves the grossest taste in my mouth is Clark’s mournful explanation that this is how she’s processing the loss of her son. (You know, the one that happened years earlier, with a stint as a network CEO and as White House press secretary in between? Which is not to say that anyone ever gets over the loss of a child, but acting like it’s a reaction borne out of immediate grief is, excuse the pun, super-patronizing.) It’s like “Oh, well, she was a mother so she was behaving okay for a woman, but after she lost him there was nothing to stop her from waving her boobs around again. So sad/threatening, tsk tsk.” Plus there’s the whole “Let me script multiple panels that are closeups of her breasts while judging her for them” aspect. Ugh. Work your issues out elsewhere, writers.

It doesn’t help that her relationships with other women are invariably contentious: there’s Lois, of course, but more notable is her smear campaign against Supergirl, which it’s heavily implied is motivated more by jealousy over Kara’s taut young beauty than anything else. (Though she did eventually make peace with both of them, which I like.) Women are always in competition and hate anyone younger/prettier than them, duh!

And yet. Despite all of that, I like Cat.

Much of that is out of sheer spite/sympathy (“Don’t you tell me not to like this woman, DC, SHE IS NOW MY FAVORITE”), and it also owes something to Tracy Scoggins’ cheesy-but-lovable portrayal on the cheesy-but-lovable show of my heart, Lois and Clark. But Cat is also, when you get right down to it, a smart, tough lady, and I wouldn’t be a Superman fan if I didn’t like smart, tough ladies. I mean, lady was Press Secretary of the United States of America. (Under a lunatic who got impeached after attacking Superman in a robosuit, yeah, but that part wasn’t her fault.) And Allison Janney taught me that being Press Secretary is basically being the coolest.

She’s also a fundamentally good person, a talented reporter, and a devoted mother. It takes a lot of strength to leave an abuser, and it takes a lot of chutzpah to make a name for yourself in one of the biggest cities in the world. And she’s fun. There’s not actually anything wrong with going to parties, dressing in a way that expresses your sexuality, or getting plastic surgery if you want it (though the clumsiness of that writing makes me roll my eyes). Cat may not be perfect, but she knows all the cool people and isn’t afraid to let her hair down. On the list of DC Folks I Want to Party With, Cat is at the very top.

Notable Appearances:

Adventures of Superman #424, 428-431, 434, 435, 438, 439, 441, 445-448, 450, 452, 454-458, 462, 463, 465-467, 473, 480, 482, 483, 487, 491, 497-501, 503, 505, 507, 508, 510, 524, 526, 527, 529, 532, 535, 538, 543, 549, 550, 555, 597, 610
Superman v2 #0, 5, 10, 11, 13, 19, 20, 24, 25, 28, 33, 36, 40, 42-44, 50, 51, 53, 60, 63, 75, 83-85, 87, 98, 104, 105, 11, 120, 130, 142, 162, 166, 681, 682, 706
Action Comics v1 #598, 599, 643, 653, 654, 658, 667, 668, 676, 677, 688, 692-695, 700, 713, 714, 723, 726, 737, 865, 866, 868-870, 881
Superman: The Man of Steel #28, 49, 54, 61, 67, 70, 71, 108
Supergirl v5 #34-36, 38, 40, 41, 44, 45, 50, 54, 55, 57-59
Superman v3 #2, 6, 13, 18

Posted in Civilians, DC, Superman | 2 Comments