Scott Lobdell talks about Starfire

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201110280410 Scott Lobdell talks about Starfire

Although battered and bruised by a wave of opprobrium over his work on the New 52, writer Scott Lobdell hasn’t given up, and he’s facing the music — or questions from the internet, as the case may be. After a lengthy layoff from high-profile comics assignments, Lobdell’s work on RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS and TEEN TITANS has met with a….mixed reaction. Or as he reportedly asked Gail Simone, “Why didn’t you TELL me?” In an interview with Comicvine he does cover some of the more controversial aspects of his recent work like…Starfire, the amnesiac sex addict.

I’ve read the sixth issue, which reveals the story of how she and Jason met — and he learns exactly what she does and doesn’t recall from the past. I think everyone who is dismissing her as a “goldfish” (with tongue often planted in cheek) is going to be disappointed that their snap judgement about Kori hasn’t played out.
In short, I love Kori — I have since her very first appearance. I love that she’s the strongest member in a team of bad asses, I love that her perceptions will often challenge Jason and Roy’s, I love the fact that she doesn’t think the way humans do. I am forever fascinated by her and I can only hope that love for the character is contagious.

Q: Follow-up: What would you say to those who did not like her in the first issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws?

I’m not sure what to say, to be honest.


Later in the piece, Lobdell tries to turn the tables on his attackers:

I think what HAS surprised me the most is the vulgar tone of the comments I’ve read. When I hear people calling Starfire a “slut” or a “whore” or a “sex toy” it makes me sick to my stomach, honestly. I don’t think a person (man or woman) gets to define someone else’s sexuality and certainly not in such derogatory and dismissive terms. The notion that people genuinely believe they are staking the moral high ground in what they believe is their defense of Kori, by using such dehumanizing language is otherworldly to me.


Perhaps there IS a lesson there — slut-shaming shouldn’t be the point of the criticisms — nor has it been of the best objections.

There’s much more in the interview.

Comments

  1. “Slut” and “sex-toy” are almost diametrically opposed critiques of the work: “slut” states that she is a woman who has chosen to pursue sex shamefully (and is not an insult I would ever use), while “sex-toy” strips her of agency completely. Starfire in issue 1 was robotic, not slutty.

  2. Lannie says:

    I do NOT buy that response one bit. Turning the tables by saying “You’re the ones who are reading bad things into my work,” is a cute way to not take responsibility for what he did. Is he going going to say we’re bullying Starfire for her choices too?

  3. Charles Knight says:

    ” I think everyone who is dismissing her as a “goldfish” (with tongue often planted in cheek) is going to be disappointed that their snap judgement about Kori hasn’t played out.”

    A rather odd statement as that’s how the character is explicitly set-up in the first issue – now that could be misdirection on the part of the writer but since there is nothing in the sub-text to indicate that to the reader – how would they know?

    ” I don’t think a person (man or woman) gets to define someone else’s sexuality ”

    Another odd statement – the writer intend often defines that for fictional characters.

    I guess DC editorial has told him to change the characterisation and this is the “it was planned or along!” bit*.

    * or it was planned all along.

  4. I remember after the Sins Past garbage, how JMS was sooo stunned that the readers were so upset at Gwen for making a very human mistake. And I yelled at my computer screen, “she didn’t make a mistake, she’s a fictional character! You, the writer, made her make a mistake! A totally out of character and completely inappropriate mistake! For an altogether nonsensical and shitty story!” And then I realized I was yelling at my computer screen.

  5. Synsidar says:

    Two complaints about Lobdell’s responses:

    He stressed how “alien” Starfire was, but she’s not written, or even drawn, as an alien in an SF sense. Sexual attraction is based mostly on biology; simply being able to have “normal” sex with humans and being attractive to them makes her non-alien. It’s too easy to think that he wants to write her as having attitudes that would be unusual, at least, and saying that she’s alien is a convenient defense against criticism.

    Like too many other editors and creators, he infantilizes reactions to his writing. Citing problems with mechanics, and particular lines of dialogue, plot points, transitions, etc., is very different from just saying, “I loved/hated what you did with ______.” Why pretend that the writer’s editor is the only person in the world capable of identifying technical flaws in a story?

    SRS

  6. Olivier E. says:

    I’ve been reading the Teen Titans omnibus with her first appearances, 30 years ago she kissed Robin the first time she met him, she complains that she has to wear clothes, she gets naked in a park in front of an old man and she goes swimming in a small bikini. Was there any backlash about Korys portrayal back then?

  7. You can’t slut-shame a fictional character. Her choices are the writer’s choices.

  8. “Perhaps there IS a lesson there”

    Yeah: how CAN we blame the fans more? This is a real teachable moment.

  9. @Adam – Despite not agreeing with JMS’ “Sins Past” story, and thinking it was just plan bad, fictional characters should and will make human mistakes. I think you’re missing that he’s saying that human mistakes are meant to make the character more realistic, but in this case it was just poor writing and some really bad understanding of the characters involved. The real problem was she made the mistake to further the plot, not out of a character moment of a real (fictional) character having a lapse of judgement but because she HAD to make the mistake to propel the story. Plot induced stupidity =/= a human mistake.
    Stories often are about the human mistakes people make that get them into trouble, nothing wrong with that, but when things are just there to push along a plot without thought to the characters, that’s when it fails, imho.

  10. Synsidar says:

    Was there any backlash about Korys portrayal back then?

    Kory’s costume back then was as bad as it is now, but the sexualization of the characters by the publishers wasn’t as pervasive, and speaking out about the problem is much easier now. Comics were also written differently back then.

    SRS

  11. I’ve got no issue with characters making human mistakes; Spider-Man’s my favorite fictional character and that guy is all about human mistakes. In that instance, it was absolutely nonsensical, damaged earlier, better stories by changing motivations, and featured rapidly-aging superpowered dead ringers for Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker(?!) for some reason.

    We all know the Osborn hair is a dominant trait! That story took that from us!

  12. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Oliver E., what Starfire fans were objecting to was not that she was sexualized – Starfire has always been a very sexual character – but that her sexuality was changed from an emotionally healthy, happy, open, sex-positive, woman-positive loving but polyamorous characterization to one in which she denies all emotion, lacks all personality and considers men to be interchangeable sex toys.

    These are two different things!

    It was particularly offensive because it was so gratuitious – here’s a character who already has lots of sex and wears almost nothing but still has personality and agency and no, no hotness is not enough, only a robotic, expressionless sex doll will do. It’s as if the author was saying her personality was not important to readers, that they would like any character with that name and body pasted on because, hey, it’s all about sex anyway.

    Now maybe Lobdell has a plan, maybe this is part of some emotional trauma and/or brainwashing character arc, but the reader has no way of knowing that.

  13. Mikael says:

    Creators, editors and publishers doing what they want with characters they own. Imagine that. “Out of character”? I’m sorry, there’s a rulebook somewhere?

  14. @Kate Hear! Hear! It’s fairly obvious that the characterization is the key to make both interpretations different.

    This is at least the second time I have heard Lobdell come off with this excuse/turning it back on the fans argument, almost word for word. I wonder if he thinks that if he repeats it enough times, he will shame people into changing their minds.

    Yeah, some fans used the terms Lobdell gave us to condemn his work. But there were a lot more who used logical, albeit passionate, writing free from those terms to express their criticism. The only answer he has to those people is “wait and see.” That really isn’t going to win many of those critics over.

    But that doesn’t belie the fact that attacking the quality of the people who are arguing against you is a logical fallacy and no way to win an argument.

  15. “Later in the piece, Lobdell tries to turn the tables on his attackers…”

    …which is the usual Republican response to resistance to problems of their own making. Lobdell would likely find a future writing wingnut copy for Fox News.

    “Creators, editors and publishers doing what they want with characters they own.”

    Except that they’re NOT. The creators are work-for-hire freelancers, the editors are distracted by their own hubris, and the publisher higher-ups are merely counting money or asleep at the wheel. Pretty typical behavior for mega-corporations avoiding responsibility for their own character licenses these days.

  16. Chris Hero says:

    @Kate

    Yes!! Everything you said! Yes!

    Also, what bugged me is Starfire is now a *very* recognizable character from a cartoon popular with kids. It just seems irresponsible to make her a blow-up doll.

    @Abhay

    Yes! That’s the lesson to be gleamed here. It’s our fault for thinking….

  17. J. M. Rossi says:

    “Why pretend that the writer’s editor is the only person in the world capable of identifying technical flaws in a story?”

    Nice strawman — nobody is pretending that. However, the idea that a fan-driven reading, no matter how intellectually flawed or contorted by fan entitlement, is equally valid is laughable.

    Editing is a vocation that requires some background/training and a skill set not present in large portions of comics fandom. Additionally, Lobdell’s editor has seen far more of the story than any reader at this point, many of whom are making a lot of assumptions based on just two chapters of a longer story.

    Too many fans critique stories strictly in terms of their own preferences and biases, not in terms of craft — or, like SRS, they apply such reductive storytelling standards/criteria that they become unable to appreciate any story that deviates from trite narrative formulae and/or cliches.

    Is RH&tO as good story? IMO, not so far. But are a lot of fans overreacting, making sweeping assumptions, and generally acting silly well before a definitive verdict can be reached? Hell yes.

    And are 99% of fans (particularly the loudest and most judgmental/opinionated ones) even one-tenth as talented, clever, or capable as the most of creators they’re so willing to sling virtual mud at? Hell no.

    Scott Lobdell is not, and likely will never be, a particular favorite of mine (though Superboy has been good stuff so far) — but I’ve read good comics written by him and expect to do so again.

    OTOH, the fictive bilge self-proclaimed ‘authorities’ like SRS and KET would produce wouldn’t even be fit to line a birdcage.

  18. Synsidar says:

    Oliver E., what Starfire fans were objecting to was not that she was sexualized. . .

    The odious sexualization is due, in large part, to her costume. If a costume doesn’t make sense as clothing, then other rationales are needed for it. In any individual case, it might seem reasonable to argue that she wears the skimpy costume because of ____ and ______, but when a publisher has, oh, a dozen or so buxom heroines all wearing skin-tight or skin-baring costumes, the individual rationales no longer work, since they’re all justifications for the same visual treatments. If the heroines wore actual clothing, like people do, and changed outfits regularly, like people do, there wouldn’t be objections to the costumes.

    SRS

  19. Snikt Snakt says:

    Another old crony of Bob Harras’ that NO ONE wanted to see return to writing comics again…

  20. Tom Spurgeon says:

    For what it’s worth, there were definitely complaints about Starfire’s sexuality back in the day.

    Isn’t one weird part supposed to be that there was a popular kids’ cartoon in which the character figured prominently? I can’t remember these things, I’m too busy emotionally harming fictional characters with my salty language.

  21. blacaucasian says:

    Haters gotta hate.

  22. Kwaku says:

    Can we agree that Starfire was written very badly and that we should use words like slut, even to describe badly written fictional characters?

  23. Kwaku says:

    That last comment should read: “And that we shouldn’t use words like slut.”

    Whatever I think of the comnic and the character, I agree with the writer on that.

  24. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Good enough for Dan Aykroyd, good enough for me.

  25. “Pretty typical behavior for mega-corporations avoiding responsibility for their own character licenses these days.”

    Responsibility to whom? To . . . you? No, sorry, publishers do not exist to cater to your fanboy whims.

  26. Pantsless Pete says:

    My objections to the whole issue boiled down to

    1. Starfire has and always will be a terrible, terrible character for the exact reasons she is completely terrible in Red Hood and The Outlaws. She is far from the most terrible thing in Teen Titans (Terry Long and Donna Troy) but she has always been a pretty terrible example of ‘Tell Me About This Thing You Earth Men Call Sex’. There is something vaguely off putting about people only seeming to notice it now.

    2. The Whole ‘My Pre-teen Daughter is horrified by this terrible comic I made her read also here are some pictures of her’ was one of the most asinine things I’ve seen come out of the comics community in a while.

    It’s almost put me in the position of wanting to side with Red Hood and the Outlaws because I don’t want to be on the side that’s doing these things.

    And no one should have to be on the side of Red Hood and Outlaws.

  27. David Balan says:

    “And are 99% of fans (particularly the loudest and most judgmental/opinionated ones) even one-tenth as talented, clever, or capable as the most of creators they’re so willing to sling virtual mud at? Hell no.”

    Never a reason for people to hold back criticism. I don’t have to be a world-class chef to bite into a McNugget and say, “Hm. This really tastes like shit.”

    Writing is about communicating. Lobdell has failed to communicate anything but a great ignorance about how human sexuality works. I don’t care that we haven’t read the ending yet – your characters need to be consistent and engaging from page 1, and if you miscommunicate to your audience, then you, as a writer, screwed up.

    Because you can’t retcon your writing later, you can’t defend it and say, “Oh, that’s not what I meant!” The work has to speak on its own. Look at the product, not the intent.

    The intent of Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 is probably honorable and not at all misogynist – I believe that wholeheartedly. I have no beef against Lobdell as a person. The product itself is absolute shit. The fact that Lobdell chooses not to take responsibility for that, or even listen to how people might think of it that way, and think about changing his approach and furthering his communication skills?

    I’m disappointed.

  28. Why doesn’t Synsidar have a blog?

  29. Synsidar says:

    Why doesn’t Synsidar have a blog?

    Because I work full time and frequently rack up overtime. If I blogged about anything, I’d have less time for my volunteer proofreading and copy editing. I was recently asked about doing proofreading for pay, which would take up more time. And, since I can research issues quickly, answering questions in comments and staking out positions are more rewarding than blogging would be.

    SRS

  30. strangewoman says:

    Oh please give it a rest already Lobsuck. Jeeez. Can’t wait until the public realizes the farce that is DC Nu and discovers the secret FBI files in Batman’s basement after Nu-Infinite Crisis concludes leading to another re-reboot back to the pre DCNu world.

  31. J. M. Rossi says:

    “Never a reason for people to hold back criticism. I don’t have to be a world-class chef to bite into a McNugget and say, “Hm. This really tastes like shit.”

    Well, no — but if you’re otherwise ignorant of food/cooking, you’re unlikely to know why it’s bad, what went wrong, how it could be fixed, and/or how to avoid encountering similarly awful stuff in the future.

    ‘It’s bad’ is a perfectly valid *reaction*, but it in no way rises to the level of criticism. Aside from speen-venting, such reactions are largely useless — and feedback that starts and ends there says more about the ignorance and inarticulate nature of the commenter than it does about the creator(s) in question.

    I’ve got no beef with criticism that has some probative value and/or intellectual weight behind it — whether I agree with the substance of the argument being made or not.

    But much of the ire directed against Lobdell and/or Starfire (the latter of which, let’s not forget, is vitriol directed against a *fictional character*) is either ‘me-too’-style sheeple-blogging or ad hominem insults regarding Lobdell’s horrible, horrible misogyny or Starfire’s (who, again, is *not real*) arguably poor sexual hygiene.

    If you’ve got something new and insightful to say/write — than, for the love of Zod, do so.

    But if the content of your post/comment can be best summarized as ‘What ____ said,’ or ‘Nerdrage! Nerdrage!! Nerdraaaage!!!’ than taking a moment to check yourself is probably warranted.

    It would likely only deter a few posts (comics fandom is redolent with self-delusion), but even as small net improvement to the current quality of discourse would be a real benefit to the community.

  32. HubbaBubba says:

    Thank you, JMRossi.

  33. BigFriendlyMike says:

    Please, Starfire dresses like she does because her powers are solar based. She needs all that exposed skin to give her superpowers. Just like Superman…or Cyclops.

  34. skyhawk says:

    Thank you Rossi.

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