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At the end of the day, the worst crimes DCnU have committed to me is simple character development. Following characters for years, watching as they gradually grow into their own, like with Barbara making the difficult transition from badass rooftop-hopping Batgirl to badass spotter and hacker, or with Harley Quinn going from Joker’s Stockholm Syndrome Baby who, oddly, everyone seemed to adore to struggling with independence and a broken heart to… Well, who knows, she went all over the place after her series was over and a fair amount of development in that was sort of undone to a point (upsetting, but we still had the essence of Harley).
Some of my favorite runs have been female-led; Rucka’s Batwoman, Conner and Palmiotti’s Power Girl (one of my favorite all-time series), even the smaller, more niche series that merely had solid female rep like Gotham Central (which is probably the best idea ever created for a DC series). Why did I like them so much over the typical male heroes, like Batman or Superman?
Well, those series did something that the Batman and Superman comics never really tried with any earnestness: They were character-driven books that played to its strengths. Batwoman brought an absolutely broken, almost irredeemable character to her basics and rebuilt her, like a beautiful fucking Terminator, whose execution was beautiful and poetic, and whose “lesbian” schtick suddenly became an honest PART of the character rather than a singular driving force. Power Girl was cheeky, old fashioned action comic fun, where the character never had any pretensions about who she was or how she presented herself; she knew she was eye candy to a lot of people, but she was comfortable with what she wore; she knew she wasn’t a brilliant strategist, and that her primary answer to a supervillain problem was, well, punching out some daylights; her life on the street and in the big business focused less on drama and more on just plain ol’ day-in-the-life interaction. Gotham Central shone a spotlight on the Boys in Blue of Gotham, a city infested with rampant sin, and showed that the struggles weren’t always with the city itself, but between the actual workers.
I liked them because they did what the typical comics never did: They made sure to keep the characters relateable, believable, honest, flawed, and reasonable to the viewer, and were made up of very solid teams who knew what they wanted, and elevated the quality bar of the DC universe to levels beyond anticipation.
DC is constantly faced with the problem of how to make their comics more “female friendly.” Currently, their answer is to not bother. (Which, to put it in words I would use without restraint, is proof DC is largely run by fucking idiots.) But here’s a newsflash: Character-driven work IS female-friendly. You know what we get out of Conner/Palmiotti Power Girl, Rucka Batwoman, and Gotham Central? We get people responding to situations, we get looks inside their heads, we see human interaction and moments where everyone can breathe, just for a moment. And, the best part, we also get “fuck yeah that was awesome” moments, too.
This whole “female-friendly” thing is a huge misnomer; lots of female readers want a lot of the same stuff they’ve been getting, with your “fuck yeah that was awesome” moments, a little romance here and there. They just want every character to be treated with respect, to be handled with some dignity. They want characters to discuss something other than the people among them (and would love to see two female characters discussing something OTHER than another male character). They want what a lot of people want, and DC hasn’t offered nearly enough of.
They want people as characters, not stereotypes and cardboard cutouts and god complex characters.
They want individual character development, women who aren’t solely focused on men or being “one of the guys” or trying to be “better” than men, and men who only have one crippling flaw that is a relic of the older ages.
Really, they just want comics and stories that just don’t suck.
And so do I, a guy in your “18-34 male demographic.”
Get on that, if you would.