Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Bad Comics

The PopCulteer
September 30, 2011

You may have noticed that your PopCulteer is way behind schedule with his promised reviews of DC Comics New 52. There is a reason for that. Reading and reviewing comics is not quite as much the fun job that I thought it would be.

Let me explain.

I love reading comics, and I love rambling on about comic books. However when I took on the duty of reviewing DC’s new 52, that meant that I’d be reviewing comic books that I would not normally waste my time reading. Frankly, some of the new DC Comics first issues are really bad, for a variety of reasons. We have 22 of DC’s New 52 left to examine, and today we’re going to go all negative and focus on three of the stinkers.

Virtually Porn

Note that this is not “virtual” porn, but virtually porn. DC has released a few titles that might as well be porno comics. There has been a pretty huge outcry on the internet about two of last week’s titles, Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, but there’s a candidate for the worst sexploitation comic of the New 52 in this week’s releases, too. So let’s take a good look at some of the more twisted bits of chaff, shall we?

Catwoman #1
by Judd Winnick and Guillem March

This book is written by Judd Winnick, so we know right off the bat that it’s going to be garbage, but cracking it open still reveals a pretty awful experience. The first three pages of the book are nothing more than close-ups of a half-dressed Catwoman running. The close-ups are of her boobs and butt. We don’t see her face until page three. It’s easy to figure out why the artist took a character who is already wearing a costume that is essentially latex bondage gear, and decided to have the top unzipped so that her bra is exposed during a chase scene, but it’s still so blatant that it catches you off guard.

To be fair, the artist does a competent job of copying poses from porn and swimsuit mags, and then drawing what little there is of Catwoman’s outfit on them.

Look! Boobies!

In Winnick’s story, Catwoman’s apartment is fire-bombed. She barely escapes. Her implied lesbian friend (a rare different body-type in the New DC, she’s drawn a bit heavier than the other women) gives her a tip on a Russian mafia party she can rob. She does so by posing as a prostitute. She beats up a guy who’s abusing women, and then her and Batman have the sex all over her new penthouse.

It’s fairly typical crap from Winnick. The story is too hopeless to waste any time analyzing it. The only important thing about this book is the near-Skinemax-level sex scene between Batman and Catwoman. It’s basically bad fan-fic, sanctioned by DC. It’s out of character for both Batman and Catwoman, and it clearly exists soley to stir up controversy. That is the only point on which this comic succeeds.

Red Hood and the Outlaws
by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort

This book is notable only because of the depiction of the alien Princess Koriand’r, AKA Starfire. In previous incarnations of the character, Starfire has been depicted as having a naive sense of sexuality, and no shame about her body. In this depiction she is an amnesiac former sex-slave who indiscriminately screws any man she encounters without bothering to learn their names.

Aside from the heavy and unneccesary sexual overtones, this book is one big fairly incomprehensible mess. It’s a team book, set clearly in the new DC Universe, where we’ve only had superheroes for five years, yet it stars two former sidekicks of superheroes and former Teen Titan Starfire. Chronologically, this makes no sense.

"What are you doing in the bathroom so long, Billy?" "Uh...reading comics, mom!"

Red Hood is Jason Todd, the second Robin. This is a character who was so beloved by readers that, when DC set up an 800 number so that fans could vote on whether he lived or died, he was blown to bits by The Joker. And he managed to stay dead for almost twenty years. In a rebooted universe, there is no reason for this character to even exist.

Roy Harper is Speedy, the former sidekick of Green Arrow, who, in the new DC Universe, doesn’t seem old enough to have had a sidekick yet. I don’t know how much of the previous DC continuity they’re keeping, but this character has, at various times, been addicted to heroin, had a kid out of wedlock and acted as a responsible single father, seen that kid killed, and had his arm ripped off, which is quite a setback for a guy who’s only super power is shooting a bow and arrow.

Starfire finds out why they call him "Speedy."

Starfire, apparently, is a space prostitute. Amoung her super powers is the power of nudity. Her battle outfit would make Vampirella blush.

The guys take turns screwing the princess and then bragging about it in front of her…during fight scenes. They’re written about about a Beavis and Butthead level, without the humor.

The art is sub-par superhero fare with pages and pages of badly-copied porn and swimsuit poses tossed in to make the book “special.” At no time have I ever felt further away from the target demographic for a comic book than when I read this mess.

Voodoo #1
by Ron Marz and Sami Basri

If you were a shape-shifting alien killer on the lam, you’d take the identity of a stripper, right?

This book is sad because the artwork is so good, and the book is so worthless. The story is an excuse for Basri to draw voluptuous women in many different poses. The story is as thin and unneccesary as a Skinemax movie.

There’s nothing more to say about this book. It’s a collection of drawings of nearly-naked women. Taken as that, at least the artwork is good.

The problem with these three titles, all rated “T” by DC, meaning that they feel that the books are appropriate for ages 13 and up, is that they don’t quite cross the line into what they really want to be.

Does this look like a panel from a superhero comic book?

Cheap Titillation

Let’s face it, these are whack-off books for guys who are too timid to buy porn. They are the comic book version of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The problem with that is that, nowadays, porn is so accessible via the internet that there is no need for this type of porn equivilent to “near-beer.”

It's okay, the stripper is really a shape-shifting alien.

These books are porn, but they aren’t even good porn. If DC is going to dive this deep into the sleaze, they could at least show penetration. Why would anyone waste their money on these books,with the badly-executed bondage and fetish of Catwoman, the gang-bang/gang-rape fantasy of Red Hood and the Outlaws and the pure stripper sexploitation of Voodoo, when they can get all of those things in versions that are completely uncensored?

In other words, why bother doing these books if you’re not going to go all the way?

I’m not even going to go into the moral argument about putting beloved children’s characters into sexual situations. We’ve already determined that DC will do that. The question is, why stop there? I would have more respect for DC if they’d just released hard-core porn comics. This whole skirting of some imaginary and arbitrary line is ridiculous.

Hot Bat on Cat action. Oh my God, Rick Santorum was right!

I have noted a disturbing trend in this new DC Universe. Women are sex objects, to be used to attract horny young male readers, and at times be dismembered to appeal to their darker sides. Complicating matters is the fact that both Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws have female editors. How any female could think that any young woman picking up one of these books in a comic book shop could be anything less than repulsed and scared is beyond me.

These three books represent the worst aspects of the new DC Universe–the desparation to attract new readers. If these books do not eventually fail, it bodes ill for the future of this country. These books are nothing more than a loving tribute to misogyny.

We’ve a short PopCulteer this week. We will return to DC’s New 52 in the coming days. Next week will see a new episode of Radio Free Charleston as well as our regular features. I will announce now that I will NOT be reviewing the second issues of DC’s new 52. There’s way too much other good stuff out there that I’ve been neglecting.


  1. Tim Diomedi

    As with any critic,it’s an opinion. Calling those three books porn is a bit dramatic especially when soap operas and Jersey Shore are blatantly over-sexed. Cat-Woman’s costume is not any more outrageous than it ever was,it has always been skin-tight and always showed her body,as far as her and Bat-man having sex,what are we,three? Their relationship always implied they had sex,now they show a slightly risque love scene,oh no! The scandal! Voodoo shows no more nudity than Witchblade or Lady Death does and Red Hood and the Outlaws the same thing,truthfully Starfire is an alien so it makes sense her view about sex would be much different. Porn,no,slightly risque perhaps but these are not kiddie books,we are all adults here. Noone minded Power Girl and her bosom fairly popping out like Nancy Grace so why the nit-picking now?

  2. rudy panucci

    Actually, calling these books porn is not dramatic. The stories exist solely to present titillating images and set up adolescent fantasies. Howewver, they aren’t even good porn, since they aren’t explicit enough to justify the simple-minded stories. Anyone who’s had any real life experience wouldn’t find these books arousing. They’re just idiotic and a bit sick.

    Catwoman’s costume has been skimpy before, but the have two pages of her falling out of it while running was just pure pandering.

    As for her and Batman having sex…it was totally unneeded, over-the-top, and a betrayal of the established core of both characters. There is a difference between sexual tension and unfettered boning at the drop of a hat. Batman would never whip it out while in uniform–you know he has a policy against handling pistols!

    It’s true that Voodoo shows no more nudity that Witchblade or Lady Death, but both of those titles are exactly the type of low-brow whack-off comics that I was talking about. It’s a shame to see DC sink to that level. Those books were also targeted at mature readers.

    The characterization of Starfire is just a misogynistic gang bang fantasy. It’s not “adult,” it’s adolescent and stupid and is also a drastic betrayal of everything that the character stood for before.

    Also, these are NOT “adult” books. None of them are rated “M.” They are rated “T” for teens. That’s about a PG-13 rating. I question whether these books should be considered appropriate for that rating.

    But that’s beside the point. Aside from the sloppy attempts at soft-core porn, these comics aren’t very good. The stories are pointless, the characterizations irrational and the artwork is wasted.

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