I had a very interesting discussion regarding this book last weekend with a creator in the industry. I am very well aware of the controversial nature of story.
The reason why I’m writing about it is because internet policing by fans are suddenly taking every action/decision a creator makes and if it’s not a positive image of a woman (in that fan’s eyes) suddenly screams “you hate women” or “you’re a misogynist,” etc. I could get into countless arguments about the hypocrisy of it all and how frightening this is because of the possibility of censorship.
Despite an author having supposed free reign on a book, it doesn’t quite work that way. There are limitations that pop up that might not be readily seen by a fan. The big picture that I got out of this story involves the lengths people will go to protect their loved ones and their ideals.
First thing to remember is that the JLA is comprised of some of the most morally superior characters- especially Superman and Wonder Woman. To get these characters involved in some morally grey area the crime has to be bad. Unfortunately, it can’t be some so and so lost their arm now I’m going to sick the entire JLA after them. It’s not going to work because if they do that for one person, they’d be sending all the Leaguers together to handle every single crime. It’s not practical and not realistic. Unfortunately, murder is just “plain old murder” especially if you look at the Gotham characters- Batman, Nightwing, Red Robin, Huntress, Batgirl. None of those characters necessarily needed a team of heroes to help avenge the deaths of their loved ones.
The only crimes that would really unite people in this manner unfortunately involve crime against a child or a rape. Note that I didn’t say “rape against a woman.” The JLA roster didn’t have any members with children so we can eliminate that option. That leaves rape as the most vulgar, cruel crime that could be committed that would unite all the JLA members.
Now that we have the crime, who could be the victim? I’m going to eliminate all the male characters right away. Not because it’s not possible (rape is a crime of POWER and can be done by anyone), but because for a male character to be raped raises additional problematic issues. It involves a discussion between the difference between homosexuality and homosexual acts and frankly comics are still in their infantile stages at even being able to introduce homosexual characters. I don’t think a 22 page book at this time will be able to explain it. (Yes, there have been gay/lesbian characters, but their relationships tended to be rather hidden and it’s only in the last couple of years that one has been a highly prominent character.”) When the time comes that a kiss between two same sex characters doesn’t raise a frenzy then maybe a story like this could be rewritten.
Now, we are left with the female characters. The JLA female membership consists of Wonder Woman, Black Canary, and Zatanna at the time. We can eliminate Wonder Woman for two big reasons: 1) she’s probably the second most powerful character in the DC universe 2) she’s also too much of an icon. What about Black Canary? We probably couldn’t have her be the victim because she was a victim in Longbow Hunters (and the extent of her victimization is still open for discussion). I personally don’t think having her be a possible two-time victim of this crime is in DC’s best interest. That leaves Zatanna. What would happen if she was the victim? Would the League need to be involved? Zatanna could easily go after the culprit and flay them with a spell. I don’t know if she could be a victim in this case either.
That leaves significant others. We probably can’t use Lois because I’m sure Superman would destroy the earth in his anger and Lois is too iconic as well. We already eliminated Dinah so that leaves Flash’s significant other and Elongated Man’s. I don’t know too much about Flash, but I don’t think his girlfriend/wife is particularly active with the JLA members. I don’t know if there is enough connection between her and the JLA to warrant the entire JLA going into action whereas Sue Dibny was considered “an honorary member of the JLA.” That’s why she had to be the victim.
The story wouldn’t have worked the same way if it was anybody else that was the victim. Do I think rape can be exploited in comics? Yes. Do I think it was in this story? No. Unfortunately, rape is a common enough occurrence that I believe it should be a topic of discussion because sweeping it under the table like it doesn’t exist, doesn’t make it go away. This story could have been an issue longer and dealt with more of the psychological effects of the crime and served as a public service announcement, but that crime was only the catalyst. And it had to be serious enough, important enough to have good characters do questionable acts (like Zatanna wipe both Dr. Light’s and Batman’s mind) in order to preserve the League.