Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Ode To Alexandra DeWitt. Or Why Ron Marz Might Not Be Quite As Big A Pig As You Think.

I was catching up on When Fangirls Attack this afternoon, when I read an article by one Marron regarding Kyle Rayner's first love and the inspiration for the phrase Women In Refrigerators, Alexandra "Alex" DeWitt.

It's a good read. There's a few factual errors (Alex and Kyle weren't on their first date in Green Lantern #48 and Major Force had always been depicted as being relatively immortal) but these are things only a die-hard Green Lantern fan is likely to know. And ultimately these mistakes are unimportant compared to the main point of the article, which is made wonderfully. That is to say, to quote Marron, "Brutality against women in comic books is not acceptable as a plot device, especially when the character in question was created with no purpose other than being murdered."

Marron's main point is that, in creating a character whose death would forever change Kyle Rayner and force him to manhood/maturity as he took his first steps on The Hero's Path, there is no reason why the death had to be that of a female character. Alex could have easily been a man and the death need not have been that of Kyle's girlfriend but his brother, father, uncle or best friend.

Now, this is a fair complaint, if only because the male hero avenging his wife/girlfriend/mother/sister/daughter is probably the biggest cliche in the action/adventure genre. But I think it's also a little unfair to draw major conclusions about Ron Marz's feminist credentials (or lack thereof) based on one character in one story. Particularly given that he managed a hell of a feat with Alex DeWitt given what he had to work with... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

In her article, Marron quotes from a statement Ron Marz made to Gail Simone's website about Alex Dewitt. Marz said, in defense of Alex's death, that "Alex was a character destined to die from the moment she was first introduced in GL #48. I created her with the intention of having her be murdered at the hands of Major Force."

While this does seem like a damning statement at first, the rest of the paragraph does, in my mind, absolves Ron Marz of some of the flack he has gotten. For while he did create Alex solely for the purpose of killing her off, he did realize how important her death needed to be and what that required of him as a writer.

" I took a lot of care in building her as a character, because I wanted her to be liked and her death to mean something to the readers. I wanted readers to be horrified at the crime, and to empathize with Kyle's loss."

It would have been easy for Marz to make Alex a one-note character... but he didn't. He made Alex smart. He made Alex funny. He made Alex, in a lot of ways, a much more stable and likable person than Kyle. And he did this in just three issues.

Just think about that. Three issues.

Three issues he has to develop this character who many readers fell in love with instantly... just to kill her off so the audience would get good and pissed off at the bad guy. Given that it's some 15 years or so after that story and people are still talking about it and still pissed off about how Alex died - I'd say that Ron Marz accomplished his goal with the story.

Yes, Alex DeWitt's death was tragic. It was stupid and pointless. But it would have been stupid and pointless regardless of whether Alex had was a man or a woman. So whatever else you may say about Ron Marz, I don't think you can call him a bad writer. He accomplished his goal with Alex DeWitt and created a character who we were genuinely sorry to see die. And I find it hard to level charges of sexism against a man who concluded his thoughts on Alex DeWitt's death with these words.

"Comics have a long history as a male-oriented and male-dominated industry. That's not a statement of judgment, simply one of fact. I do think comics can and should be more sensitive to female characters. But these are times in which the general editorial mindset is "cut to the fight scene," in which half-naked women on covers spike sales. Publishers are unfortunately more concerned with survival than with sensitivity to women. And that's a shame. If we want to save our industry, maybe we should stop ignoring half the population as possible readers."

It's funny what prompted me to think about this was another remark about Alex. How "the only way Alex DeWitt is coming back is possibly as a Black Lantern in Geoff Johns’ Blackest Night event. Sadly, I don't think we're going to get even that which is a shame as I always liked Alex better than Donna Troy or Jade. And I can't believe this malarkey we're getting now about Jade being Kyle's One True Love.

Read Green Lantern/Green Lantern #1 from the Circle of Fire mini-series. That's all I'm saying.

Good night, Ms. DeWitt. Wherever you are.

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