Saturday, November 4, 2017

Godsend; Or, Who Is Donna Troy?

I never write fan fiction. I think it, but I don’t write it.

However, having gotten into many discussions about the myriad origins of Donna Troy/Wonder Girl, I decided to finally write down one of my own.

It does not fit in with the current (and currently changing) continuity. It is based on a Themyscira that some people, at least, can visit, and a Diana who doesn’t spend 5-15 of her first years as Wonder Woman believing horrible lies about Themyscira, Amazons, her mother, and herself. I’m using a version of continuity that fits with the vast majority of Diana’s long publication history, and that I hope we’ll see again some day.

NOTE: The character of Stellanera could just as easily be female, if we wanted to gender-balance the story a little differently. It's not set in stone.

This story actually covers Donna from the ages of 10 to 19. It explains:
  • Her family on Man’s World
  • How she got to Themysicra and became part of Diana and Hippolyta’s family
  • Where she got the name Donna Troy
  • How she returned to the U.S., and who she lived with there
  • How she got her powers and became Wonder Girl
  • Why she took on the superhero name Dark Star when she got older

It can be easily modified to instead use the name Dark Angel, Dark Opal, or something else.

It introduces a number of new characters, including:
  • Fay Harbin (later known as Donna Troy), her divorced parents Doreen and Mike Harbin, and Mike’s new partner Elijah Moffet. (Mike and Elijah later marry, and have a young son.)
  • A major supervillain, the Knight of Mirrors - formerly an Amazon named Aidia, now partially possessed by a “mirror elemental” named Liucar
  • A odd and friendly character named Stellanera, who is the son of the titan-goddess Selene, serves as a messenger and servant to a group of “goddesses of the night,” and who keeps an eye on young Donna at their instruction
  • Another supervillain, the Tennebrae, also called the Shadow Moth - a faery sorcerer with a long relationship with Stellanera

This is obviously not meant to be a comic book script. It’s just an outline, and largely unedited. But it covers what I had in mind. I’m imagining it might fill a 4-part miniseries.


Scene 1: Fay Harbin
Fay Harbin is a bright, curious, bold 10-year-old. Her parents, Doreen and Mike Harbin, divorced several years ago when her father came out of the closet, and she mainly lives with her mother and her stepfather, although she’s still close with her father and his new partner, Elijah Moffet.

Doreen remarried quickly - maybe too quickly - to a charming and wealthy older man whose business Doreen knows little about. In part, he buys, sells, and collects antiquities and archeological artifacts (some, perhaps, illegally). He has a 17-year-old daughter of his own.

Fay, her mother, and her stepsister live in one of her stepfather’s smaller houses. (He has several.) He travels a lot for work and is often away. One day Fay finds a beautiful full-length mirror, made of silvered crystal and rimmed with fluted marble, in a spare bedroom. She’s fascinated by it. She goes back day after day. She looks at herself in it, plays with her toys in front of it, sometimes just stares at it and concentrates for minutes on end. It’s enchanting.

One day, while she’s staring at it, it fogs over. When the fog clears, seconds later, she’s looking into another place: a room with tapestries and shields and spears on the wall. And there is a young woman, wearing clothing of white fabric like a picture from an old storybook. The woman can see her! They both put their hands to the flat surface of the mirror, as if touching each other. They mouth words at each other. They smile. Then the mirror fogs over afgain for a moment, and is just a mirror again.

Fay tries this again day after day. She doesn’t tell anybody about it, for fear they might make her stop.

Scene 2: The Mirror of Troy
Weeks later, 21-year-old Diana, Princess of Themyscira, brings the Amazon Aidia to a seldom-used room in the Royal Palace. It has tapestries, shields, and spears on the wall, and a full-length mirror made of some silvered crystal, set in marble.

Aidia is the Amazon’s crafter and scholar specializing in glass, crystal, and mirrors, known for her amazing glass sculptures. Diana explains she has seen a young girl in the mirror - twice now! Having known no other children while growing up on the island, she’s very excited about this, and wishes she and the girl could speak to each other.

Aidia explains that the mirror is known as “the Mirror of Troy,” because it was part of the treasure taken from Troy after the Trojan War. It was originally created by Daedalus for the Trojan royal family, and was said to have some magic to it - but Aidia had no idea what, or how it would work. But it seems that he created a second mirror linked to it, which was left behind in Man’s World.

Scene 3: The Burning House
Fay, her mother, her stepfather (home for once), her stepsister, and a few servants are all in the house, in various rooms. Unbeknownst to them, some agents hired by an enemy of the stepfather (he does have enemies) are outside. They firebomb the house, which begins to burn. Fay runs to the room where her mother is, but the flames are out of control and the wooden beams are collapsing. Her mother yells “Run, Fay!”, and is then engulfed in fire and falling timber.

Desperate, Fay runs to the spare bedroom where the mirror is. She puts her hand on it and screams for help, crying. A fog appears in the mirror.

Scene 4: The Rescue
Diana and Aidia see the mirror fog over, and then see the child in a room full of flames. Diana puts her hands on the mirror. “We have to help her!” she says. “Is there any way to reach that place?”

“I don’t know!” says Aidia. Diana and the girl focus all their will, and all their fear, on the mirror and each other. Aidia remembers a fragment of a spell she read about in an ancient book for calling upon the mystical powers of the Realm of Mirrors. She has no idea if it will work, but she begins to chant it.

And, just as the child begins to collapse, it does work. The mirror becomes a portal between the two rooms; Diana’s hand passes right through, and then she enters the bedroom. Part of the roof has already caved in, injuring the child; Diana pushes the debris away, grabs her, and steps back through the mirror, away from the fire and the falling room. The mirror shatters, shards cutting the child, Diana, and Aidia. The portal is gone.

Scene 5: Donna Troy
The unconscious child is tended by the Amazon healers. When she wakes up after a day, Hippolyta uses an item called the Staff of the Messenger (associated not with Hermes, but with Iris, the goddess of the rainbow) so the girl can understand and speak their language. It turns out that, due to the physical and emotional trauma, she has amnesia. As is not uncommon, she can remember ordinary things - cars and televisions and the United States - but not her name or her family or what she was doing before she was rescued. She quickly sets about to learn their language for real.

Diana visits her every day, and the girl looks up to her tremendously - Diana’s her hero. They discuss what to call her; Diana says that, since she came through the Mirror of Troy, they will call her Troy. After a few days of this, they have the following conversation:

Troy: I don’t remember much, but where I come from, people have two names. Like William Shakespeare or Betty White.
Diana: Were they friends of yours?
Troy: I don’t know. I just remember the names.
Diana: So what other name would you like?
Troy (shyly): How about… Donna? I remember that’s a name too, and it sounds a little like Diana….
Diana: That’s good! We’ll call you Troy Donna!
Troy: No, it works better the other way.

After that the Amazons call her Donna Troy, or Donna, or sometimes Troy.

Aidia - also a hero in all this - tells Hippolyta that she thinks she can make something interesting - maybe even something magical - out of the leftover broken pieces of the Mirror of Troy. The queen encourages her to do so, an Aidia begins her slow, painstaking work.

Scene 6: Donna on Themyscira
Donna Troy recuperates. For the next two years she lives among the Amazons, who treat her like family. Diana, who never knew another child when she was growing up on Themyscira, enjoys showing her the places where she played or sometimes hid from the grown-ups. Hippolyta considers Donna another daughter. Donna even gets some Amazon training, appropriate to her age and abilities.

On one or two occasions, inadvertently, Donna - alongside Diana or other Amazons - encounters monsters on the island or other dangers. Despite her small size and limited strength, she show great bravery and a willingness to protect others.

Once or twice we - the readers - notice an odd young man watching her. He is hiding behind a tree, or perched on top of a building, and he is translucent, so we’re not even sure if he’s a physical being, or a spirit, or something else. He has black hair and brown skin, wears a toga dyed a deep twilight purple, and has a circlet made of stars on his head. Donna and the Amazons show no sign of seeing him.

Meanwhile, Aidia works with the pieces of the mirror in her studio. She seems to be creating a suit of armor - silver and light blue and green - a mace, and a mirrored shield. No one else knows the truth: when the Mirror of Troy shattered, it unleashed a mystical mirror being - a mirror elemental, let us say - named Liucar. “He” merged with Aidia, who had just been chanting a strange mirror spell. Now their personalities are mixed together. And Liucar is an amoral creature, angry, bitter, and perhaps a bit mad from being imprisoned in a pair of mirrors for more than three thousand years. He brings out Aidia’s worst traits:  a desire for magical power, and a resentment at feeling unappreciated. She particularly dislikes Diana and Donna, who Hippolyta and the Amazons dote on, even though they have contributed nothing to their culture - while Aidia has served faithfully all these millennia! Influenced by Liucar, Aidia tells no one what is happening to her.

Scene 7: The Knight of Mirrors
Diana notices a change in Aidia’s attitude, and is suspicious. No one else does. So when Aidia sneaks into the Queen’s Chambers to steal some magical artifcacts, it is Diana that follows her.

They fight. Aidia reveals herself as the Knight of Mirrors - drawing on the mirror elemental Liucar’s powers, she can conjure her armor, weapon, and mirrored shield to herself. This grants her powerful abilities - among them, she can create illusionary duplicates of herself, and use the shield as a hypnotic focus, disorienting her opponent.

But Diana, of course, puts up a good fight. The battle spills over into the courtyard, where Donna is being trained in archery by one of the Amazons. Seeing Diana attacked, she and her Amazon teacher shoot arrows at Aidia. This is not effective, but it does distract Aidia for a moment. In that moment, Donna sees herself in the magical shield, made from the mirror that brought her to the island - and her memories begin to flood back. She remembers her mother, and watching her die; she remembers her father and his partner; she remembers her life.

Hearing the sounds of combat, more Amazons pour in. The Knight of Mirrors is inexperienced with her powers, the the connection between Aidia and Liucar is still sometimes hazy. She realizes she is outnumbered and, using her illusions to confuse the other Amazons, she flees back into the Royal Palace. There she finds an ordinary mirror hanging on a wall, and using another of her new powers, she steps through it to… who knows where? Perhaps even she doesn’t.

Scene 8: Donna’s Decision
Donna is devastated by the emotional shock of regaining her memories, especially seeing the death of her mother. It takes her hours to calm down. She explains to the Amazons who she really is.

Hippolyta gives her a choice: she can remain with the Amazons, her new family. Or she can return to Man’s World, and her father. It’s up to her.

After a day of thinking, talking to Diana and Hippolyta and the other Amazons, crying, and walking around parts of the island (we see the strange man in purple watching her from atop a boulder), she decides - with great difficulty and sadness - that she wants to go home.

Hippolyta turns to the nereids who live in the waters around Themyscira for help. They have the power to swim through the barrier that separates Themyscira from the rest of the world. But they are famously mischievous and unreliable. However, one of them, Themisto, owes Hippolyta great favor. She swears she will take Donna Troy home.  

Scene 9: Stellanera
That night, in her bedchamber, Donna is awakened by a strange man in a purple toga. Oddly, although she doesn’t know him, and she has never seen a man on the island, she is not afraid. She asks his name.

“I’ve had so many names! Call me Stellanera. I am a messenger from Artemis, goddess of the moon, and other patrons. They have watched you in your time here, and seen your bravery, your kindness, and your spirit. Here, they have a gift for you.” He gives her a silver bracelet with a beautiful dark opal inset.

“Thank you,” she says. “What’s it for?”

“Oh, it will allow me to check in on you from time to time. I think we’ll be great friends! And you can use it once - but only once! - to call upon the the patrons to give you a boon. A godsend.”

“What kind of boon?”

“One so close to your deepest desires that even you may be surprised by it! So be very careful.”

When Donna wakes up in the morning, the man is gone, and there is no bracelet. She realizes it had all been a dream.

Scene 10 -  The Nereids
Donna makes her tearful goodbyes to the Amazons, most especially Hippolyta and Diana. She owes them her life, and they’ve treated her like family. Themisto and a few other nerieds take Donna into the ocean. As long as they surround her, they can grant her the power to breathe underwater, and be unaffected by the cold. They conjure magical currents and take her on a dreamlike undersea voyage back to Man’s World.

They leave her in the waters just off a beach on the Oregon shore. At the last moment, as they’re waving goodbye, Themisto hands her a silver bracelet with a dark opal. “From Stellanera,” she says, winking, and they are gone.

Scene 11 - Return to Man’s Land
Donna allows herself to be “rescued” by a lifeguard, and is taken to a hospital. She knows that no one in Man’s World is supposed to know about Themyscira, and if she told the truth they wouldn’t believe her anyway. So, drawing on her personal experience with amnesia, she tells the doctor she has no idea where she has been for the last - she looks at the calendar - two years!

She calls her father in Portland, who is astonished and thrilled that she is alive. He and Elijah (who are now married, and have an infant son) drive out to get her.

As much as she hates lying to them, she tells them the same story. They take her home. She is examined by doctors and psychologists. They come up with a theory: somehow she survived the fire, and was then kidnapped and held captive for two years. She was psychologically abused, and perhaps physically as well. (There is evidence of old injuries, from the collapsing, burning house, and from a few minor accidents on the island.) She escaped, and has repressed the whole horrid experience. And perhaps her physical injuries contributed to her amnesia as well. The doctors say they will have to be gentle with her.

Scene 12 - The Normal Life of Donna Troy
She settles into life at home with her father, his husband, and their year-old son - her brother. For a few months there are a lot of news articles about her - the mystery girl who vanished for two years, only to reappear alive! But then the reporters find something else to write about.

She goes to school. She is very smart, and quickly makes up for lost time. She makes friends, she plays soccer, she develops an interest in photography. After a while she asks her family if they would call her “Donna.” Her psychologist says this is not unusual for an adolescent, especially one who may wish to distance herself from some trauma in her past. (Later she will have her name legally changed to Donna Troy Harbin.)

It’s a good life. She has a loving family. Elijah, her father’s husband, adopts her. She likes having a little brother. She misses her mother terribly, of course. And she misses her family from Themysicra, but she can’t talk to anybody about it.

Scene 13 - Conversations with Stellanera
Except Stellanera. From time to time he appears to her, when she’s wearing the bracelet and she’s alone, in a translucent, almost ghostly form. They talk to each other, quietly. (Her fathers, if they hear her, may think she’s playing with her stuffed animals. The doctors say it’s not unusual for someone who has “been through what she has” to have imaginary friends.) She tells him what her life is like, and what she misses about the island. They becomes friends, of a sort.

And he tells her his own story, which has to do with Selene, the titan-goddess of the moon. Hundreds of years ago Selene fled some family intrigue or danger, and lived for a while, incognito, on Gemworld. There she met and married Silcar, Lord of the House of Opal. Stellanera - then called Umbraster - was the second of several children. When he grew up, Umbraster became something of an adventurer, traveling throughout Gemworld, visiting many places on Earth, and other realms besides.

We see some flashback panels of him - in Renaissance Florence, in Weimar Berlin, in Gorilla City, in Prohibition Chicago - and we get the impression he was something of a hero. But he doesn’t use that world. Donna also hears some of the names he used: Dunklerstern, Estrella Obscura, Mörk Stjärna. Later she translates some of them.

Some decades ago, Stellanera tells her, he visited his mother to learn more about his heritage. This lead to him taking on the position of messenger and servant - “executive secretary,” he likes to say - to a loose association of goddesses of the night, the moon, and the stars: Selene, Nyx (“She’s a scary one!”), Artemis, Asteria, and others. It’s been an interesting job. And it led him to Donna.

Sometimes he asks her genially if she wants to call upon the bracelet for a boon, a godsend. But she’s a little afraid of it, because she’s not sure what her deepest desires are.

Scene 14 - Wonder Woman
After Donna has been back for two years, Diana makes her way to Man’s World and takes on her role as Wonder Woman. Donna sees her in the news, and is thrilled: that Diana’s okay, that she’s in the U.S., that she’s an immensely respected superhero saving lives. Donna thinks about contacting her, but she doesn’t know how. And Donna’s just an ordinary teenage girl living in the suburbs now, after all. Also, if she got in touch with Diana, she might have to tell her fathers how she lied to them, and what really happened during her two years away… She ponders all this, but wishes she could talk to her “older sister.”

Scene 15 - The Knight of Mirrors Attacks
A few months later the question is taken out of Donna’s hands. Aidia, the Knight of Mirrors, enters Donna’s home in the middle of the night, when everyone is asleep, using a full-length mirror as a portal. She kidnaps Donna and takes her, through the mirror, to a museum in Portland where an Egyptian exhibit is on display. She easily dispatches the guards. Donna is terrified, and expects to be killed immediately. But Aidia wants to use her as bait.

Aidia explains to Donna that she has added a new item to her arsenal, the Stone of Hathor, which she found in this very museum. The Stone is a small, pyramid-shaped item, about two inches along each side, with each face made of a different substance: gold, copper, iron, and a silvery mirror. Each is also etched with Egyptian symbols. Aidia wears it on a chain around her neck, and says that it enormously increases the power of her mirror shield - enough that she can take on Wonder Woman herself.

She binds and gags Donna. Using her mirror shield, she reaches out to Diana of Themyscira. After a while she makes contact with Diana, appearing in a mirror Diana is walking past in Etta Candy’s home. She shows her she has Donna, tells Diana where she is, and tells her to come to them - alone, if she wants Donna to live.

Scene 16 - Wonder Woman vs. the Knight of Mirrors
Wonder Woman goes to the museum - alone, of course. She and the Knight of Mirrors have a major battle. But Diana doesn’t know that the Knight’s powers have been amplified by the Stone of Hathor, so she holds back.

Aidia begins to drain Diana’s powers, and her very life force, into the reflection of Diana in the mirror shield. Diana had no idea the Knight of Mirrors could do this; it catches her completely by surprise. Weakened, battered by the Knight’s mace, losing more energy with every second, she soon collapses, helpless. Donna is horrified. But what can she do?

Scene 17 - Wonder Girl
One thing, and one thing only. She concentrates on her bracelet, calling upon it mentally, praying for a boon, a godsend, anything to help her sister Diana. Stellanera appears to her, and she implores him with her eyes. He nods his head. A crackling energy from the bracelet envelops Donna, and she is transformed. She is filled with power - stronger, faster - and she tears her restraints off. The boon has also created a costume for her (a “Wonder Girl” costume that we would recognize), and a silver lasso. She attacks the Knight of Mirrors.

Aidia doesn’t take Donna terribly seriously. She hits her with her mace, and Donna falls to the floor, seemingly stunned. She leans over Donna and grabs her by the throat; she wants to strangle her with her own hands. But Aidia has underestimated the new Wonder Girl, who, although injured, is faking her helplessness. Using her newfound strength, Donna rips the Stone of Hathor off the Knight of Mirror’s neck. (Diana would not have known to try this.) Donna jumps back, and then - guided by intuition, or a guess, or divine inspiration - she throws the Stone as hard as she can at the mirror shield, which shatters, knocking Aidia unconscious.

The mirror shield destroyed, Wonder Woman begins to recover. Diana and Donna have a joyful reunion, hugging each other. Diana contacts Steve Trevor and arranges for ARGUS agents to come and take Aidia into custody.

When that’s done, it’s time to return Donna to her home and family. Donna finds that, with a simple thought, she can cause the bracelet to restore her ordinary clothes.

Scene 18 - Donna Plans Her Career
Diana takes Donna home. Her fathers, having discovered her missing, are frantic, and have already called the police. But with Donna back, and Wonder Woman insisting that everything is okay, the police leave.

Diana stays, but lets Donna explain the circumstances to her two fathers privately.

She tells them the whole story, from start to finish. At first they are furious at being lied to, but eventually they understand why Donna did it. Then she explains that she has been given these powers for a reason: to assist her sister Diana, Wonder Woman, in helping people and protecting the innocent. They object to this quite strenuously. But Donna explains that there are dangerous people and dangerous forces in the world, and that she already has “enemies” (the Knight of Mirrors, at least). If she’s going to deal with the world that she’s now a part of, she’s going to have to get some experience. Wonder Woman, invited back into the conversation, promises she will train Donna as best she can, and work to keep her safe.

Wonder Woman is very persuasive. Finally Mike Harbin says, “Okay. But you’re still going to school. And you’re going to start slow. Stopping muggings and rescuing treed cats for a while, before you take on any… supervillains. Or otherwise you’re grounded!”

Scene 19 - Wonder Girl Explores Her Powers
Donna experiments with her new identity. She always has her powers - strength, speed, ability to fly. She can use the bracelet to conjure up her Wonder Girl costume and lasso, or reverse the process. And she finds - as a small, extra gift from the goddesses of the night - that when she is in costume she looks a little different. Her hair is longer and darker, her eyes are a different color, and the shape of her face is just slightly changed - enough for people who know her as Donna to say, “Hey, Wonder Girl looks a lot like Donna, but not quite.” And so she can keep a secret identity, at least for a while.

She speaks with Stellanera again, and he makes it clear that, sadly, he will no longer be coming to chat. She’s on her own now. “Will we ever see each other again?” Donna asks. “I hope so,” he says, “but I am given my tasks by the goddesses, and watching over you is no longer one of them.”

Scene 20 - Wonder Girl’s Superheroic Career
The next five years are interesting ones for Donna. She goes to school, makes friends, goes on dates, gets good at photography, babysits her kid brother - and fights evil as the teen superhero Wonder Girl: sometimes by herself, sometimes with Wonder Woman, and increasingly with the Teen Titans, the team where she finds her greatest allies and closest friends.

Wonder Woman follows through on her promise to train her. And sometimes (during summer vacations) Donna returns to Themyscira, to see Hippolyta, who she loves as if she were her own mother, and learn more about the Amazon ways.

Scene 21 - The Abduction of Stellanera
One day Donna is astonished when a nearly-invisible image of Stellanera appears to her, for the first time in five years. He is injured, weak, almost powerless. He manages to tell her, in a voice that is less than a whisper, that he is trapped, and he gives her the location, which is a long-abandoned convent in Pennsylvania. Then he fades away.

We switch to Stellanera. He has been abducted and imprisoned by the Tennabrae, a fairy sorcerer, who appears as a young man with wings like a Death’s-Head Moth. We learn from their conversation that at one time, a century or so ago, they were friends, and even heroes together. But Stellanera learned that the Tennabrae was really only interested in increasing his power, no matter what the cost, and they went their separate ways.

The Tennabrae used their old friendship to trick Stellanera, and locked him up in this old building. He has conjured several demons to stand guard. Meanwhile he is torturing Stellanera for information: “What are the weaknesses of the goddesses of the night?” He wishes to steal some of their enormous power - and maybe find a way to kill them.

Stellanera: “They don’t have weaknesses. They’re goddesses!”
The Tennabrae: “Oh, come now, child of a titan! We both know better than that.”

Scene 22 - Wonder Girl to the Rescue
Donna enlists the help of some of her Titans superhero friends and rides to the rescue. There is a long, suspenseful, complicated battle between the heroes and the Tennabrae and his demons, but Wonder Girl’s team ultimately wins, driving the demons back to Hell. The Tennabrae, injured, manages to flee.

Scene 23 - Dark Star
Donna releases Stellanera and tends to his injuries. This is the first time they’ve met face-to-face, but they’ve been friends for years. Stellanera explains the situation, and tells Donna there is a reason the Tennabrae picked this old convent. In the 1920’s, it was attacked by supernatural beings who were driving the sisters to madness and suicide. Stellanera and the Tennabrae, learning of the attacks, came and battled the evil forces, defeating them. (The Tennabrae’s  precise motives now seem unclear, but maybe back then he wasn’t power-mad yet, or not as much so.) “We were a team, like you and your friends,” Stellanera tells her. “They called us Dark Star and the Shadow Moth.”

He thanks Donna for everything she’s done. “I don’t understand,” she says. “You work for goddesses! Why didn’t they help?”

“They did,” he says. “They sent you. My Wonder Girl!”

He kisses her on the forehead, and then looks at her. “But then, you’re not really a girl anymore, are you? You’re an amazing woman! Maybe that’s not the right name for you anymore?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” says Donna. Her friend Dick Grayson as already become Nightwing. Wally is the Flash, Roy is Arsenal, Garth is Tempest. “You don’t use the name Dark Star any more, do you? How would you feel if I carried on that heroic legacy?”

“I would like that very much,” says Stellanera. “You would bring more credit to it than I ever did - Dark Star!”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Supergirl & Mom

I watched the Supergirl pilot last night. Mostly I liked it. There's a lot to be said about the show, positive and negative, and certainly some judgments should be put off until they have a few more episodes under their House of El coat of arms and find their feet (so to speak).

But given what I've discussed on Read 'Em & Weep!, I would be remiss not to mention immediately: here we have the rare, and well-done, example of the Maternal Narrative for a major superhero.

Conventionally Kara Zor-El owes most to her father Zor-El, brother (and thematic twin) to Jor-El, Superman's father. In the earliest version of Supergirl as an ongoing character, Zor-El was, like his brother, a brilliant scientist. He saved Argo City and its inhabitants from the destruction of Krypton, and, when even that remnant was doomed, he put young Kara in a spaceship he had created and sent her to Earth. Her mother did nothing of note, and the amount of thought that went into her characterization can be seen in her name: Alura. She was alluring. Presumably that's why Zor-el married her. We get it. (Later it turns out that Zor-El also invented a Survival Zone Projector, twin to the Phantom Zone Projector, and saved himself and his wife.)

On Earth, Superman immediately takes charge of his younger cousin, insisting she not use her powers in public, treating her as his "secret weapon," and subjecting her to a series of tests (which she undergoes willingly or unwittingly) before he permits her to take on a public role as Supergirl. She accepts this with little or not complaint - he is, after all, an older male relative, and therefore in loco parentis.

Subsequent iterations of Supergirl rearranged a lot of these details, but Zor-El's preeminence was rarely threatened. Alura did get her shot in the New Krypton arc of Superman stories (2008-2009), ruling the Kryptonians of New Krypton after her husband's death, warring with Earth, and generally being unpleasantly aggressive. (Yes, I would use the same phrase for a male in her position. And I feel like I should add "Not that there's anything wrong with that....") In my opinion, the story was a disaster on several levels, especially showcasing Superman's utter failure - finally given a second chance to "save Krypton," he bungles it completely, a fact that leaves him oddly unaffected. Alura dies along with virtually all the other New Kryptonians, and this more commanding and influential depiction of her sinks without a ripple. (Fun Fact: Zor-El has his own Wikipedia page. Alura appears in the List of Minor DC Characters page.)

If I remember the origin of Supergirl in The New 52 correctly, Zor-El - although very different in personality - once again builds a spaceship and sends Kara off in it. I believe Alura was a little more active than usual - fighting violently with her husband to stop him. It didn't make much of an impression on me. In any case, Zor-El survived in an amnesiac state as the supervillain Cyborg Superman, so he's still around. Alura? Not so far.

The TV pilot takes a completely different approach which centers Alura and her relationship with her daughter Kara. It appears that Zor-El is still a scientist and built the spaceship, but in the departure scene Alura seems to be calling the shots; she has the plan, and she's explaining things to Kara. Years later, when the inevitable hologram-from-Krypton appears, it's Alura talking to Kara about her hopes for her daughter, and her pride in her.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Selina Kyle-Wayne: NWM*

(* Not Worth Mentioning)

From Earth 2: Society #2 (2015).

Bruce Wayne vs. Healing: H'ood Win?

I understand that stories require conflict, including interpersonal conflict. Superman and Batman (much like McCoy and Spock) are often used to represent different points of view: Superman, trusting and hopeful; Batman, suspicious and pessimistic. Sometimes, however, this simple (sometimes simplistic) scheme gets twisted, and supposedly smart characters wind up saying absurd, out of character things.

In JLA #2 (2105), the Kryptonian god Rao, newly arrived on Earth, sends his prophets into hospitals across the country (America first?), where they fully cure thousands of people, including those who were considered terminal. Most people see this as a good thing.

Bruce Wayne does not. Now, I would expect him to say: We don’t even know what Rao is, much less his motives. Are there side effects or hidden costs to these cures? Will there be an expectation of payment later on? 

Or even, maybe: What if there were suddenly no illness in the world? Could the world handle the overpopulation, the increased use of resources? 

And I’d credit a general distaste for anyone arrogant to call himself a god. Although Bruce’s friend Diana seems to get away with it.

But Bruce goes a different way.When Alfred says, “They seem to be healing everybody, no matter how sick or injured,” Bruce complains: “Yes. Everybody, Alfred. Good and Bad. Thieves. Criminals. Rapists. Worse. The world would be better if they died as they were supposed to. What kind of church gives that kind of evil a second chance?”

Really, Bruce? That’s where you’re going to draw your line in the sand? Because by the same reasoning (and I use the word with some doubt), he should be opposed to all doctors everywhere. After all, doctors also try their best to save people, usually without considering whether those people are “supposed” to die (whatever that means), or even whether they are good people or bad people. Ordinary doctors may have a worse win/loss record than prophets of Rao, but certainly Bruce Wayne (whose father was a doctor) does not believe that - through luck, fate, or karma - only the good people are saved, and the bad ones thankfully die.

Further, Bruce should be opposed to himself as Batman. Metaphorically, Batman is a kind of doctor - he saves people who would otherwise die. Does he investigate their morals first? When Batman prevents the Joker from killing another 10,000 people, or helps the JLA stop an alien menace from destroying a city, some of the people he saves might very well be: “Thieves. Criminals. Rapists. Worse. The world would be better if they died as they were supposed to.” What kind of superhero gives that kind of evil a second chance? But I don’t actually remember Batman actually taking this question into account. It’s a standard by which he will judge Rao and his followers, but not himself or his do-gooder friends.

When Alfred talks about the Biblical concept of a kindly and forgiving god, Bruce goes further: “Who was God being kind to when my parents were murdered? If Joe Chill was [sic] dying, I’d fight every single one of those prophets to stop them from saving him.”

This is utterly out of character. As a rule, Batman doesn’t even let his worst enemies die if he can prevent it - even if it means risking his own life. We have seen him reach out a hand to stop the Joker from falling to his death. If a doctor were treating Joe Chill for life-threatening injuries, would Batman actually stop the doctor? 

Doctors are supposed to treat everyone in need, regardless of their moral or legal status, and then let the legal system take its course. Even convicts on death row get medical care. Bruce Wayne has never tried to put a stop to any of this. Why would he treat the prophets of Rao any differently - lacking any proof that Rao has evil, ulterior motives?

As for “Who was God being kind to when my parents were murdered?”, I can’t provide an answer for the Abrahamic God; Bruce will just have to devote more time to the study of theodicy for that. But as for Rao, Bruce knows the answer. Rao makes no claims to being omniscient or omnipotent, and he has been traveling the universe. He wasn’t around when the Waynes were murdered - any more than Superman or the Flash was - through no fault of his own. So it’s not really a fair basis to judge him on. 

On the other hand, if Rao is really what he says he is, then perhaps he can help people create a world in which another young child is less likely to lose his parents to the next Joe Chill. Or his prophets can come along and save the parents as they lie dying in the street. Bruce might want to consider this possibility, when he’s done feeling sorry for himself.

Look, I understand Batman looking a gift horse in the mouth; it’s his nature. And, comics being what they are, I’m sure there’s something hinky about Rao’s seeming generosity, and ultimately the JLA will have to take him on, after fighting amongst themselves for a while.

But to condemn Rao for saving people simply because some of those people may be bad guys, when Batman and his friends save people en masse for a living? To say that he would stop someone from saving Joe Chill from dying, when we’ve seen Batman save his most evil and murderous enemies from certain doom? To dismiss the possibility that Rao is genuinely kind, because where was he when Bruce’s parents were killed, huh??!?

That’s crazy talk. It’s self-contradictory, irrational, unfair, and petty. And therefore - I would hope - out of character.

But then, I don’t know which Batman I’m reading about. Now that DC has adopted the policy of “story over continuity” (whatever that means), maybe this Batman has never saved an enemy. Maybe this Batman follows up on all his rescues to make sure they’re fine, upstanding citizens, and acts accordingly. Maybe this Batman is irrational and petty. Who can know?

Will he be the same way for the next JLA story arc? Or even next issue? What are you, a continuity freak?