This week, I’m going to do something a little different, because it’s my column and I can. Also, because I don’t have much choice in the matter this week. There’s a image from last week’s stack of comics that I simply can’t stop thinking about.
Normally, I find an image that stays with me after I’m finished reading, and muse on it for a little while before sitting down to write. Sometimes, this is involuntary. I’ll see an image, and be unable to put it out of my mind. It’s the most natural image to write about. I would prefer to keep this feature celebratory, but sometimes you just have to sit down and criticize (even when you normally like the artist). It’s only healthy.
I was very happy, very happy to see this image at first. You have to understand, they’d recently gone out of their way to bring just about every major Green Lantern character back to active status. Well, every major male Green Lantern character. I was happy to see my favorite guys back in action, but the unevenness was annoying to say the least. Finally, they brought a woman back to life.
She hadn’t started as a favorite, but I’d been reading back issues and she showed up a lot better there than in the flashbacks. In fact, she came off very well in the storyline. I was very thrilled with that.
However, there was the matter of her wardrobe. They’d redone her costume to a sexier, more modern, older version.
It was a bit much.
And by a bit much I mean “a lot less than reasonable.”
I can see exactly why they did it. They’d been pulling this trick with this very character for a while. They needed her to look older. They had just retconned her age from 28 in Earth years to 240 in Earth years. The character had started as a teenaged girl, but due to the path she had taken since then, she couldn’t go back to that status. As things stood, in order to keep the hero heroic, they not only had to retcon those days out of continuity, but wipe every memory of that away as well. She needed to mature, and stay mature. They needed to ensure that no fan would ever look at her and think “little girl” again.
Arisia, pictured here in her first appearance (Tales From the Green Lantern Corps #1), was a teenaged alien. See how cute and small she is? Definite emphasis on her elfin features as indicating youth, so that even in an identical uniform to everyone else in the picture, you know what role she fulfills in the story. She’s The Kid. A child from an alien race.
As time went on, the writers aged Arisia. One writer thought she would make an excellent love interest for Hal Jordan, and so rapid-aged her in a somewhat squicky storyline so she could date him. She got a new outfit that emphasized her elfin as alien (shown here in Green Lantern Corps #201), made then elven features instead, so that she could simply be a race that looks somwhat childish instead of a child from an alien race.
This storyline has tainted Hal ever since. Well, that’s wrong. It has tainted Arisia ever since. A few writers later, they removed her as the love interest, and retconned the story just enough to throw the power in the relationship entirely on Arisia, and then depower her (to be more precise, they merely neglected to repower her, but that is a big deal). Hal never took responsibility for his earlier irresponsibility, and Arisia was shuffled out of the spotlight. As long as we did not see Arisia, Hal’s record was clean.
At least, this is how it seems she ended up in Guy Gardner: Warrior, DC’s Home for Abandoned Characters at the time. That book had a theme to keep up, though. Up until she reached this series, Arsia had had an undercurrent of strength. She’d had enough to explain why she got into the Corps. She was able to play the hero, to save the hero. However, it was secondary to her cuteness, which is why a lot of fans wrote her off.
For Warrior, that had to end. Everyone in that book was badass beyond belief, or they just didn’t fit. Arisia could keep the cute, yes, but it had to be secondary to the strength now. So, even though she’d been aged for nearly a decade real-world by that point, it was time for Arisia to grow up.
I wasn’t fond of the art in Warrior, but I do have to say that Mitch Byrd managed an impressive 90s design here. He goes for a sharp cut, triangular in the top, and square by the thighs. The angles contrast with her previous designs, which were all round, to show a personality change. The neckline gives the outfit a “Glam Badass” appeal, because it mimicks the sort of expensive dress someone would wear to receive an Emmy. This was a mature, sexual, strong woman. Her own woman.
Oh, I can hear the complaints now. “How exploitive!” “Could they show more cleavage?” “A bikini cut?” “Since when is Arisia a D-Cup?”
Ahh, 90s art. It’s good that we’ve grown past those days, right? (From Green Lantern #13)