Wednesday, August 1, 2012
YEAR 1980: STARFIRE AND RAVEN
Both Starfire and Raven make their first appearances in a hype-preview in DC COMICS PRESENTS #26 (Oct 80), leading up to the debut of THE NEW TEEN TITANS title. As most longtime comics-fans will know, NEW TEEN TITANS was one of the most successful titles for DC Comics during a period in which it's often alleged that DC began to make inroads on Marvel's 1970s dominance. Whether this is true or not, it's undeniable that NTT was successful, and much of its success stemmed from its creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez following narrative models supplied both by Marvel Comics generally and THE X-MEN specifically.
Though the revamped X-MEN title of the 1970s would eventually become known for spotlighting a plethora of strong female characters, it must be said that in the original conception the X-group only had one female member, just like the majority of co-ed hero-groups throughout comics history. FWIW, the New Teen Titans started with three female charter members. One was Wonder Girl, a holdover from the last two launches of the title, who will be considered in a separate entry.
Starfire and Raven, in addition to male team-member Cyborg, were all conceived for the TITANS relaunch. And though the two heroines had origins independent of one another, there's a sense in which they reflect opposing female archetypes.
Sigmund Freud is well known for having originated the opposition of the "madonna and the whore," the woman who is set apart from impure sexual matters and the woman who is entirely defined by such matters. Starfire and Raven aren't quite that polarized as sexual archetypes. But I might typify them rather as "the Lusty Wench and the Nun."
Starfire is repeatedly defined, not simply by her sexuality, but by her volatile emotionality. Whether she's fighting an enemy or pursuing a potential lover, the character is defined as going all-out.
Raven is defined by a nun-like sense of restriction, of constantly being hemmed in by her demonic past. Beyond that, Wolfman and Perez chose to give her a power that would constantly challenge her personal boundaries: they made her an empath, always being tortured by her encounters with the extreme emotions of others.
Interestingly, though I don't think Wolfman and Perez ever played Starfire and Raven off one another to any great extent, a 2003 episode of the TEEN TITANS cartoon, entitled "Switched," went to great trouble to stress the contrast between Starfire, who has to pour forth her emotions in order to use certain powers, and Raven, who constantly has to rein in her emotional nature. (The cartoon will receive its own entry as well at some later date.)