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Wednesday, December 18, 2013 

No, DC did not back away from Identity Crisis

Earlier this year, when a new take on Doctor Light showed up in Justice League - only to be wiped out soon after by Superman - Comics Alliance asked if DC was moving away from the embarrassment they caused themselves. Even so, they fudge up the exact history a bit:
I can understand why DC would want to tiptoe around it, but this is such a surprise because the pre-New 52 version of Doctor Light was a rapist. A serial rapist, in fact. Identity Crisis revealed that Light, previously an also-ran supervillain and often-unlucky member of the Suicide Squad, raped Sue Dibny, among others.
They only have that half right. Pre-Identity Crisis, he wasn't a rapist, and as far as I know, the only people he'd killed were 2 or 3 criminals in an issue of World's Finest from the late 1970s. So, they're not giving a clear picture here, nor have they argued whether it's appropriate to turn even a supervillain into a rapist. If it's unacceptable to turn a Loony Tunes villain like Yousemite Sam into a rapist, then by that logic, you don't turn Dr. Light into one either. Besides, it should be pretty obvious to anyone familiar with the Silver Age - along with Gardner Fox's portfolio - that supervillains did not stoop to rape; not even plainclothes villains. Sexual assault is not something a moviegoer looking for escapism wants to see, not even adults, because it's a very disgusting subject, and takes away from the enjoyment.

Their claim the miniseries "revealed" is also insulting, since it legitimizes the storyline as though Dr. Light were a real person. "Claimed" or "insinuated" would've described things better.

Personally, I'm skeptical they're really against what DC pulled in 2004, because some of their contributors wrote reprehensible pieces that put their objections under a question mark. These include apologia for Islamofascism and attacks on Frank Miller for daring to condemn the Occupy movement. And, in this very article, there's the following that's galling:
Identity Crisis is unabashedly an object of its time. In 2004, the idea of good people having to make tough choices to deal with what seemed to be unimaginable evil was something the Western world, particularly Americans, were struggling with a lot. Torture was something the “good guys” were suddently in the business of conducting, and the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shoved it in our faces. It’s no coincidence that Identity Crisis is a story that’s ultimately about superheroes disagreeing about the ethics of a method of dealing with people who commit terrible crimes — Zatanna erasing people’s memories and changing their personalities. Some of those crimes were Doctor Light’s rapes.

But just because something is relevant doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or instructive or edifying. [...]
Granted, they're right in saying that such a grimy cesspool is neither good nor instructive nor edifying. But relevant? Just how is anti-war propaganda comparing the US military to one-dimensional monsters relevant, but not the crimes of the Saddam minions? I don't follow, and the word blatant would sum this tripe up far better. They're right about the next part, however:
I think it’s pretty fair to say Identity Crisis directly led into Marvel’s 2006/2007 miniseries Civil War, which made Iron Man a tyrant and had Reed Richards build a robotic version of Thor that murdered Goliath. These are the seeds Identity Crisis sowed.

I’m all for moral ambiguity in stories, but superhero comics hit this level of critical mass in the last decade where the good guys were being so terrible to one another that the bad guys had to go to the most extreme of extremes — serial rape is a pretty good example — to warrant any attention. It was wearying. It still can be.
No doubt Identity Crisis was a catalyst for Marvel's own atrocities. But it doesn't make sense how they can suggest the US was being a baddie by bringing down tyrants like Saddam and then argue that superheroes are acting like anything but. And the writer's support for moral ambiguity doesn't leave me feeling much confidence he knows what he's talking about. As I guessed years ago, the miniseries was also an attack on supposed offenses by the US even long before the war in Iraq, that could include waterboarding. As I've since guessed, it was concerned about the oh-so important "rights" of dangerous terrorists from a metaphorical perspective, all the while turning its back on rape victims.

And despite what they supposedly think or hope, DC did not move away from Identity Crisis. Specifically, they did not abandon their obsession with darkness that it served to further. Nor did they move away from their obsession with publicity stunts, crossovers or even leftist politics. At this point, only a different ownership and management would succeed in solving those problems.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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