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Friday, May 05, 2017 

Alex Ross was wise not to participate in making Identity Crisis

Artist Alex Ross may be a big leftist, but I can give him some credit for not taking part in the development of DC's notorious 2004 publicity stunt, Identity Crisis. He explained why to Graphic NYC in an interview they ran 6 years ago, and revealed a certain onetime writer/editor/publisher at DC thought the wife of Elongated Man made one of the best sacrifices:
In Justice, the Justice League’s worst villains find out their secret identities, all while apparently boosting the human race through philanthropic means. At around the same time as Justice’s development, and unrelated, DC was planning a mini-series called Identity Crisis, where the Justice League’s worst villains figure out their secret identities. The difference between the two is in tone: Identity not only featured the murder of a superhero’s wife, but also the revelation that she had been raped earlier by the villainous Doctor Light.

"There’s a lag between when I did the last of my big books and the Justice series,” Alex says. “I was called up by Brad Meltzer to illustrate Identity Crisis and he told me what it was about, and I was horrified. Part of what I was horrified is that I don’t like the misuse of murder in comics because I always feel like it’s so cheap to kill off a character we know and love. He told me it was Paul Levitz who recommended Sue Dibny as the character to get killed and spark off this mystery (there was apparently a list of possible sacrificial lambs). I took it as a personal offense because my close friends that I’ve known for twenty-something years, Steve Darnall (author of Uncle Sam) and his wife, Meg Guttman, were my basis for Ralph (Elongated Man) and Sue Dibny. I did a piece of them once as Ralph and Sue, and Steve had a costume made up for Halloween as Elongated Man in the white outfit with the big EM on it. I’d already drawn his wife a long time back as Sue, and she was definitely Sue in Justice. Anyways, when I’d heard about it I went ‘That really stinks. I don’t want to see my friend murdered.’ I also didn’t know until the second issue came out that they’d go ‘Oh, and by the way, she also got raped in the past, too.’ I really detest the misuse of rape against anybody, but it particularly seems like a misogynist ploy. It’s very thoughtless in its use in comic books. It seems like you can’t represent that easily or well, so I wouldn’t go there.”
So Levitz was one of the leading staffers who threw John Broome and Carmine Infantino's creations under the bus for the sake of a publicity stunt, all without consideration for the terrible disfavor they did to victims of sexual assault. Man, does that have the effect of really making me feel disgusted with Levitz. Now I'll really have to take his past work on Legion of Super-Heroes with a grain of salt. Not that it's new to discover a veteran could go downhill into participating in an act of nausea, but it's still quite angering. I wouldn't be shocked if he recommended Jean Loring as the female DCU cast member to be "revealed" as a homicidal crackpot. His participation in the project puts his faith in the creations he desecrated under a question mark, right down to whatever he scripted during the 70s and 80s.

Ross has a point that badly written plotlines involving sexual assault do a terrible disfavor for the medium as much as for real life victims. It's not necessarily whether it's appropriate to put in a book featuring characters who worked best in family friendly storylines, but whether you recognize the seriousness of the issue. The people who took part in the 2004 sickness certainly didn't. If Ross had taken part, he could've really stained his reputation, his politics notwithstanding. He did the right thing not to associate himself with something so belittling.

The miniseries may no longer be canon. But its damaging effects still have some bad impact.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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