There has naturally been rather a lot of commentary on the portrayal of Starfire in Red Hood And The Outlaws and Catwoman in her own title, pointing out the manner of intense sexualisation of characters that had, to some degree or other, been handled in a different fashion in the past. Bleeding Cool's articles on the topic have been our most read of the week.
And I'm wondering why a treatment seen as sexually exploitative, is seen as far more worthy of comment and discussion that portrayals of graphic violence.. I've mention the concluding page of Detective Comics and the opening sequence of Green Lantern Corps specifically, but one scene I haven't dwelt upon yet, is an early scene in Demon Knights #1.
I mentioned it in the review, certainly, but it might be worth dwelling on and wondering what the relative lack of reaction may mean. Here's the scene in question.
In the first issue, after opening scenes in which Merlin binds Jason Blood to Etrigan and Madama Xanadu misses out on Excalibur, the bad guys of Demon Knights receive information from a demon, that they manifest inside a baby, in the village they are visiting.
The father of the child is dragged away wailing, the blood left on the floor, as the baddies turn their attention away.
It's a disturbing, over-the-top way to portray these folks at the bad guys, cold hearted, treating innocent life as a disposable means to an end. The writer Cornell must have thought this would be shocking to some, and it was certainly a stand out scene for me.
Yet nary a peep from most.
Comics Alliance, who published a moving piece on the issues involved in Catwoman and Red Hood, discussed the comic at length but made no mention of exploding babies, saying "I'm glad that his promise that it'd be like Game of Thrones or Dragon Age didn't extend to ridiculous amounts of rape, too.
No mention from IGN Comics, who say "To Cornell's credit, he manages the entire extended cast well, introducing each new face in a clever and humorous way to make a lasting impression."
Not a note from Major Spoilers. Nothing from ComicBook.com. Nor Multiversity Comics. Comic Book Resources makes a not-very-explicit reference to "The target of their destruction is such a cheap way to make a villain look bad that you can't take it initially seriously." Guerilla Geek talks about "a creepy demon baby" but nothing more.
It does get picked by the likes of Time Out, "But, ho, there is a possessed, exploding baby" but it's not considered a stand out scene.
Portraying a character in a sexually exploitative and a skeevy fashion in a T+ comic, leads to outrage. Blowing up babies, chopping up Green Lanterns, potraying disembodied blood-covererd heads after a slaughter, having beings bursting from the necks of decapitated horse… and it's business as usual.
Now I liked Demon Knights a lot. As a father of young children, the scene may have affected me more than others. But still, I expected more reaction from more people. And you know what, I bet Paul Cornell – and DC editorial staff – did as well…