Hi Hi Y’all,
There’s been some buzz about one of DC’s newer graphic novel: I Am Not Starfire. Here’s the thing… I really wanted to like this more and not just find myself agreeing with the negativity around it.
But, I didn’t….
There are so many things I found wrong with this graphic novel. There are issues of self insert characters, poor story line, poor writing and disregard of previous ‘still cannon’ source material. It is the first and last two points I want to focus on, because problematic story lining and writing of graphic novels isn’t my forte and doesn’t seem as much as a problem to me as the other two points.
I’m going to start first with the disregard of previous source material. There is no problem with making up a new character for a comic. It is pretty standard to create random children and family members over the various arcs. However, in this case Starfire has a child with beloved DC hero Nightwing that bares too large of a shadow to be overlooked. The comic introduces you to “Mandy” instead of the heavily desired and asked for Mar’i Grayson.
Even if you compare these two characters on the surface you find problematic similarities. Mar’i is a black-haired and confident half Tamaranian. She is a member of the Outsiders and grew up without her mother’s shadow. Instead, she faced issues with her father and grandfather, the great and wonderful Batman. She was a character that was confident and played the role of Titan leader well. In contrast, Mandy is a fake black-haired young girl with weight issues, self confidence issues, no super powers, loner tendencies and a hard core emo phase. They are two drastically different characters for similar names and hair color- a point of connection that drives fans mad.
I agree that on the surface there is always room for both forms of superhero children stories but the Mar’i character was so beloved and desired that it makes the comparison on Mandy’s flaws even worse. Which, as an overweight young adult makes the self image issues even worse. Further, the desire to continuously keep up with a trend of making ‘relevant’ stories for youth is a huge pitfall trap for the character.
When reading the comic their was nothing I found I liked about her. Instead, she mostly got my pity, worry and lots of frustration. Even her final come to terms moment to fight for her mother just feels so contrived and annoying. You see no familiar bonds with a mother character that is heavily invested in bonds.
This all brings us to the main issue I have with this as a fellow writer: she is one of the worst examples of a published self-insert character I have seen in awhile and I am one of the queens of making self-insert characters. I really hate to agree with trolls on this issue but if you compare the physical appearance of Mandy to her illustrator and writer you cannot help but assume that these were her struggles and pent up feelings due to their similar appearances. Which sucks to even have to point out because if it was well done we could simply say so what.
It makes me feel crappy as a writer. My main DC Comics fan fiction character was actually the creation of me working through my own problems and feelings. I made that conscious choice of such a character but even I know that if I ever wanted to polish that character I’d have to remove myself from it. They have to be their own people and stand on their own without me being attached to it. When I read the graphic novel the first thing I did was flinch at my own writing choices. Was it okay for me to use my stories for not just tale telling but to work through thoughts and feelings?
Then it made me annoyed at her for making such a self insert character during the oppertunity to make either a Mar’i story or any other story then what we got.
All in all, when I have the moment to go back and update the DC Fan Fiction drafts I have up I will. Because….. I feel like I’d wallow in disappointment if I created self-insert characters that revealed themselves like Mandy.
Also, I’m pretty sure I’m never recommending this graphic novel to anyone.