Dat Rash Doe
We’re taking care of a very special suggestion this week, because it’s from my girlfriend! Hey babe! If you’re upset about her suggestion delaying yours for a week, deal with it, I guess. She’s the one who decides if I sleep on the couch or not, and I don’t know about you guys, but I will take bed over couch any day of the week. Plus, you know, I love her, and you guys are barely a few dates in with me.
Anyways, Poison Ivy is a classic Bat-Villain, so most people have probably at least heard of her in passing by now. However, like most comic characters in this particular popularity limbo, she suffers from a lot of misinterpretation, both by fans and creators alike. This is, frankly, something that isn’t helped by American culture seemingly beginning to reject the concept of the over-sexualized female character. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s refreshing to see creators taking steps away from these problems after decades and decades of women breaking their spine in comic books so that they can point their ass and tits at me simultaneously, but sometimes, it just doesn’t work. Take, for instance, Poison Ivy, a character whose main conceit is seduction and sexuality (and the environment, I guess). Lately, however, it feels like she’s been moving further and further away from her roots, beginning to leaf behind one of her definitive character traits. No, I will not apologize for the puns.
But seriously folks, is it wrong for a femme fatale character to exist in this day and age? For what it’s worth, my answer is no, and especially in the context of the Batman stories, which have always retained certain elements of noir and pulp storytelling. And while Poison Ivy’s slow return to the realm of antiheroism is one that I appreciate, I definitely don’t think that toning down her sexuality should be an issue. So, without further ado, let’s fake an education in comics.
I Can Hear the “Friendly Debate” Already
SCENARIO: So you’ve been reading Cycle of Life and Death! Good for you! Now you’ve developed a greater interest in Poison Ivy than most people, which is to say, you know more than almost nothing about her. So, logically, you take to the comic store, leafing through back issues and skimming through trades. And, against all reason, no one confronts you about comic book politics or anything, because sometimes humanity is pleasant, and I don’t want to have to write up an SJW stereotype to nag the collective audience, because I am so tired of that whole part of pop culture. Just… idunno man. Sexuality isn’t a bad thing, is my point I guess.
Anyways here’s a dumb article about Poison Ivy.
Step One: Follow Her on Vine, I Guess
Ok, so I know I said sexuality and all that is really important to Poison Ivy, but I’m gonna try to stay away from the cheesier stuff. This is a fucking family website, after all. Fuck’s sake. Fuck.
Jokes aside, I am actually gonna try to only use the sexy stuff that, you know, has obvious artistic merit. Like that one up there, whose only apparent problem is that Ivy appears to have, like, a mile of hair that reflects sunlight the same way a mirror would. Seriously, that’s crazy.
Anyways, Pamela Isley was a talented student of botany and toxicology, because for a perpetual shithole on the level of pre-Robocop Detroit, Gotham has an amazing education program. Seriously, almost everyone there has a doctorate. After volunteering for experiments conducted by an older professor (who would later go on to become gimmicky pot-themed villain Floronic Man), he wound up totally betraying her trust and subjecting her to ludicrously evil botany experiments, which left her with a changed physiology, giving her a psychic connection to plant life, pheromone control, the ability to produce and control any form of biological toxin from her own body, as well as an immunity to any form of poison. Interestingly, her powers (which are completely scientific in nature) are partially connected to the Green, otherwise known as the mystic force that Swamp Thing is a part of. You may recognize Swamp Thing as the coolest fucking thing in the universe, as well as a character that Ivy kinda sorta worships like a god sometimes.
Being an educated Gothamite with unbelievable power at her fingertips, Pam of course turned to petty crime, because oh my god Gotham is unbelievably awful. I guess if everyone’s got a doctorate, no one does. After a brief career of, you know, seducing dudes and stealing shit, Ivy decided to go into more of an Ecoterrorist line of work, with varying degrees of success. Now you might be wondering why a bright young girl would do such a thing. Turns out the answer is that she’s a crazy person, because, well, this is a Batman villain we’re talking about. They either have PhDs, mental disorders, or both.
Huh. I just realized the irony of there being a mental institution in a city full of geniuses, and no one can cure the insanity. There’s probably a theme there.
You know, it always kinda bothers me when her outfit looks like actual clothing. Like, is she weaving plants into fabric? Wouldn’t that go against her whole “my babies” thing? Also, why do people keep making her into a stoner character? Grinding up and smoking plants might as well be infanticide to her. I mean, to be fair, she could probably just produce THC from her own body in her bloodstream and get high that way if she wanted to. Wait, does Poison Ivy have infinite drug powers? That is the best power
As time went on, Ivy eventually became bit of an anti-hero, dated Harley Quinn (which, according to my math, maybe 30 of you remember me talking about before), and so on so forth. Of course, the New 52 pretty much immediately wiped all of that from existence, and then tried to set her up as an antihero right away, and then she was a villain again, and who fucking knows. I refuse to read New 52 Birds of Prey again to research that whole period, mostly because I’m against self-harm, but also because I’m against the butchering of storytelling in comic books.
Step Two: I’m Still Gonna Talk About New 52 Tho
Ok, so most of my problems with New 52 Ivy stem from that outfit. I know it’s a pretty dumb thing to take a stance on, but it’s just so… bland. It doesn’t seem to really gel with Ivy either, it feels more like it was done to avoid complaints about scantily clad heroines, which is stupid because the same book that had this had Black Canary, and we all know Black Canary’s real superpower is the inability to wear pants. I don’t even really understand what this outfit is, it looks like a wetsuit with strategically placed lichen.
You know what? It reminds me a lot of comics in the 90s, where everyone was either wearing too much clothing or none at all. It looks like someone decided to give Ivy, a scientist/seductress character, a tactical combat bodysuit, which makes absolutely zero sense to me. It’s not at all the sort of thing her character would wear. Sure, you could argue that the tight, clingy “fabric” or whatever is still playing up her sex appeal, but like, it just seems like another layer. Idunno man, I know I don’t speak for everyone here, but I still say that more exposed skin would work better. I mean, sure, Ivy’s skin is toxic, but it still looks good.
I’m not disparaging Cycle of Life and Death, by the way, it’s a really enjoyable book and it’s nice to see Ivy in a lead role. Definitely refreshing.
Another thing the New 52 didn’t quite handle too well with her was her supposed transition to antiheroism, which was kind of a running problem with a lot of characters in the new timeline. Hell, they had Harley blow up a shitload of kids, and THEN suddenly she gets a redemption arc. I don’t know how lenient people are around the DC offices, but in most places, if someone blows up children and then wants to repent for their sins and turn their life around, it doesn’t typically go over well. Likewise, Ivy kind of poisoned and killed a ton of people, as well as causing god knows how many thousands in property damage. I guess property damage is less of an issue in a universe where city blocks get annihilated every other day though. Anyways, it just felt weird to have an unrepentant murderer going for heroism.
Step Three: The Real Reason Why I Don’t Have Enough Material Here
Ok, so I know that I’ll get some shit for this one, but here goes: I really don’t like Poison Ivy that much. Sure, I feel that she’s an important character, but I just don’t like her all that much. I love what people can do with her design (the garters in the above panel really get me for some reason), I love her power set, but I just can’t seem to get into her. Pun absolutely intended. Idunno, something about her just doesn’t do it for me. I enjoy her as a side character, I suppose, and I love her as a foil to Harley, but otherwise, I just can’t do it. Honestly, the most interested I’ve ever been in her was when she was worshipping Swamp Thing, and that’s probably mostly because my adoration of Swamp Thing spilled over onto her. That was a gross sentence. Now I can’t stop picturing some seriously gross shit. Swamp Thing three way. Ok, I said it, it’s out there now. I’m gonna just go ahead and stop going down this road now, ok? Ok.
Anyways, I can’t figure it out. I’ll take some really hardline stances on her, mostly because I firmly believe that we shouldn’t be trying to get sex out of entertainment (but for more of my political views on sex in entertainment, give me a ton of drinks!), but I really don’t like her that much. I have no idea why. I love everything about her, I love everything she stands for, but I just can’t get interested in her. I reread a ton of her appearances for this article, I pored over multiple wiki pages (man, I do way more research than the quality of these would suggest, huh?), and for some reason, I just can’t do it. It’s not like I don’t like her or anything, I just am… ambivalent? Indifferent? No, apathetic. I think apathetic fits here. Or not. Idunno man.
…sometimes my girlfriend dresses up as Ivy and it’s hot though, so that’s fun.
Step Four: Bringing it Home
All that being said, I do still think Ivy is a good character. She’s just not my cup of tea. And hey, I am enjoying Cycle of Life and death so far! It’s pretty good, and I appreciate how it handles her moral ambiguity so far. So maybe I’ll change my mind someday.
But regardless of my own opinions on the character, I do think she’s important, and it’s awesome that she’s getting a bit more of a spotlight on her. Maybe we’ll get a better film version of her too! Ah, who am I kidding, Uma Thurman did ok.
Briefly on the subject of her outfit that I hate (I hate it so very much), there are better ways to update her costume than going full on bodysuit. For example, any outfit she’s ever had in the DCAU, which manages to retain exposed flesh while being appropriately sexy for an all ages piece of entertainment. Wait, is that even a real thing? Is all ages sexy possible, or is that just a really creepy concept to think about? More importantly, what is wrong with me.
Anyways, because I’ll never ever shut up about the Arkham games, her outfit in that is also amazing.
See, look at that! It’s sexy, you’ve got all the cool patterns from the vines going up her… it just works. Also, I like that her panties kind of have the Adam and Eve fig leaf thing going on, and I just think that that’s a neat little detail, artistically speaking. I guess what I’m saying here is that we can keep her sexy, guys. There’s nothing inherently wrong with covering up a character, hell, I was in full support of covering up Power Girl’s boob window (which I kind of love, but mostly for selfish penis related reasons). The issue is that Ivy is a character who is primarily about sex appeal and using it as a weapon. Covering her up is less of an issue of female empowerment and more of an issue of being afraid of how female sexuality seems to be becoming a faux pas in most media outlets. And honestly, that is most of the media’s own fault. We’ve had decades and decades of, you know, Frank Miller type stuff, and as such, there’s a bit of a reactionary movement to get the sexiness out of entertainment. And yeah, I’m ok with that, on a general level. Let’s get rid of negative representation of women, maybe put some actual armor on women in games, etc., but it’s still ok to have a female character that uses her sexuality. Because hey, turns out women enjoy sex and being sexy sometimes, so maybe having a female character that they can empathize and agree with would be a good idea for a movement that seems to be focused on equality, right?
Idunno man. Just… women are allowed to have sex fueled power fantasies too, ok? Let Poison Ivy be the way she is. If not for what she stands for, for, idunno, women who are proud of their sexuality?
Anyways, to further cement that it goes both ways, here’s a picture of Namor.
Obviously gender equality isn’t quite there yet, I just like making people look at Namor in a speedo.
I’ve already probably offended enough people today, so here’s another picture of Namor.
Never skip leg day, kids. See you next week!