In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
Who is a character no one knows you love?
This is Melanie Walker in Batman Beyond. She could very easily be a cliche. She might even actually BE a cliche. Specifically the cliche that Batman’s best love interests are his enemies like Talia or Selina — Bruce actually compares Melanie (also known as Ten, the youngest member of the Royal Flush Gang) to Selina in the series in one of those “the audience is stupid, we have to spell it out for them” moments. Melanie is a little bit Harley Quinn (slightly crazy adorable blonde on the wrong side of the law), a little bit Batgirl (rebellious daughter, love interest for Bruce Wayne’s protege), and a hefty bit Catwoman (Batman’s match in all things who just can’t really commit to him — or “right”). There is quite possibly nothing whatsoever original to her.
And I don’t care. I love Melanie and her adorable, rebellious, love interest* with commitment (and law-abiding) issues-ness. I love her struggle, her honest desire to be a better person and her fear she can’t be because she loves her family (and especially her brother — I have their heroclick — I do so love screwy siblings).
Melanie Walker. Ten. Teenager, daughter, sister, girlfriend, student, criminal, waitress. Just a girl. Just.
[*Note: Loving Melanie does not preclude ALSO loving Dana Tan who might possibly represent my fashion ideal in print.]
Gotham Central was a comic that told the story of the cops who work in Batman’s shadow. What better source for my “under the radar” beloved character, then? Obviously, I can’t name Renee Montoya, because I talk about my love for her in practically every post where I’m not mentioning Jean Grey or Tony Stark or Iron Fist. No, Renee is an all-time favorite of mine, but my first, and in some ways still my favorite of Central’s cops was Marcus Driver.
Marcus appeared in Central’s first arc, a story that revolved around the murder of his GCPD partner by the supervillain Mr. Freeze. Marcus became determined to avenge his friend’s death, but at the end of the first story, expressed anger when he realized he wasn’t going to be able to because Batman would swoop in to save the day. In that story, he stood in for every ordinary Gothamite trying to get by in the world Batman defined and in some way created. Throughout the all-too-brief run of the series, Marcus served as a sort of cynical den mother to the rest of the cops and, by the end, changed his outlook on Batman to a degree. Ultimately, it wasn’t about whether Batman was good or bad for the cops. Whatever, as long as it kept Marcus’s Gotham Central family together.
I love Marcus.
Like many comic fans of my generation, I was first exposed to superheroes primarily through two things: the 90s X-Men cartoon, and the X-Men arcade game. Being a little girl, I immediately sought out a female character to identify with. But on the cartoon, little me found Jubilee annoying and Jean boring (I know! Crazy!), and in the arcade game I didn’t actually realize that punky, short-haired Dazzler was a girl. So my point of identification, in both media, was the fabulous Ororo Munroe — otherwise known as Storm.
I didn’t know much about Storm. But I did know that she could throw tornadoes at people and hit them with lightning, and that she could fly. What could be cooler than that? I can’t count the number of days I spent as a kid pretending I was Storm, willing the rain to come or the temperature to change or standing in front of electric fans pretending to control the wind. (. . .It’s possible I still do that sometimes.) My childhood identification with Storm is one of the main reasons I don’t buy the popular wisdom that white children won’t watch media with people of color. Though I’m sure she was even more important as a role model for little black girls, Storm was awesome for everyone.
As an adult and an actual comics fan I’ve developed many more favorite characters of both genders, and my love for Storm hasn’t carried over very well — mostly because she’s been ill-used during the last few years in comics (my reading tenure), consigned primarily to the role of Black Panther’s wife. But when I read old comics I still get a special thrill when I see Storm do something awesome, and I live in hope that she’ll get to be awesome once again.
Elijah Snow from Planetary. I forget that I love this guy, mostly because Planetary has ended, as a comic, and I’m not reading it from month-to-month. But it’s also because the comic, when it was in publication, was endlessly stalled and delayed, and I often forgot about it for long periods of time. But I still love Elijah.
Elijah Snow is a cranky old bastard, who still manages to be a compassionate humanist. He represents the past of superheroing, a science fictional past in which Bad Things Were Done. Yet he truly believes in the power of humanity to succeed, with brains and determination and luck. And he believes that it is the duty, the obligation, of superhumans to protect those who can’t defend themselves. None of which stops Snow from being a ruthless bastard to evildoers. I kinda want to be Snow when I grow up.
So What about you? Who is a character no one knows you love?