DC 30 Day Meme Day 2: Favourite Villain

Posted: 07/23/2010 in Comics
Tags: , , , , ,
Black Alice

Lori Zechlin, alias Black Alice

This one was a much harder choice and I grappled with it all night and through today, ending the internal debate less than an hour before I sat down to write. Until I was reminded of Lori, I was vacillating between Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn who are longtime favourites of mine. I decided on Lori at the last minute because both Harley and Ivy are such heavily gendered characters that I wanted to step back a bit from making my entire 30 Day series a thesis about gender issues in comics. I also love them more for the ideas I link them to and their uses outside the official canon, which is a fine thing, but I felt a bit more like talking about a character who seems to be best deployed within the canon. She’s also off the beaten path and doesn’t get much attention in “serious discussion,” which I think is a shame because of how unique and intriguing she is.

Black Alice was created by writer Gail Simone, who has an unparalleled talent for creating unique and engaging characters who speak to groups and demographics that usually lie outside the traditional comic book reading public, ie; cis-gender heterosexual men. The cast of characters she brought to the DCU include the lesbian leader of the Secret Six mercenaries Scandal Savage, a gay reinterpretation of Achilles in the pages of Wonder Woman, and the short lived successor to the Atom Ryan Choi who she co-created with Grant Morrison. Lori is probably the most compelling of Gail’s original creations because she took on the voice of a demonized and ridiculed demographic and created a sympathetic and painfully realistic portrait of teenage disaffection and alienation out of it.

Gail put a unique twist on the standard occult based superhero character by grounding Lori’s interest in the occult with genuine spiritual inquiry, making her the only Neo Pagan Hellenic Reconstructionist I’ve ever run across in a superhero comic or at least that’s the closest I can get to ascribing her a specific practice given the narrative cues. Intensifying matters is the fact that she lives in the deeply conservative city of Dayton, Ohio, putting her at odds with her entire peer group even before she discovered her abilities. In the aftermath of her mother’s suicide, Lori gained the incredibly ability of being able to siphon off the powers of any magically endowed being, making her potentially the most powerful magic user in the universe.

One of the things I appreciate the most about Lori is that she was introduced as a character who viewed herself as an outsider from both the traditional forces of good and evil instead of being made to declare an alignment like a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. I’m writing myself a great degree of latitude by choosing her as my favourite villain because it’s incredibly problematic to define her as being a hero or a villain in the wider context of the DCU. She’s a confused teenage girl with more power than she can handle, straddling an ideological divide that feels incredibly removed from her day to day existence. Most comic book characters, their ticket is punched the minute they show up; hero or villain. With Lori, Simone gifted us with a character whose ticket is never punched, who has to navigate an incredibly dangerous world that views her primarily as a weapon and a human being second if at all with nothing and no one to fall back on.

It’s a unique and sometimes disturbing perspective on what it means to be caught up in but never truly accepted as part of the Olympian struggles of the DCU.

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