day of the triffids

Yes, that’s not the poster – I’m not sure British television in the 80s did posters. Especially not for a series as outright miserable and cheap as Day of the Triffids. Instead what we got were real suburban streets, sets hungover from the seventies, and parochial British accents. The show was so bloody scary because the world it inhabited looked and sounded so depressingly like our own. The triffids were like some vile full stop on the end of contemporary British life – we were defined by the moment of our extinction and we turned out to be parochial, small, insignificant and suffering. The fact that mankind was to meet its fate blind (after a freak meteorological event) just served to underline the point that the universe is merciless, uncaring, uncompromising, and alien to all human feeling. What better monster to take on the role of apocalyptic deathbringer than one which has no anthropomorphic qualities: that skitters along on it’s roots, and feeds on blood, that, as a consequence of its inhuman nature, negates the value of culture, thought and emotion?

Fuck yeah, triffids are nasty.

What’s all that got to with Poison Ivy? Well, in order to properly answer that question we’re going to have to take a much closer look at the character. But before we delve any deeper I want to explain just why I think Ivy warrants a Rogue’s Review in the first place. It’s not as if she hasn’t retained her popularity, that’s for sure. She’s still a (ugh!) “fan favourite”. No, my motivation is tied to how the character is typically represented rather than her success with the public. You see, Poison Ivy in a comic book means one thing above all else: an absurd amount of tits and arse. Absurd by mainstream comic standards that is, saying something when you consider that female characters, in the DCU, are all too often presented as little more than fuck objects. Seriously, in an effort to research this piece I read the Joker’s Asylum (a series only redeemed by Jason Aaron’s Penguin story, which while not exactly the kind of thing I want to see, wasn’t half-bad) Poison Ivy one-shot. Not a good experience. The plot has Ivy putting her eco-terrorist shtick on hold in order to wreak revenge on the group of men who inadvertently transformed her from superpowered neophyte to nature’s avenger. As a premise it’s okay, but sadly the real effort, as ever, goes into engorging teenage willies with blood: Ripe, green buttocks bulge out of every other page, flower encrusted bosoms the size of small hillocks are the weightiest plot elements on offer. There’s even the obligatory murderous seduction scene. All that rolled up into an issue entitled Deflowered.

Whilst she didn’t always stand around in fuck-me poses, Ivy’s been framed as startlingly attractive from the beginning. Alluring enough to shove a wedge of jealousy between the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder in her first appearance. Then there’s the matter of her mind control snogs, which are at base a superpowered articulation of her desirability. Ultimately, there’s just no way of sidestepping the fact that for the last 15 years, Poison Ivy has been consistently rendered as little more than a pin-up. My problem with this is two-fold: in the first instance I want to see female characters given considerably more to do than produce boners, in the second it seems to me that modern comics are far too caught up in Ivy’s sex appeal, to the extent that it tends to dominate both visually and conceptually. I’m sure some people out there think it’s all very poetic: ripe! like fruit! like peaches! which are a bit like bums! That kind of thing. Me? I think it’s just too easy a sell – a short-cut to creating.

So what’s Ivy up to when she’s not servicing wank fantasies? Planning some tedious plant themed terrorist activity, that’s what, or being a little bit mad in a poorly defined “I’m so angry about all the lovely flowers getting trampled by shallow monkey men” way. In the interest of fairness I should stress that you can find some good stuff growing between the cracks – like the constant suggestion that Ivy isn’t quite human, which begs the question what is she? More on that later. There’s also a good deal of imagination frequently on display when it comes to the use of her superpowers, which have a lovely undefined quality in which all sorts of enjoyable ideas can take root. In the aforementioned one-shot, for example, there’s a great moment… actually, I’ll get to that later too.

The richest, most interesting element of Ivy’s personal mythos has to be the secret origin introduced by Alan Grant in Shadow of the Bat Annual #3, where it’s revealed that she was robbed of her humanity by the supervillainous Dr Woodrue while a member of his research team. The comic only touches on her backstory, but the red monotone image of a gaunt scientist, syringe erect, looming over Isley, who lies on an operating table as if awaiting a lover, has all the right horror movie connotations to get the imagination fizzing. Sadly it also has misogynistic overtones, the suggestion being that whatever went on there might well look something like rape. This version of Isley had her innocence stolen by Woodrue when he pumped her full of bizarre and dangerous plant derived compounds. Poison Ivy as the result of loss – a tragic figure, a victim. A common enough theme amongst bat-villains but problematic when seen through the lens of gender politics. Now, in order to rescue Grant’s origin story from what I consider to be entirely fair accusations of misogyny, avoid cliché, and help put Ivy back in the driving seat, I’d like to turn her victimhood on its head. Why can’t Pamela Isley have wanted what Woodrue had to offer? What’s wrong with Isley being the architect of her rebirth? She should own her monstrousness.

This is a woman who wanted her blood drained and replaced by lethal hallucinogenic plant toxins. It was in accordance with her plan that she be driven beyond the point of physical and mental endurance. She formulated the poisons which forced her body and mind to rupture and collapse. And it was her brilliance that bioengineered the impossible seeds that sprouted in the carcass of her soul. After the procedure, what rustled free of its bonds was the product of Isley’s resolute desire. As she had predicted, it sounded like a woman, and looked like a woman, but it wasn’t a woman, and When Woodrue stared into its eyes, Isley knew that something inhuman would stare back.

Isn’t someone ready to go through something like that considerably more interesting than just-another-female-victim of the guild of mad scientists? Isn’t she scarier for it?

I said earlier that I’d get to the one good thing about that Joker’s Asylum one-shot, and there it is. Horrible, eh? Seems to me that if Poison Ivy is to be rescued from mediocrity and cheesecake then a good way to go would be to inject some genuine horror, but the image also appeals on a deeper level. Surely that’s what the plant thing touched on above really looks like, deep down in the dark underneath that curvy exterior. It should be noted that this reading carries with it it’s own difficulties, afterall isn’t this just another example of a man framing womankind as the unknowable Other? Isn’t fiction, from Medusa through Catherine Trammell, chock-full of this pernicious stuff? In answer to the former question, I’d like to go back to my point that Ivy has ceased to be a human being, that she categorically isn’t a woman. The problem with that line of attack is that in order for it to be safely articulated it would either require a DCU where female characters are taken far more seriously and treated with considerably more respect. Assuming, however, that this is a path that could be safely negotiated, how would my Poison Ivy fit with what’s gone before, and, perhaps more importantly, what makes her tick?

To answer that let’s whizz back up this essay, and drag down our friends the triffids, clicking and hissing. Think about it, what better way to defuse her tedious sexiness, and bring some interest back to the character, than to flood her veins with sap, and focus on Ivy the plant? Because, you see, Plant’s aren’t people, plants are bizarre and alien. They don’t think, feel, or have intention, they don’t move, eat, communicate or reproduce in any way that we can relate to. They’re not made from flesh or bones. Crucially, when the borderlines between plant and human biologies and conceptual frameworks blur we get very uncomfortable indeed. That’s why venus flytraps are so horrid, that’s why (to our shame) we were all so disturbed by that unfortunate man in South America growing bark from his skin. It’s why we hate fungal infections, why Wyndham invented flower monsters, and why I want to insist that Ivy is a flower monster too. In one stroke her beauty and apparent humanity are sent spinning into alien territory – they’re not human qualities, they’re the function of plant organs: existential petals designed to lure in and manipulate prey. Is that skin or some kind of fungal tissue? Is that a mind or an alien consciousness that defies human description. What the fuck does it want?

Taken further these ideas feed into much bigger worries. Up-post I suggested that triffids can effortlessly take on an apocalyptic role because they stand for a world without humanity. When thinking about Poison Ivy’s then, I’m put in mind of vines and roots cracking and strangling empty cities, flowers blooming in soil warmed by blood. A plant world that has no compassion, makes no judgments. Eats, grows and reproduces without thought for the consequences, and will smother all human achievement if given the chance. Be clear, I’m not painting Poison Ivy’s ambitions, I’m sketching her ultimate nature: A green maelstrom that cannot help but try and rip us from the face of the planet. The dramatic extension of this is that plots featuring her should look to develop a feeling of otherworldly horror – one that reflects our fears of extinction, and ties into our contemporary anxieties about a vengeful natural world: hordes of plant men rampaging through a city blinded by a fog of alien spores, outerdimensional fungal infections that feed on human suffering. Ivy’s appearances at their most terrifying should evoke the kind of Darwinian disgust and terror to be found in movies like The Thing, The Day of the Triffids, or more recently Frank Darabont’s spectacularly nasty chiller, The Mist

Her stories should have an unpredictable quality, her schemes seemingly sprouting and growing. Batman’s genius intellect should be stretched to the limit as he struggles to trace the path of Ivy’s branching tendrils of cause and effect, that have consequences far beyond anything a human could anticipate. Ivy’s activities should take on the fractal structures of plants, with her smallest actions reiterating the shape of grander forms: the death of a greedy industrialist over here, describing, in curious and specific detail, Ivy’s plans for the Gotham City in its entirety.

Going back to the question of Ivy the sex object, on the surface Ivy’s body speaks of hidden pleasures, but when you get a good look at her foliage it quickly becomes apparent that the hidden pleasures are all her own, and they make no concessions to man’s insignificant little lusts. In fact, judging by all those blood soaked panels featuring men strangled by giant vines and impaled on enormous thorns, I’d say that Ivy’s desires take no account of human flesh either. What’s particularly convenient is that this brutal imagery has an overtly phallic dimension: long, tough, ropey roots; sharp spikes. It would seem that amidst all the jerk-off material, classic subversion is alive and well, with comics that feature Poison Ivy often having at least one moment when the traditional male gaze is answered by something that stares back harder, and has a bigger cock! If one were to play up these elements, her sex appeal would automatically become less boy friendly and complexified. Best of all, it would be entertaining – bringing with it body horror, and, if handled right, character depth. Afterall, what is she doing to that guy? And what the hell is she getting out of it?

Unpleasant. In fact thinking about it this is almost certainly the nastiest Rogue’s Review yet, and perhaps the most radical, although I’d want to draw the line at the suggestion that it’s incongruent with what we know of the character. I appreciate, however, that at first glance it might appear to demand some heavy narrative spinning. Bane has always been framed as violent and brutish, the Penguin has always been weird, Harlequin has always been crazy, nothing that’s been discussed in our previous reviews would have them be otherwise. Ivy on the other hand has long been a cheap thrill, only superficially or potentially complex, and many fans will want her to stay that way. But when I wrote above about injecting some horror into the character, what I meant was that her horrific aspects should be played up, because as far as I’m concerned horror has long been part of her appeal. All those panels littered with corpses torn up by giant brambles are just the tip of the iceberg. Even attempts to psychologise the character, like Grant’s, have had to recognise that on some level she represents a threat that stands outside the human world, and otherwordly threats are what a particular kind of horror is all about. As for Ivy the simplistic eco-crusader, that reading has always struck me as under-developed and banal. Surely in today’s climate (pun intended) it makes much more sense for her to embody the threat posed to us by our natural environment, than it does for her to be some proxy avenger? It’s certainly a grander statement, a challenge suited to Batman at his best. Because when all is said and done the bigger the threat the brighter the character shines. Batman doesn’t need uncomplicated villains – the mere criminally insane – or women to master and control. He demands weighty, frightening enemies, with presences that rival his own. And tits just won’t do that job.

Batman versus the green apocalypse, on the other hand?

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28 Responses to “Rogue’s Review #6: Poison Ivy”

  1. Rogue’s Review round-up « Mindless Ones Says:

    [...] Rogue’s Review #6: Poison Ivy [...]

  2. Jonathan Burns Says:

    For sure – growing, growing, growing, inexorably, unconcerned. But you miss one twist, I think. That’s how flowers evolved to use insects as pollinators. Colour, scent, sugar – fragile beauty to us, actually made to program bees. You see the metaphor.

  3. Zom Says:

    I do see the metaphor, and it’s a nice one. One that I wish I’d included, but, fuck, this piece was over 3k at one point and could easily have headed north of the 3.5k mark. I simply had to stop thinking about it, cut the bastard down to size, and get it out. I kind of hate it now, in that I feel there’s so much more that I should have found a way to say.

    Also, I fully appreciate that there are other, less grim ways of looking this character. Psychedelia springs to mind.

  4. The Satrap Says:

    Your proposal is not really that radical (which comes to show how piss-poor Ivy’s T&A rut really is). There’s a long tradition in comics of unleashing the vengeful Green on cities. In particular, that storyline in Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing” run where Swampie puts Gotham City under siege springs to mind.

    This does not mean that the Green Apocalypse is itself a cliché, but a theme which can be put to good or bad use. For example, in the siege of Gotham in SW Moore is riffing on an earlier storyline of his, involving Woodrue and guest-starring a JLA roster that is as powerless as Batman against the SW. The shaggy bastard is aware that he’s revisiting his own stuff, and shows the skill to integrate the repetition into the Swamp Thing’s character arch.

    P.S: any resemblance to the discussion below on the similarities between Rock of Ages and Final Crisis is not purely coincidental.

  5. Zom Says:

    Oh, I remember the Swamp Thing and Woodrue stories well enough. I didn’t mention them here as they were perhaps more politically minded than I would want to be. My emphasis would be on horror, and on an apocalyptic flavour.

    I meant radical in terms of the character not in terms of superhero stories more generally. Replacing sexiness with nastiness, or rather, using sexiness as a way of smuggling in lots of nastiness is (almost) to invert the status quo

  6. The Satrap Says:

    Oh, far be it from me to get pedantic about the use of the term “radical”, Zom. The essay is very tight, actually, and its vision for the character is something I largely agree with.

    the Swamp Thing and Woodrue stories…were perhaps more politically minded than I would want to be. My emphasis would be on horror, and on an apocalyptic flavour.

    The Woodrue story was superior to the Gotham retread IMO, and had a pretty nice horror, apocalyptic vibe, I thought. But yes, that was young Moore getting a bit carried away by his success at blazing trails, and sacrificing subtlety in the process somewhat.

    using sexiness as a way of smuggling in lots of nastiness…

    Dini attempted something like this, in an early issue of his current run. Ivy uses a bunch of people who’ve fallen into her clutches to feed some kind of oversized Venus Fly-Trap, which results in the birth (I don’t remember whether it was accidental or not) of some sort of monstrous, composite plant entity with the memories of the victims. It was a hint of the kind of hallucinatory horrors which a writer can dream up after a visit to the botanic garden and an indigestion.

    Unsurprisingly, the issue is hampered by embarrassingly exploitative art, and a portrayal of Ivy that is merely “criminally insane” (in a trite “evil seductress” kinda way) and not particularly alien or unsettling.

    P.S: I’ve just realised that I’ve also started my message with an “oh”. Is that how people say “live long and prosper” in Dormammu’s domain?

  7. Zom Says:

    Is that how people say “live long and prosper” in Dormammu’s domain?

    No. They say “DESTROY!”

    Yeah, I read about Dini’s take, but figured it to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution, in that I suspected his monster would serve to externalise Ivy’s monstrosity, rather than reinforce it.

    I don’t like what I’ve read of Dini’s stuff at all. Someone really needs to explain the appeal.

  8. The Satrap Says:

    He’s a very proficient plotter (a “solid” one, as they say) who writes short, self-contained stories that chug along smoothly from beginning to end. The delivery is straight-faced, and the whole thing is designed not to upset the proverbial apple cart. No big shakes, nothing truly surprising or intriguing in terms of concept, imagery or characterisation. A competent, professional, safe writer for stagnant franchises.

    Nevertheless, in his Batman run, he’s been coming up with a number of throwaway “gimmick” villains that in other hands perhaps could be put to good use. The author has an almost comical lack of faith in his own creations– the villains are usually dispatched in short order– but this is the kind of work that makes the shared continuities of the DC, Marvel or –Emperor protect us– Warhammer 40000 universes so sprawling, complex and ultimately fascinating. Folks write potboilers, but what rough beast, its hour come round at last, crawls out of the pot to be born?

    I’ll shut up now.

  9. Zom Says:

    I’d pegged him for a safe pair of hands, what I don’t understand is why he gets praise from people who normally demand a tad more than Dini would seem to be offering

    Whisper it: The WH40K universe is a guilty pleasure of mine. Shame the comic (written by Abnett and Lanning), or any of the ancillary media for that matter, don’t really make the most of its potential.

  10. secret crisis war invasion identity rape scenario, no wait… links. « supervillain Says:

    [...] Poison Ivy via the Triffids (fucking brilliant – way to go, [...]

  11. Jum Says:

    This is going to be really long, so please forgive me ahead of time!

    Brilliant essay, but I feel it may be too reactionary. Yes, Ivy is another ‘sexy victim’ and is generally exploited for her feminine qualities, but why can’t she work within these confines? The problem with women being portrayed as victims or sexy seductresses isn’t so much that it is inherently terrible, but that it’s become lazy and unoriginal [especially throwing any kind of rape into a female character's past to make her 'deeper'].

    What I see in Ivy is a woman who trusted an older man and was betrayed and violated by him. We see in Swamp Thing that Woodrue isn’t just a misogynist, he’s a misanthropist in general; he’s a sexless violator of humanity. I think that fits in very well with his sterile ‘science rape’ of Pamela in the Alan Grant origin.

    The important part is that her trauma actually does make her grow as a character. What has Pamela become after her transformation? Inhuman; not a mere misogynist but an equal-opportunity misanthrope, sexlessly violating humanity. She uses her sexuality not for pleasure but as a weapon; she puts on a pretty face, seduces her victims, lures them in close, and like a venus flytrap, like Woodrue, she snaps her predatory jaw around them.

    My favourite Poison Ivy story was during No Man’s Land, when she took over Robinson Park and began growing fresh produce to feed the earthquake orphans she had taken in. This was Ivy not as an eco-terrorist, not as a misanthrope, but as a nurturing Gaea-figure, an avatar of the Earth who protected innocents. This harmony of Man and Nature is much more mature and modern than the old fear of the dark, spooky forest, the Ecopocalypse. Ivy isn’t the harbinger of man’s extinction, she’s the champion of a new Eden, like she had in Robinson Park.

    Naturally, the patriarchal forces of Batman, Gordon and the mostly-male political and industrial worlds of Gotham will be at odds with her, because to achieve this paradise, she must topple civilization. Order must give way to chaos, the fertile ground of the future. Your idea of fractal crimes, reflecting the fractal nature of plants, is genius, by the way. A perfect foil for the world’s greatest detective.

    The difficult part is in reconciling the seductive murderess with the protective eco-revolutionary. I think that this reconciliation is what will justify her as a victim and seductress; after her trauma, she gradually became more and more like her attacker until you can’t tell them apart. It seems like an immature response, to give in to those revenge urges, the misanthrope streak.

    Ivy has the potential to be what Woodrue failed to be. She’s still human enough, still compassionate enough, to turn back from this easy path; she doesn’t need to recreate Woodrue’s crime, she doesn’t need to exterminate humanity like he tried to do, she doesn’t need to seek revenge like he did. Woodrue tried to turn Pamela into a monster, and he did; he turned her into him. Realizing this and overcoming it can give Ivy her mission. She goes from the negative qualities of being “feminine”: the victim, the seductress, to the positive: the nurturer, the protector.

    This doesn’t mean that she won’t still use criminal methods to establish her new paradise. She will of course be at odds with those who fear nature and believe man is separate from his world; rationalists, industrialists and humanists like Batman. They’ll try to figure out what she’s up to, try to stop her from killing innocents, from destroying lives. Ivy’s changed. They think they know what she’s up to, but her motives are very different now. She becomes an unknown, a mystery; they can’t understand any pattern in her targets, but they’re left with this awful feeling that something huge, something truly dreadful is going on and they don’t know a damn thing about it. She becomes the alien, inhuman, completely unrelatable force of nature, the dark woods that house monsters of all shapes.

    At least, that’s how they see her. In truth, she’s working for a union of Man and Nature, but the concept is so foreign to Gothamites that they can only see it as nature going wild and destroying them. Ivy of course, is not human, but she’s not a plant either. She’s a union of both. I imagine that she spares the children because they’re innocent of the taint of civilization; they can still learn how to live in harmony with nature. They’ll be the first generation to live in her new Eden. And they actually like her, she is a very good mother figure [this was what prevented Batman from taking the orphans away in No Man's Land] and she will give them a better life than they’d have in civilization. So, she’s actually very much a force for good, which raises conflicts for Batman as well; he can’t let her destroy civilization, but he can’t ruin a genuine paradise either.

    Ivy as a Gaea-Earth mother parallels environmentalism pretty well. Isley and the Earth were both violated by Man’s science and lashed out against humanity; nature with hurricanes and climate change, Ivy with poison lip gloss. Both overcome vengeance and nurture a new generation of humanity [hopefully!].

    That, I think, manages to synthesize every interpretation of Poison Ivy into one.

  12. Zom Says:

    I think you might be misunderstanding me, and quite possibly the feminist discourse you’re attempting to tap into. To begin with, I’m not claiming Woodrue is a misogynist, I’m claiming that Ivy’s origin story, as conceived by Grant, work’s to reinforce misogynistic ideas about women, in that it takes on the form of a well known genre trope – the damsel in distress – which in turn feeds directly into a long tradition of framing women as passive, as victims. Not something I’m keen not to reinforce.

    Secondly, I rejected the Gaia take early on as the earth mother is, again, another unhelpful stereotype, in that – through appealing to the Natural Order (caps intentional as we’re getting all logocentric) – it ties women to traditional gender roles: nuturing, caring, mothering. Again, there’s probably entire books written on this topic, so you’ll have to excuse my reluctance to go much further, although if you think invoking earth mothers is more contemporary than tapping into fears about eco-apocalypse, well… you and I must be living on different planets, or at least reading very different media. One thing’s for sure, the earth mother is one helluva cliche.

    Moving away from politics, I should also stress that my favourite baddies tend not to be victims, as victim-villains are easier to empathise with, more knowable, than their more sinister counterparts, who we’ll call villain-villains. My take on Ivy is that a bad women engineered circumstances designed to make her considerably worse. That she embraced her inner monster. In my book that makes her very scary indeed. There’s no weak link in her psychology that can used to bring her down (actually, I’ve argued that she doesn’t really have a psychology, but bear with me). Like the Joker in Nolan’s movie she’s an absolute, impossible to negotiate with, impossible to relate to. Really, really nasty.

  13. Zom Says:

    That, I think, manages to synthesize every interpretation of Poison Ivy into one.

    In the interest of clarity I need to point out that that wasn’t my intention. I was trying to beef up Ivy’s villain potential, not sculpt a character who meshes seamlessly with continuity.

  14. The Satrap Says:

    Oh…I want to shut up but… I feel the warp overtaking me, it’s a good pain !

    Jum:

    I agree with our gracious host. The fact that the notion of Mother Earth is a cliché is not that problematic IMO (we’re after all losers who think that it’s possible to choreograph confrontations between Batman and the Joker so that they feel fresh). However, making Ivy less of a sex tool and more of a mother can hardly be deemed to contribute to broadening the scope of female depictions in comics. The idea of the mad scientist who decides to opt out of humanity, on the other hand, has never been applied to women in mainstream superhero comics, to the best of my knowledge. And it still allows to preserve the imagery of the Green which we know and love.

    Actually, while performing my morning Naked Tai Chi exercises, I realised that Zom’s revamp (Get it? Re-Vamp. God I crack myself up lol) of Ivy taps into a venerable, and almost forgotten, tradition of superhero comics: the Self-Deification Routine. Back in the Silver and Bronze Ages, Doctor Doom used to self-deify every third month or so. Heck, “Secret War” was a bit of a pile of offal, but it was redeemed by Doom’s hilarious co-opting of the power of Galactus and the Beyonder. There are many other examples, like Englehart’s Genesis, or Korvac, or that Libra chap resurrected for Final Crisis by our favourite tantric instructor, GM. And the last time that Starlin was any good was during the “Thanos Quest” prequel to Infinity Gauntlet.

    When villains make a grab for teh Ultimate, superhero narratives reach in a sense their purest form, and all the metaphors inherent in the genre, about personal growth, power fantasies, alienation or metaphysical conflict, attain their highest pitch. It’s kinda neat, really, and we shouldn’t be afraid about telling tales of modern-day Icaruses and Phaetoneses with twist endings.

    In fact, off the top of my head, the only significant cases of modern self-deification that spring to mind are those of the Swamp-thing, appropriately enough, and Manhattan, all orchestrated by the Bearded One. Now, SW is a bit of a(n anti-)hero, so his arch took its sweet time (culminating in the last issue of Millar’s run, a run which was incidentally the best thing he’s ever done and, oh, how downhill it was from there), whereas Manhattan’s divinity was as mirthless as “Watchmen” required i.e. very good in itself but not a great way forward.

    Note that self-deification comes in many shapes and sizes. Since we’re pitiful, self-centred beings, anything that’s beyond our ken is already scary and intriguing enough.

    So, by all means, let’s see Ivy self-deify. Batman may be the culmination of human self-improvement but, you know, it makes for better reading when we feel he’s fucked.

  15. The Satrap Says:

    P.S: JUM! ZOM! What are these, incongruous onomatopoeias heard in Dormammu’s netherworld? I think I have to change my alias to “Bim”.

    P.P.S: One of the underexploited sources of joy in the Warhammer franchises is the idea that the champions of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos are trying to self-deify i.e. become “Daemon Princes” all the fucking time. Add to that things like the fact that the path to daemonhood can involve being rewarded with a single teat (and only one) by Slaanesh, and you’ll understand the love. The pure, geeky love.

  16. The Satrap Says:

    P.P.P.S: I’d also like to claim extra chutzpah points for referring to things like “Watchmen” as if they were obscure works, available only to the most connaissant of connoisseurs, and as if the conclusions drawn therefrom were the most astute. That’s chutzpah, it is.

    P.P.P.P.S: I’ll shut up now.

    P.P.P.P.P.S: For real.

  17. Zom Says:

    Should you ever set up your own site, Satrap, know that we will be linking to you.

  18. The Satrap Says:

    Bah. I cannot be bought off. I would keep on clogging the threads with embarrassing, needy posts.

    There’s something worse than Anti-Life. The No-Life Equation.

  19. Zom Says:

    Hey, wasn’t an insult big guy!

  20. The Satrap Says:

    Oh, I know. It´s the self-irony thing, all part of my act.

    Gotta admit, the online experience is sometimes easier with smileys. I swore never to use the fuckers, though. In Crime Alley, kneeling next to my murdered parents.

  21. grant Says:

    Y’know, there’s a history of feminist writings about woman-as-monstrous-other that might undermine part of your argument.

    Like these examples here.

    It’s hard to see how a Poison-Ivy-as-Triffid would wind up being much different from the Queen Alien in Aliens or Oliver Reed’s egg-laying ladyness in The Brood. In other words, another opportunity for projection of male fears about feminine agency. I mean, stories would be bound to be about SEEDS and FERTILIZATION and be scary. (There’s probably even an argument to be made about triffids as feminized winkies, the opposite of vagina dentata, but I’d have to dig up stills and/or check out the novel again.)

    I think it might be more effective to have a Poison Ivy who *wanted* that monstrous vitality, but was eventually let down by it. Her criminal career is born of frustration – she sacrificed everything, but wound up being not a Woodrue or Swamp Thing.

    (I also think that’d clear up any inevitable narrative problems that’d crop up with having another character in The Green, if that’s even still a going concern.)

    —–

    I remember a Batman/Swamp Thing annual sometime after the siege of Gotham where Bats goes to the bayou for healing after getting infected with a human version of Cordyceps fungus. It may have been written by Alan Grant, now that I think of it.

    Anyway, the terror there was that the plant (fungus) didn’t have a character. It had no identity, no intellect. All it did was make people want to climb.

  22. Zom Says:

    As ever, an excellent point well made, Grant, and one that I will be responding too later today.

  23. Zom Says:

    The monstrous female other is something I’ve tried to sidestep here with my insistence that Ivy isn’t a woman. However, the question remains – and it’s a question I asked myself throughout writing the piece – is it truly possible to convey the absence of womanhood when the thing is question inhabits a female body, and ostensibly acts (in some ways) like a woman? In fact, doesn’t the absence of womanhood insist on definitions of woman that are inherently limiting?

    In answer to former question, maybe not, and in answer to the latter, quite possibly.

    I should note that I deliberately excluded the Alien films from my suggestion that Ivy’s appearances might benefit from taking after a certain kind of horror movie, as they don’t quite fit the bill. I wanted to invoke those movies where the feeling is that the threat is entirely abject, i.e. alive but outside of the human sphere altogether. In The Thing we start with an abject space: the biological interior, and we then declare that this abject space is actually owned by something else entirely. Something which is a kind of horrific absence, as it’s never truly engaged with/seen. Within this scenario it might be possible to play with the monstrous female form more safely, in that the horror is explicitly about the absence of the human, and it’s perhaps this focus on the ‘human’ as opposed to the ‘woman’ that might (or might not) signpost a way forward. The question is are bodies always politicised around gender, or can we open the door to broader concepts like human? Does any comment/act/action on or by a body necessarily fall into a discourse on gender? My thoughts re extinction were an attempt to play up the humanity angle.

    More questions than answers, I’m afraid.

    On Ivy having not reached ‘The Green’, nnyeaah. It’s certainly adds some colourful psychological spice, and neatly locks Ivy into an interesting and safer space as far as gender politics go, but I want my bat-baddies to be a bit more super than that. I don’t want them to be also-rans or play second fiddle to the Woodrues of this (fictional) world. I want to maximise their threat value, and I really like the idea of evoking anxieties about eco-apocalypses to do that, it’s current, it’s on my mind (I’d originally written an introductory paragraph describing my fears that segued into a brief but apposite mention of The Road), and I feel it has a different flavour to Alan Moore’s 80s take on The Green.

  24. grant Says:

    On Ivy having not reached ‘The Green’, nnyeaah. It’s certainly adds some colourful psychological spice, and neatly locks Ivy into an interesting and safer space as far as gender politics go, but I want my bat-baddies to be a bit more super than that. I don’t want them to be also-rans or play second fiddle to the Woodrues of this (fictional) world.

    Oh, definitely – I wasn’t thinking of her as a second-fiddle as much as fueled by desire for inhumanity. I think Batman works best when pitted against someone who is not as much superpowered as superhumanly ambitious.

    I think I may have just turned Poison Ivy into a Catwoman-as-Lex-Luthor (in super-scientist mode), actually. The idea being that she’s experiencing a few side effects from her experiments, but hasn’t succeeded in achieving demigodhood (which would take her out of the Gotham-level of bad deeds and into the whole hippy-dippy cosmic level). Which isn’t to say stories couldn’t revolve around that feeling of inhumanity and absence – that’d sort be her vocation. The not-quite-Green Poison Ivy would want to evoke that the same way Catwoman wants to evoke Batman, I think.

    Just thinking… I wonder if it’s even possible to have a character named Poison Ivy who wasn’t playing with femme fatale tropes. What with the songs and all.

  25. Zom Says:

    When I said super I didn’t necessarily mean superpowered. That said, super ambition is a fabtastic lens through to view a slew of Batvillains.

    Now that you’ve expanded a bit, your take has grown on me considerably

  26. Lonelyhearts Says:

    This is my favorite of the Batman rogue explorations.

    Since Ivy has always been an embodiment of this power to seduce and manipulate, this very old understanding of flowers as visual sexual organs, the most important step forward is to deny the promise. There is no paradisaical potential here. We are tantalized by her exhibitionist reaction to victimization. Really, don’t we all just wish we could victimize her again? If we can defeat her, reform her, or even wearing our Bat costume merely overpower her in some dark hideout..

    But she’s not a woman. There is nothing to gain by pursuing her, and much to lose. Yet we can’t seem to help ourselves.

    The question becomes how can we sustain such a story over any length of time. In reaction to the horror of our attraction and her non-human status, she will be ruthlessly hunted and rooted out. Surviving in seeds and spores shouldn’t be any difficult feat, maybe it’s already too late to remove her from this planet. Maybe after everything else has been wiped off the face of the earth, she will wait for the right season to grow again.

    Destroying the kernel of her character, that thing we are in love with, leaving it as a negative space is absolutely key to sexual attraction and love in todays world. Making an unkillable Rhizome of woman is like extending a network between every ex-girlfriend and every future girlfriend. The potential for memory and pain remains but the potential for future bliss is eliminated.

    I can see it as a worthwhile story.

  27. batgorilla Says:

    The Woodrue origin wasn’t invented by Alan Grant, it was first seen in Neil Gaiman’s “Pavane” from Secret Origin #36. Gaiman’s story doesn’t have the rape overtones of later retellings.

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