Zamaron — A Green Lantern Femme-Site

{July 27, 2006}   Technically, this one was Superman’s fault…

It’s a common strategy, when discussing women in Green Lantern, to mention that Kyle Rayner has had three girlfriends die — Alex DeWitt, Donna Troy, and Jenny Hayden (Jade). This argument is intended to capture all the misogyny in superhero comics in a single blow. It covers not just a civilian love interest thrown away for the development of a male character, but two fully powered and fully developed heroic female characters, both with a longer history than the featured male character. The number is important, it adds overkill. With three dead girlfriends, you can almost see the writer smirking as he finished the third one’s death-story. I suspect nearly everyone on the blogosphere has made a joke at Kyle’s expense about it, and I’ve heard more than one reader express disgust with Kyle’s character over this.

The argument is very sound, effective, and difficult to rebuke.

It’s also one-third incorrect.

It’s true, Kyle has a bad effect on love interests. Kyle was always meant to be surrounded by darkness. Kyle was conceived to take over the franchise during a period where everything that went before him was being torn down. He’s an innocently tragic character, bad things happen to the people around him. And yes, it’s most likely that if you lined them up you’d find that women get the worst of it. His first storyline, when his girlfriend Alex was murdered and stuffed into a refrigerator was immediately followed by a one-night stand which ended in suicide (You can probably guess it wasn’t Kyle’s). During a company crossover (Green Lantern vs Aliens), a woman he kissed was killed by a face-hugger. He had a long-term relationship with Alan Scott’s (Green Lantern I) daughter, Jade, only to come home to find her personality had completely changed. They split up, and on their very first reunion at least a year after the breakup, she dies. Rather pathetically (and arguably, his fault). All of these issues and events had underlying themes to them that would feed a family of feminist analysis. There is no argument that you can find a lot of misogynistic symbolism, overt and covert, to mine for when analyzing Kyle’s love life.

Which is why I don’t understand when Donna Troy gets lumped in there.

Donna Troy was Wonder Girl. She became Troia. She married and had a child, and divorced the man. Along the way, she was depowered and turned into a Darkstar (supersuit wearing Galaxy During the relationship, the Darkstars were scrapped and Donna was left depowered. After a few issues of that, she up and leaves because her ex-husband is killed along with her son. Donna goes on to participate in a Wonder Woman storyline that repowers her and redoes her origin story. She never thinks back to Kyle in her own stories. Her nostalgia goes back to her Teen Titans days as Wonder Girl, or her marriage, but rarely the artist in NYC. She’s only really shown thinking of Kyle while in subsequent Green Lantern stories where she meets up with him again. Donna Troy moves on after the breakup, and never looks back.

Kyle Rayner’s mind lingers on Donna Troy regularly, but he starts his romance with Jade, and settles things with Donna on the next teamup. She’s always a part of his past, even as she never thinks back to him. Kyle moves on, still looking back. It’s a personality difference, and its handled well.

Six years (real-time) after they break-up, Donna dies in Graduation Day, a special that not only resurrects her at the end, but sets up her revised origin story Return of Donna Troy which leads directly into her part in Infinite Crisis which leads to her part in the current DCU Metaplot (as revealed at the end of 52#11‘s backup).

Kyle Rayner does not appear in Graduation Day. Kyle Rayner is not part of the Titans or Young Justice, the two teams which are involved in Graduation Day. Kyle Rayner does not belong to the Teen Titans, or the Outsiders, the two teams which form as a result of Graduation Day. Kyle Rayner is mentioned twice in Return of Donna Troy, both times when it involves Jade. Donna and Kyle have no direct effect on each other. At the end of 52#11, Kyle is present in the panel that shows where Donna screwed up — because he was present at the original point. Judging by the past treatment of Kyle and Donna, this event will have more of an effect on Donna than it will on Kyle.

Looking at the two characters as a whole, I’d have to say that Donna is probably the best love interest Kyle ever had. Her life didn’t revolve around him, and once his part in her story ended, she goes on with her plotline. She is an independent, autonomous character. She is his equal in status. As of the breakup, his storyline reacts to her needs more than her storyline to his.

So it annoys me when I see someone try to form a serious feminist argument by lumping Donna’s plotline — which had nothing to do with Kyle — in with Kyle’s lovers’ deaths.

I have trouble reconciling it, because it takes a female character who is independent and in a storyline that revolves around her, and argues that she is subordinate to a male character that she no longer has strong ties to. It makes her out to be a supporting character of a cast she’s not a part of. It’s just plain wrong, because Donna, of all women in all superhero comics, is a character who gets to die for her own plot. It’s a messed up plot, yes. It’s got major problems in itself, and yes, sexist mishandling of the character.

But this isn’t one of them.

Donna and Kyle, however the power dynamic was set up during the actual relationship, are two ships passing in the night. Her death had nothing to do with him. To claim it as part of Kyle’s pattern is to say that these female characters don’t get stories by their own right, it’s to put them as subordinate to the male characters even when the writers actively avoid that.

Donna got what we’re asking for for all female superheros. She got her own story, her own plotline, her own importance. Much as I dislike the character, you have to respect that enough not to negate it in your arguments.

Yes, Kyle has had three lovers die in his story. Three female characters who’s stories were totally subordinate to him.

Donna was not one of them. Donna’s death was her own.


Caia says:

I’d say most of us just put Donna in there because it’s a better joke (or a worse pattern) that way–two doesn’t make nearly as good a pattern, after all, and before Jade’s vastly unfortunate death (which brought up *all* the reasons her participation in Kyle’s whole run seems to have been a Very Bad Thing for the character, who I remember as a strong independent woman in her Infinity Inc days, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant).

I don’t think it’s any active denigration of the character, although it certainly doesn’t help that Donna is not the world’s most popular character and her storyline is confusing as all get-out–explaining that she dated Kyle at one point and then died (but she got better!) is much easier than explaining anything at *all* that happened during, say, the Return of Donna Troy mini.

And I look forward to seeing how Donna turns out in the new Wonder Woman.

Ragnell says:

Caia — It’s one thing when it’s a joke, I’ve made the joke myself, but I’ve seen people in serious discussions argue that “Kyle Rayner has had 3 girlfriends die on him — it’s not funny anymore” and “Kyle is the Fridge King” and then reference Donna as a serious support of the argument. And I’m a known Donna Troy-hater, and I sitll have to stop and say “Wait a minute, you’re completely ignoring Donna’s storyline.”

Actually, Donna had two deaths fairly recently, the first of which COULD be said to have been while she was with Kyle, but not as a result of anything he was doing.

And she did have a sort-of death of sorts that DID affect Kyle in a pretty major way.

Sit down, kids. This is going to take some explaining.

So Donna’s ex-husband died with her son, and she basically left Kyle. It was sort of vauge (in the GL book anyway) on if it was a temporary thing or not. In the WW book, it came off much more like Donna dumped Kyle and didn’t want to talk to him anymore. Donna basically said she couldn’t “be” with anyone right now but there was no indication of this being “a break” or not.

Well, while the big WW storyline was going on, Donna’s origin was changed so that she was basically a magically created clone of Diana, who was kidnapped by an old enemy of Hippolyta’s – Dark Angel. She wound up erasing Donna from history, effectively killing her.

The only reason Donna got saved was because of some convoluted business about how Hippolyta and Wally West, who were both outside the time-stream when the erasing happened, remembered Donna. And in order to bring Donna back to life, they had to use Wally’s memories to restore her personality.

(If you’re seeing problems with this, you’re not alone. But just wait for it… ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

That was Donna’s first death, since being erased from time is as close to dead as you can get. Never having been born, you may as well be dead. ๐Ÿ™‚ The second death, at the hands of the Superman robot, came years later.

So where did this eventually lead in Green Lantern? Well, while Donna was “away”, the romance between Kyle and Jade started… and then Kyle got all caught up in going into space and trying to restart the GL Corps. Shortly after he got back, he got a gallery show and… Donna showed up.

The issue that followed is one of my favorites and it was the only time that ANYONE addressed one of the bigger problems with Donna’s return in a serious manner. And good on Ron Marz for doing it.

Half the comic is, basically, Donna and Kyle take a walk through the city and just talk about their relationship and where it was. Now here’s the tragic part – Donna doesn’t remember more than a BIT of her relationship. She loves Kyle… but she can’t remember why.

Since her personality is totally based off Wally’s memories, she only knew what Wally West knew about her… which is a bit like trying to restore your hard-drive with a five-year old back-up. You get all the essentials – your OS and major programs – but you lose all the special details – like your Internet favorites and that bad poetry you wrote.

In short, the woman who Donna was… the woman Kyle loved… she DID die in a spiritual sense. It wasn’t because of anything that he did or didn’t do… but she was still lost to him forever in all the ways that mattered.

That’s probably also why Donna never thinks about Kyle in her flashbacks. She honestly doesn’t rememember much of that time. Hell, she couldn’t even remember her favorite artist when they were walking past a bookstore and Kyle pointed out a book about them.

Ragnell says:

Starman — Forgot about that one that one, but I think I can narrow it down to one of that pile of back issues I haven’t read in a long time (GL#118?). I did read the Byrne issues, but I purposefully kept off from the long explanation because while it’s a brilliant metaphor, it’s a clumsy backstory I didn’t want the headache of explaining. Thank you for sparing me that.

It supports my point, though. Donna’s “death” in that Byrne story was for Donna, not Kyle. Ron Marz had to exercise damage control in GL#91 (my first-ever issue of Green Lantern) and the issue you pointed out, because John Byrne pulled her back to the Wonder Woman cast. The “death” was all about the female character in this case, not the male.

As much of a headache as it was, it’s actually an example of a writer trying to get it right and writing the Donna’s life to advance Donna’s plot not Kyle’s. Kyle’s plot was thrown out of whack to accomodate her.

Also, I don’t understand why Kyle was still talking to Wally after that. Where’s the fallout?


Yep #118. That’s the issue.

And I never disagreed with your point that Donna’s death was her own and that it didn’t involve Kyle. I was just explaining why the death and return messed Kyle up as much as it did.

As for Wally – as much as the two of them weren’t getting along at that time, I’d like to think Kyle was mature enough to realize that Wally was probably working under duress and it wasn’t his fault that HE had to be the back-up.

A better question is why Kyle became all buddy-buddy with Roy Harper, who, at the time, was making a play for Donna in the Titans trying to help her along in finding herself (i.e. We used to date… and we used to do this… and this…)

I definitely get the ire when people declare that Donna’s death was about Kyle (when clearly it was about depriving the world of Young Justice for some heartlessly cruel reason). But I agree with Caia that it makes the jokes better – three’s just a better number than two. Although as you point out, it *is* three, even without Donna.

This is only sort of tangentially related, but I thought this’d be the place to ask: Donna and Jenny were both depowered when Kyle started dating them, right? (I haven’t read my GLs in a while.) And wasn’t his one night stand with a post-Parallax and thus depowered GL?

Ragnell says:

Starman — I didn’t think you did, but I figured I’d point out how it helped agter all.

I think Roy and Kyle were buddy-buddy as a sign of respect for Donna’s choices.

Poison Ivory — And funny enough, I just saw a post in my own WW archives where I use it in a serious argument (predicting Jade’s death, citing Kyle as a risky personal connection). I need to be more conscious of it myself.

Jade started out with powers, got depowered (in the first story she showed real power in) saving father and brother, then got repowred when Kyle gave her a ring. Depowered when they broke up. Repowered when they got back together, and Winick restored her internal powers in a questionable manner.

Donna was depowered and using a Darkstar suit when she met Kyle. I’m not sure how she lost the suit, there’s a lot from the Donna days I need to reread.

And yes, the one night stand was a post-Parallax depowered GL. She actually rolled him and stole the ring, couldn’t use it.

I think it’s in-character for Kyle to seek out powered love interests, after what happened to Alex, and I notice he tends to start dating them when they are powered — but after a relationship starts… Uck. Lots of symbolism there.

Well, having just reread a lot of the Donna GL issues, allow me…

Donna – Was technically depowered when she met Kyle, but was serving as a Darkstar. She lost her suit during Hero’s Quest (GL 70-75) when most of the Darkstars who weren’t killed had their suits trashed beyond repair. Donna gave up her suit for scrap, hoping that the four remaining Darkstars might be able to fully repair their suits with the spare parts. Interestingly, this was the same story where John Stewart was paralyzed.

One slight change to your timeline for Jade though.

1. Jade was powered when she met Kyle (used her powers to make a key to get into his apartment in GL #86) and moved into his place.

2. She was depowered during the GL/Sentinel: Heart of Darkness mini-series (Happened between GL #96-97)

3. She was repowered when Kyle gave her his first GL ring copy, so she could watch the Earth while he was away trying to rebuild the Corps. (GL #107)

4. She was depowered in #112, after Fatality ripped the ring off her hand in a fight and Anarky stole it (Anarky #3) Interestingly enough, John was depowered and recrippled in this same fight.

5. She broke up with Kyle in a Dear John letter in #118

6. She got back together with Kyle in #133 and he gave her a spare Green Lantern ring that he got from Batman… somehow

(My theory is that Batman pimp-slapped Anarky, who told Kyle he’d ‘lost’ the ring, until he fessed up.)

7. Kyle restored her natural powers in #148 (or so we thought).

8. Kyle comes home to find Jade cheating on him in #176.

9. Jenny dies and gives Kyle back the power he loaned her (Rann/Thanagar Special #1)

10. We find out that Kyle is holding the Guardian’s Willpower Energy AND the Power of the Starheart (Jade’s energy).

Bit of a flip-flop there at the end as to what Kyle did in #148 and what Jade gave him…either way, Jade didn’t lose her powers EXACTLY when she dumped Kyle. The ways Winick repowered her were pretty sleazy though…

Ragnell says:

Some day I will make up some cheesy comment about Starman saving the day when I thank you for info, but today its just Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

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