doublearticulation

Dropped Threads: Outfitting Donna Troy

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2007 at 12:31 am

Donna’s scenes in Countdown aren’t exactly setting my world on fire, but I salute the effort and am hopeful that it might ultimately yield something interesting. I’m of course always happy when someone at least tries to repair this beloved character to whom the fates have not been kind.

Despite a good college try by Phil Jiminez and Co. a couple of years back, the doyenne of the New Teen Titans’ heyday has proven almost impossible to rehabilitate. The “Who is…?” heroine’s infamously tortured continuity issues are only part of the problem. While they may have turned her into a punch line to some, continuity tangles alone are not insurmountable in the hands of a committed writer who is prepared to make a virtue of necessity and transform the black hole of Donna’s hopelessly fractured history into a plot point that actually builds the character rather than reducing her to a flat caricature–as Crisis on Infinite Earths and its consequences originally did (yes John Byrne, I’m looking at you, but not only you). All this can still be fixed or (better yet) erased.

The bigger obstacle is Donna’s outfit, which, I’m sorry, just isn’t cool at all. And if there’s one sure way to undermine a character’s chances for rehabilitation, it’s to make them look silly.

It isn’t Phil Jimenez’s fault. Though I am loathe to say it, it’s George Perez’s. It feels blasphemous to say so, considering that Perez defined Donna Troy’s three-dimensionality throughout the 1980s, most memorably in the classic, “Who is Donna Troy?” (NTT v. 1, #38). But it was also Perez who designed Donna’s “cosmic” black threads (borrowed from one of the Titans of Myth) during the reheated epic “Who is Wonder Girl?” (NTT v. 2, #50-55) that attempted to “fix” Donna’s post-Crisis continuity conundrum.

I always hated that outfit. It was fussy, over-designed, and impractical in the way of nineties costumes. And despite Perez’s intention of having the costume change signify Donna’s maturation, the effect was quite the opposite: suddenly, the mature, capable woman looked awkward and self conscious. The outfit seems even to have thrown off Perez’s usually impeccable draftsmanship; on the cover of New Titans #56, Donna appears to be falling rather than leaping through the poster of her former self. Talk about adding insult to injury. The subsequent transformation of Donna into a Darkstar could almost have been an excuse to put her back into some semblance of the simpler, cleaner, more commanding red costume.

Later, when Jiminez redesigned her look, he was clearly trying to synthesize the two Perez versions—but the full body cosmic leotard and the addition of white go-go boots produced risible results. Donna may have switched from red to black, but she hasn’t been blessed with the dazzling costume designs of a certain webslinger who pulled off the same feat with considerably more aplomb.


The good news is that the early teaser image of Countdown puts Donna back in her classic red duds. Indeed, the implication might even be that we are looking at some neo-80s version of the character who, like the Legion of Superheroes that recently appeared in “The Lightening Saga,” may actually be the real McCoy, “preserved” in the amber of the wonderful new Multiverse. (BTW: Where is the Time Trapper these days?) Such, at least, is my hope. I would quite happily forget the last 20 years of character assassination by inches. Moreover, a return to the red costume through the restoration of the actual 80s Donna would circumvent the problem created by Perez’s original costume redesign: how do you restore and earlier, better costume when everything sartorial that’s come after has explicitly signaled development and maturation? How can we have our cake and eat it too? Cool threads turn out to be a problem of Time.

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